Intra-Plastics, 2021-04-24

40/40 intra-club game to open the season, with batsmen retiring after facing 50 balls. Team Fandango Pink 250/5 (plus 2 retired). Team French Pink 251/4 (with 2 retired) from 37.3 overs.

The pitch was a brand new astro-turf surface and played like a road. Aside from swing from the strong breeze that was blowing across it, there was little for the bowlers, and it didn’t even bounce much, being so new that it hadn’t yet truly firmed up. The scores were accordingly quite high, with Team Fandango Pink going at over 6 an over to set a target of 251. Team French Pink was always ahead of the run rate though.

Despite this being my first match of the season after over six months off, I was pleasantly surprised that I had very little rust to blow off. I remembered to call byes, something which I forgot at the beginning of both my previous seasons and indeed occasionally later in the season too. The one LBW that I gave was uncontroversial, as were the several LBW appeals that I didn’t give. I think I only made two mistakes. The first was that I didn’t shave my head before the match, and my lockdown barnet was rather too big and my hat didn’t fit, and so blew off a few times. The second mistake I made was that I spent quite a while before deciding that one LBW appeal (which I didn’t give) was not out because it was juuust missing leg stump, only to be told by a fielder after I’d made my decision that the batsman had got an edge on the ball anyway, which I had missed. Obviously if the batsman hits the ball then it doesn’t matter whether the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps!

The one other thing that I do need to work on, although it wasn’t a mistake, is on judging wides. I called wide 16 times but could have called it a lot more. I was asked beforehand to be generous on them, as we were rather pressed for time as it still gets dark a bit early at this time of year, so I only called those that were quite outrageously wide. I hope I’m allowed to be rather stricter in my next match, so that I can get my eye in before the league season.

Intra-Plastics, 2020-10-10

35/35 game between the club members who went on tour to Portugal earlier in the season and those who stayed at home. Tourists 152 ao from 30.2 overs. Home Birds 153/6 from 29.4 overs.

The Plastics are the first team I umpired for back in May last year and I was planning on doing a few more for them this year, but events conspired against me. One match was cancelled because the opposition couldn’t book a pitch; one was cancelled because the pitch was double-booked; one I had to pull out of; and finally, this match went ahead.

The distinct lack of pitch markings
Markings? What markings

This late in the year it gets dark early so we started as early as possible, as soon as the various football training groups had left the field. The field was wet, and I’m glad we were playing on an astro-turf pitch, as the rest of the the strips across the square were unplayable. It was chilly, and plenty of fielders wore woolly hats and coats, much to the amusement, I am sure, of some of the occasional spectators who stopped to watch for a few minutes. The field is on a slope, with one end of the pitch lower than the other. Bowling up-hill was hard work, and bowling down-hill was rather bouncy. The markings on the pitch were very faint. There was no visible return crease at either end, the popping crease was just about visible from behind the stumps, but from square leg it couldn’t be seen at all. I did the bowler’s end throughout, and only one of my many temporary colleagues had to judge a run-out, which he said was clearly not-out.

There were many wides and no-balls, including for bowling off the strip several times, as all but one of the Home Birds had a go, one getting three no-balls in his over (but also a wicket, and no other runs, so it was almost a wicket-maiden). There were also several dropped catches, at least some of which can legitimately be put down to – as can some of the wayward bowling – everyone’s fingers being frozen, and also some misses in the field from, quite reasonably, not wanting to dive into cold muddy puddles. The Dukes ball used in the first innings held up well, but the Gray Nicolls ball used in the second innings developed a large ridge around the seam as the wet leather swelled up which just looked weird, both in the hand and when the ball was in flight. I reminded them that they could ask for a ball change, and we could have switched to the ball used in the first innings, but everyone was happy to continue. I expect that that helped it to swing a bit more than it would have otherwise but there wasn’t much unexpected seam movement and no very fast bowling where that might have mattered more. According to one of the players whose Sussex league uses Gray Nicolls balls this is a common problem – and one that I’ve not seen with the Dukes and Readers that are used in the matches I normally umpire.

Late in the Home Birds’ innings it got very dark, so much that if the Tourists had brought a fast bowler on I think I would have had to tell them no. When rain was added to the darkness I reluctantly took the players off. Thankfully it didn’t last long, and as the squall blew past the dark cloud went too and we finished with an even wetter field but in good light.

I was a bit rusty even though it was only a month since my previous game. I don’t think I made any terrible mistakes (although people were most miffed that I didn’t give an LBW that they were all sure was hitting leg stump; I wasn’t sure if it was just tickling the stump or just missing, so I couldn’t give it) but I found myself having to think harder than normal, at least at the start of the game.

It was an enjoyable, not very serious game to end a strange season on. I feel that I’ve improved as an umpire compared to last season. Still lots more to learn, of course, and I do hope that training courses are back on before next season starts.

Pre-season warmup

Pre-season warmup friendlies are supposed to start about now. Obviously that’s not happening, but I can at least have a warm-up for the social side of the season by cracking open this bottle that I was kindly given by the Plastics XI as a thank-you for umpiring some of their matches last season. It’s bloody delicious, and will also help prevent scurvy in my Plague Bunker.

