Scoring: A Parent’s Duty


I am learning how to score………not in a nefarious way, but in a game of cricket.

A few years ago my older boys were all playing junior cricket. At one stage they played for three different clubs. This meant different games, at different grounds, but often all at the same time. The only significant benefit here was the exemption I got from scoring duty.

I was able to hide behind the veil of parental busyness.

It is now season 2013/14 and I am back in the cricketing realm. My son is in an under 11 team that plays on what seem to be perpetually cold Friday nights. The older brothers are no longer playing so the families sporting commitments are now on a decline…Thank God….

But now there is nowhere to hide.

Scoring in cricket is a tricky task and best avoided if you suffer from vertigo or if you have been to the pub for lunch. The scorebook itself is like a large accounting ledger. It could be intimidating for those who don’t do maths. The book has a multitude of columns and spaces in which to record all the necessary data. Overs, runs and wickets have to be accounted for quickly and neatly.

Our team manager is spot on. He brings along The Kent Set of Mathematical Instruments, albeit minus the compass and the protractor. A wise move. The tin contains a pencil, a rubber and a sharpener. The pencil has to be sharp. Hieroglyphic type symbols need to be etched into tiny spaces on the scoresheet to mark the result of each and every ball of the 24 overs per innings.

That is 288 markings alone for each of those balls bowled. Added to this are the markings for runs made and wickets taken, as well as the running cumulative totals at the end of an over.

There is a lot to learn. Things at the scorers desk can easily shift from a calm orderliness to confusion and disarray in a matter of seconds. Communication with the opposition scoring partner is essential and often sounds something like this:

“Who’se that facing?


Smith….…. Didn’t he retire?

No…… that was Smythe”

Smythe ..Shit, I gave Smith, Smythe’s runs

Where’s the rubber….

“So that’s Jackson bowling now

No thats not Jackson, that’s Jones

But the bowling order says it’s Jackson

Yeah, I think the coach changed the order”

Screams and excitement. Someone is out.

Smiths out….Caught by Squid…who is Squid?; bowled by who….the kid with long hair; the not out batsman?……. the one with the green bat, shit, I should know him, he’s mine

Boys can you move out of the way please, we can’t see”

“That was a leg bye

A bye….a triangle?

Yes but it’s a leg bye… upside down triangle….2 leg byes actually”

The mobile is ringing; it’s ringtone sounding Quack, Quack. Don’t answer it.

“So, two upside down triangles…..

or one upside down triangle but with the number 2 inside it?”

<<Shit now theres no room left>>

“Another wicket,

broken lead….where’s the sharpener

Dot ball….……>>……m…..+…….X…”

…….And so it goes on, staccato sentences and fragmented thoughts at the scorers desk until the books are balanced.

Our team manager tells me he learnt to score the hard way a few years ago. He was new, to not just the country, but the language, the game and its rules as well. “I just had to do it” he said to me as he bit into a baguette.

With this in mind I have no excuse and I’ve taken to my duty as rostered.

Image: “Green Bat” – pen and water colour sketch


  1. Glorious Kate. Painting up to your usual standard, and your best story. I followed my Dad’s cricket team around in country SA from when I was 10, and being the nerdy kid took to the role of scorer with glee.
    For practice I filled in the scorecards at the back of ABC Cricket Books at the end of each day’s play in a Test.
    Order and structure in a chaotic world.
    The umpires were always Laurel and Hardy; or Micky and Minnie Mouse.

  2. Kate Birrell says

    Thanks Peter…
    Scoring is the job for anyone that thinks cricket is slow.

  3. Joe Hockey was keeping score at a North Sydney provincial game and became so annoyed he became Treasurer as it was easier to dodgey up the numbers
    lovely painting once again Kate.

  4. Beautiful Kate.

    Cricket scoring helps us all find our inner-perfectionist. There is no middle. I used to love when my uni thirds mates (from undergraduate to professor) couldn’t get the damn book to tally.

