29 June 2008

A rant before a week off....

It's the week that I, and some other Cricket Burbler's spend each year, drinking too much Brakspears in the Thames Valley with the pretence of playing cricket all week. That means you're unlikely to see too many Cricket Burble posts for a week.

But before we go, a quick rant. Paul Collingwood was right not to withdraw the appeal against Grant Elliott in the 4th ODI - there's no doubt about that in my mind. That's depite the many people all suggesting he should have recalled Elliott - only in England! The batsman can run at any angle to get up to the other end - the fielder can run in only one to get the ball.....the batsman needs to get out of the way of the fielder. If he deliberately runs in the line that the fielder needs to run in to get to the ball (as a team mate of mine used to do regularly and was often warned by umpires for), then he can expect to be barged out of the way. It is the batsman's choice - if he wants to have a better chance of making his ground, he should not run directly at the fielder - he can run at any angle, the fielder can't.

Being English, we concern ourselves with the spirit of cricket. I would argue that the spirit of cricket is not to deliberately run in the way of the fielder (which is what Elliott did) who is trying to field the ball.

A lot has been said about what Australia would have done, and also what New Zealand did when they ran out Murali as he went to celebrate Sangakkara's 200 in a Test in December 2006. Let's be clear - Australia's last 2 captains, Waugh and Ponting would have sent Elliott on his way, and rightly so. (Incidentally, Ponting has just been fined for words said to an umpire after a decision.) Of the two pieces of play, which was the more "unsporting" - the Elliott wicket or the Murali wicket? I would argue the Murali wicket because he was clearly not trying to complete a run, so New Zealand have no moral high ground to argue from. Both were given out, and correct decisions were made.

25 June 2008

What's the point?

I'm totally confused about the Asia Cup - why are proper international teams playing the likes of Hong Kong? Not surprisingly India won by a huge margin today - what's the point of playing such one-sided games?

16 sixes

Graham Napier's innings last night for Essex was pretty special given that he was one six away from a century in sixes alone. It just goes to show the rediculousness of Nick Walker's innings against my team last week when Napier looks slow in comparison!

Just to reignite the discussion about the size of grounds, Napier himself said that even shots that didn't come off the middle were going for six. When will grounds go back to being "proper" size?

23 June 2008

A Cricket Burble century

I'm sure that Cricket Burbler Dave McCabe would be far too shy to publicise his hundred on the weekend so I will. You can see the scorecard here - Dave played the key innings in taking our side to victory on Saturday.

Shot of the day (and one of the best I've ever seen from a cricketing team mate) was played when the rate required had gone up to well over one a ball. He eyed up the gap at mid-wicket and walked a pace down the wicket and over to the off side just as the bowler was in his delivery stride so that he could then pick up a ball from off stump for 6 over the gap at mid-wicket off his legs. Perfect.

Less than perfect was the wink he gave me after hitting a four at one point when I was batting at the other end. It had a very strong resemblence to Lee McQueen's wink in the semi-finals of the Apprentice, for those that watched the show. Great hundred, not sure about the wink!

20 June 2008

What Shane Warne's up to in Vegas

It doesn't seem to matter how little cricket he plays these days, Shane Warne still gets talked about in cricketing circles. And the fact that he led the Rajasthan Royals to victory in the IPL has ensured that he's stayed in the headlines. Well now's your chance to get involved with what he's up to next with 888.com. If you go to Las Vegas he's to be spotted playing poker online, and if you live in Australia you can even win the trip for free by clicking here.

Something else that had never occurred to me

We turned up last night to play a Twenty20 game at Merchant Taylors' school to find Middlesex and Warwickshire second XI players packing up at the end of a three day game and obviously I tried to recruit one of the players whom I know from hockey. Equally obviously he politely declined.

We had no problems with using a three day old pitch for a thrash(ing) but what I was surprised to note as I began my umpiring stint was that in addition to the various bowlers' foot marks and batsmans' mark-carvings in the surface the umpires at each bowler's ends had clearly stood in exactly the same spots as there were precise boot-shaped and sized marks in the grass made by them too.

Have you ever heard of Vigoro?

