Scotland is known for many things but good weather is not one of them. While the Scots pride themselves on being tougher than their climate, the popular sport of cricket is dependent on windows of dry weather between the inevitable rains. The fact that cricket matches can go on for days makes the sport a bit of a high-risk activity in these northern lands.
A recent Cricket Scotland Trophy semi-finals match between Edinburgh’s Grange Cricket Club and rivals Aberdeenshire was down to a final bowl-out (the equivalent of soccer/football’s penalty shoot-out) when it succumbed to rain – for the second time. The fact that the two cricket clubs are based some 130 miles apart made it inconvenient and expensive to try to reschedule everyone to be in the same place for a third attempt.
According to Aberdeenshire Cricket Club’s Honorary Secretary David McColgan, “The idea to have the bowl-out on Skype started with a throw-away comment made after our latest attempt to play the match was abandoned. The idea gathered steam after we discussed it with our opposition, Grange, and once the local newspaper found out.”
The match’s umpires encouraged the two teams to proceed with their idea of doing the bowl-out from their home fields and show it live over Skype. Eventually, the sport’s governing board, Cricket Scotland, gave their approval too.
Laptops and web cams were set up at Grange and Aberdeenshire’s cricket pitches. The bowl-out took place on the team’s regular training night, so there was a large crowd of players, supporters and media. Spectators and players huddled around the laptops waiting to see how things developed on the other end of the Skype video call.
In a bowl-out, five bowlers (pitchers) from each team throw cricket balls at an unguarded wicket (three upright sticks known as stumps). If it is still a tie after the first five bowlers, the match is then decided by sudden death bowl-out.
Grange won the toss and elected to bowl first. They came out strong, hitting their first two attempts and establishing an early lead. This was extended to a commanding 3-0 and ultimately a match-winning 6-1 final. The Edinburgh club was victorious, but Aberdeen was still in good spirits and pleased to have a verdict in the twice postponed semi-finals match.
Asked whether the emotions were the same over Skype as in person, Club Captain of Aberdeenshire Tyler Buchan says, “I think the feeling amongst the players is that it was actually more nerve racking this way than in normal competition. Bowl-outs are quite rare in our sport as they are only used in cup competitions. The use of Skype was great as it let us see the action close-up and in real time, even if it didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped.”
While both clubs weren’t able to win the trophy, we think both take the prize as the most technologically innovative cricket teams in Scotland 2012.