Wallington vs Beddington 4th XI, 2019-09-07

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Wallington 117/9. Beddington 118/7 from 30.4 overs – scorecard

This was the last league game of my first season umpiring, and again I took the bowler’s end duties throughout. The field was noticeably longer than it was wide, making it noticeably harder than normal to get boundaries from straight drives and nicks behind, and easier to get boundaries off to the sides. So much easier that Wallington have erected very high fences along those boundaries in an attempt to lose fewer balls when they get tonked for six. In this game, however, there were only two sixes, one of which ended up in a neighbour’s back garden anyway. There is a slight slope from one side to the other, but I didn’t notice it have much effect. The pitch was a bit concave, with the wickets standing on slight humps at the ends.

Going into the match, Wallington were already relegated and Beddington already promoted, although in second place and a win would give them a chance of topping the division (results elsewhere ended up preventing this). Despite there not being much to play for I felt that both teams still gave their all. After all, if you’re playing at this level you’re primarily playing because it’s fun, and this was the last opportunity for league fun.

Wallington got off to a slow start, and something like a quarter of the overs Beddington bowled before the drinks break were maidens. And unfortunately they never really sped up. All five of Beddington’s main bowlers had an excellent economy rate under 3 an over, some of them being closer to 2 an over. Even the one part-time bowler went for less than 4 an over. An unusually high proportion of Wallington’s batsmen were out bowled or LBW. I gave three out LBW, which would normally make me wonder if I’d been a bit trigger-happy, but in this case I’m comfortable that I wasn’t.

After their innings Wallington provided a notably good tea.

Beddington’s innings got off to a much faster start. A mid-innings wobble, losing four wickets for just 17 runs, gave Wallington a small chance, but a good all-rounder performance and management of who was on strike in the tail ended up giving Beddington a comfortable victory.

I got to use a very unusual umpiring signal in this match! Although I didn’t actually see it happen due to the bowler standing in the way, there was a point in the Wallington innings where the fielders all told me that the keeper had fumbled a catch and the ball had hit his helmet that was lying on the ground behind the stumps. Five penalty runs to the batting side! Although I had to be told to give it I don’t really count this as an error on my part as my view was blocked.

However, regular readers will know that I have written about one of my umpiring errors in every entry in this journal so far. And I’m afraid that this time it was an absolutely colossal howler. I gave a no-ball for having more than two fielders behind leg. Unfortunately I had gone left/right colour-blind – the batsman was left-handed so his stance was reversed from normal, and the three fielders were actually behind the off-side. Oops. Oh so very oops. Profuse apologies, much blushing, a reversed decision, and when I joined the players back in the Beddington club-house for post-match beers some well-deserved taking the piss. But after making such a ridiculous mistake I’m very sure that I’ll never make that one again. It’s going to be a much easier mistake to fix than, for example, my earlier repeated forgetting to give byes. And I think that the lesson I’ve learned from it about how important it is to pay attention to the batsman before the ball is delivered, as well as to the delivery and what the batsman consequently does, will help me with judging LBWs. I’ve mentioned earlier about an error I made giving a left-handed batsman out LBW, but I think going into “concentration mode” a little bit earlier on each ball will also improve the quality of my LBW decisions over all.

Ashburnham vs Bexhill, 2019-08-25

35/35 game. Bexhill won the toss and chose to bat. Bexhill 248/2 (and one player retired on 103 off 56 balls). Ashburnham 180 ao from 34.3 overs.

My now-regular Saturday league fixture clashed with a prior engagement elsewhere so I picked up this friendly Sunday game at the club my father is a regular at. Bexhill are the “big beasts” in local cricket, and they use their friendly Sunday side to blood promising youngsters who they think might be ready to move up to open-age cricket. They had several juniors in their side today, one of whom made his debut half century against adult opposition. I had an umpire colleague for this game, who was also the chairman of the Ashburnham club.

The pavilion

Ashburnham isn’t even a village, it’s a loose collection of widely separated houses and farms. The cricket club has a small, spartan pavilion, with a garden and war memorial nearby. The field is small also, with thick hedges or fences a foot beyond the boundary in three directions and fields beyond. On the fourth side is the pavilion, parking area, and some long uncut grass. Where most of my previous games have had a constant hum of human activity here the background noise is sheep, birds and insects, with the occasional rumble as tourists fly in and out of Gatwick. The pitch is flat and the field as a whole is slightly domed, with a very steep drop in one corner. That drop-off is so steep that when standing at the stumps facing the pavilion you can’t see the boundary rope there so have to rely on fielders’ honesty. Despite the downward slopes everywhere, the ball didn’t run away very fast on the ground as the grass is longer than at most grounds. I expect that’s done deliberately to reduce the number of boundaries, they are still more frequent than elsewhere. Indeed, the player who retired on a century got there almost entirely on boundaries. Breaks in play as lost balls are hunted down are common, and several times we would carry on playing using a spare ball while a team of otherwise unemployed batsmen searched the fields and hedges. I expect to umpire here again once the league season has finished, and will make sure to take spare balls out into the field with me!

Despite what a casual glance at the scoreline would have you think, the teams were fairly evenly balanced, the one exception being the Bexhill opening batsman who scored a quick ton.

There was one incident where I really don’t know what was the right thing to do. Towards the end, as Ashburnham’s wickets were falling like dominoes, one of their batsmen was hurrying to get padded up and didn’t have time to put his boots on so came out wearing slippers. The fielders had joked about appealing for a time-out, but really – in a friendly? I think that my colleague and I would have looked very disappointed at them and offered the captain the opportunity to withdraw such an appeal at least. But slippers. What should we have done? He was an adult, so responsible for his own safety. I quietly joked to a fielder as I stood at square leg “bet he gets a yorker on his toes”. And yes, he did. He managed to avoid being hit, but I wonder if my colleague and I should have immediately had a discussion about dangerous play by the bowler (Law 41). If he’d sent down another I definitely would have. But on the other hand – should we have had a discussion about unfair play (also Law 41) on the part of the batsman? By not wearing appropriate protective gear and hence preventing bowlers from safely bowling yorkers, was he unfairly removing that option from the bowling team? Thankfully the gentleman in question wasn’t in for very long.

I think my performance was mostly good, and the scorers complimented me on my clear signals. I have made a point right from the start of not having twirly flourishes on my signals, of moving if necessary – if, say, there’s a fielder in between me and the scorers – so that they can see me clearly, and of making sure I’m facing them. However, I made two mistakes. The first was that during Bexhill’s innings one of Ashburnham’s bowlers sent down a beamer, so I should have signalled no ball. But I was so entranced by the beauty of the 6 the batsman hit it for that I forgot to signal. By the time I realised my mistake the next ball was already in play so I couldn’t correct my error. The second was that I gave an Ashburnham batsman out LBW. He definitely didn’t get bat on ball, it clearly hit him in line and would have hit the stumps. I raised my finger quickly and instinctively, it just looked so out. But I was wrong. He was a left-hander, and the ball had pitched outside leg. I normally manage to restrain myself and not instinctively wag my finger like that, but this time I failed, and I need to remind myself in the future to be more careful when there’s a left-hander in. Again, I realised my error too late to fix it, which is a shame because he was making a good show of himself, batting well into the gaps in the inner field and running singles well.