Bending the rules

It’s pouring with rain at Trent Bridge, so here’s some light-hearted fun from new writer Peter Drake to while away the hours.

In an era when sledging and the more sinister ‘mental disintegration’ are regrettably part of the professional game, it’s worth noting that there are many more original and inventive ways in which the performance of a player, and hence the outcome of the game, can be influenced without the need to law breaking.

As a strictly amateur player, over the years I have encountered some wonderfully inventive ways of stealing that little advantage over the opposition. All in fun, of course. Here are just a few of them… 

Several decades ago, when I was a student in Newcastle, I would play against a wide variety of opponents. Amongst the most fun to play were those made up exclusively of asian players, whose lack of inhibition with the bat, and skill with the ball, could leave you open mouthed in admiration, even as you trudged back to the pavilion. ‘It’s a cultural thing’ people would say, wisely, as the third leg spinner of the afternoon started limbering up on the boundary.

One team I recall took the tradition of Indian cricket a stage further, and no doubt won many more games as a result. We batted first, and did ok. 170 odd off 35 and a turning wicket. We fancied it, frankly.

However, as we approached the half way point of the game, several of the opponents wives and partners had arrived, dressed in brightly coloured saris and looking incredibly exotic in the grey northern weather. They laid out a trestle table that was quickly covered in all manner of delightful asian food: samosas, naans, bhajis and tureens full of rice and curry.

When our innings closed, we made our way back to the pavilion ready for some refreshment. We were young and naive. We were hungry. We tucked in.

Bad mistake.

Washed down by several cups of tea, the effect of our ill-advised feast was to render the fielding team even less mobile and willing to run than usual. It took them less than a dozen overs to close it out the game.

Wind the clock forward a few years and I am now playing for a team in a modest league somewhere up north. As we all know, one of the great joys of cricket is the great diversity of people who play the game, especially in the amateur ranks.

One team we played had a lad whose social skills were, to be polite, limited in the extreme. He couldn’t look you in the eye and I never once heard him utter a word of conversation, except when in the field, where he had the deeply unnerving habit of calculating our run rate to three decimal places (extremely accurately – I checked later) and calling it out after every ball.

“They need 4.286 runs per over”

A dot ball.

“They need 4.354 runs per over”

As a batsman, I can tell you that as a ploy to get inside the head of your opponent it is hard to beat. Completely legal, too, of course although it might be considered a little unsporting. They could have asked this lad to button up, I suppose, but in all honest, would you?

An old mate of mine who attended a far better university than me told me that his department team, The Classicists, would confound the opposition by having the captain make changes to the field in either Latin or Greek.

I have to say, I do find his story a little hard to swallow. I was no great shakes at Latin at school but I cannot imagine even the best of scholars having the knowledge to translate “Can you drop in five at square to hit the one, Eric?’ into the language of Julius Caesar, but suffice to say it WOULD be an excellent way of gaining that little extra advantage.

Do readers have other examples of occasions when opponents have gained an advantage whilst remaining within the laws of the game?

Peter Drake

Retired teacher, playwright, and cricket nut from Hexham


  • “Peter Drake” – that name takes me back! I played with you at Nottingham University! Never had you down for a “teacher”, though … I thought you were going into accountancy. Anyway – Hexham Northumberland is a lovely place to end up. You remember my girlfriend, Liz Queen (“Queen Elizabeth”)? She grew up in a village only a couple of miles from Hexham, and went to the “high school” there. Small world.

    • Wow, Jonny Denby and Peter Drake! Two names from the past! Both of you capable of a bit of gamesmanship when the mood took as I recall. Many an innocent teacher would be on the wrong end of your merciless wit during student – staff matches at uni.
      Hexham now, Peter?
      Top spot.

  • I seem to remember the New Zealanders accusing a Pakistan captain (I think it was Salim Malik) of responding to “call” with some incomprehensible mumble then when the coin landed announcing “we’re batting”.

    And where would the Duncan Fletcher era have been without boiled sweets? Monty Panesar let out a few things about that not so long ago. Funny how it doesn’t appear to sour 2005 for some people despite the very obvious differences in how the ball swung for one side and didn’t for the other.

  • I remember short legs getting up to all sorts of ‘legal’ shenanigans when I was younger. Repeated singing of the same bloody song, again and again, all afternoon, between balls and when the bowler started his run in. Thank heavens he actually stopped just before the point of delivery.

  • All very genteel compared to the school of hard knocks that was the Southport League many moons ago. The biggest bone of contention in the rarified heights of Division Five was the fact that teams often provided their own umpires which was of course a recipe for mayhem, especially when playing one of the teams from inner city Liverpool. It occasionally flared into actual violence when games turned on a questionable LBW. I’ll never forget a scuffle amongst a few players including an opposition member who was a feared bouncer but put in his place by a girlfriend of a team-mate who charged on to the field and clattered him with a brolly.

    • Harry Turnbull
      Lmao at this one.
      Did you ever see ‘Outside Edge’?
      Cracking play and TV show about cricket…
      Your comment might have been a scene that
      Peter Drake playwright teacher Hexham Northumberland

  • The most common use I found was the old stager of alchohol. Any drinks intervals were always punctuated with the temptation of a wide variety of alternatives from the bar. These were usually taken up whilst our team pretended to follow suit out of jugs filled with fruit juice and water. There was a particularly strong punch that used to come out which was served only to the opposition, especially effective in hot sun. It’s fruity and refreshing after taste was followed by raging headaches. Few opposition teams complained as they thought the hospitality might dry up if they did.

    • Latterly we have been subject to covid regulations regarding disinfectant routines etc. I know at least one team that would “disinfectant ” one side of the ball with gel but not the other!

  • The RLC Final has been shunted to midweek and away from Lord’s in a move that looks designed to be part of killing it off.

    A reminder that when it comes to mind games and manipulating the rules players are mere amateurs compared to administrators.


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