Those of you who follow cricket will know of the sad events involving the Australian team whilst touring in South Africa. Cameron Bancroft was filmed with some sandpaper in his pocket which he was using to ‘work’ on the ball. He can be seen trying to hide the sandpaper ‘down under’ (Australian for in his pants). Initially he tried to say it was sticky tape with dirt on it. Steve Smith and David Warner were also involved, and Australian cricket is now in crisis and the players have been banned for a year.
The idea behind the sandpaper was to gain an unfair advantage by making the ball do ‘funny things’ such as reverse swing. This is when the ball moves through the air in a manner that is disconcerting for the batsman and can result in the loss of his or her wicket. For those of you who have already switched off as I leave you behind with my expert and detailed knowledge of cricket, imagine if you liked swing music and you went to put on a track by Benny Goodman or Count Basie and it played backwards. That would surprise and upset you. You might even leave the room and ‘get out’ of there. Incidentally, there were rumours that Pink Floyd left a message on Dark Side of the Moon if you played it backwards, but I never managed to establish this fact.
Obviously Shrewsbury supremo Andrew Barnard and his partner in crime, Cricket Professional Adam Shantry (I hasten to add neither are Australian, I am just using a term to describe the fact that they work closely together) are keen to ensure that the usual success associated with Shrewsbury School cricket is not in any way tainted by rumours of ball-tampering spread about by jealous opponents or sore losers. Having recently toured Australia, they are hoping the squad have not picked up any bad habits from their exposure to cricket down under. They have therefore worked closely with the Design and Technology Department to ensure that a close eye is kept on the supplies of sandpaper.
Mrs Anne Crump is a keen cricketer herself and certainly did not want the DT Department to be involved in a whiff of scandal. “I don’t like scandal whiffs,” she told me. She has been keeping a watchful eye on any cricketers who venture into the DT Centre. She gave young Peter Clark short shrift when he visited to see if his friend Johnnie Dowd could make him a new cricket bat.
She would not allow him near the sandpaper just in case there was a suggestion that his success as a bowler was not just down to his natural ability, fantastic coaching and the close proximity of his house to the school cricket nets. Johnnie told me that he has heard that in some rival schools sandpaper can fetch very high prices among school cricketers, but that he has not been approached for any here. He feels that our cricketers are so well coached there is no need to paper over any cracks as there aren’t any! “There is no need for sandpaper in Shrewsbury cricket,” Johnnie told me.
I have assumed for the purposes of this article that Mrs Crump is related to the Northants all-rounder Brian Crump, who played between 1960 and 1972, scoring 8,789 runs and taking 814 wickets. Brian’s finest moment came in August 1965 at Cardiff when he bowled unchanged in the second innings and took 8-142 from 76.3 overs in the game. He had to be carried from the pitch by his team mates!
All the cricket coaches at Shrewsbury have been frustrated by the weather. Mr Barnard is not a fan of the rain. “I am not a fan of the rain,” he told me, although he did add that in a drought-affected and arid part of the world he would not mind if some rain fell, as long as there was no scheduled cricket at the time.
Rumours abound that rowing personnel have been spotted on Top Common for the first time in living memory, measuring out a prospective new lake which would lessen the distance to the river and save the Grounds Team a lot of time and effort. “I cannot comment, but there would still be a lot of ducks and the occasional four, so no real change,” Director of Rowing Mr Hundermark told me.
When the rain has abated, there have been some exciting games and some resounding successes. The Ist XI have started well, winning four out of their five games (at the time of going to press). I was impressed when I caught up with a few of them at a recent training session. New signing Xavie Clark was looking on, as he is recovering from a stress fracture and is only allowed to bat at present.
His brother is playing for Worcestershire, along with Old Salopians Joe Leach, Ollie Westbury and Ed Barnard, who recently pleased his old man (among others) by taking 11 wickets in the match against Somerset and making 95 runs.
Xavie has already made two 50s and is hoping to utilise his leg spin soon. In fact he took two wickets against Repton!