I thought I was quite knowledgeable about other near-cricket games like Knur & Spell, Stoolball and Bat & Trap but I'd never heard of Vigoro until recently - look it up on wikipedia here.

I find it extraordinary that a game so similar to cricket was invented as a separate game and that it seems to survive - the others games have big differences from cricket and I've even bought a Bat & Trap kit to use on rained off days on our imminent tour.

All too true

An interesting comment by my wife Michelle last night as we ate in a pub with the Portugal v Germany football going on in the background.

Michelle: So who's likely to win?
Ed: Germany were favourites before the tournament, but Portugal have lots of good players, including Ronaldo.
Michelle: But one player can't win a match by himself...(pause)...except in your Cricketer Cup match.

All too true.

19 June 2008

Law 43

Well, how stupid was the one day game yesterday?

The match was regulated, like all others, by regulations and what do they say "rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools". There was an awful lot of bad weather but surely it is better to get a result if at all possible.

Rightly or wrongly I am a great supporter of Law 43 and you will not find it in the law book! It is the one that should state that common sense should prevail if both captains and the umpires agree. I have used it this season when we have shortened the tea interval because we were worried about the weather and surely this is the right thing to do?

The intention must always be to play cricket because this is what cricket is all about.

17 June 2008

How dare you show extreme talent Pietersen!

I've never known such a load of fuss over such a non-issue as Pietersen's left-handed shots he played in the ODI versus New Zealand on Sunday. If he had got out playing them, would have anyone have said they had to be made illegal? I doubt it.

Several years ago, back in the days when Channel 4 had rights to cricket, they did a morning show before play one Sunday. I remember watching Dermot Reeve explain the 3 versions of the reverse sweep - one way of playing it was to turn around and play it left-handed while switching the hands (for a right-hander). That was many years ago and not one of the pros raised an issue. Mark Nicholas was presenting and (as always) was gushing in his praise for Reeve and the innovations he and Warwickshire had brought to the game.

All of a sudden, because someone does something extremely well, the MCC are apparently meeting to discuss if it should be allowed. Why not just let the bowlers sort it out by getting him out as David Lloyd argues - he only plays the shot because it gets runs and as soon as it doesn't he and others will stop. I wonder if one of the reasons they are concerned is that Pietersen's reverse sweeping (I love the fact that now it goes for 6 it's called "switch hitting" where as the same shot for a single down to 3rd man was a reverse sweep) is coming under scrutiny is, in part, one of the reasons he gave for it. He mentioned that the leg side boundary was massive while the off-side one was short, so it made sense to aim for the shorter boundary. It does make sense, but it also raises questions as to why an international match wasn't played with proper size boundaries both sides and further scrutiny on that point wouldn't be welcomed.

Some idiotic questions have been asked by some seasoned cricket commentators and journalists on this issue. How does the LBW law work? Exactly as it does at the moment - for Pietersen who is right-handed when the bowler starts his run up, he is treated as a right-hander whether he turns around and plays left-handed, or if he does a hand stand or forward roll for that matter. Do 3 fielders behind square on the off-side mean that when he turns round, the ball should be called a no-ball? Of course not Mike Selvey - what a strange comment to make! What is a wide now that the batsman has changed position? The umpire simply uses common sense as he does at the moment when a player moves to the leg-side to make room to hit over the off-side.

I hope the MCC don't stifle new shots (or in this case an old shot just played better) - it smacks of WG Grace putting the bails back on and telling the bowler that the crowd had come to see him bat. If they make a mess of their decision, they may find that unofficial games of "real cricket" start to get played where some common sense is used and the laws are made to benefit the players (including the bowlers who have a greater chance of getting a wicket when the batsman turns round as Pietersen did) and spectators, rather than for the benefit of jobsworths somewhere who would like to add yet more laws to an already complicated game.

16 June 2008

It's not only my team this has happened to!

This has just come to light from last week:

"Home Counties Premier League Division Two (East) Sawbridgeworth 208-10 Potters Bar 214-4. Nick Walker smashed a spectacular 116 off only 57 balls to guide Potters Bar to a convincing six-wicket victory over Sawbridgeworth."

