Posted by Stephanie Eslake
Friday 10th January, 2014

At National Music Camp, during the annual cricket match between staff and students, personalities changed. It was obligatory for the staff to win; to achieve or prevent this the most upright and gentle characters falsified scores, cheated, bullied, or tried any other measures likely to distract the opposing team.

from Concert Pitch, 1984

Until yesterday, I knew nothing about cricket. After my WAM tutor, Alastair McKean, provided me with an extensive lesson on the rules of the game and some vital strategies, I now know how to tell the difference between the batsman, bowler, and umpire, and three different meanings for the deceptively simple word ‘wicket’. However, when the time came to witness the 67th Staff vs. Students cricket match – Smurfs and all – everything I was taught went out the window.

Throughout the history of the NMC cricket match, ignorance (or perhaps more accurately, blatant disregard) of the rules has enabled staff to win all but one game. Lachlan Bramble claimed that the 2014 staff team planned to ‘keep a low profile; we’re not into any dirty tricks, just keen, honest, gentlemanly cricket - at a very high level.’ I asked Jono Bekes if he thought the students would beat the staff. ‘Yes definitely we will. They’re always a little bit biased because of the scorer, so we’ve got to smash them beyond doubt.’ Clearly, the staff had no idea what was in store for them.

On the bus ride to the oval, the mood in the students was optimistic. All were on the same side – the better side, the winning side – the students’ side. After all, what sort of a chance could the staff really have when star bowler Alexandre Bloch thought we’d all gathered for a nice game of evening croquet? 

The game began with a perfect pitch. The battle between staff and Smurf (complete with shaving-cream beards and painted legs) was watched by an audience of upward of 200 students, who rhythmically chanted encouragement across the field. Highlights of the staff innings included Bloch proving his skills in baseball by dropping the bat after hitting a home run – or, as he was unaware, a run – and umpire Colin Cornish carrying his son (Felix) around to an ‘awwww’ from the crowd. While the staff were on the right track with a score of five for 31, the student team soon lived up to Bekes’ pre-match certainty that they would ‘whoop their butt’, scoring an epic six for 51.

Reactions after the match were ambiguous, as were the scores. I asked Colin: was it a fair game? ‘I think it was more than fair.’ So why were the staff declared to have won? ‘The strength of the staff batting, and the weakness of the student team. To be fair, it was a very close match.’ But didn’t the students score more runs? ‘The Smurfs cost them the game. It was probably a little bit too entertaining.’ Jono’s response: ‘They might be changing the score on us – but we know we’ve won fair and square. They can’t stop us. There’s definitely going to be a next time.’ Captain Toby was also ‘very happy with the boys – they turned up, played the game, smashed it.’

We may never know the final result. But, as Colin said, ‘the tradition continues.’

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- Stephanie Eslake

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