Two seats along from Keith Brick sits Jane, the wife of East Morton spin bowler Ronny Whitlock. Placed neatly in front of her is a maroon, rectangular book and a litany of coloured pens arranged precisely in a less than inconspicuous tin. With no children in sight, the contents of said tin provoke much curiosity. Ten overs into the contest with Hawkhook and Jane Whitlock is alive with activity; a whirligig dervish changing pens with almost hypnotic frequency as various dots, numbers and symbols are scribed into the litany of varying sized boxes that adorn each page of the maroon book. Occasionally Whitlock raises her left arm to acknowledge a signal from the wicket; an event that provokes a further change of coloured pen and almost instant additions to the various boxes.
Cricket scoring can be a work of art. It is a broad spectrum, one that spans from the scorer who scrawls the bare minimum of runs, bowling figures and totals to the avid brethren at the polar opposite: those who undertake the task with an astonishing degree of detail, pouring their heart and soul into a page that will be pored over and perused for hours.
In truth, the various dots, numbers and symbols tell the tale of a contest. Granted, runs and wickets will provide the headlines but the work of art scorebook provides the detail and the minutiae. Bowlers will assess their figures and then trace their index finger across to the over by over analysis, staring quizzically at the hieroglyphics before acknowledging that they did indeed bowl a couple of wides in the second over, although the byes, correctly, have not been added to their figures. Batsmen discover how many runs they have scored and how many deliveries they faced; the correlation between the two oft a source of discussion apropos whether the opener’s twenty runs off of thirty deliveries is as of much worth as the late order dash of the wicket-keeper’s fifteen off of ten deliveries; facing the new ball, the best bowlers and laying a foundation the counter argument of the opener against the obvious numerically based answer.
The scorebook will also provide the source material from which team statistics are compiled; the role of scorer, and completing the job accurately, never more important than when the averages are totted up. Few teams are as fortunate as East Morton in possessing one person simply to complete the scorebook. Most teams will include one or two players who possess, at the very minimum, the pre-requisite knowledge to complete the bare bones of a scorecard. Others will complete the number of deliveries faced by the batsmen and some the number of minutes he or she stayed at the crease. Few will do so with the rainbow of colours employed by Jane Whitlock.
The varying talents with regard to the scorebook are another item to be balanced when a captain has to decide a batting line-up; avoiding a scenario where the team’s two scorers are at the crease together or umpiring together, or a combination of the two, paramount for fear the minutiae of a contest may descend into minor chaos. Nobody appreciates a mid match stoppage because the scorers have failed to record the last boundary or the number of overs that have been bowled. Stand next to a bowler studiously examining his or her figures and then discovering that said figures have been botched or completed with a fair dose of guesstimation and one risks being caught up in the fall out and being rendered as collateral damage.
Meanwhile, take a look at the expression of a player asked to fill in the book when they are not cognisant of the scoring code and one quickly realises that it is akin to watching an arachnophobic struggling to cope with a daddy long-legs sashaying across the bathroom floor. Completing the scorebook is one of cricket’s most important, and yet oft least valued, of tasks.