Yes obviously I should have used a slice of orange instead of lime, but I’ve run out.

King’s Road Social and Cricket Club vs Plastics XI, 2019-09-14

40/40 game. Plastics won the toss and chose to bat. Plastics 139/6. Kings Road 141/3 from 26.1 overs – scorecard

I’m now winding down the season with a few friendly matches, this one back with the Plastics with whom I started the season, and I stood at the bowler’s end throughout the game. It was a surprisingly hot day for the time of year, with clear skies throughout. We were playing on a well-maintained municipal pitch which had a few green patches in the middle but was completely bare and the surface cracking up at the ends especially around the bowlers’ landing areas. Those noticeably broke down throughout the day becoming rather sandy. The field was huge, roughly the same size as the Oval. As we were playing on a pitch right at one edge of the square we moved the boundary in about 20 yards on the far side. Even so, it was still big enough that we didn’t just get a few 3s being run, there was even a run 4 – with no fielding errors involved!

Plastics innings was dominated by the opening batsman who was not out on 72. They got off to a slow start, with the run rate at one point being just 2 an over. But it soon settled on, and remained at, a more respectable 3 and a bit per over for the rest of the innings. The one really notable event was when the first wicket fell after 16 overs. There was an appeal for LBW, which I turned down (there were a lot fewer appeals in this game than in previous ones) but of course the ball is still live at that point. The batsman was out of his ground, so the quick-thinking King’s Road wicket-keeper, who I thought had an excellent game throughout, came forward, picked it up, and took the bails off to stump him. There was much confusion, but he was still out!

King’s Road pride themselves on the quality of their tea and are competitive about it, with the players each bringing a dish, preferably home-made, and both sides voting after the game for which was best. For me, the simple ham and mustard sarnies won it, but the wicket-keeper’s lamb curry was also excellent.

On to King’s Road’s innings, and to start with it looked like it would be a close game. But it wasn’t long before they were pulling away. After scoring only 19 in the first six overs – which put them behind the required run rate – they got a lot quicker. They were well over half way to the target by the time we took tea, and after tea scored even quicker. You only need to look at the bowling stats to see why. King’s Road’s bowlers got 9 maidens in their 40 overs, and gave away two wides and two no-balls. The Plastics got 1 maiden and gave away 7 wides and 7 no-balls. King’s Road’s bowlers were more controlled and economical, and in limited overs cricket if you can’t bowl a team out quickly being economical is better than taking wickets.

Onto the beer innings – we first went to the Prince of Wales for a quick refresher, a flat roof pub next to the ground that has been done up inside and has a reasonable range of beers but some unfortunately broken down furniture on the patio out the back. We then moved on to the William Morris, which appears to be a new pub in an old riverside mill next to the Wandle. The evening was still warm, and sitting out by the river with some beers and trying to drunkenly explain how to adjudicate wides was a nice end to a good day out. King’s Road are a good club, and I’d be very happy to umpire for them again.

Normally after I’ve written my match report we’d get into the Maoist self-criticism section and you could all laugh at my ineptitude. But I don’t think I made any bad mistakes in this match. Instead I’d like to single out one of the King’s Road batsmen, Raju Mazumder, for excellent sportsmanship. The very first ball of his team’s innings hit him on the pad and raced away towards the boundary. However, he had not played a shot. This is one of those weird edge-cases that very rarely happens, most players don’t know about, and is all too easy to forget as an umpire because it’s so rare. Law 23.2.1 says that leg byes are not given if no shot is offered. Knowing that this is such a rare case, the batsman called “no shot”, which was a very helpful reminder to me! I would have erroneously given four leg byes for his team otherwise, but thanks to his honesty I signalled dead ball, and if it wasn’t for a wide later in the over the Plastics would have opened with a maiden.

Woodside Green vs Plastics XI, 2019-06-30

40/40 game. Woodside Green 289/5 (and one player retired on 100). Plastics 177 ao from 34.5 overs.

The ground, close to Sandilands tram stop, is in a well-heeled part of Croydon, and so far leafier than would be expected of this notoriously concretey town. The comfortable clubhouse is shared with a tennis club. It was quite a warm day so it was agreed to take drinks breaks after 13 and 27 overs instead of just at half way.

My performance was the best I’ve done so far, with no drop-off in my movement. I’m also getting used to being on my feet for so long, they don’t hurt and my back doesn’t ache as much as it did after my first game. I made one contentious decision, an LBW which the batsman was quite cross about, but I was sure and that’s that. Was I actually right? We’ll never know.

Norwood Exiles vs Plastics XI, 2019-06-23

40/40 game. Plastics won the toss and batted first. Plastics 166 ao. Exiles 159 ao.

