May is by far the most wonderful time of the year, the days are getting longer, it’s starting to get warmer and the time honoured tradition of British summer time the village cricket season has started. Now anyone who has donned whites and taken to the field knows the excitement that comes around when it’s time for the first league game but in the five years I’ve been at my club I’ve never known such a buzz.
Fair Oak is a small village just outside of Eastleigh in Hampshire, they regularly run four teams on a Saturday and have one of the best run junior set ups in the entire county. Fair Oak have known better times in recent years but last year were removed from the Southern Premier League due to poor pitch marks, obviously there has been a lot of grumbling behind the scenes and accusations of what’s gone on but what’s done is done. Pitch marks are a broken system in cricket as only three people score them, the two appointed panel umpires give their respective view and the away team’s captain, this is where some controversy lies as away teams will often underscore pitches if the team has lost, however some of the time the low marks are deserved. The truth in the matter is the club made a mistake two years ago, hiring an inexperienced groundsman and no preparation has set the ground Lapstone Park back about 5 years and given the clubs first team a relegation to the Hampshire Cricket League and prevented a promotion for the second team. Obviously everyone involved in the club was angry at various decisions made above them but instead of breaking apart the club has united to prove its better than whatever everyone thinks, 6 months of hard work has gone into the pitch to bring it back to standard, the club forged new links in the community, the parish council agreed to help with funding new equipment and the club chairman also struck a two year sponsorship deal with British Gas, the clubs position off the field was strong now they had to get out on the field and do it.
Saturday comes around and it’s the first league game against OT’s and Romsey CC and for the third year now I’m back behind the bench as the first team scorer, I enjoy what I do, I spend my Saturday afternoons watching cricket and most of the time it goes off without a hitch, mainly because I go by three basic rules for scoring
- Don’t make any mistakes
- Get along with the opposition scorer
- DON’T BE A DICK
Every Saturday I try and go through them in my head mainly for simple reasons, mistakes in a scorebook look horrible and they’re especially noticeable when you use coloured pens. The opposition scorer is in the same job as me they don’t give up they’re day to be treated badly by myself and the third one is easy, if the captain or the players don’t like you then they won’t have you as a scorer and won’t want you anywhere near the team. Now I try not to let stuff get to me usually especially but for the last two and a half years I’ve been living in a personal sickness hell, now it’s nothing contagious but it’s annoying, countless doctors appointments, countless tests and yet they have no idea, until Friday afternoon. The long and the short of it is I’m now Lactose intolerant, not massively sensitive but enough to make life uncomfortable and it frustrates me, that kind of news plays on the mind a lot so much that I slept for about 2 hours Friday night and by the time I get to the ground on Saturday morning I’m tired, cranky and I’m on a hairline trigger, now I don’t realise I’m being crappy with people until it gets pointed out to me later in the day and then thinking back on it I realise I’ve been an asshole, so there’s a lot of people I need to apologise to next Saturday but anyway I digress.
We’re batting first and unlike in the last two years the pitch is playing fine, the batting is a little turgid at times but we are scoring runs at a quick rate. In recent years 170 has been enough to win games but with the pitch being better now we don’t quite know what we need, but the top 5 has all made it to double figures and with 15 overs to go we’re 150 for 3 and looking through the scorebook it’s easily noticeable that we’ve only had a similar score once before in my time as scorer and the was an away game. With 15 overs to go most teams will look to add 100 runs and that’s the target for us as well, unfortunately this doesn’t come to pass, most of the lower order chips in a dozen runs but all get out in similar fashions trying to hit the ball hard and only finding a fielder a promising start somewhat fizzles out to see us only get 227 for 9 when we looked set for a score of 250 plus. Anyone who plays cricket knows that cricket teas are amongst the highlight of the sport but for me it’s now kind of been cancelled out, there’s the trays of sandwiches where most of the stuff that’s left has cheese in…… can’t eat that, there’s a massive victoria sponge with strawberry jam and cream…… can’t eat that either, I settle on a cup of tea that I can’t have milk in and contemplate whether I should tell anyone but I’m still in a state of shock myself at the news and instead keep it to myself as we head back for the second innings. All the players seem confident that we’re going to win but I’m silently nervous in the score box still thinking we are about 20 to 30 runs short but low and behold in the fourth over there’s a suicidal run out and I can breath a little, the batsman who’s out isn’t happy with it, he smashes a boundary marker as he walks off, breaks his helmet throwing it into the floor and takes a good few whacks at a bush with his bat on the way back to the changing room…. It’s safe to say he’s not too happy with that. But after that OTR are batting well, they’re playing clever cricket, great running between the wickets and not playing risky shots and they’re creeping along quietly. They have a 16 year old batsman who’s flaying the ball to all corners he’s cool calm and composed and if he stays in till the end he may win the game for his team, he’s slowly chipping away and is getting support from various partners and he cruises past 50 it’s one of the best innings I’ve seen at our ground and he’s put their team in contention with 3 overs to go. It’s time to start hitting out and after being tied down in the over he swings at one… misses and his off stump is leaning backwards, the cheer on the pitch is noticeable, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we have just saved the match, he walks off to applause from his team but is clearly angry that he should have won the game for them.
In the end they fall 7 runs short, it was closer than the game needed to be and we need to have a rethink of what is a good score at our ground. A win is a win however convincing or unconvincing the victory is, this season is not going to be easy the team is going to have to work hard for the win in every game but I believe this team can do it, it’s one game down with sixteen more to go and i need to remember to not be a dick.