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.

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.