It’s funny how one decision can change the mood so quickly in a game of cricket.
This week I was the league appointed umpire for the SCL 2nd XI Division 1 match between Roffey and Preston Nomads (the lovely Peter Cheesman was the ‘home’ umpire).
The first innings went by with no real incident (apart from a dog on the pitch, but more about that later) and Roffey declared on 200-7 from 52 overs.
The second innings was going well, players were chatty, there was a bit of banter.
Former first-class umpire Martin Bodenham is president of the Sussex Assocaition of Cricket Officals (SACO).
Then Nomads number 5 Liam O’Brien went for a big shot outside off stump to a full ball from Roffey skipper and spinner Mark Pavlovic - who was getting a lot of turn and bounce.
Keeper Ed Barnes snaffled the ball with a good take standing up.
The Roffey players started cheering and celebrating. O’Brien stood there - as did I.
Pavlovic and Barnes were convinced it had got an edge. I wasn’t.
The bat hit the floor at the same time the ball passed the bat. I would have been guessing that it hit bat if I had given it out - and I am not there to guess. I have to be 100% certain it hit the bat to give it out.
Now, I am not saying I got it right, and I am not saying I got it wrong. But in the moment I made what I thought was the right decision.
The Roffey players, although clearly frustrated, handled it very well.
I know what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a decision. I have played the game for 27 years at varying levels (including a couple at this standard for Eastbourne and Three Bridges).
Just last year in a game at Selsey, where I was captain, we had a chap glove one to the keeper, but the umpire said not out. It was frustrating, but you have got to move on as quickly as possible. In that game a couple of players continued to chirp for a couple more overs, but I nipped it in the bud.
And Roffey did move on quickly - barring a little comment from Barnes at the drinks interval. He muttered something about me being too busy taking selfies (nice to know he’s seen me on either Twitter (@MarkSDunford) or Instagram (Sussexcricketumpire)). I could have got into a debate with him or come back with ‘maybe you should have caught the one a couple of balls earlier’.
But it’s was the not the time or place. The mood had changed and for a few overs it was a lonely place out there.
By the end of the game everyone shook hands and all was good. It was very good game with some very promising youngsters on show. And what an innings from Ollie Gatting, who hit 87 in the successful run chase.
There was one bizarre incident though. Last week it was a broken down heavy roller, this week it was dogs on the pitch.
After a huge six into a garden, a fielder opened the gate and walked in to retrieve the ball.
Pavlovic, who was batting at the time, said to me the residents are friendly and let the cricketers go in and out whenever they need to.
However not long after the Nomads fielder had got the ball, a lady came on to the pitch with two dogs and asked to talk to me. I thought we were in trouble.
But luckily she was very polite and just asked if I could make sure the fielders could close the gate next time as one of her dogs had escaped!
So I gave the Nomads fielders a warning and I’m pretty sure if they had done it again it would have been 5 penalty runs - but I will have to double check the Laws of Cricket for that one.
And on another note, if you get the chance to play at Roffey, do. The tea is superb.
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