Beddington 4th XI vs Banstead, 2021-05-08

45/45 game. Banstead won the toss and chose to field. Beddington 193/7, Banstead 196/6 from 43 overs – scorecard

There had been heavy overnight showers, and the forecast wasn’t great for the day’s play either. It was a little damp in the outfield but the covers had been on overnight and done their job leaving the pitch in perfect condition. It was green but firm and while the damp made the outfield a little slow to start with, a strong breeze soon dealt with that. Play started under heavy cloud, but it got lighter throughout the day and by the time we finished at about half past seven it was bright sunshine. I was joined by a small number of player-umpires throughout. All were happy to stand at the bowler’s end when it was their turn, for which I am grateful.

Beddington started their innings with steady, sensible batting, going at about 3 an over for the first third of the innings, at which point they were on 46/2. Their number 3 batsman went on to an undefeated 93. Unfortunately only five batsmen made double figures, and one of them was Mr Extras with 25. There were plenty of wides, not helped, I think, by the strong wind. I turned down a few appeals – as did my colleagues at the other end – few of which were utterly ludicrous. Banstead’s fielders felt quite strongly about one of them and grumbled a bit about an LBW decision which I didn’t give, as I thought it was close but not out. I didn’t think the muttering came anything close to the sort of level of disagreement that required me to take any action but their captain was apologetic afterwards.

After the tea break Banstead’s captain accompanied me as the other umpire for most of the innings, until with ten overs to go and five wickets down he needed to go and pad up. They started a little slower, but were fluctuating around about the required run rate most of the time, leading to an exciting close finish. Two terribly expensive overs from Beddington’s bowlers, going for 11 and 9, sealed the game though.

I was reasonable happy with my performance. I made only two really controversial decisions, one the LBW that I have already talked about, and one which was a bit of a howler. I didn’t give a no-ball for height bowled by Beddington. The batsman was quite put out, the bowler had apologised to him, but I hadn’t signalled no-ball. Brief discussion with the other umpire and Beddington’s fielders showed me that I had been Dead Wrong. However, I had already called “over” and mistakenly (I’ve now checked in the Laws!) thought that that made it too late to change my mind so there was nothing to be done about it. I can in fact change my mind until the next ball is bowled.

I also made an uncontroversial, but perhaps more serious, error. Before the game I didn’t check with the captains if either had any under-age players, and remind them of the fast bowling restrictions. As a result, one of Banstead’s youngsters exceeded his permitted overs in a spell.

Beddington 4th XI vs Old Wimbledonians, 2020-08-29

40/40 game reduced to 35/35. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Old Wimbledonians 143/4. Beddington 116ao from 33.3 overs – scorecard

The soggy Pavilion end, after the game was finished

Overnight rain left the outfield soaking, so much so that just standing on it would squeeze water out around your shoes in some places. The pitch had been covered, but the covers seem to have come loose in the high winds and so it was also wet around the wickets at both ends and in a patch in the middle. The covers were just coming off as I arrived and I went straight out to see how things were. Conditions were atrocious. Just putting your foot down – in ordinary shoes, not spikes – left a clear imprint next to the wicket where the bowlers would be landing, and without much effort I could push my finger into the ground. Start to put any force on the ground like the bowlers would and it would cut up horribly, to the extent that I thought it would be dangerously unsound footing. There was a strong breeze which would help things to dry out, but I wasn’t optimistic. A few minutes before the scheduled start at 1pm I did another pitch inspection and while things had improved they hadn’t improved enough in my opinion, and so despite much complaint from one of Beddington’s bowlers I told the captains we would delay the start and I would have another look in half an hour. The complaining bowler’s position was that if he was happy to bowl he should be allowed to. But that’s not how it works. In any case, the rest of the field, including parts of the pitch, was so wet that even if we had started on time it wouldn’t have been a very good game. Finally, another half hour later, I did a third inspection and deemed that the breeze had helped the ground firm up enough that we could get the game on. The late start reduced the game from 40 overs a side to 35.

With the help of plenty of sawdust on the bowlers’ landing spots the ground held up pretty well, but even so it was a difficult batting pitch, as the wetter spots were dead and so the ball often kept unexpectedly low. Old Wimbledonians’ first wicket fell for just three runs, and after the first ten overs the score was just ten. But after that point Wimbledonians got into their stride and started scoring more freely. The second wicket didn’t fall until the 25th over, with the score on 84, for a fairly respectable three and a bit per over, and after that they really cracked on, going at nigh on 6 an over for the rest of their innings, punishing the part-time bowlers hard. Their opening batsman carried his bat, making 62. I thought Beddington’s performance in the field was a lot better than last week, and that the target of 144 was not out of reach, especially as conditions for the batsman were improving as things dried out.

Beddington’s innings got off to a cracking start. It took Wimbledonians eight overs to score eight runs, it took Beddington’s opening batsman just one over. But unfortunately wickets fell too quickly to some good bowling – six men were out bowled – and only three made it past 20 runs, with six making less than 10. There was one comedy dismissal, where the non-striker had left the crease but then there was no run. He just stood there, several feet out of his ground. The ball went to a fielder, who chucked it back to the bowler, and I had the easiest run-out decision ever. I really didn’t want to give it, because it was such a silly way to get out and he had plenty of time to walk back to safety, but he didn’t, so I had no choice. Later, when Beddington’s last two men were batting, Wimbledonians had another opportunity for an easy run-out as the two batsmen had run into each other and were lying on the ground laughing at themselves. I thought it was very sporting that they didn’t take the wicket. Bravo!

I was happy with my performance. I do wonder if I did the right thing by delaying the start – whether conditions were actually dangerous – but aside from that I’m confident that I got everything else right. There were surprisingly few silly appeals in this game, which was good. Another sign, like Wimbledonians’ generously not taking that wicket after the pratfall, that the game was played in the spirit it ought to be.

Beddington 4th XI vs Dulwich, 2020-08-22

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Dulwich 207/7. Beddington 110/9 – scorecard

It was a very windy day, played initially under cloudy skies which brightened up a bit later in the afternoon. There were a few spots of rain, one of which suddenly got heavier from one ball to the next and I decided to take the players off after that ball – which had, unfortunately seen a batsman dismissed. But before we’d even made it as far as the boundary the rain stopped and so we went straight back to it. A rain stoppage not resulting in any time lost – that’s probably the most unusual thing I’ll see this season. That had been rain earlier in the week but while there was a bit of green on the pitch it was baked hard. I took bowler’s end duties throughout. One of the Dulwich bowlers complained at the start of his spell that his landing spot had been too broken up during the previous innings, but it looked fine to me, the ground was solid. He opted to consistently land slightly to the right of it (closer to the wicket), but he seemed to perform well and if his performance was degraded by landing a couple of inches to the right of his normal spot then I’d love to see him at his best! His new landing spot put him very close to hitting the protected area during his follow through, and he may well have actually done so a few times, but it wasn’t to any significant extent (he didn’t block my view of the batsman and wicket at the other end) and if I police that rigorously I can’t look for LBWs, so I let it go.

Dulwich’s innings got off to a rocky start, losing the first two wickets for just eleven runs and the third for just fourteen more, due to a combination of excellent bowling and quick fielding. Unfortunately once the two opening bowlers finished their spells they couldn’t hold it together. Between them those two allowed just 44 runs from the first 16 overs, an average of less than 3 per over between them. The third wicket went with 70 runs on the board and the fourth with 147 as the rest of Beddington’s bowlers all went for over 5 an over, at least some of which was because of consistent fielding mishaps.

Beddington’s innings didn’t start well, with the first wicket falling in the first over – a wicket maiden. I’d turned down an LBW appeal the previous ball – if my memory of what happened 24 hours ago is correct I’d only turned it down because there was just a leeeetle bit of doubt in my mind about whether the ball would have hit the stumps. But one ball later there was no doubt. The next wicket didn’t fall until the 11th over, but where you would normally expect the second wicket partnership to score at a nice steady rate these two just couldn’t. There were two more maiden overs before the second wicket fell for just 21 runs scored. Even so, that slow scoring mirrored Dulwich’s in their innings. Dulwich scored 44 from the first 16 overs, Beddington scored 45. But Dulwich’s subsequent bowlers allowed far fewer runs than Beddington’s had, helped by enthusiastic fielding. They were especially good at chasing balls down (and hence saving runs) which would, when Beddington was fielding, have gone for four. Beddington’s last two batsmen put on 36 runs between them, but by then it was far, far too late.

