Overs 1.6 - Day at Old King's Oval - cricket, commentary and atrocious scoring
My first time as a supporting commentator at the NSW Kingsgrove Sports T20 game on the weekend and I have learnt a great deal. Yes, it was only a grade cricket match. And yes, there were only a handful of cricket lovers in attendance. But to do commentary for the radio, you need to be flamboyant, knowledgeable, have interesting cricketing stories and topics to fill up the dead air and most importantly have the correct score. I discovered that the hard way.
It was a perfect Sunday afternoon with the temperature ideal for a game of cricket. Add to this the backdrop of the majestic refurbished Western Sydney Stadium. The wind was slightly strong and could be heard from the stadium microphone. Walking up to the Doug Walter's stand - named after the legendary Australian cricketer himself, I could be forgiven for being spellbound by the surroundings. The venue was the Old King's Oval, the home ground of the Parramatta District Cricket Club. The club has a rich history and was founded in 1843 boasting the likes of Walters, the great Richie and John Benaud to add to their pedigree.
Outside the commentary box sat a lady named Chris. She had been the official scorer for the club for an astonishing 33 years. After a brief introduction, she mentioned that it was only in her 32nd year (2017) that she got to experience a grand final win. Such dedication and commitment to the club are worthy of a heartwarming story and Chris deserved that championship just as much as the playing unit. As the conversation drew to a close, I could see the Parramatta and Hawkesbury teams warming up and going through their routines. I managed to take a quick snap with Peter Forrest, who was lining-up for Hawkesbury. The former Qld Bulls batsmen played for Australia in several one-day internationals. I was about to help call a professional cricket match.
Championing the commentary team was Nick - a stalwart from the Hawkesbury radio and Dave who is an experienced caller for Alive 90.5 FM sports. Both are naturals and excellent voices for commentary. Another colleague of mine, Harry and I were the supporting cast. I thought the young Harry did really well. I was given the role of scoring, albeit not officially and provision of opinions when called upon. The updating of scores in the commentary box provides the callers with a guide for when to alter the tempo of excitement and to build the intensity for the audience to experience. And I failed at that miserably, which I will get to later.
Hawkesbury won the toss and sent Parramatta in to bat. Opening batsman and prolific run-scorer, Nick Bertus started really well with a flurry of boundaries. Along with his opening partner, Ben Abbott, they built a strong opening partnership. But it was Luke Dempsey whose 51 including five monstrous sixes, one of which went over our heads provided Parramatta with a respectable total of 176. Hawkesbury spinner, Jake Wholohan took 4-31 from his four overs in an impressive performance. Nick in commentary reminded us that Wholohan was thinking of giving up the game but persisted and his performance justified his decision. Up until now, my scoring was decent with a couple of visits to Chris to ensure I could provide the listeners and the commentary team the correct updates. Though on the personal commentary front, I found the experience not too nerve-wracking however, I realised that I lacked polish.
When Hawkesbury started their pursuit of Parramatta's total, it was clear to all of us present that the total will be a tough one to chase. Opener Tom Wilson started briskly and was eventually run-out for a respectable 41. But wickets at continuous regularity by Parramatta spinners stifled Hawkesbury. So much so that I felt that they needed 70 runs off the last 3 overs. Which was pretty much game over. Before the last ball of the final over, I signalled to my fellow commentators that that was the penultimate delivery. We could hear from outside, Chris yelling at us and signalling - two more overs left. Embarrassingly for me, the runs required were 60 needed the last five. We had told the listeners that the match was over and presented the incorrect score update. Now we were faced with the uncomfortable situation of the telling them of the miscalculation. Thankfully Nick and Dave took it in their stride and made my gaffe less clumsy. Game on.
Hawkesbury eventually fell eight runs short thanks largely to a brilliant knock of 96 from the young Dale McKay. He only faced 53 deliveries which included 11 sumptuous boundaries and 2 delectable maximums.
After the end of the match, Nick was encouraging and provided me with some valuable advice. He mentioned that it is very important to do your research and to have interesting tales about players to share during the commentary. This is what listeners want. Not dull, ball by ball occurrences. The other lesson is that it is difficult to keep score and provide valuable opinions simultaneously. Regardless, this opportunity and experience were very helpful and a significant step in my growth as a sports presenter.