Wikipedia (that well-known font of all knowledge), rather boringly, defines our national sport of Cricket as ‘a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each on a field at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard-long pitch. Each team takes its turn to bat, attempting to score runs, while the other team fields. Each turn is known as an innings (used for both singular and plural). The bowler delivers the ball to the batsman who attempts to hit the ball with his bat away from the fielders so he can run to the other end of the pitch and score a run. Each batsman continues batting until he is out. The batting team continues batting until ten batsmen are out, or a specified number of overs of six balls have been bowled, at which point the teams switch roles and the fielding team comes in to bat.’
Personally, I much prefer the definition of Cricket (attributed to Arthur, Lord Bane), as explained to a foreigner: ‘You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!’
In professional cricket, the length of a game ranges from 20 overs (T20) per side to Test cricket played over five days. The Laws of Cricket are maintained by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) with additional Standard Playing Conditions for Test matches and One Day Internationals. The game is played by 120 million players in many countries, making it the world’s second most popular sport after association football. Cricket is generally believed to have been first played in southern England in the 16th century. By the end of the 18th century, it had become the national sport of England. The expansion of the British Empire led to cricket being played overseas and by the mid-19th century the first international match was held. The game is most popular in England, Australasia, the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and Southern Africa.
Now I am a cricket lover. I was taught the game by my late Father (also a cricket lover) who had great hopes for me playing one day for Middlesex and England?! Actually he would have preferred me to play for Kent (where he was born) but unfortunately I was born in Middlesex. My father and I used to go regularly to Ealing Common where he would set up a couple of stumps, place a pocket handkerchief on a good length, and have me bowl time and again to pitch the ball on the handkerchief and hit the stump. I was essentially a potential fast bowler in my youth – 6’ 4” tall and able to generate considerable pace even from a short run up. One of my ‘claims to fame’ is that as a 14 year-old I won a prestigious ‘Star’ award for taking 6 wickets for 0 runs whilst playing for Greenford County Grammar School against Hayes Grammar School!? At 15 years of age I went to play for Brentham – a club in south Ealing, where Mike Brierley (who eventually became England Captain) and all the Brierleys played (I went to school with his sister by the way). You were not allowed to join a club under the age of 16 in those days (but in my case they made an exception). My burgeoning career as a cricketer was somewhat curtailed in 1960, however, when I became a Christian, and made the choice not to play on Sundays. This was not primarily because I was opposed to Sunday sport per se but because Sunday matches meant that I would not be able to attend church at all because Club Cricket Conference matches on Sundays started at around 11.00 a.m. in those days, (with travel to away games necessitating an even earlier start) and often did not finish until gone 7.00 p.m. at night. This meant that I would miss both Morning and Evening Services at church as a result. I still played on a Saturday – for the school on a Saturday morning and Brentham on a Saturday afternoon (Saturday matches didn’t start until 2.00 p.m. for some reason) – but on Sundays I chose to attend church.
Of course cricket is thoroughly Scriptural you know. It is recorded in the Bible – in the Book of Acts – that on one occasion, ‘Peter stood up with the eleven’ (Acts 2:14)!? The truth of this is confirmed by the fact that although I cannot persuade my wife, Julia, to come and watch a football match with me … she is always happy to come and watch a cricket match. This is especially true if there also happens to be a picnic involved as well! When we first met she would come and watch me play for Chobham … although she drew a line (despite being a professionally trained caterer) at being roped in with the other girlfriends, fiancées and wives to make the sandwiches for the players’ teas? When we lived in Birmingham she would come with me to watch the T20 matches at Edgbaston.
