Almanac Backyards – Dad calls backyard cricket DRS trial a success


During that beautiful hour or so before yesterday’s dark when the light was golden and the world’s rough edges had disappeared the boys and I played cricket in the backyard. It was warm and still and the kids next door were having a pool party. They had a great soundtrack and sang along to Gang of Youths and The Smith Street Band. They even played ‘Eagle Rock’.


Max likes to bowl leg spin, that most difficult of the cricketing crafts. But he has reasonable control and can get them to bite and spit. With his blonde locks he’s not unlike a certain SK Warne. I encourage him. “Don’t try to bowl fast like your dopey old Dad. There’s millions of very average medium pacers out there. Keep the leg spin going!”


Our home is in a constant state of tennis ball crisis. An already modest backyard, it will continue to shrink as the boys likely stretch into six footers. We share fences with five properties and all have endured our friendly fire.


A couple months back the people behind us had their yuccas removed. They ran the length of their back fence and were quite tall. I came home from work and suddenly could see the eastern sky as that vegetative wall was gone. And on our lawn were about ten tennis balls and a toy or two which had taken refuge in the trees. I was surprised there wasn’t also a Jetstar blanket, a German motorcycle and the Best of the Jackson Five. They were big trees.


After a brisk delivery from Alex, Max edged one over the tree and into Mrs Hambour’s yard. Like Farmer Fred’s wethers we now had no balls. Mrs Hambour is 97. She lives alone. She makes me laugh.


Earlier in the week when the temperature reached 46 degrees I rang her during the day just to check on her. She told me (again) of how she’d been recently hospitalised at the new Royal Adelaide following a fall during which she suffered two black eyes and hurt her nose.


“It was very nice Michael. They were good to me. I even saw one of those heart people – what are they called?”


“A cardiologist.”


“Yes, that’s it. And I said to him, ‘Don’t worry about my heart. It’s no good. Have I broken my nose?’”


The boys returned with two tennis balls and two chocolates each.


Having had a bat and a bowl I took up the prestigious position of umpire/ commentator/Dutch beer drinker in my chair under the patio at short extra cover. I channelled Australia’s finest all round broadcaster Tim Lane.


“Max comes in and tosses one up just outside off stump. Alex steps into it and punches it through mid off for four!”


The boys found it amusing, although, if truth be told, not as amusing as their Dad. I continued.


“With his characteristic loping approach Alex bowls and Max is defending this one back up the pitch. There’s no run.”


And then like all great commentators (real and backyard) I had to show the power of brevity.


“Edge. Gone!” I made myself giggle again.


Being brothers there was frequent disagreement so I turned to more televisual theatre to help. Alex was sure Max was out LBW. It was irresolvable. So I made the TV rectangle with my fingers. We’d go to DRS (Decision Review System is a technology-based system used in cricket to assist the match officials with their decision-making). I began.


“Can I have side-on vision of the bowler please?” For reasons unknown I adopted an English accent for my third umpire duties. There’s probably some interesting post-colonialism going on here. Alex and Max had stopped fighting and were watching me and my recreation. “Yes, that’s a legal delivery,” I said to no-one and everyone, putting my hand to my invisible ear-piece.


I continued. “Can we go to Hotspot please?” The boys eyes widened. “Can you rock ‘n’ roll it please?” A meaningful pause. “Again… Thank you. No edge showing.”


I took a sip of beer. “Let’s go to ball tracking please.” We were getting close to the truth. “Yes, it’s pitching in line.” Another pause. “No, the ball is going over the top of middle stump. Can you please reverse your on-field decision to not out?”


And do you know what? The boys nodded and returned to their positions. Dispute ended. I learnt something too.


And with this the game continued under the orange sky until we again exhausted our tennis ball supply and it became time for baths and then bed.


It had been a brilliant hour.



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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. craig dodson says

    Brilliant..hope the young fella keeps up the leggies. Nothing beats an hour playing backyard cricket after a day at work..bliss

  2. Lyndon Andrews says

    Great stuff . Our friends sons have initiated a new back yard interpretation of Hawkeye. if there is a resounding appeal for LBW the batter must stand aside while the bowler bowls another delivery. If this hits the wicket the LBW appeal is upheld. It resolves the situation without any disputation particularly when they have not a parent commentating as in your family

  3. Superb Mickey Please tell Mrs Hambour to get her head down and get her ton.Good fun away from a bloody computer I can hear you re the 3rd umpire and I like,Lyndon’s solution re above

  4. Over 50 years later I am sure that LBW was never an option in the backyard Tests with my brother. Both of us refused to walk even when dead to rights. Dull acceptance of DRS by your lads is a dangerous precedent. They’ll be obeying their mother, policemen and Clive Palmer next.
    Can we have an Almanac poll on The Australia-wide use of “tennis balls”:
    (a) Dog pursuit and advanced mastication and salivation;
    (b) Cricket – backyard and beach;
    (c) Tennis
    I’ll have (a) thanks Dolly.

  5. Craig- agree that backyard cricket can be idyllic, but if the boys are arguing…Will keep urging the leggies.

    Lyndon- don’t you love the endless inventiveness of kids when playing games?

