Bog Cricket

Mystics versus Kilrane at Kilrane, 29th August 1992

The day dawned promisingly, but this means little in Ireland and sure enough, the clouds rolled in and the rain came down. It was particularly bad news for the start of a cricket tour.

The start was duly delayed and the team opened an innings in the local pub, making a good start on Guinness and sandwiches. Most of the Kilrane team joined us, but several were at the ground sweeping water off the wicket and prodding holes in it with forks to encourage some drainage. At about 3.30pm, it was announced that the rain had stopped and play would commence.

Kilrane's pitch lay in a gap between four hedges. The boundary was very close. Indeed it was so close that a six counted for no runs at all. Given the lush vegetation immediately beyond the boundary, this local rule seemed as much to avoid losing the ball as to keep the scores down. Kilrane proved adept at hitting the ball so that it bounced just inside the boundary.

The sun came out, the wind blew, then the clouds wandered back to watch the game. It was abbreviated to twenty-five overs each and we were first out onto the bog to bat. Runs came slowly, prised off the sticky wicket like jewels out of mud.

Kilrane's fielding was superb. At one point, first slip did a cartwheel attempting a catch at leg slip and came up with only a small spot of mud on his trousers. Another star was a javelin thrower and member of the local Garda who displayed incredible balance, collecting and returning balls at speed on the treacherously slippery outfield.

There were three run-outs, which was hardly surprising in conditions which were more like running in a nightmare, where it is hard to move, than on a cricket ground. A corgi dog became so excited it waddled onto the pitch and relieved itself in a pile just inside the boundary.

We survived twenty-four overs and made seventy-eight precious runs. During tea, the rain fell heavily.

Kilrane also found the runs hard to find on a wicket which had become even more like an inland sea. For the rest of the tour, everyone's whites were liberally sprinkled with muddy brown stains. The batsmen could be heard splashing up and down the wicket by the spectators.

We took some early wickets. Jim told Colin to go and stand out at wide long on. Colin was unclear where he needed to stand.

"By the dogshit," Jim explained.

Colin removed the marker with a dainty flick of his boot. Later the corgi set off in vain to find it again.

Kilrane's O'Shaunessy hit the ball and ran half way down the wicket only to be sent back by his partner. The sudden change in direction made him slide and fall over. He scrabbled to his feet and set off back to his own ground which was even browner and slippier than anywhere else. There, he threw his arms and legs in various directions in an effort to remain upright and treated everyone to a passable piece of contemporary dance in the process. To everyone's delight, he made it back safely.

Duncan did some skating in the covers and later effortlessly positioned himself under the arc of a skyer which whirled in the turbulence of the upper atmosphere. He was right underneath it when it came down straight into his waiting hands – and out again. Meanwhile, keeping wicket, Peter had to deal with a batsman of such girth that he could see neither the bowler nor the ball. On several occasions, the ball was hit into the undergrowth and a number of men would follow it in and disappear for several minutes before re-emerging triumphantly.

Kilrane's score had been progressing well until we brought on our own Irish descendant, O'Shea. Despite an accidental full toss which had the batsman diving into the mud for protection, he took the last three wickets and Kilrane were all out for 61.

In the pub that evening, a woman offered to sing to us and smoothing down her skirt she quietly trilled us a ballad.

"Who is she?" we whispered to our hosts.

"Isn't she with you?" they hissed back.

Kevin Barron

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