Cricket: the post-Christmas lunch form of the game.

It is heading towards midnight here in Brisbane. The kids have carefully laid out Santa’s smoko in front of the fireplace; it seems Santa prefers mince pies and water served in a Dora the Explorer cup.

We have been to the Christmas Eve service at St Andrews on Wickham St in the city where we attend each time we’re here for Christmas. The parishioners are greyer, and more are using reading glasses, but Pastor Steve Nuske always looks the same: a sort of clerical Robert Walls. Although he does barrack for Geelong.

Each time we attend – every second year – we seem to have another kid and another premiership to celebrate. Each time I am reminded of my past, my heritage, and those elements which have been so formative.

And I am reminded of how small and distinct the Australian Lutheran community is.

In the congregation tonight was Pastor Paul Renner who must be nearly 90. The son of a Lutheran pastor himself, Paul Renner grew up in the manse at Eudunda. Many years later my father was the pastor there, and I spent many Christmases there during uni holidays or in the days when I was teaching.

Mum and Dad had a superb garden at Eudunda, a real retreat, and I loved sitting on the veranda under the grape-vine, or under the apricot tree (one of dozens of fruit trees), with the newspaper and a cuppa as brothers chipped golf balls around the place or mucked around with the cricket ball in the stocking. And spoke crap.

Which brings me to the point of this meandering and aimless article which is to wish everyone a happy Christmas and to put in place some thoughts on post-Christmas dinner cricket, and how it should be played.

The Harms family (four brothers, plus whoever was at lunch) has always considered itself to be a cricket family which meant that the hit and giggle form of the game held little attraction. (More on the hit and giggle form later.) Instead we would form a slips cordon and have a thrower and a nicker who would slide the cricket ball off the face of one of the many bats about the place, as you might see in the hour before a Test match. Only lunch made it better (I’m sure).

The Harms family has always considered itself to be a red wine family as well. And with a belly of roast and trifle and Rockford Basket Press, along with assorted other Barossa shirazes and maybe a Coonawarra or two, some brilliant catches were taken. I say this confidently. Because the slowing of the reflexes from lunch, meant that some nicks were seen very late, and picked up one-handed and rather freakishly, leading to balls tossed high into the air and the same “Did you see that” that is usually only experienced when the soap is dropped and caught in the shower. It’s a bloke thing. I’ve been in many a relationship which has ended with the explain-all: “You know what your problem is: you didn’t have sisters.”

Eudunda is becoming a distant memory.

These  days we all have kids and some of them are getting to the age where they are starting to believe the Harms family is a cricket family. But most of the cousins are young enough that post-Christmas dinner backyard cricket has not taken on a cricket-training tone. It has been proper backyard cricket.

I have kept an anthropological and cricketing eye on this (wonderful) form of the game over the past decade or so, and I feel fully qualified to offer some thoughts on the time-honoured debate over the rules of Christmas Day backyard cricket.

The first observation I would make is that the rules are fluid and dependent on circumstances and I am not one to be legalistic or authoritative in discussing them. However I am confident of certain philosophies which underpin the Christmas Day form of the game.

(1)    Tennis ball only, although wet tennis ball is OK, and sophisticates may choose the half-moon insulation tape projectile.

(2)    The batsmen should be rotated quite quickly. This idea of scoring a hundred in the backyard at Mum’s is rubbish. The notion of taking guard and digging in is also rubbish. All rules should facilitate the turn-over of batsmen.

That’s it.

Hence:

Two batsmen and tippity run. This is a key, because if any knob decides he will try to bat all afternoon, the conspiracy is on. Here’s the scenario. Knob at the non-striker’s end. Uncle on strike. Other uncle at short extra cover. Uncle prods to short extra. They have to run. Quick under arm to third uncle keeping. Stumps knocked over. Huge appeal. Ball in the air. Knob gone.

Hence:

One hand one bounce for the high front elbowed pusher who fancies himself. Quick half volley. Bump ball which heads into the off. One hand-one bounce. Gone.

Hence:

LBW given by the designated umpire, the uncle who rarely moves from under the umbrella near the esky and who mid-cleanser (fourth since lunch) and mid-thesis re the state of Australian cricket or mid-story re the time he took 5-for (a meteorological story at its essence), is called to adjudicate. If the appeal has gone so far, the correct adjudication is: OUT. The umpire may or not break sentence to raise the finger.

A complication may surface when two batsmen decide they won’t be dismissed for the afternoon at which point, given tippity run is mandatory, the gentle block of the runner approach may be invoked. The spectrum of the block goes from casual basketball screen at one end, to full shirt front (looking away of course) at the other.

The actual wicket (bin, drum, stumps, old carton) at both the bowler’s and the striker’s end must be largish and of the form that can allow the uncle who is wicket-keeping to pick it up and place it in the path of a fast full delivery down the leg side. Many a batsmen in our matches has been accused of not knowing where his leg stump is.

Other rules include the compulsory Christmas Eve mowing of any clover, and the penalising of shots which cause fruit to drop.

All the best for lunch, and for the cricket which follows it.

Regards

JTH

 

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo10, Anna8, Evie7. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Our Christmas day cricket match on the farm in Vic played with a tennis ball had one important rule-Don’t break a window-or you’ll be out and in trouble. Standing near the mulberry tree was always good for catches. Best place to hit was towards the shearing shed. Mum always batted early so she could go and organise the food
    MC to all.
    It’s nice and fresh and green here in the Snowies after more rain last night

  2. Absolutely no tippy at Budge’s…can’t be stuffed running. Strategically placed objects along the fenceline are death fielders. Hit them at even a trickle and you are out.
    a reminder that one bounce one hand – a rule I still dispute each time it is invoked – does not apply behind the stumps.
    I suspect traditional fields to be redundant in games around the country today as kids and ambitious uncles attempt the ramp shot in response to the inevitable bouncer barrage.

  3. I am spending Christmas in one of the more Lutheran places in Australia. My wife Clare has taken a locum at Hermannsburg so that the regular doctor gets to spend Christmas in the relative cool of Brisbane.My son and I have come up to keep her company and are having a red Christmas. (referring to temperature and landscape rather than politics).

    I will be back in Melbourne for the third day of the Test so lets hope the Aussies can hold their innings together for at least one day. The effort in Hobart was more like Christmas cricket at the Harms’ family.

  4. MCC Long Room Dave?

  5. Not likely, Chirs

  6. which pub post stumps?

  7. Mick Jeffrey says:

    We tend to have our game (amongst our clubmates) on Australia Day to the tunes of Triple J’s Hottest 100. However I’ll be a scratching from this year’s event (the 6th such event) as I’ll be in Adelaide.

  8. Crio,
    How about 2 bounce, headbutt ??

  9. that was a revelation to me at Adelaide Shores a few year’s back. amusing, FWT and not advisable Xmas arvo

  10. I attended a Lutheran service conducted by Paul Renner when in Brisbane today. What a lovely, gentle Christian man! I am normally an Anglican but the Lutheran liturgy was beautiful and heartfelt. It seemed a very small but very warm congregation.

Leave a Comment

*