Jamie Crawley has made over 180 runs already this season and would have made his debut for Lancashire 2nd XI recently had the rain allowed.
Will Sissons is another new signing who has impressed, and Captain George Garrett has recently made his debut for Warwickshire 2nd XI, captained by Old Salopian Ed Pollock.
Cricket professional Adam Shantry, who is quite new to fatherhood and therefore more attuned to child development than in previous years, informed me: “We were a young side last year but this year we are all a year older”. He informed me further, “There has been a lot of growing going on. Peter Clark has broken the five-foot barrier. We will be a more mature and stronger side.” Ludo Lichfield, Dan Humes and the Garrett brothers were quick to tell me that they had all grown up a lot. “We are far more mature this year,” they squeaked.
All the school teams are making good progress in their various cup competitions. The Under-17s were successful in the first round of their competition with a very young side, as a number of Under-15 players had to be drafted in to cope with the absence of the Under-16 cricketers who were sitting their English IGCSE.
The Under-15s and Under-14s are also making progress in their competitions. But it is the girls who have set the standard so far, as they have qualified for the National Under-15s Indoor Finals at Lord’s. They have a strong group of players led by Alice ‘the rock’ Hughes, Georgie ‘Call me granite’ Nicholas, Ellie ‘Kryptonite’ Kynaston and Adelaide ‘Stardust’ Sillar. This group of hardened superstars have been well backed by a strong and enthusiastic squad and a gang of Under-14 stars in the forms of Lisette Barden, Harriet Shuker, Ellie Corbett and Phoebe Watkins.
The Under-14s are quite a force themselves, and I caught up with them as they completed a comfortable win over Shropshire rivals St Elsewhere College (otherwise known as Ellsemere College). Some excellent batting from Lisette and Harriet seemed to give the team control, but there were valuable contributions both verbally and with the bat from Ashleigh Pegge, Hester Lockett and Izzy Shannon, whilst the express pace of Ellie Corbett had the Ellesmere ladies looking for cover back at the pavilion. There was definitely a great team spirit and much excitement at the prospect of batting. “I am very nervous but very excited,” an excited and nervous Ashleigh Pegge told me.
The Girls’ 1st XI have had a good start to the season, including a ten-wicket win over Malvern who were bowled out for 110, with Izzy Wong and Emma Graham nonchalantly knocking the runs off. Izzy has recently joined Worcester Ladies and made her debut for the county over the Coach Weekend.
As I have stated before, the health of a school’s cricket should only be judged on how deep the talent pool is. My own protégés, the Under-14Cs, have also made a good start to the season, winning all but one of their games. Kenyan and Tanzanian cricketers Lem Mandara, Jolyon Colson and Oli Powell have all been enjoying good starts to the season, although Oli’s starts are now on the Athletics track. “One fitness session with Mr Bell and Mr Roberts has turned me into an athlete,” Oli told me.
With French star Tobias Libreros bowling well and Dutch descendant Matthew Keulemans batting with freedom, there is something of an international flavour in the squad. “It is part of pre-season plan. World Domination,” I told myself. “Has anyone else heard a voice suggesting they should be aiming for world domination? I am sure it is perfectly normal,” I reassured myself.
The health of cricket at Shrewsbury School is not in doubt, which is more than can be said for at least one member of staff!
Finally it should be said that Head Groundsman Andy Richards and his team have been amazing as usual and deserve many accolades for keeping the show on the road with what has been quite a mixture of weather so far this term.
The Cricket Leagues also rely on goodwill and there have been some natty umpiring outfits already this year, as modelled below by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Tom Drury told me he can shoot a man down from 22 yards only using his finger and claims that watching Clint Eastwood westerns have not had any influence on him whatsoever. “Who is Clint Eastwood?” he asked me. The Revd Aldous was as usual the epitome of elegance, and as he is clearly ‘The Good’, the dapper Mr Cooley and the aforementioned gunslinger will have to fight it out for who is The Bad and who is The Ugly!