Spencer CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-07-25

40/40 game. Spencer won the toss and fielded first. Beddington 128/9 from 38.3 overs when the match was abandoned due to rain – scorecard

My previous match at this ground was almost exactly a year ago. That was rainy too, with the match starting late and being reduced to 30 overs a side. This time we started on time but the forecast was never good. The last several overs of the first innings were played in persistent drizzle, we eventually came off when it turned heavier, and reached the shelter of the pavilion as the heavens opened. The rain didn’t take long to return to drizzle but by that point the outfield was drenched, and I was concerned about the new ball in those conditions if we’d started the second innings. As it was, the captains agreed between them to abandon the match as it looked highly unlikely that we’d be able to restart in time for Spencer to get the required minimum 20 overs to bat.

I think I made one big mistake, giving one of Beddington’s openers (a young lad who is a very good batsman) out LBW. The ball was certainly going on to hit the stumps, but he was adamant that he had got an edge with the bat, as was his fellow opener at the non-striker’s end. But I didn’t hear it, so I gave him out. He objected strongly but his colleague told him to clear off and respect the umpire. From what I overheard from some fielders later, I shouldn’t have given him out as he did get an edge on it. I apologised to him later when we left the field.

The batsmen were also, during one particular bowler’s spell, surprised that I wasn’t giving wides. Several of his balls were marginal calls and if they’d been any wider I would have given them. The one that he did get wide enough to call, I didn’t because the batsman had moved towards it (law 22.4.1).

And I made one small mistake – I forgot about the new regulation for this season that the ball must be cleaned every six overs. I was reminded of this just before the drinks break at 20 overs, so for the second half of the innings I took some wipes out with me and did that.

I am cursed, 2020-07-19

My first match of the season was supposed to be today, at Ashburnham, who were playing Catsfield. There was a bit of rain around in the morning when I left London, heading to my parents place for a pre-match lunch, but that cleared up. After lunch I headed off to the ground … and the heavens opened. It absolutely bucketed down. But not for long, and so we got started only a little bit late, with me doing bowler’s-end duty throughout. After a grand total of 4.2 overs I took the players off as it had started raining again, and the bowlers’ landing points were already turning muddy and slippery. After a further 20-odd minutes of hanging around everyone agreed that even if the rain did stop the ground wasn’t going to dry out enough so the match was abandoned.

Then on my way home a couple of hours later I saw there was a game on at Blindley Heath so I stopped to watch. When I arrived the batting team were on 117 for 5, although chasing a target of over 200. Twelve minutes later they were all out.

Clearly I have offended the gods and am cursed to only see a few minutes of cricket this season.

On a better note, however, I don’t appear to be terribly rusty. I remembered to give all the right signals, even for byes which I forgot an awful lot of the time last year.

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.

Spencer CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2019-07-20

40/40 game reduced to 30 each. Spencer won the toss and fielded first. Beddington 120/8. Spencer 116/6 – scorecard

It had been raining overnight and the covers were on, but in the morning it cleared up and they were taken off. Unfortunately about an hour before play was scheduled to start more heavy rain came over, and the groundsmen were busy putting the covers on the club’s main pitch so the one we were going to use got a good soaking, leaving muddy holes just where the bowlers would land their feet. The start was delayed, and after just under an hour and a half of sunshine and wind, and judicious application of sawdust, the game eventually started, having been reduced to 30 overs per side.

Spencer’s second field is quite a trek from the club house, with an artificial turf football pitch in between, but does have its own separate changing rooms which mitigates that somewhat. There is a slight slope across the pitch from northeast to southwest.

I was the only umpire again, being accompanied by various player-umpires throughout the match, and this time I handled the bowler’s-end duties throughout, my colleagues just standing at square leg. It was a thrilling match, very close, which came down to Spencer needing a six from the last ball to win.

I was a bit irritated by one of the players. He asked me if the score board was correct, pointing out that they had just added more runs to it than had been scored in that over. A fair point for him to bring up. I checked my own score count (as well as the ball/over/wicket counter that every player knows about, I also carry a score counter, as the Laws say it is the umpires’ responsibility to keep the score) and told him that it was correct, they had just updated the score adding the runs from the last two overs of play instead of one, and that I would keep an eye on it. But at the end of the next over, when they again updated the score board correctly, he asked me again. Grrr.