Kevin’s view of action from the scorer’s box at Headingley Cricket ground

Introducing tonight’s speaker, President Jacqui said that the well known double act Kevin and Maureen Metcalf are known as most supportive friends of our club. They run the Roundhay Stroke Support Club with total commitment, but find time not only to join our social activities, but – not   many people know this – by sponsoring a barrel every year for our Beer Festival.

Tonight Kevin took to the crease to bat for the Yorkshire Cricket Club, or rather assumed a bird’s eye view from the stands to tell us of his part time job as a professional scorer for Yorkshire. His audience was a mixture of cricketing aficionados and those like me who are woefully ignorant of the game. For those in the latter category, he opened the batting with a brisk summary of the five different formats: Test Cricket [England v the other great cricketing nations, played over five days with appropriate breaks for tea], County Cricket, [Yorkshire v the other seventeen first class cricketing counties, played over four days], the one day game, [starting at 11 am with a result by the end of the day] and then the recently developed short forms of the game, each lasting no more than 3½  hours: T20,  [twenty overs each side] and the 100 [100 balls for each side.]

Although purists decry the short forms of the game, Kevin told us it’s where the money is, with up to 15,000 fans filling the ground, guzzling beer, pizzas and burgers, compared with County Cricket, that typically attracts crowds of 1-2,000 spectators.

Kevin then let us in on the mysteries of the job of scorer. First, recruitment. A rigorous induction process even longer than a Geoffrey Boycott innings: on-line distance learning on a course set by Lords in London, a certificate gained after an examination, a competitive interview in Headingley, sitting round a big oval table with the President, chairman, senior members of the admin staff, and senior members of the club. Out of four applicants, he was lucky enough to get the job.

Kevin had bowled us a googly. The truth was that his friend Bob, already a scorer, rang on a dark night in February 2016. ‘Do you fancy scoring for Yorkshire?’ I took a millisecond to say ‘yes please.’

Kevin then told us how it works. The scorers’ office is on the fifth floor of the Clean Slate Pavilion, formerly known as the Carnegie Building. It’s high up, although Kevin once saw Liam Livingstone hit a six over the stand, playing against Pakistan, a distance of 120 yards.

Kevin shares the cramped room with a number of colleagues, all keeping a keen eye on the umpire, when they are not distracted by asking each other quiz questions, apparently a habit of theirs. There is the man from OPTA, keeping scores to sell to Sky and the BBC. There is John Potter, the official Yorkshire scorer who travels to all Yorkshire games around the country. He keeps his eye on Kevin and the rest of the team. Kevin dreads hearing his voice, warning ‘Kevin, you’ve just missed a run’.

John keeps score himself. Reassuringly analogue, he writes the score on paper, but then in a nod to the modern world, he puts it onto a computer. John also operates a light switch, which he flicks whenever the umpire signals a 4 or 6, to show the signal has been received. The umpires also communicate with the scorers, and each other, by walkie- talkie.

Kevin operates two computers. One to input the total runs made, the names of the batsmen, bowlers, the number of overs taken and number of overs remaining. The information on this computer is relayed to the scoreboard.

Scoring the short formats 100 and T20 is harder than traditional cricket because there’s so much more action. As Kevin told us, ‘ When it’s 100 balls in an hour and 15 minutes, it’s bang, bang, bang and  mistakes are  harder to catch up on. Occasionally the umpire will say on the walkie talkie, ‘you’re a ball behind’. It puts the fear of God into you. We all help each other’. 

There is the announcer, Howard, with a voice of such authority that he is also in demand at the Grand Theatre and the City Varieties.

Kevin’s second computer enables him to put photos on the big screen at the ground, to illustrate the information announced by Howard: images of the batsmen coming on, and, less popular with the batsmen, of them going off after being given out. He also used to put photos of the good old Yorkshire food being served at Stumps restaurant across the road on St Michael’s Lane, to the delight of the umpires. Kevin was told that word of his picture of rhubarb crumble and custard   had spread to Edgbaston and other grounds. Other irreverent pictures were enjoyed by the crowd until a killjoy in a suit told them it was unprofessional and had to stop.

Kevin  had anecdotes and what he admitted was ‘hearsay and gossip’ about famous figures he’d met at Yorkshire: Ray  Illingworth, Brian Close, Geoffrey Boycott, Phil Tufnell, Michael Vaughan, Jonathan Agnew and others.   Kevin said that John Hampshire was the most entertaining.  After a hearty Yorkshire lunch at Stumps washed down with two bottles of white wine, he regaled the crew in the scorers’ room with tales of waking up after a stag party in his native Barnsley to find a budgie in his room. A donkey appeared on another occasion. The mind boggles, but we were spared further details.

In his eight years scoring at Headingley Kevin has seen some great games of Test Cricket. He vividly described the excitement of the famous England v Australia match in August 2019. England had put up a dismal performance, and by the end of day three, Australia had scored a total of 246, leaving England needing 359 runs in their second innings. They started the innings badly, and it got worse on the final day. As Kevin told us, ‘ A tall order. Finally there were only two men left: Ben Stokes and Jack Leach. Ben had batted 70 balls the night before, and very uncharacteristically, had only scored two runs. He was defending, defending, defending. By the time Leach came in, there was nothing to lose. They still needed 73 to win when Leach, a bowler, not a batsman, came in. Ben cleverly kept Leach out of the way of the bowling so that over the next hour and a half Jack only faced 17 balls. He scored one run. One extra, and the other 74 were scored by Stokes. Amazing. When Leach scored his one, he was nearly run out, but the Australian bowler dropped the ball and England scraped home. When the running wins were hit, the place erupted. I’d never heard noise like it – a full house of 19½ thousand. People went absolutely berserk. To get that many runs, in your last innings, with your last two men at the wicket, was amazing, fabulous.’

Kevin finished on a sombre note. Yorkshire Cricket Club is massively in debt, and the need for revenue from the shorter formats is squeezing County cricket out. Yorkshire are due to play their first game, against the combined universities of Leeds and Bradford, on 26 March 2024, before the clocks have gone forward. Three of its seven games have to be  played in April, and one in the last week in September. Not enough young people are coming into the game, with clubs that used to field three teams and a junior team on a Saturday now only putting out one team.

‘The future is bleak’ said Kevin.

Come on Yorkshire, eat some rhubarb and custard and show, like Ben Stokes did in 2019, that miracles still happen.
















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