Fifty not out

Posted in ECB ACO

Appointments, I'm pleased to say, continued to come thick and fast as we reached the half-way stage of the season.

My first visit of the season to the picturesque market town of Oakham will be remembered for a swarm of bees making its way across the ground much to the consternation of the players. A swarm had attacked shoppers in Market Harborough town centre the previous weekend. It was perhaps the most aerial half century I am ever likely to witness.

Twenty four hours later a game at Finedon got off to an ignominious start when my colleague and I managed to pitch the stumps on the wrong wicket. Thankfully, the game itself passed without incident, as the home side recorded a comfortable victory to consolidate their mid-table position.

Leicestershire over-60s' improved form continued with a ten wicket demolition of visitors Middlesex. Opener John Harrop, once Roger Tolchard's deputy at Leicestershire, scored his maiden century.

My colleague for the afternoon was Colin Downey, the former top level football referee. Among the many posts he has held in recent years is that of The Football Association Referees Secretary. He was most engaging and interesting company as we sat and chatted for a good hour after the game.

Back at Lutterworth two days later, Leicestershire Ladies Under-17s were no match for their Nottinghamshire counterparts in a match in which a home batsman was felled by a wayward return throw from the outfield. In the very next phase of play a Notts bowler turned her ankle in her delivery stride.

The home of Market Harborough - just down the road for me - was my next port of call for a game which vividly illustrated that catches win matches, the hosts benefitting in a hard fought encounter.

The following day saw me return to Finedon where Peterborough Town edged an absorbing game despite at one point, in pursuit of a modest looking 154, being restricted to just ten runs in 11 overs.

They were also able to overcome the loss of their star batsman to a quite stunning catch at square leg. My colleague and I agreed that this was, for both of us, our best and most enjoyable game of the season so far.

My next destination was the home of Doncaster Town Cricket Club, which is very close to the racecourse, for a match specially arranged as part of The Forty Club's 75th Anniversary celebrations.

I was intrigued by the home captain's nickname of Zorro which, apparently, has its origins in a game many moons ago at the Bradford Park Avenue ground when his bat was likened to a flashing blade.

Back on home soil I was very pleased to stand in a match involving Wales Under-11s since it meant that I had now featured in matches involving teams from the four Home Countries. The Welsh boys were embarking on a three match tour, including games against Notts and Yorkshire.

Their head coach was none other than Graham Burgess, the former first-class cricketer who, a little research reminded me, made over 450 appearances for Somerset between 1966 and 1980.

A right-arm medium pace bowler and a right-handed lower middle-order hitter, Graham is described by Cricinfo as 'a good old-fashioned county professional'.

After his retirement from professional cricket, Graham qualified as a first-class umpire and stood in over 500 county matches between 1990 and 2008. He also umpired a number of Youth Tests and women's ODIs.

My next appointment saw me return to Kibworth for my first Everards Leicestershire Cricket League Premier Division game where the visitors were promoted Barkby United.

Heavy overnight rain and persistent morning drizzle meant calculators were to the fore as my colleague and I calculated what play might be possible. In the event, both innings were reduced by 11 overs and the visitors held out for a draw.

I was very pleased to get this game under my belt and look forward to the next one at this level.

With no Rutland League game the following day, I paid a second visit of the season to Ratcliffe College where rain curtailed a Leicestershire Under-13 final trial match.

A fourth wicket stand of 119 between ex-County Pro Paul Haywood, who scored 101, and last week's centurion Harrop, laid the foundations for another win for a resurgent Leicestershire over-60s who avenged an earlier defeat by Suffolk and believe they can still qualify for the knock-out stages of their competition despite their poor start.

One of the Suffolk batsmen strode to the crease sporting a very well worn, dare one say, tatty, green baggy which apparently was given to him by an Australian girlfriend in the early 70s.

My next appointment culminated in a 170-run win which featured one century, two five wicket hauls - including figures of 5-6 - the loss of six wickets for just two runs and, at one point, a cordon of five slips and two gullies.

Another sizeable partnership, this time of 153 runs, sent Rutland and District Cricket League champions Peterborough Town on their way to an expected victory at Uppingham Town, but not before the hosts had threatened to upset the apple cart. Three wickets in one over by the Peterborough skipper turned the tide and ensured they remained at the top of the table.

This was my first visit to the splendid new Uppingham ground developed, I understand, at a cost of £650,000. Of this the club managed to raise, would you believe, £400,000. What a magnificent achievement.

My 50th appointment of the season took me to the home of Leicester Ivanhoe for a Leicestershire Under-14s v Warwickshire which was in the balance until the home side lost three wickets in consecutive balls - a stumping and two run-outs - and were all out some 15 runs short of their target. Incidentally, the Leicestershire wicket-keeper is, I believe, the son of ex-England coach Peter Moores.

The following day I witnessed another below-par batting performance by Leicestershire Ladies Under-17s as they suffered another defeat, this time at the hands of Staffordshire.
I was, apparently, being assessed from the boundary so, hopefully, the assessor liked what he saw.

A busy month ended with a return visit to Shepshed Town who enjoyed an emphatic victory, on a glorious afternoon, as they continued their quest for promotion.

The business end of the season now beckons, yet it only seems five minutes since I was calling 'play' for the first time in 2011.