Although we have only been living here in Knaphill for about five months, I have already been roped in to become a committee member of the Knaphill Residents’ Association, and part of the organising committee for the (newly formed) Knaphill Cricket Club. Knaphill used to have a cricket team a number of years ago but it became defunct for some unaccountable reason hidden in the mystery of time. Whether or not I will actually ‘turn out’ for Knaphill remains to be seen. Unfortunately, all of our matches are scheduled for a Sunday and so I will be hard pushed to get there for a 1.00 p.m. start after church. I suppose I could always try and persuade Julia to preach a shorter sermon on those Sundays when we have a match? My fellow committee members seem keen for me to play… but whether this is because they have heard of my cricketing prowess in former years, or because they fear that they will be short of available players, or simply because they do not realise that I am nearly 73 years of age, remains to be seen. Secretly, of course, I have an ambition to be the oldest player to score a century and take all 10 wickets in a cricket match.
Our first match is on Sunday 15 May – which also happened to be Julia’s birthday – and we will be going along anyway, suitable equipped with folding chairs and picnic hamper of course. We will be playing Byfleet CC and the match will commence at 1.00 p.m. We have managed to beg, borrow, or steal some kit … although we are looking for a generous ‘sponsor’ … so it should be a ‘fun’ occasion. Do come along if you can. Our home ground is Waterers Park, Knaphill and our Web Page is www.knaphillcricket.co.uk. We have a number of fascinating fixtures already arranged, including some that incorporate BBQ’s and picnics and other activities which make for a great day out for the whole family.
The more discerning of you may ask ‘why’ I am choosing to write about cricket as a Baptist Minister? He must have an ‘ulterior motive’ some may suspect? Where is the ‘catch’? The ‘sting in the tail’? Well, there isn’t one really. I really do like cricket. Even if you are not the ‘sporty’ type … or even if you are but think that ‘cricket’ is rather a ‘boring’ activity … I would suggest that to spend an afternoon, sitting in a deckchair, watching a game of cricket on the village green, possibly with a glass or two of something vaguely ‘alcoholic’ (or not) and a chicken leg or six (or not), with the gentle sound of bat on ball and the occasional ‘howzat’ in the background, must be one of the most relaxing things anyone can do!
I suppose that if there is any ‘ulterior motive’ in writing this blog it is to suggest that one can be a Christian, even a Christian Minister, and still be normal, nice, intelligent, interesting, fun with a certain ‘something’ about them. I get sick and tired or the misrepresentation of ‘Christians’ and ‘clergy’ in the media (with the exception of ‘Rev’ and the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ of course) as either ‘namby pambies’ or ‘weirdos’ of one kind or another. When Julia and I first started to get involved with local stuff in Knaphill we sensed the ‘wariness’ of some people? They obviously wondered what we really like? It has been great to see how quickly we have been readily accepted by everyone – not because we have ‘toned down’ our confession of, or commitment to, Jesus Christ – but because people have seen that we are ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’, ‘human’ … and that we have a sense of humour and can laugh at ourselves!
I became a Christian as a teenager in 1960 largely through the influence of the Rev Ernest Forward, who was the Baptist Minister in my home town of Greenford in Middlesex. He seemed rather ‘posh’ to me when I first met him (I was a lad off the local council estate at the time). I went along to the Church Youth Club and I remember Ernest inviting me to play him at Table Tennis. I was rather good at Table Tennis (another of my many sporting abilities) and I thought, ‘Silly old coger … all Christians are namby pambies, especially ‘clergy’ … I will thrash him!’ It turned out that Ernest was very good. He beat me 21-3 … and I thought to myself ‘Perhaps there is something to this Christianity lark after all?’ It actually took me about 30 plus years to finally beat Ernest at Table Tennis (when he was well into his 60s) … but it didn’t take me that long to find out Ernest’s secret, and commit my own life to Jesus Christ as a result!
Postscript: I did get my own back in a sense when I had the chance to bowl to Ernest (for my Theological College) in the Spurgeon’s College vs the Old Boys Cricket Match one year. Ernest opened the batting for the Old Boys, and I opened the bowling for the College, and when I ran in at top speed to bowl the first ball of the match … but that is another story?!