Almanac (Backyard) Cricket: Family Tradition

by Jayden West


Today is the day. The weather perfect, no school and it’s new year’s. I grab the meat, the burgers and the onions and run downstairs to the car. I put this in my bag that is filled with my towel, my thongs and my swim shorts. Mum comes down with a big bowl of Caesar salad. Dad and Patrick finally arrive with two packs of Carlton Draught. Today we are going to play the famous backyard cricket between the Clarks, Cowells and Wests. It’s a family tradition. We drive down to the Clarks’ house. Soon after we arrive the Cowells come in their muddy 4 wheel drive. They have brought a box of chocolates and two bags of salt and vinegar chips. We get greeted at the front door by Derek. Patrick and I and the Cowells boys run to the back. We see cam they’re jumping on his trampoline. We set up the stumps and gather as many tennis balls as we can.

It’s time to decide the teams. Demika, Cam’s sister, has a number behind her back between one and ten. Cameron chooses four but I go with my lucky number seven. To my surprise I’ve won. I first choose Davo, as he is good with the bat. Cam chooses Patrick as he is tall and a fast bowler. Now I have to decide between Matthews and Michael. Do I want Michael who swings the ball, or do I want Matthew who is like Roger Harper when fielding. I go with my gut feeling – Matthew. Michael is walking to the other team giving me a dirty look, so I blow him a kiss. Now I know that it’s on.


We found a twenty cent coin lying on the fake grass. Demika flipped the coin. Since I was the visitor I got to call. I saw the coin spiralling though the hot air, I feel the pressure of my teammates and I call heads. It lands back into her hand. ‘Dammit’, I yell as it is tails.

They had decided to bat first as the sun was still out. I look over to my left to see Derek and my dad with a stubby in one hand and tongs in the other cooking up a storm on the barbeque. On the right are all the mums with wines talking about what mums talk about. One minute to start and their two openers Cam and Patrick walk out onto the pick. Rules are one hand one bounce, two bounces head-butt, and can’t go out first ball and if it hits the trampoline poles you’re out mate. I let Davo open with the new pill, more like an old Bunnings tennis ball. I place myself at silly-mid-on and put Matty in short gully. Pat’s on strike and smotes the first one for four runs. He puffs his chest out with such arrogance. Matt looks at me and says ‘look at this dickhead’ with a cheeky smirk. He smacks his plastic bat on the ground, Matty with full concentration and David runs in and with surprise bowls a slower ball, ‘whack’ the stumps fall down with Patrick still gazing into the sky. We jump on Dave with excitement, and two my left was Cam in such embarrassment. The score is 1 for 4. It’s ten overs in, Cam is on 48. I’m bowling left arm leggies, second bowl of the over and he reverse sweeps me for four. Cam raises the bat and is fifty up. The pressures on us, can we make the runs?

I finish the over and give the ball to Matt. He’s small, but he’s fast. Michael’s on strike gets bowled on the legs, and glances it for a single.  Cams on strike, their wildcard. And we really need to get him out if we have a chance to win this. It’s the last bowl before tea, and everything goes silent. I’m walking in and I feel Matthew running in. Cam drives it, but Dave is not concentrating. Its floated off the ground and flies straight in to Davis nuts. His eyes nearly pop out of their sockets, he drops to the ground and agony. Everyone stops, but then cam runs for a quick single. I run to the ball and throw it at the stumps. Not out, Derek shouts from the barbeque, and ‘the snags are ready boys’. They end their innings for 2 for 69.

I jog up the stairs to the barbeque and grab a sausage and get a Coke out of the fridge. I love that noise when I open a Coke. I take my shirt off and jump into the spa. “Don’t drop anything into the spa” dad shouts with a mouth filled with burger. All the boys finally finish their sausages, burger and coke. They jumped in for a quick dip in the spa and pool. When we dried up, we went back onto the pitch and we were batting. I had sent out Matt and Davo to bat first, leaving myself till last. Their opening bowler was pat. Dave was on strike, being a more experienced batsmen.  Patrick, steaming in lets go of the ball and bowls a Yorker. Somehow, Dave keeps it out.  After about three overs, we were twenty five runs out with one wicket to spare, myself. Cam’s bowling, and matte on strike. You can see Matt’s hands shaking. Cameron comes running in, and last second Matt runs away and gets cleaned bowled. The other team celebrate and Matthew looking in misery walks back. Now it’s my time to shine, the pressure on me. The score is 1 for 52. There’s two overs left and the sun is slowly going down. The over’s gone and Dave is on strike. If feel all eyes on us. The Mums all got up and started watching us. Michael bowls it and Dave picks the gap for a quick single. I feel funny in my tummy, the Coke feels like it’s coming back up. Michael is running in, I block it, but I don’t see Cam who dives for the head butt. I start walking, then remembering that first ball is not out. I feel a sudden relief as I am in for another ball. Next ball all I am thinking is ‘don’t get out’ ‘don’t get out’.  I dance down before it is even bowled, and luckily it comes off the middle. The ball smashes the garage. You know what that means, SIX! The scores are 1 for 58. We are only a few runs down. There is one over left, and the sun is going down.

