Timed game: 5 hours including tea break, 1 innings each. Ashburnham won the toss and chose to bat. Ashburnham 205 ao from 35.5 overs. Catsfield 120 ao from 32.1 overs.
When I left home it was a lovely day for cricket – warm, scattered clouds, no sign of rain. But the further south I got the cloudier the skies, and as I crossed the top of the Weald ridge going through Ashdown Forest there were the first spots of intermittent rain. They got heavier, and there was even a little bit of hail. “Bugger” I thought. My previous match between these two sides was rained off after only a few balls, and I wondered if this one would be too. But the rain stopped, and after lunch with my parents I headed to the ground, which had not had any rain at all. Indeed, it seems to be blessed, as during play we saw heavy showers marching past to both north and south, but they all missed us.
Catsfield’s ground is bordered on one side by a hedge and field, into which a few balls went but were quickly retrieved, and on another by a small bluebell wood, with a steep drop-off a few yards in down towards a stream. I am surprised no balls were lost there. The other two sides are open. The ground is a reasonable size – not large by any means, but also not a tiddler like Ashburnham’s is. The field slopes slightly down from north to south, although the pitch is flat, and the outfield was dry and fast.
I was accompanied all day by another umpire so instead of doing the bowler’s end throughout I alternated with square leg as the Ancients decreed, although the only decisions I had to make from there were about no balls for height – I let a couple go which were marginal, and called one. I also signalled for penalty runs once when the ball hit the wicket keeper’s unused helmet that was behind him on the field. That should have been signalled by my colleague at the bowler’s end, but he didn’t, and talking to him afterwards he couldn’t remember the signal. It’s one that you very rarely see so is easy to forget, as I did in a league match last year.
In their innings Ashburnham scored quickly, and while five batsmen were out for ducks, there were excellent partnerships for the 2nd and 4th wickets, of 91 and 54. The bowling was better than the score book would lead you to believe, the fast outfield let many deliveries that would normally go for one or two race away to the boundary, but there were only three balls hit for six. One of Ashburnham’s players told me that he thought 220 was about par so they were a bit behind when I gave their last real batsman out LBW for a creditable 44 runs a few minutes before the scheduled tea break, leaving the team captain not out on no runs, and having faced no balls at all.
Catsfield’s innings got off to a slower start, and despite the occasional expensive over they never looked like catching up. The key statistic separating the sides is that Catsfield bowled one maiden over, but Ashburnham bowled ten – and six of those were wicket-maidens, including three in a row for one bowler who was getting the ball to move sideways. I couldn’t see from close up what on earth he was doing with it, so I pity the poor batsmen. It was a joy to watch!
I was happy with my own performance. I gave a couple of wides, turned down a few LBWs, gave one, and would have very seriously considered a couple of others if there had been an appeal. I’m only aware of one small mistake I made. I called and signalled for a front-foot no ball at one point, but didn’t repeat my signal to the scorer when the ball was dead. I should do that when the ball is dead regardless, but especially at this ground where I was standing side-on to the scorer and so he had no chance of seeing my original signal. The score board was correct though, so he must have heard me.