“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”.
So begins L.P. Hartley’s ‘The Go Between”, but perhaps this could also be applied when playing at Sutton-on-the-Hill CC. They’re to be found in deepest Derbyshire (so that certainly ticks the ‘foreign country’ bit) and, in many ways, it really is like a journey into the past. As for doing things differently, well – read on…
Sutton's ground with the Hall in the background.
Their idyllic ground sits within view of the castellations of Sutton Hall, only being reached by parking in a quiet lane and then yomping over a field. It’s an oasis of calm with no roaring traffic and very few distractions from the cricket.
The pavilion is of a bygone (and perhaps much better) age being wooden with hanging baskets and a white picket-fence. Cups of tea are served from an urn, in cups and saucers. There’s not an ‘energy’ drink in sight.
Similarly the club, and lads themselves, are from a different – and perhaps much better – age in terms of the way the game is played.
They’ve steadfastly refused to join any sort of league in all the years we’ve played them. On top of that, not for them an ‘overs’ match or (and I suspect that a few of them would wince at the thought) a dreaded ‘Twenty-20’.
Similarly, the prospect of “Clubmark accreditation”, “Cricket Force”, CRB checks, Juniors Sections and Welfare Officers would make most of the lads grab their hats and head for the nearby hills. Their idea of a ‘club development plan’ is to agree which pub they’re drinking in after the game.
No, these lads play cricket they way it should be played. Competitive on the pitch and then plenty of beer (and mickey-taking) afterwards.
Connor smashes one for four.
As mentioned, not for them the horribly new-fangled idea of an overs match. They always play a ‘time’ game, which sometimes takes some explaining to our younger players:
“They’ll bat first and tea will be taken at 4.30pm” our volunteer skipper for the day Pete explained after the toss, “and then 20 overs will be taken at 6pm”.
“That’s a long tea break – and not many overs for us to get them!” pleaded one of ours.
Those of us who have been around the block a bit will know that it’s how games were always played before the advent of leagues and overs matches. The first side bats until tea and declares, the second side bats after tea and then a minimum of 20 overs will be taken in the last hour. Easy.
Our ramshackle side was taken to the cleaners in the field as Sutton reached 215 for 7 at tea, and then it was our turn.
Top-scorer Jason shows us how it should be done.
It was all a bit ordinary up until the 17th over as we reached 75 for 3, with Jason leading the charge.
Jason cracks one off for four.
As mentioned, Sutton like to do things properly and nobody personifies that better than a chap we’ve known for 20+ years called John B, who had kindly offered to umpire.
John B also holds a position with a county side, so had already mentioned that he could only umpire until 6pm as he had to be off to keep his county appointment the following day.
It doesn’t matter whether the game’s a Test Match or Sunday friendly (in our case), but John’s values are that it should be played ‘correctly’ and that the laws apply at all times.
Ollie sends one down under the watchful eye of umpire John.
So when young bowler Ollie was no-balled for the third time (each time for a waist-high full-toss), John had seen enough. He simply turned round and informed both Ollie and skipper Steve that he was being removed from bowling.
A few moments of confusion and words reigned but, as the umpire’s word is final, that was it. He was off, and a rather exasperated Ollie decided that, having been been removed from bowling, he would remove himself from the field too and headed back to the pavilion.
We sat in stunned silence (and perhaps the odd titter of amusement) as events unfolded.
As it turned out, it was now 6pm so umpire John also removed himself from the field to travel to his county appointment. We were then treated to the sight of John the umpire heading across the adjoining field to his car, followed by Ollie who was now on his way too, both hotly pursued by Club Chairman Bryan, who was either trying to appease the situation, or relieve Ollie of his Match Fees before he disappeared into the sunset.
Perhaps the worst-formed conga line in history. Umpire John leads the charge, with Ollie the bowler next in line. Bringing up the rear is Chairman Bryan, probably trying to chase Ollie down for his match fees.
Anyway, the game continued with a replacement bowler called Rob and a replacement umpire.
We remarked among ourselves that in all our 35+ years of playing village cricket had we seen this happen before. The umpire may perhaps have had a ‘quiet word’, the skipper may have been advised to take the bowler off or something, but we’d never actually ever seen a bowler be removed from an attack before.
But then, just like buses….
Three overs after taking over from Ollie, Rob sent down his third no-ball and his third waist-high full toss. As previously reported, Sutton like to do things ‘correctly’ and, to be strictly consistent, the umpire had no option but to remove Rob from the bowling too.
You wait 35 years for it to happen, and it happens twice in six overs.
All of these diversions meant it was difficult to remember that there was supposed to be a game going on, and we were now well into the ’20 overs at 6 o’clock’ bit.
As we continued to lose wickets we realised that the draw was always an option, after all this was a ‘time’ game.
With just 12 overs to see out we were 116 for 9 with our two most experienced batsmen, Pete and Chas, at the wicket. Pete had made 37 in yesterday’s first-team game, while Chas hat hit a near game-winning 66 for the seconds. Both were in good nick so it was just a question of seeing out the overs and shaking hands on a good old-fashioned draw.
Pete cracked a square cut boundary-wards and set off. Chas didn’t. It just happened that the guy fielding the ball happened to have a tracer-bullet like throw. Chas was out by a mile – without even facing a ball.
Thus, somewhat bemused, confused and slightly amused by the events of the last hour we packed our kit, headed across the field and went over it all again in the pub. Did all that really just happen?
The first bowler to be removed, Ollie, joined us in the pub as we went over the events of the day. One-by-one his team mates disappeared as they were “off to a barbeque”. Soon there was only Ollie left standing, when he let onto us that it was actually a barbeque at his place – and it was his barbeque. Quite what the others were going to do he didn’t know – he was remaining in the pub.
Sutton's ground, as we started our eventful reply.
As said our good byes for another year, somehow finding our way back to the A50 and speeding home back to the real world, we could only remark – and laugh – among ourselves that at Sutton they certainly ‘do things differently’.
I hope that never changes.