I wonder if he'll make it a hatrick next weekend....?

As bad as it gets

It's time to come clean. Yesterday I played for Old Merchant Taylors' in the Cricketer Cup - a competition for old boys of public schools. Over the years the competition has been graced by many internationals and a far larger number of county players. Yesterday we played Haileybury. We had prepared seriously and were determined to get through to the later stages of the 5 round knock out competition.

We started badly and were soon 20 for 3 and then 45 for 4, forcing a big rebuilding job. We kept revising the score we thought we could defend as it became obvious we wouldn't be able to get anywhere near 200. Their skipper was Nick Walker, formerly of Derbyshire and Leicestershire although he's only 23. He took just the one wicket and coming in at 9 I even hit him back over his head for six (admittedly amidst lots of playing and missing) in my 17 towards the end, so you could say he was nothing special.

With the ball that is. Although considered a bowler at 1st class level, even there he can hit the ball a long way, as his profile on Cricinfo shows. He opened and his first couple of heaves didn't come off the middle, prompting calls that it was like watching Devon Malcolm bat. Unfortunately for us, he soon got his eye in and declared himself "in Twenty20 mode" to anyone that would listen. He started to take a liking to the one 1st class cricketer we had in our side, peppering the short-leg side boundary so I got the call up to bowl in the 7th over of the innings with just the two fielders allowed outside the ring still.

My over went 4,0,4,6,6,1. Surely enough to come off, right? Wrong. Our skipper also happens to be one of my two best men, but rather than take pity on me he asked me to continue. When I questioned this post-match, he said he thought I'd get him out and he knew I had the character to take being hit! The second over was even worse - 0, 1 (to the other batsman), 6,6,6,4. Two overs for 44, thank you very much.

Although the whole thing was completely humiliating, the other bowlers took the same stick and Mr Walker made a mockery of the game. He reached 50 off his 25th ball, and then scored 100 off his 36th - yes, just 11 balls for his second 50. When he was out in the 11th over, his team were 128 for 1 chasing 157 from 50!! We lost in the 17th over - you can see the scorecard here.

As I lay awake last night reflecting on the match, I thought through my 12 balls. One ball slightly short - the sort that normally gets tapped back to me at the level we play at on Saturday's these days, but this time went for 6. One slightly over-pitched as I went for a yorker and he took a big stride forward and made it into an easy full toss, 6 again. Apart from that "decent" balls. Could I have bowled well outside off stump? Tried to vary my pace more (which I struggle with at the best of times)? I'm not sure anything would have helped.

So now I'm left wondering what the benefits of having a phlegmatic character are. Anyone else would have been taken off after the 1st over, but I got the second because of my "character". My best man owes me big time!

Worst over you've bowled?

Apart from when bowling for a declaration, what would be the most runs you've conceded off an over? I think I bowled my worst - in terms of runs against - and second worst overs of my life yesterday. I'll let you know just how many runs I conceded once I get the feeling that I'm talking to others who know the feeling....!!

13 June 2008

Probable England Twenty20 side

If you believe what Cricinfo say in this preview article, England's Twenty20 side is likely to include Luke Wright and Ravi Bopara as the opening pair, Swann will play ahead of Panesar, and Anderson will play despite the roasting he took in NZ.

They claim Mascarenas will bat below Anbrose - I hope not - although I'm sure Ambrose will play an amazing innings now I've said that!

12 June 2008

West Indies start well in 3rd Test

The West Indies have given the Aussies the odd scare in their current series and they are doing so again in the 1st session of the 3rd Test - at lunch Australia are 98 for 4. Beau Casson may be needed for his batting as much as his bowling....

Everyone seems to be talking about Stanford's $20m match and what that will mean for English cricket, but I'm not sure we'll see any of it if the West Indies keep improving....

11 June 2008

One of cricket's not so enjoyable days

We're all stupid enough to love this frustrating game even when we're being carted all over the park or getting fingered as badly as one of my players was in the pub match I revealed I was going to captain (we won, thanks for asking).
But another member of my team ( a regular club player) was, I felt, entirely justified in taking the opposite view. One of the oppo's two 'proper' players middled a slog sweep and my man misjudged it just sufficiently to receive a broken collar bone from the impact. I was hiding myself at mid on and the noise alone was dramatic.
What really put the lid on it is that he's now unable to drive for 6 weeks and he'd only got his licence back the previous day.
Poor s*d.