I was much happier with my performance today, and I think I made only one mistake. Early on in Beddington’s innings I wasn’t sure if one of their batsman was quite making his ground before turning round for a second run, so I made sure to keep an eye on him. It wasn’t long before I spotted a short run. Only by an inch or so, but an inch out is an inch out, so I signalled “short run”. Or rather, I thought I signalled short run. I actually signalled “5 penalty runs to the fielding side”. There was no acknowledgement from the scorers, who were no doubt confused as there was no reason for penalty runs, so I yelled “one short” at them, thinking that they either couldn’t see the signal or didn’t understand such a rare signal. We got the right result in the end, but I need to revise my lesser-used signals!

Beddington 4th XI vs Sutton, 2020-08-01

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Sutton 150/8. Beddington 129 from 33 overs – scorecard

My third game of the season, and the first to be completed, was played under changing, hot conditions. I was the only umpire, being accompanied by glamourous assistants who took square leg duties while I was at the bowler’s end throughout. It started with bright sunshine getting cloudier throughout, but the rain, such as it was, just a few light drops, held off until the Lager Innings. The outfield was scorched dry, with the ball running away fast, but the square had been watered. The strip we were using had a tinge of green to it, but was baked hard.

Early on in their innings Sutton were scoring fast, at one point looking like they might make 200, but after a high-scoring opening, Beddington’s bowlers pegged them back. It turns out that the young lad who I erroneously gave out last week can also bowl, getting 3 wickets for 10 runs conceded from his 4 overs.

Beddington’s innings started a bit wobbly, with the first two wickets falling with just 11 runs scored, but a 71 run partnership for the third wicket seemed to get things back on track with some fine batting that I was very much enjoying watching (being the umpire really does give you the best seat in the house) and I was rather annoyed when they both got out in quick succession, and the rest of the wickets fell for little profit. Aside from that one good partnership the highest score was eight. Sutton had a boy from their under-13s side who finished off most of the tail. His bowling was wild, but in his 4 overs bowled he got 4 wickets for 13 runs conceded. His feet were all over the place, often landing a long way back from the crease, and he gave away a lot of extras, but when he landed right he got wickets – results count for more than style.

After last week I had decided I was too lenient regarding wides, so was quite a bit stricter today. There were still some grumbles from batsmen for me not giving them, but that was their fault for moving towards what would have been a wide ball as I noted last week.

After my LBW mistake of last week I wonder if I perhaps veered too far in the opposite direction. I only gave two (one per team) despite many appeals. A few of those appeals were of course the usual ridiculousness were a fielder at point screams for a wicket, and a couple had the whole team go up including those who had a good view of what happened. There were a couple I only turned down because I couldn’t be sure that the ball hadn’t hit the bat – they were otherwise dead straight deliveries, but most I turned down either because I thought they were missing the stumps or had not hit the batsman in line with the stumps. Without the benefit of a suite of cameras, microphones and computers I just can’t tell if I’m getting it right or not, the best I can do is aim to be consistent, and I think I was. At some point I may sign up for a couple of hours with the techno-wizardry at the MCC indoor academy. When I do I am prepared to be terribly embarrassed!

Beddington 4th XI vs Reigate Priory, 2019-08-31

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Reigate Priory 145/8. Beddington 140/9 – scorecard

As we come to the end of the season and the sun sets a bit earlier, start times are moved forward an hour. After the last two weekends of having an umpire colleague it was back to player-umpires today, and so I took bowler’s end duties throughout, with them standing at square leg.

The forecast said that there was a very small – just 1% – chance of a bit of drizzle later in the afternoon, but to start with it was a lovely sunny day with just a few white clouds in a bright blue sky. Reigate’s innings looked at first like it would be alarmingly short, with the first five wickets falling for just 51 runs. Their captain, however, coming in at number 6, put in a good performance, scoring half his team’s runs and steadying the ship.

