At school I was the top scorer for cricket.
No, honestly it’s true.
If the PE department wanted someone to keep the score for an important cricket match I was their “go to” scorer.
For cricket in the summer term, occasionally in sunshine, but just as likely drizzle, I would be there pencil, (and spare pencil, pencil sharpener, erasers, blue pen for fours and sixes, black pen for wickets, and a shout of “bowler’s name please” or “signal please umpire?”) at the ready.
(Going off at a tangent, when I tried to type summer the auto correct offered me ‘Somme’. That is a slight exaggeration of the conditions; we had no trenches and less mud, but it did get rather wet sometimes and I’d be faced with a scorebook turning into papier-mâché as I tried to write!)
Most often the opposition didn’t have a scorer, so in addition to umpiring their PE teacher, would be keeping score too, so he’d often forget to signal things. My shout of “signal please umpire?” had to be very carefully pitched to ensure it was on the polite side of “I realise you’re only a PE teacher and are having enough trouble counting to six (the number of balls in an over) without having to remember to signal to me”. I usually managed it, or at the very least, managed to avoid sounding cheeky.
Back in those days a season ticket for Kent CCC was very affordable and family trips by train (and usually a replacement bus service) to Canterbury, Maidstone, Folkestone and Tunbridge Wells were a regular occurrence. I took my scorebook and well stocked pencil case I was set for the day.
Two of my favourite memories took place at two London venues. Once at the Oval watching Surrey against Kent in a Sunday league match. Sitting in the front row of benches, Mum, who would spend the day tatting or knitting, passing out sandwiches and keeping half an eye on the game asked me “to let her know if the ball was coming towards us.”
The Kent player fielding on the boundary, Brian Luckhurst, turned round and said “can you tell me, I’m supposed to stop it!”
The second happened at Lords. Mum and I had queued up to see a one-day match between Middlesex and visiting Australians. We ended up at the front at a Long Leg/ Long Off kind of position. Without finding my score book I don’t recall the score or result, but at one point the great Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillie was fielding in front of us. An unmistakably Australian voice called out, offering Lillie his pint of lager. You could hear the pain in Lillie’s voice as he replied “I’d love to, mate, but the press would have a field day.”
Finally there was the time at a Kent 2nd XI match at Dartford. Colin Page, the coach/manager saw me with my scoring equipment and asked if I had ever worked a scoreboard. Not a proper one I replied. Want to have a go? Yes please! What a great day that was! Kent no longer play at Heskith Park in Dartford anymore, the keen young players are long since retired and the stand in scoreboard operator couldn’t sit all day, nor manage to alternate between so many pens and pencils…

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