Yesterdays / When you couldn’t get out first ball!

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Cartoon: Paul Dorin

I WAS lucky enough to grow up having the best backyard to play in. It was, fair dinkum, a good-sized lawn and large enough to play any ball game. The only minor negative was it took me up to three hours to mow!

It was a great backyard to muck around and it became serious stuff when the footy or cricket season took over the backyard I became the young, amateur backyard curator carefully detailing and mowing the lawn depending whether it was a winter mow or a summer mow.

The winter was Rugby League season and the grass was mowed high with a cushion feel to soften the fall being tackled. The line markings were painted with any kind of acrylic white paint l could find laying around in the shed. Old pillows were taped up against the few trees that were considered to be a concern. I had a microphone and speakers set up to introduce the players running out to play.

At one stage, the local soccer club down the road was throwing out a small grandstand which l dragged up to the backyard with the help of friends for spectators to watch our games. The mini-grandstand was only used by my mum, the girls or injured friends unable to play. One year I saved enough pocket money for flood lights so I could set them up around the fence for night games.

The rules we had for backyard footy were:

  • Four tackle rule.
  • 15-minute halves.
  • Kicking goals and penalty goals, between the two back trees and above the lowest branch.
  • Ball kicked into the tree branch when caught was play on.

In summer it was cricket and with the mower on the lowest setting the batting strip was mowed first. I always loved seeing cricket fields on television with outfields of beautiful, different-coloured green strip effects. I’d try to emulate the same effect by mowing one strip high and dropping one or two notches on the mower going back in the other direction.

After the ground was mowed l even borrowed a small, hand-push, concrete roller from a neighbour two doors down and would spend at least an hour going up and down to harden the pitch before painting the crease lines.

Up until one day getting my very own set of stumps for my birthday we used the tin garbage bins. This was actually perfect, it was a sure giveaway when the ball hit the stumps it would make a sound and everyone knew you were out.

A good hook shot would agitate the asbestos on the back wall of the house.

I think most of the rules for backyard cricket were the same:

  • Can’t get out first ball.
  • Back fence bounce first was four runs. Side fences were two runs.
  • Over the fence was “six and out”! Plus batsman has to retrieve the ball.
  • Not to start arguments, no leg before wicket unless it was obvious.
  • Hitting the fence on the full was “six, not out”.
  • No underarm bowling.
  • Depending on numbers playing, the laundry wall was wicket keeper.
  • Always debated whether the dog was included as a fielder.
  • Ball rolling off the roof, if caught was out!

I look back and feel terrible for our neighbours who had a two-storey house with plenty of windows and would’ve been concerned every year when l started mowing the cricket pitch.

Before we changed over to a tennis ball we all feared and avoided hitting the neighbours’ house especially the windows, which was an automatic dismissal. l can remember at least three times my cricket ball landing on their kitchen table via the window!


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Paul Dorin
Paul Dorin is a highly experienced cartoonist and illustrator with a droll sense of humour and a keen eye for the absurd.

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