Thought cricket was boring? Try playing on a Sunday afternoon with mates from the local pub, on your local ground with a beer in your hand. Train when you want, play when you want and reclaim the glory of your cricketing youth. Let’s face it, you were never going to play for Australia but you were always going to drink beer. Now after all the years you’ve whiled away in the pub wishing you were in the baggy green, you can do the next best thing. Play for your pub!
Drop as many catches as you like and they’ll never drop you. Scrap your way to 30 runs and wave your bat to the crowd like you’ve just made a ton. Welcome to a league that not even David Boon or Andrew Symonds could have dreamt up. Welcome to Pub Cricket.
Apparently Pub Cricket has been played on inner north ovals for decades but it wasn’t until the 80s that pubs like The Lord Newry, The Dan O’Connell, The Old Homestead (extinct) and Marquis Of Lorne (reborn) started playing every summer in something that resembled an organised cricket league. Today roughly 19 pubs make up the Yarra Pub Cricket Association run from a facebook group of passionate and welcoming social cricketers that promote “beer, BBQ, cricket and mates.” While competition is fierce on the pitch, a healthy respect flows between the pubs and it’s custom for the winning team to host the loser at their pub after the match.
Somewhere between the rules of backyard cricket and the real thing, Pub Cricket is 25 overs a side and played in whatever clothes you like. The Gasometer team wear a West Indies one day kit from the 70s for instance while most just wear what they wear at the pub. Batsmen retire at 30, there’s no LBW and you can’t go out first ball. Drinking while playing is accepted and encouraged. Mind you, knocking down the stumps for a run-out can prove difficult after you’ve had six cans and there’s empties blocking the wickets says The Gasometer’s Jason Den Hollander aka Dutchy.
After seeing a sign in a pub six years ago, Dutchy has been a drinker who attempts cricket ever since. Having played cricket and baseball growing up, Dutchy is partial to a ‘swing and a miss’ but is better known for his colourful commentary on field. With the Gasometer team averaging five drop catches a game, he isn’t short of material either. “We spend more energy sledging each other” than actually playing he says. In spite of the sledging or perhaps because of it, the camaraderie is as strong at the Gaso as any pub team. In August last year they toured Sri Lanka where despite being annihilated by a local under 17’s team, they soaked up all the cultural delights Sri Lanka had to offer, chiefly curry and beer.
A highlight of the summer season is the annual Big Day Not Out held across two ovals in Fitzroy North’s Edinburgh Gardens. The round-robin event sees all the pub teams face off from 10am til sundown. If the cross-pub rivalry of the cricket isn’t enough, comedic radio broadcasters White Line Wireless will be commentating, they’ll be food, drinks and even activities to keep the little ones entertained. The good vibes go even further with all proceeds from the day going to community groups and charities.
According to Dutchy, relative newcomers, Royal Derby, are threatening to win again this year after holding the trophy aloft the Brunswick St Oval Grandstand last year. The Dan O’Connell who ham up the traditions of the game, donning whites and walking through a picketed gate before their matches, are also consistent performers.
More than a good time, the Big Day Not Out is a chance to celebrate the spirited communities that make the inner north what it is.
The Big Day Not Out starts at 10am on Sunday 5th of February 2017 at Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy North. Pub Cricket is played eternally throughout summer.
Feature Image Credit: Gasometer Pub Cricket