Trinity Mid-Whitgiftian vs Beddington 4th XI, 2022-05-14

40/40 game, Mid-Whits won the toss and chose to field. Beddington 93 from 35.3 overs. Mid-Whits 94/4 from 22.1 overs – scorecard

I won’t go into much detail on this game, in which – glory be! – Mid-Whits supplied an umpire too, so I alternated the bowler’s end and square leg as the Lord intended. Why no details? Mostly because I’ve been very naughty and waited too long to write it up and many of the details have evaporated from my tiny little mind. However, two incidents stand out, both while I was at the bowler’s end.

First, during Beddington’s innings, there was a loud appeal for caught behind. I was unmoved. While the ball did definitely end up in the keeper’s gloves, I thought that the noise I’d heard as it went through was the bat hitting the ground, not the ball. However, the ball was of course still in play, and the keeper was right up close to the wicket. The batsman stepped out of his ground and was promptly stumped, and given out by my colleague at square leg. An almighty row ensued, the batsman was insistent that because I had not said he was out caught, he wasn’t out. He insisted that the ball had been dead and therefore he couldn’t be stumped. My colleague explained why he was out, asked me if I was OK with that and I confirmed that I was, that I didn’t think the ball had been dead. Eventually he stomped his way off, grumbling all the way.

But this does raise an interesting question. When is the ball dead? Law 20 covers this, specifically clause – I think this is one of those things like banananana or queueueue where no-one is sure when it ends). The ball becomes dead when “it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler“. A question then arises – and is apparently asked in every umpiring course, I know it certainly was in the one I attended – what does “finally settled” mean? Clause 20.1.2 attempts to clarify: “The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play” – or as we were told on the training day, when the batsmen are no longer trying to score and the fielders aren’t trying to get them out. The wicket-keeper clearly thought it was still in play and only if nothing had happened in the next moments would the ball have become dead.

In this particular case it was the last ball of the over, so when I thought the ball was dead I would have called “over”, but in normal play it is never mentioned, although I have once, in abnormal play called and signalled dead ball. Players may have noticed that I am slower to call “over” than they sometimes expect. That’s because I am waiting for the ball to be clearly dead. If the batsman had waited a few more seconds before wandering off down the pitch to talk to his mate I would have called “over” and he would have been safe.

This set the game up to be rather unfriendly, but thankfully that didn’t last and everyone had a beer at Mid-Whits after the game – although the batsman still insisted he wasn’t out, and the keeper still insisted that he was out caught, and they no doubt will take this to their graves, both thinking that all umpires are bastards out to get them.

The second incident was rather less fraught. There was another confident appeal on the very first ball of Mid-Whits’ innings, again for caught behind. Judging from the appeal – it was immediate and absolutely unanimous – and also from seeing a great many deliveries from the bowler responsible, it probably was indeed caught behind. But I can’t give someone out just on a confident appeal and a good bowler. I didn’t hear the ball hit the bat, nor did I see it. And I didn’t see it because the bowler was in between me and the batsman. The lucky batsman, who eventually went on to make 23 before being caught off the very same bowler, should offer a prayer to his guardian angel for that!


Ashtead under-11s festival, 2020-08-31

A bank holiday with most of the things I might normally have done – theatre, Go tournaments, professional sport, museums etc – closed, so I volunteered to umpire at this under-11s cricket festival when the call went out on the Surrey ACO mailing list. There were eight teams, first split into two groups of four which would all play each other once, followed by semi-finals for the top two in each group, and a final and a third place play-off. The format was 8 players a side, 7 overs per innings, with everyone except the wicket-keeper bowling one over, and batsmen retiring on 20, all of that to make sure that all the children got to play and no-one was left to just field all day. Ashtead’s field was divided into two with some netting down the middle, and the boys played on 17 yard pitches instead of the usual 22. To help keep things on schedule, wides and no-balls counted as two runs but no extra ball except in the last over of an innings. The wisdom of this was brought home to me when I had to signal wide on every single ball of one lad’s over. I didn’t really want to, it felt cruel, but I just couldn’t be generous to him when he was not just bowling out of the batsman’s reach, but off the strip entirely, and the no extra ball rule did at least mean that his pain wasn’t continued indefinitely.

I umpired three of the group matches and a semifinal, and it made a refreshing change to have actual umpires standing with me instead of the normal player-umpires just taking square leg duties. I won’t go into details of all the matches – I don’t have complete score books to refer to to refresh my memory and it wouldn’t be very interesting. However, a few things really stood out. With more players than overs in an innings, wickets weren’t worth much and so the batsmen took far more opportunities to run than would be prudent in longer-form cricket. They were helped by the fielding being more enthusiastic than effective, with far too many balls hurled from the field to the keeper or bowler, who was often in the wrong place, or couldn’t take a wild throw, and there was too often no back-up in case he missed it. So lots of runs came from overthrows – so many that at one point in one game there had been so many and the players kept stopping (as if they thought the ball was dead in a fielder’s hands) and then re-starting (when he threw it) that I put a stop to it by signalling dead ball. There were quite a lot of run-outs, at both ends. Finally, with enthusiastic rather than accurate bowling from some, and wicket-keepers who were both not yet very skilled and often too small to reach the ball, several teams opted to have a long stop to prevent the many byes going to the boundary. I’ve hardly ever seen a long stop outside of a diagram of fielding positions, for as the fount of all wisdom Wikipedia says it is generally only used “when a wicket-keeper is believed to be inept; the position is almost never seen in professional cricket”. Although I do wonder if it ought to make a come-back in the professional game as a defence against the new-fangled ramp shot.

It was an enjoyable day and the cricket was good enough that I stayed on as a spectator for the final even though I was no longer needed. I don’t think I made any terrible mistakes, but I did learn a few things from observing rather more experienced umpires up close and from nattering with umpires and scorers when I wasn’t in the field. First, I need to slow down before giving my signals to the scorers, especially when there has been a no-ball or wide, because the ball is still in play at that point and I really should continue to concentrate on it. In normal games this isn’t usually an issue as the wicket-keeper generally prevents anything from happening, but in these games there was often quite a lot that happened after a wide especially. And second, most of my colleagues (all of whom were considerably more experienced than me) were fastidious about making sure that both their on-field colleague at square leg and the scorer were ready to start an innings.