Brian Dalton, March 2021
It was the 3rd test of the England versus South Africa series in 1994. The game was nicely poised. South Africa had made 332 in their 1st innings, and England weren’t far behind when Devon Malcolm, their number 11, came to the crease. Fanie de Villiers, who had clearly not signed up as a member the fast bowler’s union, bowled a bouncer to Malcolm, which hit Devon right between the eyes. The response came in the South African second innings when a fired-up Malcolm took 9/57 with some of the finest and fieriest bowling ever seen (Watch the video). England went on to win the test comfortably, and South Africa quickly realized you don’t deck Devon.
We are always told to say things in a positive way these days, to turn the negatives in to positives. Positive language has the power to boost physical and emotional wellbeing according to those in the know. In cricket terms this could involve using “Let’s take our catches today” as opposed to “Don’t drop any catches today” or “Let’s all bat sensibly today” instead of “Don’t bat stupidly today”. Simple stuff really. However, there are some don’ts in cricket that are so important they will never become do’s as to make them do’s takes away the emphasis on how important these things are. Below are some such examples, that can be adapted to any club, from my time at CYM/Terenure:
1 – Don’t deck Decker: The Beckett Cup Final was played in Terenure between Limavady and CYM/Terenure in 1996. A certain Decker Curry was in the Limavady ranks. On 19, Decker danced down the track to Steve Cullen. Steve, on seeing this, dug it in short. Decker tried to pull it, it came off the upper edge and smacked Decker clean in the mouth. Following a trip to the Meath Hospital and 5 stitches later, Decker returned to Terenure. He did not need to bat again that day, but two years later he would get another chance to wreak his revenge.
On 16th May 1998 Decker was back in Terenure, again with Limavady, but this time in the Irish Senior Cup. Based on what he proceeded to do that day, one can only assume he remembered 1996. 260 not out off 161 balls in 183 minutes with 17 6’s and 14 4’s, in a score of 373/5 declared off 48.5 overs is what followed, the declaration coming as the Terenure skipper searched for yet another ball. Steve Cullen wasn’t there to pay for what he had done 2 years previous, but the rest of the lads felt Decker’s wrath. In short, you don’t deck Decker when he was in his prime and expect there to be no consequences.
2: Don’t assume you’re going to win: To balance the above, I’ll use another Irish Senior Cup game to explain this one. On 27th April 1996, 3 times winners and firm favourites, Lurgan were the visitors to Terenure in the Irish Senior Cup. It was the preliminary round of the competition, and as such the 1st round proper draw had already been made. Three weeks later, the winner would be visiting Cork to take on Cork County at The Mardyke, an overnight trip for sure back then, and as those of you who have been to Cork know, it’s not the worst place to spend a Saturday evening.
CYM/Terenure batted first, and despite 24 from Chris Macey, 42 from Brian Buttimer and 17 from Joe Extras, they struggled to 107 all out. No problem for a strong Lurgan side you’d think.
However, during the 1st innings, a rumour had gone around the ground, Lurgan, who were fully expecting to win, had already booked their hotel in Cork for the next round, even going as far as paying non-refundable deposits for the rooms. Everyone in the ground had heard this by half time, and unfortunately for Lurgan, the late great Eddie Moore had also got wind of it. Very little wound up Eddie, but an overconfident opposition certainly did. Lurgan soon realised this, as Eddie bowled one of his fiercest spells ever that day, taking 6/26, leaving Lurgan red faced, 24 runs shy of victory, and out of pocket. Lesson learnt, don’t assume you’re going to win, and even if you do assume same, don’t under any circumstances let the opposition know.
3: Don’t drop the pro: I played my 3rd game for the CYM/Terenure 1st XI on Thursday, 30th July 1998. It was against Clontarf, the league leaders, and eventual champions. The fact I had been selected and had more 1st team experience than 5 others in the team, showed how weak we were going to be on the day. I was pretty excited all the same, looking forward to it in fact. After all, I’d made a few runs, and taken a decent catch off Anto Canavan on his way to a ton, the previous Sunday against Belvedere. Nothing was expected of me, or of us as a team for that matter. What could go wrong I thought? And then it hit me, “Don’t drop Andre (Botha)”.
Thankfully we won the toss and had a bat, so it wasn’t an issue in the 1st innings. The instruction for the top 4 was to bat, bat and bat some more. And that they did. Stephen Moore made 27, the pro Darren Cooke 79, and Fintan Kelleher 47, leaving us with our innings complete on 164 for 4, and me with a DNB.