9 June 2008

Who would you pick for England?

We all love to play England selector from time to time, so here's my team for the Twenty20 and ODIs coming up against New Zealand. This is from the squad that has been selected, rather than considering from scratch - personally I'd definitely have used a different keeper if I had a free choice over selection! The squad is: Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Chris Tremlett, Luke Wright.

Twenty20: Wright, Bell, Pietersen, Bopara, Collingwood, Shah, Mascarenas, Broad, Ambrose, Swann, Sidebottom.

ODI: Wright, Cook, Bopara, Pietersen, Collingwood, Shah, Mascarenas, Broad, Ambrose, Sidebottom, Panesar.

6 June 2008

Bopara breaks Essex ODI record

Did you really think that I wouldn't post about this?!? Cricket Burble readers will know that I'm a Ravi Bopara fan, and I think he was very shoddily treated by England over the winter. He played 3 Tests against the best spinner in the world, suffered a wrong decision, a run out and was out 3 other times. That's not enough of a run to take a decision on whether a guy can play Test cricket and I'm still confident he'll be an important part of England's future despite the knock his confidence must have taken.

So I was particularly pleased that he won Essex's match for them almost single-handed in front of England selector Geoff Miller yesterday. Coming in with Essex in big trouble he scored 201 not out with a strike rate of getting on for 150. His last 50 came off 16 balls which is a pretty handy effort.

I'd love to see Bopara and Pietersen fill the number 3 and 4 spots for the ODIs coming up, in whichever order they prefer. But I assume Bopara will be stuck back down at 7, if he gets in the side at all - what a waste.

What would you have done ?

Last night a 20 over game began with an inexperienced umpire at the bowler's end and me at Mid On. Prior to the umpire's arrival the bowler had left his cap and spectacles hanging from the stumps and there they remained.

Would you be polite and bring the umpires attention to them or just leave them there and wonder how long they'd stay there for (minor) comic effect?

Sadly I chose the polite route after one ball.

Presumably if I'd left them there and they'd been hit that would have been a 5 run penalty so probably the best thing to do but you can't help wondering how long they would have remained in situ if I hadn't intervened.

5 June 2008

Magic underpants?

According to Cricinfo, the New Zealand cricketers have been wearing special underpants in order to give themselves the edge against England. The high-tech Baselayer IonX underpants purport to deliver "ionic energy to the body through a negatively charged electromagnetic field."

Perhaps this revolutionary sartorial breakthrough heralds the eventual downfall of the humble jockstrap, though Cricket Burble is personally not too keen on the idea of a "negatively charged electromagnetic field" within its underpants.

Nightwatchman for Sidebottom?!

According to the Test Match Special commentary at the first day of the Trent Bridge test match today, Jimmy Anderson's promotion up the batting order from 11 to 9 was in order to act as nightwatchman for Ryan Sidebottom (test batting average of 15.60)!

Can this have been the motivation? Has Anderson been carting it around like KP in the nets recently? Or was our hirsute left-arm cricketing hero merely temporarily indisposed at the fall of Ambrose's wicket? I guess we shall never know.

Don't say I didn't warn you

Like all popular moves that start out with huge popularity it seems that Twenty20 cricket is subject to the vagaries of fashion.

Yorkshire (well Martyn Moxon, on the radio, actually) are reporting that for their five home matches this year they have sold fewer tickets than they had done at the same stage for their four home matches last year.

Don't get me wrong I'm a huge fan of T20 and will go to several this year at Lord's and The Oval but to assume that it is cricket's panacea may well be short sighted.

Don't they float?

Interesting conversation on TMS this morning. Vic Marks admitted to being used when his Somerset team mates wanted a ball change. The idea being that he'd toss some pies up so that the ball was lost or further damaged when crashing into stands or buildings.

He also said that divers were placed on standby when he bowled at Taunton which had a river or pond nearby (actually he was a much better bowler than all this). But my memory of playing at Broxbourne, where there is a river alongside the ground, is that cricket balls float, as you'd expect with all that cork in them.

Does anybody know whether I'm right or do I have to sacrifice one on an experiment in my kitchen ?

Hand touching reaches the US

Unfortunately I can't find the image online anywhere, but did anyone who read them notice that on the front of the London Lite and London Paper last night was a picture of Mr and Mrs Obama looking like they were just about to touch hands in the same way that the England batsman do at the end of every over?

4 June 2008


Ed has got me thinking about Nicknames and appropriate animal ones might be a suitable topic for this forum or perhaps better for Tour (for those reading this who are lucky enough to be coming on OMT Thames Tour). So far I have thought of Rabbit, Cat and Hippo for certain players.

Over the years I have known lots of amusing ones (such as Battimat, Ivanhoe, Bongo) and each of them has a story behind them which its probably best not to share here!

Warne has "no time" for Test cricket

Following on from Dave's post, I noticed this article which quoted Warne's agent as saying that he doesn't have time for Test cricket. There are a multitude of reasons why Warne shouldn't play Test cricket again but I liked the fact that the focus of this article was about his time - the poor guy apparently has work 198 days of the year.

Let's see - 25 days holiday a year = 340 days. That leaves over 240 working days if you leave out weekends, so Warne has over 40 days extra holiday than "normal people", or maybe 35 once you take out a few bank holidays.

Oh to be a retired legend of cricket with over 700 wickets to my name....!

3 June 2008

Stuart MacGill retires

Aussie wrist-spinner Stuart MacGill has announced his retirement from internationals after an underwhelming start to the West Indies tour. The news will presumably reopen speculation (see Ed's previous burble) of a rather unlikely Warne comeback, though the spinning legend (Warne, that is, rather than Ed) has recently played down talk of coming out of retirement for the 2009 Ashes.

It looks like the reality will be that the Aussies will now have to blood one of their promising youngsters a couple of years earlier than they might have wished. Gone are the days when
players had to serve a decade of domestic cricket apprenticeship (a la Darren Lehmann or Mike Hussey).

Does anyone know anything about the young spinning Padawans who are next in line?! Beau Casson is the remaining spinner in the squad, but Dan Cullen and Bryce McGain are also names mentioned. Or maybe burblers Ed or Mark have an Aussie passport...?

Six wrong decisions in a day

I know, I know - I'm always banging on about wrong decisions changing match results. But this time it isn't me - it's the well respected voice of Tony Cozier following 6 wrong decisions in one day in the West Indies v Australia 2nd Test in an article entitled "A strong case for technology". Eventually I will get round to adding them to the enormous Cricket Burble list of wrong umpiring decisions which is nearing the century mark now, but they aren't there yet, and the wronguns from the England v New Zealand series still need to be added too.

Although the article on Cricinfo stangely starts mid-way through a point he's making(!), he sums up by saying "In six hours, the case for the use of technology had been appreciably advanced." As I've argued before, if a business leader was to wait until events forced him/her into making a change, they'd be considered a failure and would be sacked. The cricketing authorities and the ICC member countries need to consider that carefully and try to get ahead of the game in terms of use of technology, not wait until events force them into action.

2 June 2008

A great day of cricket - part 3

After 7 overs, 3 wickets had already fallen and things were looking good, although we hadn’t dislodged Michael Simpkins who had opened the innings. As our young “fast” bowler (Julian later told me that he had a side strain last season so he must be fast!) kept taking wickets, I was struck by Steyning’s wicket celebrations, or lack of them. Steyning’s style is the old-fashioned hand-shaking that was common many decades ago. If you’ve ever seen the footage of Laker taking his 19 wickets in a Test, he simply simply walks back to his mark or at best his team mates casually come over and shake his hand, and this seemed to be Julian and Steyning’s way, rather than those over-excited high five things.

So with Harry Baldwin’s XI 3 down quickly, we “opened the game up”. Traditionally this is done by the bowlers bowling slowly, allowing the batsman to get some good strikes in, but I like Steyning’s version – they also drop all catches to ensure the batsmen have every possible chance of success. I got involved with the spirit of things by not going for a catch to me at deep square – it was hit pretty hard and flat and, to be honest, I didn’t fancy losing my teeth, which would have been a distinct possibility if I’d tried to dive forward to take it, so I taxi’d it. I also wasn’t helped by the fact that the boys on the boundary who were trying to drink water through their mouth and then get it to come out of their nose had caught my attention and I wasn’t concentrating properly. Fortunately the length of Steyning’s shortest boundary meant that even my jelly arm made it in ok from there and my complete lack of a throwing arm wasn’t exposed.

I got the call up to bowl asking me to toss it up – given that my Saturday “bowling properly” figures were 4-0-45-0 – I spent most of this weekend watching the ball go back over my head! Having been in this situation before, I know that I’m rubbish at tossing the ball up – I bowl flat and if I ever try to change it, the result is normally a full toss. So my figures after 1 over were 0 for about 10 and I got the chop – “you can come back later and bowl properly”.

What my skipper Andy didn’t realise was that my “proper” bowling wasn’t going to be much better but of course I couldn’t really explain that on the spot – he’d soon find out. And he did as I got about 5 overs at the end as the game was expertly managed to an exciting conclusion – the Harry Baldwin’s supporters making themselves heard on the boundary cheering their side ever closer. I managed to take 2 wickets, one caught and one stumped but I found myself doing all that sort of stuff that bowlers do to make it seem like they are bowling better than they are. In between the obligatory one four ball an over I was bowling (at least) there was one ball that went for byes that probably would have missed another stump outside leg, but I held my head to try to give the impression it was quite close – after all I’m meant to be a bowling all-rounder!

Harry Baldwin’s ended up at 169 for 8 chasing our 178 so an honourable draw and a very good game. Michael Simpkins then gave a great talk about Harry Baldwin’s and repeated some of the anecdotes in Fatty Batter. Ensuring that I really was seen as a bit of a cricketing nerd, I took an (admittedly poor) photo of Michael on stage, and got him to sign my book - photos to go up when bandwidth allows. I even advertised this blog to a few of my team mates so you never know – Cricket Burble could have a new additional audience.

If you ever get someone offering you the chance to play at Steyning CC or in a match against Harry Baldwin’s XI, I’d bite their arm off….

Setting the field - how difficult can it be?

So you've done the difficult bit and chosen who you want where, now all you have to do is communicate that to your men. One veteran slow bowler in our club has recently selected a new method of doing this, which is to point in several different directions very quickly without making any sort of contact, eye or verbal, with anybody he wants to move. I hope it convinces the batsmen that he knows what he's doing because it doesn't half cause confusion in his team mates, particularly when he's pointing in one direction and looking in another.

Yesterday I saw another example of confusion when the skipper at deep mid wicket was trying to get deep extra into a precisely chosen location against the noise of a steady stream of traffic behind the sight screen - no chance.

All it needs is four signals, wider, straighter, deeper and closer - perhaps we should invent them. On Sunday, when I've got to captain my local pub, I'm sure I'm going to see super eager fielders settting out to move from fine leg to fine leg and from deep extra to deep extra at the end of the first over - yet another type of chaos!

A great day of cricket - part 2

So 26 for 4 it was and I was bizarrely nervous….not the 150 for 4 that I imagined. I left the first couple and then managed to at least hit one. No runs, but all the same I felt slightly better. Finally after what must have been 10 or 12 balls I managed to nudge a full toss out for a single – I’d managed to avoid the ignominy of a duck on debut.

But as soon as I relaxed a little I was soon in a familiar situation – looking up at the umpire hoping that he wouldn’t put his finger up after a loud opposition appeal. You’d think it would be easy to keep your legs out of the way, but no, LBW is still my trademark dismissal, no matter whether I take 1 or 2 as a guard or stand outside leg stump. So I’m quite used to the routine of listening to a big appeal, looking at the ground for a hesitant moment, and then up at the umpire expecting the finger of death. This time thankfully he hadn’t moved – I think I was helped by the fact he’d already given an LBW earlier in the innings.

While I was prodding around and still on 1, Matt at the other end was knocking the ball to all parts and batting superbly. We survived an over of mysterious leg-spin from Michael Simpkins himself (he has an interesting action!) and managed to start to get the scoreboard going so it was a bit of a surprise when Matt got himself out, but in strode Andy, the Steyning 1st XI captain at what must have been about 70-5.

As we tried to accelerate the scoring I started to enjoy it, but that didn’t help in terms of runs off my bat. Andy seemed to be hitting fours effortlessly while I tried to hit the ball out of the ground and missed or got hit on the pad (as usual). But eventually everything came together and I hit a straight six – a bit of a puny effort where the umpire had to ask of it was 4 or 6 - and a couple more over cow or, as I like to call it, wide long-on. When I got to 50 the wicket-keeper wasn’t shy about repeating his “ringer” comment! 61 not out on debut and 178 for 5 declared for Steyning, and a 50 for Andy as well, so all was good.

However, I’d stupidly mentioned that I was maybe slightly more of a bowler than a batsman. It’s tricky to know how to advertise yourself when you are playing your first game for a team as an all rounder. You have a three choices really – a genuine all-rounder, more of a batsman or more of a bowler. Or, I suppose, the self-deprecating “I’m a genuine all-rounder – equally crap at batting, bowling and fielding”. I’d gone for the bowling option on the basis that at the highest standards that I’ve played/play, I tend to bat 7-10 and bowl, and also thinking to myself that as a bowler you get more bites of the cherry.

So having scored 61 not out my new team mates were expecting great things with the ball, which slightly concerned me as we munched on tea. Tea, incidentally, was excellent – a key criteria for cricket club selection.

A great day of cricket - part 1

It’s strange that having played adult club cricket since the age of 9, I still managed to be a bit nervous as I strode out to the wicket at 26-4 in the 17th over, for Steyning CC against the Harry Baldwin’s XI. Steyning (pronounced “Stenning”!) have a beautiful ground just down the road from our new home in Shoreham-by-sea, and what better game to make your debut in?

For those not in the know, the Harry Baldwin’s XI is the team made famous in the book Fatty Batter by Michael Simpkins. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book yet, but fellow Cricket Burbler Mark Davis had recommended the book, so I had it sitting at home alongside John Major’s "More Than a Game" and a 2nd hand copy of Maurices Tate's autobiography (bought when at Hove for a bargain £10), ready to read when I got a moment. You can buy your copy of Fatty Batter by clicking on the link or on the banner top right.

I’d already let the side down slightly when I first arrived, and asked the Harry Baldwin’s XI, who were enjoying an outdoor pint in preparation for the big game, if they were Steyning. They weren’t, but of course their suspicions had been aroused that I was a “ringer” brought in from outside the club to play against them. I tried to play down that suspicion by explaining that I’d just moved to the area a few weeks ago and so didn't know my own team mates, but their keeper remembered our intial conversation throughout the match!

Safely united with my own side, I started to meet a few of the players. There seemed to be a penchant for calling people by animal names – Panda and Squirrel – perhaps invented to make it easy for new players like myself to remember them….too many John’s, Jim’s, Peter’s and Will’s and it becomes impossible to remember 10 names - squirrels and pandas, no problem. But I still had no hope when people like the Chairman and various supporters introduced themselves – I’d long since given up trying to remember names. (I once borrowed a book on how to improve your memory and forgot to give it back to the owner for many months!)

What struck me was that Steyning had 3 young guys playing, and a 4th, Julian, who came in off a run up of more than a few paces and still had youth on his side – more than a third of the side capable of throwing themselves around in the field! Perfect for an old-before-his-time slow bowler who needs all the help he can get from his fielders. And before I left after the match, one of them asked if I was on Facebook!

To ensure I felt at home, the bar served both Pedigree and Bombardier – a choice of bitters rather than one drunk at the rate of about 5 pints a week as in some cricket clubs. There were a few tuttings when I refused a second pre-match pint which bodes well, and I was installed at number 6 – absolutely ideal for a new player who wants to be able to get a bat, but without the pressure of being in the top 5 and having to play a big innings. I imagined coming in at 150-4 with 10 overs to get on with it, but the reality was somewhat different….