The Village Cricketer: Danny Hall talks rain, the walking debate and cricket on the side of a mountain

The Village Cricketer
The Village Cricketer
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I’ve seen some sights in my short and not-so-illustrious cricketing career, including snow stopping play and a player put a cricket bat through a teammate’s car window, made even worse by the fact that the victim was a copper.

Same opponents, similar situation, very different outcome. The last time I had a bowl against Wickersley, they were cantering to victory and I took five-wickets. This time, we were romping home and I seemed to forget how to even land the ball on the square.

Such is the game of cricket. That was little comfort a few hours earlier, when I’d been run out after a mix-up with our skipper when I felt like I could hit the ball almost anywhere.

(My misery was compounded when the umpire told me I was ‘about a foot out’, while signalling about two inches with his hands!)

But a stunning 50 from bowler Lee Pollard, a veteran of our side and one of the nicest guys I’ve shared a pitch with, gave us a competitive total and the team’s reaction when he reached his half-century showed just what cricket is all about. Then, Wickersley were about 20-odd for five and we sensed an early wrap-up, before a brilliant stand from youngsters Adam

Whitford and Charlie Harrison gave them more than a sniff of victory and worried us a little.

Charlie eventually succumbed for a classy 30 and Adam finished unbeaten on 52 as we won by 62 runs - a comfortable victory on paper, a somewhat more nervy one in real life! Young Charlie will be a real player in years to come.

A special mention to our midweek lads, who sealed the title with victory over their nearest rivals on Wednesday night. Iain McDonald and Dan Naylor, two more top guys, shared a partnership of 89 to see us home and any success is always welcome.

My games are now limited by work commitments - but bring on Sunday!

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Just one view of the slope in Graves Park

Just one view of the slope in Graves Park

But I’ve never seen a game of cricket played on the side of a mountain, which is basically what I witnessed on Tuesday night as our midweek side took on a new team in the league, Kashmir, at Graves Park.

Kashmir were a good bunch, in fairness, but we sneaked over the line with little assistance from a pitch almost as green as the outfield, and with a slope that meant you couldn’t see the batsman’s feet if you stood at midwicket.

It was the most bizarre cricketing spectacle I can remember as lads struggled to hit boundaries - and the ball - on such a tiny ground.

If nothing else, it was a great leveller and definitely put a smile on a few lads’ faces. We’re not professional cricketers, after all, so we don’t expect Lord’s.

But even that hallowed turf has a slope...

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It remains one of cricket’s most quaint and controversial topics; to walk or not to walk? When players have nicked off, for example, and know they’re out, should they ‘walk’ off or let the umpire make the decision?

Some professionals prided themselves on walking during their career; others seemed to revel in their pantomime villian status for not surrendering quite so easily. WG Grace, the grandfather of cricket, even infamously refused to walk after having his stumps rearranged on a rare occasion.

So I doff my column cap to opening batsman Sean Hawkins, of Sheffield and Phoenix United CC, who did the honest thing off my bowling last Saturday. He nicked clearly to our wicketkeeper, who juggled and took the catch, but the umpire was unmoved. But Hawkins was already on his way, a sporting act graciously - and rightly - applauded by our team.

United ended up winning the match anyway, thanks largely to 45 not out from youngster Callum Ratcliffe, and I found myself asking afterwards; would I have done the same? (Walked, that is, not see my side to victory with a patient, composed innings). After all, I believe luck evens itself out and I’d also never expect a batsman to walk if he knows he’s hit it.

We’ve all been told to accept decisions of officials since we were young, in any sport... so if the umpire says it’s out, it’s out. And if he shakes his head, it’s not, for me. I’m comfortable with that - but players like Sean should still be applauded.

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So, three games into my new club career and I have a perfect record - one win, one defeat and one game abandoned, halfway through, last weekend.

We started in drizzle, came off twice for rain and eventually called it a day when puddles began to form on our outfield!

So my cricketing weekend consisted of a mighty 15 runs - shamefully, my top score so far after a inglorious duck on my debut - hours of watching the rain fall and not a great deal else.

Although I did play the rain card and pile a few extra cakes on my plate at tea, so it wasn’t all bad I guess.

Wednesday evening brought my first success in a Green shirt, in the T20 league at HSBC’s leafy sports ground in Dore. Our two gun batsmen hit sixes for fun as we posted just shy of 160 from 16 overs, but the home side ran us close and a tight last over saw us home by a few runs.

My own contribution was limited to two overs for far too many runs, yet I feel I probably bowled better than the week previous when I ended up with five wickets. Strange game, cricket!

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Cricket can be a strange and cruel game sometimes. Three balls into my first competitive 44-over game in about eight years, I was making the long walk back to the pavilion with nothing but shame and regret to show for my short stay at the crease.

Batting at five, I was stuck between stick and twist; hang around, or get off to a flier. Inevitably, I did neither, chipping easily to midwicket where the fielder made no mistake. Back in the changing room, I texted my girlfriend. ‘I hate this game’.

A few hours later, it wasn’t so bad after all. Sure, we lost the game; defending 135 against a decent young team was always going to be difficult. But they were cruising at one stage and we ended up getting them seven wickets down; the cry of relief when the winning runs were hit said it all.

Your columnist’s lofty off-spin burgled five wickets - including the wicket of their star man, who has over 5,000 runs and five hundreds to his name - for 11, off six overs. It would be nice to make a contribution with the bat before long, but five wickets on league debut will do for now.

A younger teammate came away disheartened, too, after losing his rhythm and bowling a couple of height no-balls. On another day, he’d come away with a few wickets himself and I’d have got slogged around the park. As I write this, Nick Compton and Joe Root have just been dismissed without scoring at Headingley. Yep, this can be a strange and cruel game at times alright!