The cries of ‘Howzat’ made a welcome return to the Fife coast at the weekend with the first beach cricket match to be played since before lockdown.
The Ship Inn pub in Elie, which is the only pub in Britain to play its home matches on a beach, took on Renfrewshire side Kilmacolm in the first cricket match for 21 months.
Bathed in glorious sunshine, scores of spectators came to enjoy an afternoon’s cricket on Saturday and a real sense that some sort of normality was returning to life after lockdown.
Elie’s flat, sandy expanse of beach allows cricket to take place at low tide, with the area of play meticulously rolled to provide the perfect wicket.
The only difference to playing on a traditional grass surface is that teams use a rubber ball.
Fast bowlers can still get bounce while spinners can still make the ball turn.
Long time coming
For pub owner and team captain, