Day 5 Con’t
Part of batting first is the responsibility for setting up the field. As we headed out to the middle, the rest of the team were sent around the ground to setup the boundary. The ground itself is located inside the local bull-ring, and is a couple of hundred metres long and wide. Don Bradman would find it impossible to actually hit the ball to parts of the fence here, which is why we need the witches hats. This involves placing witches hats at intervals of about 10 to 15 metres. Until you run short of witches hats, which means that the last few are about 40 metres apart. From the top, I rather suspect that the boundary line bears a passing resemblance to the zig-zag railway line, but I will fix that up at the change of innings (which will also allow me to move the boundary back a few metres).
The ground itself was looking a treat. I found a few clumps of grass in the outfield, but other than that, it was fairly level dirt. There was a sandtrap on the straight hit (I think it was the remains of a longjump pit), which would stop any drives along the ground faster than the mention of 'teacher' gets the cigarettes put out behind the dunnies. One of the features of this field is a tree at deep point. Some keen students of the game (none of whom were at the match today) may like to draw similarities to the lime tree at Kent’s home ground in Canterbury. They would be wrong. This tree is skinny, and has few branches or leaves. Or any character at all. The tree is heritage listed (as it was the site where a particularly unfamous early Australian explorer spent the night one hundred and eighty odd years ago) which is why it remains uncut. Evidently, according to my new team-mates, at least one player a match does a face-plant into the tree whilst chasing a ball. Locals reckon that they can tell cricket season has started when they hear the thump of face on willow.
One of the other great joys of lower grade cricket is the fact that you umpire yourself. No umpires are provided here – your team-mates are responsible for your life or death. This naturally presents a few issues of potential bias, so I had quick chat with the two players who agreed (under threat of having to score instead) to start as the umpires. I told them that I wanted them to be as fair and impartial as possible, but that they should always remember that the batsman should get the benefit of the doubt. Which means that lbws are out of the question. I feel it is appropriate for players to walk if they nick one, but I have faith in these two and will leave it to their judgement if they think I am out.
Spotty and I agreed that I would take strike for the first ball. Well, Spotty actually insisted, saying that “I don’t want to get out first ball of the match – you’re facing”. It was hard to argue with that logic. I took my customary glance round the field, noting where there were gaps and places for easy singles. I have to admit that it was one of the strangest field settings I had ever come across – it made me wonder what their opening bowler was going to do. It is not usual to start the game with a deep mid-wicket, but they had two out there, about five metres apart. It turns out that there was an esky there. They also had a long-stop, which I thought had gone out in under-10s cricket. The opposition now had ten players, and the remaining fielders were scattered haphazardly around the rest of the ground. Fly slip is always a strange position – there is no way that guy is going to get much work today. I glanced up at the umpire and asked for my customary guard – middle and leg. He looked at me quizzickly, and said “what the hell is that?” I settled for centre instead, but I don’t know how accurate it was, as the umpire was standing off to one side when he gave it to me.
The opening bowler was a left-hander, and stood at the end of his mark. He had a fairly short run, the umpire called “Play ball” and we were ready to go.