    Rulebook- Mrs H is in pretty good nick so here’s hoping too. I’m yet to go to a hundredth party.

    PB – in that Almanac poll I imagine (c) would come a distant last.

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    One summer our youngest created a character called Helga Uberstasch, a German cricket commentator, who sat in a folding chair giving a running spiel in broken English, while I bowled to the two older sisters in the back yard. She was only three or four. She’s now studying German at Uni.

    Keep your eyes peeled Mickey.

  7. Swish, that’s brilliant and exactly the skill set I’m encouraging in the boys.

    Helga Uberstasch is a name I would associate with cult TV series League of Gentlemen and/or a rare Ben Folds B side.


  8. When I was a teenager a group of us lads (and some girls too) played our backyard cricket on the footpath in Yeronga Avenue Kensington Park. One side of our “ground” was short because of fences while the other side was the road. Thankfully there was little traffic in those days. Our wickets were trees at each end of the pitch. There was no blocking, everyone tried to score of each ball (tennis ball only). the exception was Brian Pettman who hated getting out and was the only blocker. We played without an umpire -you knew if you were out. Therefore no DRS was necessary. My old school friend Wayne Butcher and I often reminisce about those old glorious games

  9. Fisho- chief among the charms of so-called backyard cricket is the wild variety of conditions and obstacles facing the participants such as clotheslines, trees, tanks and as you suggest, irregular ground shapes.

    Although I do recollect a real cricket ground somewhere near England’s New Forest which featured a not inconsiderable tree. At long-on. Wish I’d taken a photo.

    Thanks for this.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    I love backyard cricket stories.
    Gang of Youths and The Smith Street Band top pretty much any music I’ve heard at the cricket this summer, barring the Renegades (appropriate) use of “I See Red” by Split Enz.
    To top this great tale off, there is a yucca removal story. Can’t stand yuccas. They’re, well, just yuck.
    Well played Mickey and Gang of Randall Youths.

  11. Thanks Luke. I reckon the BBL needs to refresh its soundtrack. Probably like the competition itself it has become a little bland and requires a shake up.

    Looking forward to new Gang of Youths and the Smith Street Band this year although they both have some mighty challenges to better their previous albums.

    Love a backyard cricket story too. I’m sure there’s compilations out there or maybe one coming courtesy of Malarkey! That’d be great.

  12. Peter Fuller says

    Your reference to a tree inside the boundary suggested to me Canterbury, Kent. When I googled it to confirm my now (frequently unreliable) memory, I was shocked to learn that the lime tree there fell to the combined effects of fungus and a gale in 2005, as recounted here:.
    I loved your article and even though I have had very limited involvement in cricket beyond the backyard, it was a staple of my distant youth. Your description of the game resonated powerfully. I also was particularly taken by the indomitable Mrs. Hambour.

  13. Thanks for this Peter. That’s a famous (now gone) tree but don’t think it was the one I saw as I’m quite certain we weren’t, at that point, in the south-east. I imagine there’s a few trees on cricket grounds in England. I must google it! Great article, thanks.

    For those following at home I’ve bought some replacement tennis balls- just went for the cheap pack of three from a large supermarket. Didn’t see the value in buying a vacuum-sealed canister of top shelf figs from a sports store when there’s no guarantee that all three new balls will last more than three deliveries!

  14. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Enjoyable read, Mickey.
    Can relate to the tennis ball crisis. A perennial problem of backyard cricket, especially when most go to the neighbours that are like something out of ‘The Burbs’. Taping helps to some degree, but makes leg spin tricky on a green top.
    Keep encouraging Alex and Max and enjoy the moments, mate.
    And bless Mrs Hambour – More worried about the broken nose. Bottle that perspective.

  15. Thanks Phillip. To tape, or not to tape? In my late teens I spent a week or so for five or six years at Port Willunga with a mate, his brother and his cousin. Cricket all day (in between the fights) and we used a taped ball. Quicker off the deck, and the lack of spin was not a problem as we all tried to take each other’s heads off by bowling as fast as our skinny selves would allow. These were fierce contests. A day or two before we arrived Nick’s granfather would mow a strip on the shack’s lawn. Brilliant.

    Spoke to Mrs Hambour earlier. She said, “I’m just watching “Married With No Sight. It’s weird. But I guess it’s something to look at.”


  16. Thanks for this, Mickey. Most enjoyable, and it stirred in me a combination of nostalgia and longing for a time past which I once shared with my three sons. A time that is sadly long gone.
    Anyway, the backyard of their youth has been landscaped beyond recognition – and ball-games are now banned within its now much smaller confines.
    Yes, keep encouraging the leggies.

  17. Thanks Smokie. I’m always pretty conscious of enjoying these moments because they may soon be gone. Surely leg spin is one of sport’s most challenging tasks.

    Speaking of leggies I must treat myself to a rereading of Gideon’s On Warne. The chapter in which he deconstructs SK’s bowling technique and especially the pause he took at the top of his run is among my favourite prose- fiction and non-fiction included- and an absolute delight.

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