Posted tagged ‘pitch invasions’

Not in Wisden #10: Little Nippers

October 9, 2013

There’s a sports centre not far from where I live. When my youngest son was small I would take him there and have a kick about at the side of the full size football pitch. He also loved to play in the long jump sand. He’d kick the sand and roll about in it. On one occasion when he was destroying the sand pit I took my eyes off him for a few seconds and he disappeared. A cold sweat broke over me only eased when I heard a good natured shout of “Hey, ref. They’ve got twelve players on.”

My son had wandered onto the football pitch and took up a position in the six yard box just as a corner was about to be taken. The players were all smiles as this small being stood beside giant centre-halves and forwards. I ran onto the pitch, apologising profusely, and lifted my son off the park. The referee smiled at us then blew his whistle. The corner was swung in and a forward headed it into the goal. The investigation began between the defending side players into who was to blame. Accusations and recriminations were shouted ending with a claim that the boy had disrupted their concentration. I had anticipated this result and as the goal went in I moved far from the madding crowd.

Border-Collie-11This scene reminded me of an even longer ago incident that occurred in the GDCCC (Glasgow and District County Cricket Championship). It was a fixture early in the season between local rivals, Riddrieshire and Carntyneshire. One of the regular Riddrieshire supporters, Wally Ewing, had turned up with his new pet dog: a border collie called Nipper. Both sets of players went over to clap the dog and friendly banter ensued.

Carntyneshire’s all-rounder Alan Gilchrist said to Wally. “That’s ironic that your dog is a border collie considering your house straddles the border of both of the counties playing today.”

Wally was in no mood for sledges and he angrily retorted. “ I’m a Riddrieshire man, born and bred, there’s no Carntyne in my blood.” The other players calmed Wally down and the match got under way. It was watched by a handful of spectators and the obligatory man with his dog; in this case, Wally and Nipper.

The match was a close run affair and it went right to the wire. With one ball remaining Carntyneshire were three runs in front. Provanmillshire’s number eleven, Soggy, had to hit a boundary to take the spoils. Carntyneshire’s captain had a meeting with the bowler, Alan Gilchrist, and they discussed where the last delivery should be bowled. It was agreed that Gilchrist should take a bit of pace off his bowling and concentrate on line and length. This would negate the possibility of the batsman using the speed of the bowling to hit a lucky strike. The last man in would have to use his own skills to win the match and poor Soggy had all the attributes of a rabbit.

Gilchrist ran in and bowled a good length ball outside of off stump. Unconventionally, Soggy moved to the off side and swished his bat but he connected a tad early. The ball ran dismally to the vacant mid wicket area and a man in the deep ran towards it. Clearly the most Riddrieshire could make out of this hit would be one run.

On the sidelines Wally Ewing was heard to say “Fetch”. Nipper was off like a shot. The collie got there before the fielder and picked the ball up in his mouth. It was now all over bar the scoring. The border Collie sprinted over the boundary line. The umpire waved his arms signalling four runs.

Celebrations by the jubilant Riddrieshire team were interrupted by protests from the Carntyneshire players and officials. The cry of cheating was dismissed by a rules book expert who declared there’s nothing in the rules that says an animal can’t intrude in play. Animals can’t distinguish between borders. The spirit of the game was brought into disrepute said a Carntyneshire player until Soggy’s words of wisdom left everyone speechless.

“You can’t blame Nipper for your loss. There’s no difference between what he did and say…a colony of ants picked the ball up in the out field and carried it over the boundary. It’s still four runs.”

With this the players and spectators drifted away.