Beddington 4th XI vs Old Wimbledonians, 2020-08-29

40/40 game reduced to 35/35. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Old Wimbledonians 143/4. Beddington 116ao from 33.3 overs – scorecard

The soggy Pavilion end, after the game was finished

Overnight rain left the outfield soaking, so much so that just standing on it would squeeze water out around your shoes in some places. The pitch had been covered, but the covers seem to have come loose in the high winds and so it was also wet around the wickets at both ends and in a patch in the middle. The covers were just coming off as I arrived and I went straight out to see how things were. Conditions were atrocious. Just putting your foot down – in ordinary shoes, not spikes – left a clear imprint next to the wicket where the bowlers would be landing, and without much effort I could push my finger into the ground. Start to put any force on the ground like the bowlers would and it would cut up horribly, to the extent that I thought it would be dangerously unsound footing. There was a strong breeze which would help things to dry out, but I wasn’t optimistic. A few minutes before the scheduled start at 1pm I did another pitch inspection and while things had improved they hadn’t improved enough in my opinion, and so despite much complaint from one of Beddington’s bowlers I told the captains we would delay the start and I would have another look in half an hour. The complaining bowler’s position was that if he was happy to bowl he should be allowed to. But that’s not how it works. In any case, the rest of the field, including parts of the pitch, was so wet that even if we had started on time it wouldn’t have been a very good game. Finally, another half hour later, I did a third inspection and deemed that the breeze had helped the ground firm up enough that we could get the game on. The late start reduced the game from 40 overs a side to 35.

With the help of plenty of sawdust on the bowlers’ landing spots the ground held up pretty well, but even so it was a difficult batting pitch, as the wetter spots were dead and so the ball often kept unexpectedly low. Old Wimbledonians’ first wicket fell for just three runs, and after the first ten overs the score was just ten. But after that point Wimbledonians got into their stride and started scoring more freely. The second wicket didn’t fall until the 25th over, with the score on 84, for a fairly respectable three and a bit per over, and after that they really cracked on, going at nigh on 6 an over for the rest of their innings, punishing the part-time bowlers hard. Their opening batsman carried his bat, making 62. I thought Beddington’s performance in the field was a lot better than last week, and that the target of 144 was not out of reach, especially as conditions for the batsman were improving as things dried out.

Beddington’s innings got off to a cracking start. It took Wimbledonians eight overs to score eight runs, it took Beddington’s opening batsman just one over. But unfortunately wickets fell too quickly to some good bowling – six men were out bowled – and only three made it past 20 runs, with six making less than 10. There was one comedy dismissal, where the non-striker had left the crease but then there was no run. He just stood there, several feet out of his ground. The ball went to a fielder, who chucked it back to the bowler, and I had the easiest run-out decision ever. I really didn’t want to give it, because it was such a silly way to get out and he had plenty of time to walk back to safety, but he didn’t, so I had no choice. Later, when Beddington’s last two men were batting, Wimbledonians had another opportunity for an easy run-out as the two batsmen had run into each other and were lying on the ground laughing at themselves. I thought it was very sporting that they didn’t take the wicket. Bravo!

I was happy with my performance. I do wonder if I did the right thing by delaying the start – whether conditions were actually dangerous – but aside from that I’m confident that I got everything else right. There were surprisingly few silly appeals in this game, which was good. Another sign, like Wimbledonians’ generously not taking that wicket after the pratfall, that the game was played in the spirit it ought to be.

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.

Streatham & Marlborough CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2019-08-03

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Streatham & Marlborough 187/6. Beddington 137 ao from 39.3 overs – scorecard

Streatham & Marlborough’s leafy ground is separated from the surrounding busy roads by trees, and around the upper field there are a couple of little picknicking spots where the trees have been cut back. The clubhouse looks rather run down as you approach it – they plan to build a new one this winter – but the side facing the main field is cheerier, and the building is hidden by a large willow tree when you’re on the second, lower field which we used. A church spire overlooks this second field. My pre-match saunter around the ground revealed a rather unusually shaped boundary. Almost all grounds have an entirely convex boundary, but here there is a small concavity where the boundary comes in to go around the nets that are built in one corner of the field.

This was the first of my league matches where the hosting club actually had markers for the 30 yard inner circle! One of the league regulations is that no more than five fielders may be outside this, but most clubs don’t mark it and captains and umpires are expected to just do their best to observe it. Unfortunately they weren’t put out at anything like 30 yards, so I paced off what was about the right distance and we moved them all before play started. They also provided a bowler’s marker at each end – hurrah! one less thing for me to stuff in my pockets!

Beddington were hampered by having a player missing for much of the first innings, as his car had broken down en route, but even had that not been the case I don’t think it would have changed the result.

As usual, I was the only umpire, being accompanied by player-umpires throughout, although in this game they were taking both square leg and bowler’s end duties. Unfortunately the game was not played in the best grace. I know that sledging is part of the game, but I felt that it was taken too far by one player in particular. The “spirit of cricket” in the preamble to the Laws admonishes players to be respectful of their opponents, and to create a positive atmosphere, neither of which was the case here. I found it bloody annoying but let it go for a while, but when a batsman decided to bring it to my attention I felt that I had to intervene. I quiet word with the player’s captain soon put a stop to it and the motormouth player instead switched to rather more respectful (and a lot funnier) banter with his own team mates, but sadly by then the atmosphere had been poisoned and no-one was particularly happy – there was no hanging about for shared post-match beers afterwards.

I’m not sure that I handled this correctly. I’m happy that I didn’t need to consult with the player who was deputised to be my colleague at the time, partly because I had no intention of using law 42 and making it all official with levels of offence and reports to the league and so on – I don’t want to be a pedantic priss. I am mindful of an interview I listened to with the rugby referee Nigel Owens, in which he said that what makes a great referee is communication and knowing when to let stuff go and not reach for the rule book. And also given that my colleague was a player from the same team that had prompted me to intervene I didn’t feel that any input of his into the decision would be seen to be fair. It’s important to be both fair and seen to be fair.

I think I did the right thing by intervening and by not intervening harder, but I’m not really sure if I should have intervened earlier. I’ve never played in a match where anyone felt sledging was getting inappropriate, I’ve never been to a match as a spectator where I’ve known anything like that was happening – it is of course hard to hear sledging from the boundary! – and I don’t know what guidelines other umpires use. I understand that this sort of thing is covered in some detail in the ECB’s Level 2 umpiring course, which I plan to take before next season.

Content policy

While I will sometimes talk about players and what they did, I will not generally mention them by name. This applies especially when I am being critical. I will try to follow the maxim that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Anyone commenting, please do the same, and keep discussion within the boundaries of behaviour outlined in the preamble to the Laws of the game – the “Spirit of Cricket“.

I have no compunctions about deleting comments that I don’t think are appropriate, but welcome criticism, including criticism of my umpiring, provided that it is polite and constructive.