Harris Sportsthoughts

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To The Beach

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Watching Sir Ian Botham kicking disconsolately at the sand at Antigua yesterday, I asked myself two questions. Firstly, where was David Gower to offer his face for Sirian (as he is known to his colleagues) to aim his sand into?

And the second more urgent question was to ponder the ramifications of yesterday’s fiasco for the more general game of beach cricket. I hope that the public perception of the seashore sport has not been irretrievably polluted by the Antigua debacle. Because beach cricket is a fine relative, a mischievous nephew to the more senior grassbound game.

Location is essential. The ideal is a long sweep of compacted sand, pounded flat by tidal might. The south coast of England is punctuated by gorgeous examples. Norfolk can be good. But the ultimate beach cricketing paradise is at Oxwich Bay on the aptly-named Gower Peninsula, South Wales.

My earliest and probably most cherished memory of beach cricket is of the OBCG. My uncle goading my cousin as he ran in to bowl. Shouting the immortal words: “do your worst, you screaming little squithead,” before his son obligingly knocked back his middle stump.

Beach cricket has its own particular set of idiosyncracies liable to befuddle even the most sage of captains. The toss is vital.

The wicket will deterioriate dramatically. The bowlers’ footmarks create not so much rough, more large cavernous craters that even Ashley Giles would extract some turn from. If a heavy roller is not available, then conscript a passing heavy person for the purpose. There are plenty of fatties lolling around on the English coastline who would be glad to assist.

Otherwise, a gentleman’s agreement can be reached before the game to move the wicket along the square at the change of innings to a more pristine version.

It is also essential to demarcate the boundaries before the start of play to prevent the game disintegrating into rancour. Two runs if the ball hits the rocky outcrop at short fine leg for instance. Rocks can also be used a supplementary fielders if numbers are thin. I once witnessed a craggy piece of Cornish granite snaffle one of the finest slip catches I’ve ever seen.

The sea can also be employed as a boundary, although the captains should be mindful of the vagaries of the tide. I suggest purchasing a tide timetable. They are available from most good salty old seadogs. There can be nothing more disheartening for a fielding captain than watching the deep midwicket boundary inexorably approach closer to the wicket so that a nurdle off the hips yields four facile runs.

There is usually a captive audience for beach cricket which is always welcome. Except when the audience is having a picnic at shortish extra cover. And deep fielders should be wary of colliding with small girls building sandcastles. Nothing holds up play like an irate mother and a half-maimed daughter. Canine intervention is also common, although like the rocks, dogs can be recruited as extra fielders. And they’re very agile.

So potential squitheads should not be discouraged by events in Antigua yesterday. Even if Fidel Edwards is unable manage the shifting sands, it doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Gentlemen. To the beach.



Written by harrisharrison

February 14, 2009 at 10:35 am

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