  5. Kate – this is precisely why only the top 2% of students become accountants.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Brilliant Kate and so spot on ! It is amazing how chaotic it can become in a few seconds I have had to assume the role of scorer as well as assistant coach at Pembroke this season and re scoring in 20 20s I am more buggered after scoring in these than I ever was playing ! Scoring certainly has it’s moments ( love your paintings )
    Thanks Kate

  7. Peter Fuller says

    A problem with the ABC scoring blanks was that the bowling column only allowed for 21 (?) overs. There was a real problem if one of the bowler’s spells exceeded that. My problem as a scorer was that although I was meticulous, I was notoriously untidy and my contributions to the score-book were probably illegible to anyone else.

  8. Pamela Sherpa says

    I couldn’t believe how complicated the cricket scoring system was compared to other sports either , and as a result, very stressful . Nice painting.

  9. Good for you Kate.
    We used a full scorebook in our backyard matches so, naturally, I thought I’d be just the type to score but had one go and stressed at the public servant/ teacher “savant” with whom I was stuck for the entire game. Scared me off forever!

  10. Glen Potter says

    Great stuff, Kate.

    Post-match, do you have an irate coach who cracks the shits because the scores don’t add up? That’s me around midday on a Saturday when my U13s have just finished and I need the correct scores to upload onto the ‘My Cricket’ online scoring website. I’m especially terse if I have to rush off to my senior match in the afternoon. Well done for taking on the role, as we coaches desperately need you.

    Can I share a lovely little tale about my 10 yo son, Max. I took him along to Boxing Day at the MCG with the brand-new scorebook that he received from Santa the day before. He diligently scored every ball of this colossal 89-over day, with painstaking accuracy. I hope this link below is accessible as Max proudly displays his good work.


  11. Hi Glenn
    Fortunately we have a great coach and team manager who encourages people to learn so that the same person is not stuck there week in week out as is often the case…especially in cricket. Love Max’s picture and efforts….tried to favourite it but have forgotten my twitter login details.

    I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the art yet…. If 10,000 hours is the going rate for mastery, I suspect I have at least 9,950 to go.

    Thanks all for taking the time to read. I love the variety of takes and the humour that goes with everyone’s differing take and experiences.


  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Taught myself to score baseball/softball at a young age.

    Unlike cricket, the baseball scorer also acts as judge and jury on certain statistical aspects of the game e.g.

    Was it a safe hit (i.e. was it due to the batter’s efforts) or did the runner get on due to a fielding error? This decision, which is made by the scorer, has an impact on batting and fielding averages. The scorer was regularly pestered by players wanting to know “how did you score that ?” (often followed by “you’re joking, I didn’t get near it”), despite the fact that the outcome of the game is not affected in any way by the scorer’s assessment, only the statistical measure of a player’s efforts.

    And don’t get me started on the chaos that ensued if someone batted out of order.

  13. Great piece Kate

    The younger the age group the harder it is to score!
    There is always a procession of various extras at the younger age group and even after playing for 20 years I still need to ask which way my triangles should go.

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Love the painting and the article Kate. In an ever increasing computerised world, scoring is almost the last place I can use my neat handwriting. Thought my handwriting was an asset in high school in the 90’s, have hardly had to use it since. Anyone who makes a century at my club also gets a framed scorecard which I re-do.
    As coach of my club’s under 13’s, always grateful for any parent who takes on the scoring role. Thankfully I’ve had some keen helpers this season.

  15. Andrew Walton says

    Hello Kate,

    The banter between scorers is a sort of captured poetry that adds to the beautiful game. Thanks for this description.

  16. Thanks Andrew

    The banter here in the comments has been fascinating too; our communal scoring experiences have taken us from Joe Hockey, to accountants, public servants, our inner perfectionism and everywhere in between.
    Apparently there is a scoring app that can be used, but I think there could be a few of us who would miss the opportunity to wield a real pen/pencil and paper.; its a dying art.

  17. Great stuff Kate,
    Brought back a lot of memories. I found that at least having played a bit of cricket i had half a chance of not buggaring it up too much when asked to “do the scorebook’. If you want to avoid coming a real gutser with scoring then don’t let your boys take up basketball!

  18. Hi Bargey,
    I usually get the other half to do basketball scoring.
    I usually either have the arrow going the wrong way or the sideline parents yelling “Stop the Clock”

Leave a Comment