Ashburnham vs East Dean, 2020-09-13

42/38 game with any unused overs from the first innings being added to the second. East Dean won the toss and fielded first. Ashburnham 157/9. East Dean 95ao from 26.4 overs.

That match format. Yes, it’s bizarre. But it’s what the captains agreed before the toss, as a compromise between a limited overs game and a timed game. It works around the problems of a slow last “hour” in a timed game, which is actually an hour or the time taken for 20 overs, whichever is longer – so in practice is always longer than an hour unless a team is bowled out. Given how late in the season we are and the problems fielders on the eastern side would have when the sun is low in the sky, I think it might be a sensible compromise no matter how odd. Alternatively they could just start an hour earlier, but perish the thought of getting up earlier on a Sunday!

This was the first of a few friendlies that I’m umpiring as the season winds down. Conditions were excellent – mostly sunny, without significant recent rain so the ground was firm and dry, and while it was warm it wasn’t too too hot. There was quite a lot of dry grass on the pitch, and since last season the fences along the east and west sides have been augmented with some finer mesh so that far fewer balls are lost into the neighbouring field or over the road. I was surprised however, that there were no sixes even though we were playing right on the eastern edge of the square with a very short boundary on that side. I was accompanied by player-umpires throughout. For the first 12 overs I did the bowler’s end duties as the two younger players I had with me during that spell were not confident about doing that, but after that things were back to normal. Normally I wouldn’t chop and change like that for the sake of consistency, but it was a friendly and the captains were happy with it, so I was too.

It was a tricky pitch to bat on, with a bit of turn off the surface (but not much swing), quite bouncy, with the odd ball staying really low. One stayed so low that I gave a no-ball for bouncing twice before it reached the other end during Ashburnham’s innings. The bounciness meant that plenty of balls which struck the batsmen were going to go over the stumps. In a league match I would have had to turn down plenty of appeals on those grounds, but here there was a refreshing honesty from both sides when fielding. Ashburnham’s opening pair put on a very good 80, with a highest score of 54 for the first man, but there was an absolutely catastrophic collapse later, going from 120/3 to 137/9 in 7 overs, with two men dismissed for 1 each and three for a duck. The last pair made what I thought would be an important 10 each, and there were also a helpful 18 extras, mostly wides.

I thought that the target of 158 was achievable provided nothing went terribly wrong – but it did. East Dean’s innings didn’t get off to a good start, with their opening batsman falling on the last ball of a wicket-maiden. The second over was a maiden too. I thought that the pitch was a bit more docile in the second innings, and despite Ashburnham not being able to find a hard new ball and so having to make do with a used one, the number of balls keeping low was actually less remarkable than previously. A couple of balls bounced unusually high as the bowlers found divots and rough spots. None of East Dean’s batsmen could stay long at the crease, with the best score being 39 off 34 balls but only two more getting over 10 runs, and wickets falling regularly. Ashburnham’s bowling was excellent, with the captain getting 5 for 24 off just 7.4 overs and the opening bowler, a 15 year old lad, got that opening wicket-maiden and while he ended up getting just that one wicket for 27 runs from his six over spell he was tantalisingly close to getting several more wickets – I look forward to seeing him in action again. There was also just one extra for the bowlers (a wide), although there were eight byes as well.

I thought I had a good game, although I had to make very few decisions. I gave two unusual no-balls – the double-bounce that I’ve already mentioned, and another where the bowler knocked the bails off during his delivery – but I’ve given them both before so they don’t count towards my collection. I also warned one of the bowlers that he was very close to a back foot no-ball, something that you don’t see very often and I had to briefly explain the law to him. Last season I might not have spotted that, but this season, having paid attention while watching rather more experienced umpires in action, I’ve been standing further back. While it does mean that I can see that sort of infraction better, the rather more important reasons for it are that I don’t have to change where I’m concentrating so much from the bowler’s landing spot (for the more common front foot no ball) to the batsman (for an LBW), and I also have a split second more to get out of the way if the batsman tries to take my head off. That said, if I think that a bowler is very close to a front foot infringement then I will stand further forward to get a better view of the crease.

