Christmas Day cricket

Luke Reynolds

Christmas Day pitch curated by Luke Reynolds.

Christmas Day cricket with my in-laws has been a tradition for over a decade now. It started at my wife’s parents’ place, with a concrete pitch surrounded by wire netting. Various balls of the rubber, plastic and tennis variety, all taped up with duct tape to aid swing. There was always at least two and sometimes all three of the brothers, while their father would also play. We would play all afternoon and into the evening, pausing only for Christmas dinner. In recent years we have hosted Christmas at our place. No concrete pitch here, I mow a pitch into the grass with the ride-on mower, gradually working down to the lowest cutting setting on Christmas Eve. Having a clay based soil means the pitch is always hard, though a bit uneven. Which is how we like it. It’s a game of survival. There are no runs made, the sole objective is to bat for as long as possible.

Last year’s pitch was hard, uneven and had plenty of juice in it due to having a wet December. This year’s pitch was hard, flat and straw coloured after its final cut. Looked like a good pitch for batting, but something in it for the bowlers if you bent your back. I let everyone know that I had produced my finest wicket yet.

After lunch at my parents where only minimal cricket was played, we arrive home followed shortly after by my brother-in-laws Matthew and Adam. It will just be myself and this duo for cricket. Matthew has two young boys and so do I, but they are too young for our battle and not interested in just being fielders. Or leaving their new battery operated toys. So there is a batsman, a bowler and a keeper. Some props in the field that can “catch” you if hit on the full. Trees and plants are also out on the full. Two plastic balls will be used, a softer one for bowling off the long run, harder one for spin. The bat is half width bat with both sides shaved off. We head over to the pitch armed with the bat, the balls, stumps and a few cold ones. Cricket can be thirsty work.

Matthew bats first. He is the older of the brothers and was a very good bat back in the day, but now only plays on Xmas day. First ball of the day is bowled by Adam and Matthew skies a ball from an ambitious shot. Caught and bowled. My turn to bat. Just try to get my eye in. Adam bowling quite sharp with his left armers. Adam was a teriffic cricketer in his teens and early twenties. Genuine all-rounder, won the Pomborneit CC Division 1 team champion two years in a row before his boundary umpiring career took him to AFL ranks where he has officiated in 5 Grand Finals. As well as running in the Stawell Gift. One of three gifted young cricketers the Pomborneit CC has lost to the AFL. Scott Lucas was a hard hitting opener and brilliant fielder who ended up a premiership Essendon star. While Easton Wood, a promising young Western Bulldogs player, was a very sharp pace bowling prospect.

I get through Adam’s over. Most of our overs tend to go for 10-12 balls. He’s bowling sharp but surprisingly the pitch is dead. Low and slow. Im setting myself for a long innings. Matthew must be regretting his rash shot first ball. We remind him of it constantly. It’s Matthews’ turn to bowl. I survive his over of gentle mediums, even play a few drives. Adam is back on, getting easier to play his left arm quicks. He is cursing my docile pitch. He finishes his over with a couple of left arm chinaman’s that turn a mile. Spin might be the way to go on this pitch. Matthew is back on and as I comfortably work the ball around I start thinking that I will never get out. So of course Matthew gets one through my defence and bowls me. At least the metal stumps didn’t knock my beer over.

As we all take to bowling spin it gets harder and harder to bat. The ball is turning alarmingly as the pitch starts to resemble the dusty Premedasa Stadium pitch in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I haven’t turned off breaks like this for years. Nathan Lyon would love this pitch. Well maybe, he still might bowl too fast for it. Matthew has a few handy knocks while Adam shows his class  and he gets harder to dismiss. New beers are required each time all three of us have had a hit.

As the sun sets we head inside for something to eat, presents and a few more beers. Christmas Day cricket is always competitive, hard fought and a lot of fun. Bring on Boxing Day. Planning is already underway for next year’s pitch.

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Great stuff Luke. My 12 year old cousin prepared a similar pitch on his parents’ place one Christmas. Spent weeks on it. It was a pretty good wicket, not as treacherous as yours, but backyard cricket has always been slightly disappointing since then.

    My brother was employing reverse sweeps against 8 and 9 year old kids and elederly aunties at the time and thoroughly enjoying his time at the crease until I upped the ante and took out his middle stump. Gave him a serve on the way out – and it wasn’t Christmas pudding.

  2. Good work Cookie, a dismissal of a relative always needs to be followed by a good send-off. Good to hear that once the reverse sweeps came out the big guns came back into the attack!

  3. Brilliant Luke …. loved every minute !!!!!!!

  4. Not to mention the 1990 Toyota Camry coming out on Boxing day to play the role of backstop / wicket keeper! Great article Luke its got me fired up for next years edition and to see what sort of pitch is presented, could next years be a batting paradise or a greentop??

  5. Thinking greentop at this stage Adam, much more water will be applied! Bring back the Camry, best keeper we’ve had, brought it out a day too late!!

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Great article Luke my main memories of back yard cricket are of being given metal
    Stumps dad batting and I bowl him to get the comment back not out didn’t knock the bails off I will give the old man that 1 . Games between my brother in law , Peter got fair dinkum and the rain water gauge was a bloody good cover fielder we worked it out that there was less drama on the home front if we said he busted it instead of me !
    Back yard cricket is played at the mother in laws on Xmas day but is more relaxed than your version I prefer yours !
    On a side note Knackery when was the last shield game SA v Qld which was a regular
    Xmas day fixture ? Thanks Luke

  7. Luke Reynolds says:

    Cheers Malcolm. Similar pitch this Christmas too, didn’t spin as much.
    No idea about SA v QLD Xmas day shield games, assume it was a long time ago? Interesting the debate about Good Friday sport yet no one talks about playing on Xmas day yet it used to happen and sport is played on Xmas day in a number of countries.

  8. Great article. First back yard game I have heard of with no run scoring.

  9. Troy Hancox says:

    argh yes, the great backyard deck!
    nice story Luke.

    the deck in the photo looked remarkable similar to a few lower grade LO pitches we have all played on at times! LOL

    Agree with Raj. You have to make runs. (aussie tradition, play for sheep stations on the field, drink well afterwards)

    Used to play backyard cricket at a mates house (hmmm a few moons ago) and our rule was when you made 50, you had to change hands (no pun intended).

    Well, Paul’s second 50 came twice as quick as his first! (a talent).

    Rulebook, the ol metal stumps and automatic wickie til 2nd slip (which was often debated on snicks as wide as second gully) sensational days!

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    Thanks Raj and Troy.

    Troy, just playing to stay in was/is our sheep station on Xmas day, and we drink while we play (just for that one day of the year)!!

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