The story 'A Village Cricket Match' is an excerpt from the author's novel 'England, their England' and presents a light-hearted look at the hypocrisy of the English society and the concept of Englishness through the eyes of the Scottish author. This episode is a mild satire directed at the manipulation of the rules which were rearranged as per convenience and tries to shed light on the follies of the English society.
'A Village Cricket Match' is in the form of a commentary of a cricket match being played between a local village team and a team from London. Never being short of excuses and explanations, they flout rules and manipulate the basic conventions of the game to ensure that the result is in their favour. The story begins with a brief description of the countryside surroundings where the much anticipated match was about to begin.
The local team consists of villagers who work as blacksmith, rate-collector, baker etc. The audience too, consists of urchins and villagers who wait patiently for the match to begin. Such games, against a team of city-dwellers, were rare for them, and yet they are calm; they face the irregularities of rural life every day and are not bothered by either the delay in the match or by the manipulation of rules.
Since two players of the visiting team had failed to show up, Mr. Hodge, the captain of the team, after a rather tricky conversation with the Fordenden captain, had arranged
However, just as the match is about to begin, the defaulters arrive with an extra man. Discussions ensue and there are adjustments in rules to accommodate the demand of the last person. Finally, it is decided that the match will have twelve men on each side. The match begins as Mr. Hodge sends in the opening pair to bat. One was James Livingstone, a very sound club cricketer, and the other one was called, simply, Boone.
The local team took their positions on the field at the command of their captain, the village baker, amidst 'daisies, buttercups, dandelions, vetches, thistledown, and clumps of dark-red sorrel'.
The unkept village ground behind the wicket was level for a few yards and then sloped away rather abruptly. As a result, the bowler could not be seen by any player on the field during his run up. The sound club batsmen having taken guard after twiddling their bat round in a nonchalant manner and having stared arrogantly at each fieldsmen, found the blacksmith prepared to open the attack with his fast bowling as he took another reef knot in his snake-buckle belt and charged like 'Vulcan and Venus Anadyomene'. The first ball, a full pitch to leg, went for a 'rare' four-bye, while the second hit the wicket-keeper's stomach, causing a small delay. The third went for a 'dexterously struck' six by James Livingstone, and the fourth took his leg-bail. The city team's luck looked badly out as the fifth ball retired hurt the professor before Mr. Harcourt had the 'singular misfortune to hit his own wicket, even before the sixth ball could be delivered.
The local rate-collector, a left-hand bowler, whose life seemed to be one of infinite patience and guile, was the nest bowler in and his first bowl dismisses Boone, the massive one in Cambridge blue. Seeing this the author felt-
Next in, Robert Southcott, a novelist takes charge.
Mr. Hodge instructs him to hold his wicket as runs were not important at this point and Donald Cameron felt the team spirit at work. He hits the first ball into the hay-field for a six, the second ball; a Yorker hits the saloon bar, again for a six. The next, a slow swinging one, meets the same fate. It is fished out of the pond by the delighted local children.
The rate-collector is baffled by the unseemly results of his deliveries and fears that his reputation is at stake. The village umpire, sensing this and by his own knowledge too, favours the local team and declares the over before the sixth ball.
Mr. Southcott had been treating with apologetic contempt those of his deliveries which came within reach while the Blacksmith's temper had been rising for some time. The last ball of the over is seen by the blacksmith as a do or die situation. On his way back to take his run, he glared at the umpire Mr. Harcourt of the English team-who had been driven out to umpire by his colleagues.