Old Rutlishians vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-09-05

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and batted first. Beddington 98 ao from 35.2 overs. Old Rutlishians 99/5 from 31.2 overs – scorecard

This was the last match of the truncated league season and Beddington were duking it out with Sutton for bottom of the league, although there is no promotion and relegation this year. The conditions were excellent, with some cloud cover but intermittent sunshine, and a nice dry field. The wicket was rather green. My only concern about the ground came up during the second innings, when the bowler’s landing point at my end was getting rather eroded away, not helped by a batsman running his bat into it rather hard. Conditions didn’t deteriorate to the extent that I thought anything needed to be done, but if this had been a 50 over game – and had gone the distance – I think things would have been different. For the first time in a league match this season there was another umpire so I got a stand at square leg half the time, as the Cricket Gods intended. I’ve noted previously how, while I don’t mind being the only “full time” umpire and doing bowler’s end duties throughout, it is nice to have another umpire instead of a succession of otherwise unoccupied batsmen. That’s partly because you get more consistency, but also partly because you can chat with each other about the players without worrying about giving away information about what the bowlers are doing.

Beddington’s innings followed what has become a familiar pattern this season, with one or two batsmen making a decent start – the openers got 11 (off 16 balls, a good solid defensive showing before I gave him out LBW) and 36 – but then little to back them up. Only one got beyond 20, and only four made double figures. Scoring was extremely slow, at around 2 runs per over in the first ten overs. It then briefly went up to just over 5 an over for a short while as Old Ruts third and fourth bowlers came in, but that flurry didn’t last. From 66/3 in the 21st over, things collapsed to 98 all out from bowling that was very economical and a decent fielding performance.

Set a target of just 99 to win the sensible money would have been on Old Ruts to win quickly before everyone headed off for end of season drinks at their home clubs. But Beddington’s opening bowlers did an excellent job. Both opened with a maiden, and between them they gave away only 35 runs in their 16 overs, taking four wickets. If the team had kept going at that rate a Beddington win was on the cards, but it wasn’t to be. Several dropped catches meant that only one more wicket fell, and a settled partnership for the last ten overs played brought the score from a precarious 51/5 to the required 99 – with the last run coming, unfortunately, from a wide that was soooo wide that it was just impossible for me to be charitable about it and I had no choice but to give it, and be a meanie to the bowler.

I was happy with my performance, although I made two controversial decisions. The first was during Beddington’s innings when I gave the opening batsman out LBW. I took a while to make my decision, as it was close and I wanted to run it through in my head again, but I decided that the ball was going to just barely hit leg stump. Definitely an “umpire’s call” decision if there was a TV review! As I was raising my arm to signal that the batsman was out one of the fielders said “going down leg”, but no, I was sure. I was in a better position to see it than he was. The batsman was understandably miffed, and afterwards told me that if it was such a close decision I should have given him the benefit of the doubt. That, however, is not something that appears in the laws. I should give him out if I am sure that he is out. And I was sure. I was sure that he was only just out. The “benefit of the doubt” confusion comes from, if an umpire does have some doubt about a decision then he should err towards not making a decision – that is, not signalling out, or no ball, or wide, or anything else. But provided that I’m sure, I can be sure that the ball would have just tickled the stump, or sure that a bowler overstepped his mark by the smallest of margins. My other controversial decision was the first of two wides (the other being clearly wide to all concerned) I gave against one of Beddington’s bowlers. Again, it was a close decision – I suppose all contentious decisions will be – but I was sure, so gave it.

Finally, I added another no-ball to my collection! There are a bazillion reasons for a no-ball, the most common being the bowler being too far forward, and the two types of too high delivery. I’ve given those three numerous times. I’ve also given the rather rare no-ball for a ball bouncing twice before reaching the crease. In this game one of the Old Ruts bowlers had a delivery style where he kicked his rear foot up and to the side as he delivered the ball, usually missing the stumps by a few inches, occasionally straying much closer – and once, he kicked a bail off.