This is another ground that is in a public park, and shares the club house with the boating club that inhabits the nearby lake, which is separated from the cricket field by their boat yard. There’s a slight slope from one side of the wicket to the other down towards the lake. At one end there is a large tree which overhangs the field at well below head height. I asked if there was a local rule to deal with it, but there isn’t – so as per the standard Laws, the tree is entirely outside the boundary, including the overhanging bit, so you get four runs if the ball hits the ground and then either hits the tree or rolls over the boundary under the tree, and six runs if you hit the tree before the ground. Likewise if a fielder throws the ball and it hits any part of the tree that’s four overthrows.

When I arrived for the pre-match inspection there was a group sitting around – not on the square, which was roped off – having just finished a casual knock-about. The groundsman-cum-scorer was already there and between us we decided that of the two wickets that were ready to use we should use the one furthest from the lake, mostly on the grounds that we’d lose fewer balls. That it was marginally less green, being slightly higher and hence better drained, was a bonus. Being a public park there was unfortunately quite a bit of litter on the outfield, and I gathered up the most egregious of it, including some drinks cans that I’d not have wanted to slide over if I were a heroic fielder.

Again I shared the umpiring responsibilities with player-umpires throughout the day, although this time I was only doing one end.

I did better at signalling byes this time, but made up for it with a different howler. When a ball rolled under the tree I signalled for four runs even though it was miles from the boundary. The chasing fielder, the scorers, and the gaggle of waiting batsmen on the boundary all yelled at me so I swiftly corrected myself. Pedometer data shows that for the first half of the match I was moving a consistent amount, and consistently less for the second half, which is an improvement from the slow decrease over time that I’ve had before. For now, let’s assume that I had to move less in the second innings because of differences in the way the teams played. It definitely wasn’t due to a surfeit of cake at tea.

Holtwhite’s Trinibis vs Plastics XI, 2019-06-16

40/40 game. The captains agreed that Trinibis should bat first. Trinibis 132 all out. Plastics 100 all out.

Holtwhite’s is a multi-sport club with a modern clubhouse facing out onto their main cricket field, which was in use for a league game. Their second field shares a boundary with the first, and has a significant slope from one side to the other which has a significant impact, although somewhat oddly the slope is visually much more noticeable from the northern end. Scorers are well looked after, with a triangular hut positioned in a gap between the corners of the fields where scorers for both games can work, with excellent views, and there’s even an electronic scoreboard facing both pitches. The bar in the clubhouse is comfortable, and they provided an excellent tea.

Again I shared the umpiring responsibilities with various player-umpires throughout the day. Some were less confident than others and so I sometimes did both ends with them just umpiring at square leg. Some umpires don’t like doing this, as standing at square leg allows them to relax a bit, but I don’t mind. I reckon that if I can concentrate and drive a car all day then I should be able to concentrate and judge LBW appeals all day too. And as a cricket fan, behind the stumps is the best place from which to watch the game as you can see every little nuance.

My pre-match inspection found that one of the sight screens was inside the marked boundary so I moved the rope, and a few yards beyond the boundary in one corner was an alarmingly spiky and rusty piece of what I assume was groundsman’s equipment. Or possibly an Inquisition torture device. Either way, I wouldn’t have liked to have been a fielder legging it after a ball, running past the boundary into it. But I judged it to be far enough outside to be safe.

Pedometer data shows that my moving is still not up to snuff – there’s a drop-off through the day showing that I’m still not moving fast enough or far enough away from the bowler’s end to judge potential run-outs – but it’s an improvement from the previous match. And again I missed signalling some byes.

Plastics XI vs Flying Ducksmen, 2019-05-05

35/35 game, Ducksmen won the toss and batted first. Ducksmen 160/9. Plastics 161/8 from 26.1 overs. Plastics win by 2 wickets.

My first time standing as an umpire for a full game! I was accompanied by various player-umpires throughout the day standing at the other end. The Plastics are the friends I referred to in the introduction who formed a proper cricket club.

The ground is just a large flat area in a public park, maintained by the borough council, with no real facilities, just some changing rooms a few hundred yards away. There is plenty of space outside the boundary in which picnickers were picnicking, children playing, and couples strolling. I was standing at the western end, the Albert Bridge end, so when I was behind the stumps I had a nice view of the power station peeking over the trees. No really, a nice view.

There was only one even slightly contentious moment in the game, when at square leg I gave one of the Plastics out, run out. He gave me an evil glare as he walked off and I could hear him grumbling all the way to the boundary, only to then hear one of his team-mates tell him “nah mate, you were a mile out”.

I was surprisingly knackered by the end of the day, standing around for several hours and occasionally going for a short walk out to square leg and back again is tiring if you’re not used to it and my feet were killing me by the end. And I can see from my pedometer data that I was consistently moving less as the game went on, so not getting away from the stumps so far or so quickly to be in a position to judge bowler’s end run outs. Something that I think will naturally improve over time, but I need to keep an eye on it. The significant error that I made in this game was that I often remembered too late that I should have signalled for byes or leg byes. Not something that will affect the result but it will annoy people who care about their statistics.

A few beers afterwards in the pub with both teams ended a fun day. I didn’t really know until now whether I’d actually enjoy umpiring, but I did. AAA++++ will do again, as they say on eBay.