After a few balls we only to manage to get an extra two runs.

Read other stories from our Whitefriars’ College scribes.


  1. “…all the mums with wines talking about what mums talk about”

    Great line, Jayden!

  2. The big question in my mind is now WHO IS GOING TO WIN THIS YEAR! Love the pre-match nutrition! What’s a Christmas/New Year catch up without a packet of salt and vinegar chips! I think cricket matches in our backyard with my brothers, cousins and neighbours are some of my happiest memories. (And finest moments come to think of it. I was Dennis Jillee!!!) Congratulations on a really vivid and authentic piece, Jayden. Great to see some more Whitefriars fellas joining Nick D’Urbano as Junior Almanac writers!!!

  3. ” don’t go out, don’t go out”
    So you dance down the wicket!

    That’s something I never thought of.

    Great emotion through this, Jayden.

  4. The classic backyard cricket match. Great stuff. The Dads and Mums get slower every year and the kids get faster.

  5. Jim Johnson says

    BACK YARD CRICKET AT THE END OF THE WAR IN 1945. My brother Charlie (Life Member of the Ringwood Cricket Club) and I had our own dirt wicket that my father found the energy to scrape to a somewhere near level batting pitch area for which we scrounged a worn out cricket pitch mat to peg down onto the top of the leveled dirt batting area. How great could it get? There were no other kids within miles and no one had cars. Dad cut up some old hessian chaff bags and stitched them together and then with some thin tree saplings we had a backstop and some protection for our about five squares weatherboard home that was in our mid wicket slog to leg area. There was a kitchen window and our main water tank and any pedestrians to protect. This back yard cricket area was used and used and used. We only had an old battery operated radio that was not available very often. There wasn’t a lot of outside of our world contact. Save the batteries. A dry cell and an old car battery powered the old radio. Test cricket was not there 39-45 when I was 6 to 11 years old. We were very lucky to have a Dad who put some of his energy into providing what he could for his boys. Dad who walked around two & a half miles to & from the Mooroolbark railway station to work as a french polisher five days a week in the suburbs. He still found the energy to fit in captaining Mooroolbark’s one and only cricket team. My brother Charlie at age 15 was playing full time in Dad’ team of 1945/46. On a few occasions when the team was short I at age 12 played. There were no annual back yard matches. At a very young age there was only open age Ringwood District Cricket Association B grade cricket for Charlie and I to play in with our father as team captain. That was the best back yard cricket we could have had. In the years 1945/46 to 1048/49 we walked two and a half miles to play and practise cricket and of course the same distance home. As well as walking to Mooroolbark to play cricket we walked four miles to and from school at Lilydale for around six years. I remember one cricket match of November 1947 against North Ringwood on the first day we only had seven team members and that included myself and another lad about my age. At the end of day one the two boys, who were last in, were not out. Mooroolbark were five wickets for 47 chasing North Ringwoods all out for 56. When the rest of the team arrived the next Saturday we managed to win the match comfortable. I have the newspaper clippings from that match showing the details. My Dad must have won the toss and put the opposition in. The opposition team sportingly supplied four “Sub Fielders” for us. Our Dad, who had captained “The Pastry Cooks Team” to the B grade Jicka Jicka Compertition Premiership of 1933 new what he was doing. I have a picture of that 1933 team.
    Mooroolbark currently has 4 senior and 8 junior teams.
    What a difference 70 years makes.
    Thank you Jayden West for your “Back Yard Cricket Story” which brought flooding back some memories of my back yard cricket times from The Good Old Days.

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