The 2nd innings was going to be tough. We had Cooke and Ken Brennan to bowl 30 overs, and then we had to find 20 overs between the rest of us. Despite that things started well. We soon had Paddy Lee and Ian Synnott back in the hutch, and Clontarf 12/2. Andre and Ronan O’Reilly settled in though and took the score on to 61. At this point Andre smashed the ball off Ken Brennan toward me at mid-off, it hit my hands, and it hit the floor. It all happened so quick it barely registered. And then it hit me, I’d gone and done the only thing I’d feared I could do wrong. The one “Don’t do” on my “Do or Don’t do” list for the day.
Thankfully the following over, 15-year-old Rob Carroll on debut, came on to bowl, and clean bowled Andre for 28, making it 61/3. Rob didn’t stop there, he soon sent O’Reilly, Cullen, McNeice, Hancock and Nolan back to the pavilion, with Cooke taking a further wicket. Clontarf were 117/9, and we were on the verge of victory. Unfortunately, the last wicket never came, Spellman (27*) and Barlow (28*) seeing Clontarf get over the line, just, Clontarf winning by one wicket.
I’d gotten away with dropping the pro, which you do on occasion. Normally you don’t though, as most times they don’t give a second chance. Therefore, it’s far easier on all concerned to just don’t drop the pro.
4: Don’t dwell on the stats: Cricket is a game full of statistics, with statistics constantly being thrown out to justify everything and anything. These stats can be about the performance of an individual or that of a team, and while yes, they are important and do tend to show who has performed best over a season, they don’t matter. And the reason they don’t matter is that you’ll always in the long run find numerous stats that suit your narrative.
Individually for example, 3 or 4 not outs batting at number 8 or 9, can easily get you to a similar average as someone that has scored plenty of runs up the order. If the season ends and you average 40 with 80 runs, and the number 3 averages 40 with 800 runs, nobody will know the difference if you tell the story, and don’t go too far into it.
Similarly burgling some wickets by bowling to the tail can always turn your figures around. The bowling averages don’t ever show who you got out or when. 9, 10 and Jack are worth the same as 1, 2 and 3 when it comes to the stats. Those that are there on the day will know the truth, but when people are looking at the stats in years to come, it’s never mentioned who your wickets were.
Team wise, the same can be done. There will always be one team where the stats suit your narrative, someone you always beat home or away for no apparent reason. Take the Terenure 1st XI for example. They haven’t lost a league game in Inch against North County since 2005 (when County had the benefit of 207 from Jason Broker), despite County being a far superior side throughout these 16 years. Ring Commons 1st XI have an even better record against the County 1st XI at Inch. They’ve never lost to them there. The fact they’ve never played them there is irrelevant.
The moral of the story is simple, don’t dwell on the stats, you’ll always find at least one that makes you or your team look good, and that leads me to the last and most important cricket don’t.
5: Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story: Facts, like stats, are important in cricket, but as the years go on, the facts become less factual, and the stories around them become more works of fiction. The edge through the slips off a medium pacer to win the match by your number 11 soon becomes a cover drive for 4 off the quickest bowler in the province that flew along the ground. The 7* you made to win a game suddenly morphs into 27*. The long hop you bowled to get an international bat out, suddenly becomes a demon bouncer bowled to the perfect field you had set. And the stories that are told about incidents that occurred in games get more exaggerated each time they are told.
One of my favourite stories from my playing days and one that’s told regularly is a simple story of an incident that happened in the early 2000s in a game against Knockharley. Back then, John Murray, who plays on the lower teams in Terenure was a keeper. Now John wouldn’t have had the build of a normal keeper, being as he was at the time a forward for CYM RFC. Anyway, on the day in question, John arrived at the ground, and soon realized he had forgotten his whites. Thankfully for John, Terenure is a lawn bowling club too, and some bowler had left a pair of white trousers hanging in the changing rooms. “These will do” John declared, as he squeezed into the rather snug fitting trousers.
We lost the toss and were put in the field, John keeping, me in the gully. 3 balls in, there was a noise as John rose to take the ball. On catching it he threw it in the air and appealed at the top of his voice for a catch behind, declaring confidently he heard a noise. The noise of course was his borrowed trousers splitting in two at the back and by now, 3rd man, the slip and myself were rolling around on the ground laughing. John soon realized what had happened, dropped the ball and ran from the field to the cover of the changing rooms to sort himself out, while the game ground to a halt.
Now, not all that harmless story is true, what’s not, well that’s up to you to decide. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it as the most important thing about any simple tale about cricket is don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.