Stumped By the Scorebox

When I was but knee-high to a grasshopper, I used to dream of being a cricketer. Not just any old cricketer, but an opening batsman. I would stride from the pavilion in my bedroom, duly padded up and bat in hand, to my mind the most important player of all time. They can’t start without me, I used to whisper, hoping not to wake anyone else in the house.
And my dream came true when I started the innings for Green End Junior Mixed School First XI in South Manchester. We might have been aged 10 and under, but we had all the tricks up our sleeves: we even made sure we began the innings with a right-hander and a left-hander, meaning that, whenever we took a single, the bowling side’s field would have to change their positions, and at least one umpire would have to cross to square leg on the other side of the pitch.
The aim was to wear out the opposition (and the long-suffering umpire). Sadly, the strategy failed as I seemed incapable of hitting the ball hard enough to score. I once carried my bat (ie, I was still not out at the end of the innings), with all my school friends having been dismissed, with me on a grand total of zero. The class teacher, who also supervised (and umpired) the cricket, described it, somewhat laconically, as a “captain’s innings”.
What I didn’t know then, of course, was that you might start a cricket match without any players at all, nor even a pair of umpires, but you couldn’t get going without a scorer. OK, you could have a knockaround on the beach or even a couple of overs in the street. But you couldn’t do anything at any recognisable standard without somebody to note down each dot ball or leg bye.
Thus, the most important person on the cricket field isn’t the opening batsman or the strike bowler, but the luckless soul supping tea in the scorebox. Never was this more obvious that at Babbacombe Cricket Club, whose game against Kingsbridge First XI we happened upon this summer. Now Babbacombe, apart from having the most precipitous pitch I know, is also only yards from what is reputed to be the highest promenade in England. Hence, when the wind gets up, it can play havoc with not only the batsmen’s timing but also the figures that are displayed on the scorebox.
It seemed alright when Kingsbridge were batting but, not that long after the home side took to the crease, a couple of gusts of wind rolled around the steep-sided ground and flicked the numbers over. Suddenly, the luckless Babbacombe side were staring down the barrel of a gun, chasing 503 (it should have been 203) and had been reduced to 12 for nine. The home team were soundly defeated anyway, but any batsman checking with the scorebox would be having kittens, metaphorically speaking.