As the day wore on it became cloudier and the wind got up. About a third of the way into Beddington’s innings I felt a few rain drops. “That would be that 1% chance of drizzle then”, I thought, and it shortly went away. But the clouds built up and it got darker, and the second half of Beddington’s innings was played in intermittent showers. Beddington got off to a much better start in their innings, but had their own little collapse and, chasing a target of 146, they were exactly half way – half way with 73 runs, half way with 5 wickets gone, and half way with 20 overs remaining – at the tea break. That would normally be a recipe for a comfortable win for Reigate. But after the 8th wicket fell for 109 the tailenders did sterling work. With three overs to go they needed 27, and despite me giving an LBW early in that over, they made the required run rate, and only needed 9 from the last over. A change of bowler for that last over, however, restricted Beddington and they ended up six runs short of victory.

I considered taking the players off because of the rain, and by a happy coincidence I had read up on the ECB’s guidance notes for umpires after recent – and unwarranted –press criticism of Aleem Dar’s decision making around weather stopping play in the Ireland test match. I briefly discussed the situation with my colleague during the first significant shower. His opinion was “they’re happy to continue so let’s carry on” which is contrary to the guidance. That makes it clear that the umpires shouldn’t consider whether the players want to continue. I did not press the issue and just asked him to let me know if his opinion changed, as when there is only one umpire I should listen to his opinion but the responsibility is mine, and mine alone. At no point, however, did I think that the ground was becoming dangerously slippery, either off the pitch, or on the bowler’s run-up or landing areas, or in front of the wicket. I checked as I was walking from end to end. The other safety issue is whether the bowler can properly grip the ball and control his delivery. I carry a small towel for this reason – I would never have considered doing this if I hadn’t gone on the course back in February though at which it was mentioned. The final thing to consider was whether the rain was adversely affecting the ball so as to be unfair to the fielding side. I did not believe it was seriously affected, given that the rain didn’t really start until the second half of the innings and the shine had already been taken off. In any case, this is a matter where we should pay attention to any requests from the players to change the ball so no action is necessary unless they ask for it.

I don’t think I made any controversial decisions, but I did make one error. One of the Beddington batsmen edged a ball down leg side. The wicket keeper hared off after it, stopped the ball and hurled it back. I was unsure whether it had reached the boundary, which was marked with a white line and not a rope, and seeing no signal from the fielder (I had at earlier points in the match) I just assumed it hadn’t and that just the one that the batsmen had run should count. The scorer, however, had been nearby and clearly seen it cross the boundary, so despite my not signalling it he had noted down a four. I realised what had happened when the score board was updated at the end of the over to show three more than I expected, and I let it go. In retrospect I should have asked the fielder once the ball was dead instead of just assuming that no signal from him meant no boundary. Compounding the error, I had already asked a batsman earlier in the innings if he had edged a ball or if it had gone off his pad for leg byes when I wasn’t sure! The lesson for this match is “if in doubt, ask”. I may not have a third umpire watching on TV, but I can at least ask players and scorers for help.

Beddington 4th XI vs Purley, 2019-08-10

40/40 game. Purley won the toss and chose to field. Beddington 196/6. Purley 93 ao from 35.2 overs – scorecard

Having checked the weather forecast the night before – something that I always do – I knew it was going to be a windy day, 25mph and gusts up to 40+. There had also been some rain overnight. But the game can go ahead, wind is just something that players have to put up with, and we all get some entertainment from all the bowlers getting unexpected swing and people dropping high catches as they swirl around in the gale. I got to the ground a bit earlier than normal expecting that there might be some minor tree wreckage to be cleared up, but the field was surprisingly clear of it. Some small sticks had blown on and were removed, and downed leaves, but that was it. The covers had been on and the pitch was in good condition.

As usual I was accompanied by various player-umpires throughout the day, and this time I was handling bowler’s end duties throughout. One of them came out wearing his pads, having been hurriedly pulled out of the nets. Not sure if this is a fashion that will take off for cricket umpires – unlike in baseball we don’t have to stand in harm’s way, by the time the ball comes towards us we can move. Another, a young teenager, confessed on his way to square leg that he didn’t really know what he was supposed to do. So I told him it was primarily to look for run-outs and stumpings, and if he felt confident enough to do more, count balls, signal to me when he thinks there are 2 left in case I’ve lost count, and make sure the captain isn’t breaking the fielding restrictions. When I’m at square leg I don’t check the field on every ball, just once or twice an over, or when the captain re-arranges it, but my young colleague’s head was swivelling all over the place so he obviously did feel confident enough, and he did signal 2 balls remaining to me, correctly.

Because of the wind I used heavy bails, but even they blew off the stumps several times. Not enough to dispense with bails altogether, although I had swotted up on that Law beforehand. The wind was high enough that hats were gallivanting off to the boundary – I went hatless for the first time, deciding that a burnt bonce was less trouble than chasing my hat all the time, and that the clouds would mostly save me – and in one particularly fearsome gust one of the sightscreens was picked up and blown over. We righted it between overs, but it was a gonner, a tangled mess of broken wood and plastic and metal that will need substantial repairs.

I made two controversial decisions, both during Purley’s innings. First, I didn’t give someone out LBW. The bowler, wicket keeper and slip fielder were extremely confident in their appeal, and it would have been absolutely plumb, on middle stump, if only the player wasn’t 6’3″ and hit in the nuts. He is no doubt offering prayers for the soul of whoever invented the box. The second was a catch I didn’t give. All the fielders were in close, so all of them were closer than me when the player allegedly nicked it and the ball went through to the keeper. They all went up instantly, presumably having heard the ball hit the bat. But I didn’t hear it, and I didn’t see the ball deviate off the bat, so I couldn’t give it even though “on the balance of probabilities” I thought he was probably out and should have walked. I have to be sure before giving a batsman out though, and it’s also perfectly possible that what the fielders heard was his clothing flapping in the strong wind.

My movement was good this game, consistent throughout. And I mostly remembered to signal byes too, so I think I’ve sorted out that problem. With experience some of the “book-keeping” that I have to do – remembering to count balls and keep score – is becoming more of an instinct, so I have more time for other things. I say mostly, because in the first couple of overs he bowled one of the Beddington bowlers had to remind me. I’m OK with that. I’ve asked them after previous games to point out my errors, and I’ve told them that I know I’m making that mistake. He was giving a ticking off by the captain during the beer innings though, for “umpiring while bowling” and made to pay a fine into the team’s curry fund.

I think for the next area of my game I need to improve I’ll focus on the pre-match rituals of the meet-and-greet with the captains, and the toss. Until now I’ve done my pitch inspection and then just hung around until everyone’s ready to start, but I should be more pro-active in those inter-personal things.

Beddington 4th XI vs Sinjun Grammarians, 2018-07-13

40/40 game. Grammarians won the toss and batted first. Grammarians 56 ao off 20.2 overs. Beddington 57/2 from 12.2 – scorecard

I’m confident enough after four friendlies to stand in league games, so I’m now unleashed on the Surrey Championship, 3rd and 4th XIs division 4 East. At this level there are no neutral umpires appointed from a panel. Matches are generally umpired by players who are otherwise idle, so in practice the batting side provides umpires. Teams can have a dedicated umpire though, and I’m it.

Beddington’s ground has two sets of pitches. The main field is surrounded by trees on three sides and has an electronic scoreboard. the second one- on which the 4th team play – has tennis courts and a childrens’ play area on one side and trees on two other sides. Hidden behind the trees around the second field is the sewage treatment works, although most of the site is now derelict and unused so instead of a ghastly stench we get herons and other birds. The pavilion between the two fields has a decent bar with good cheap beer and provides a good tea.

Beddington’s bowling was just too good for Grammarians and I had little opportunity for controversial decisions – 8 were either caught or bowled, no-one reached 20, and half of their ten men (they were a man short for the game) got a duck. The innings was so short that we went straight into the second innings after a few minutes break instead of having tea. Beddington then knocked off their required runs in just over 10 overs, and even then tea wasn’t quite ready – we finished at about the same time that the 2nd XI who were playing on the other field reached their tea break.

I was pleased with my performance, as short as it was. I didn’t let the pressure of this being a game that actually mattered get to me. I do need to sort out my problem with not signalling byes though.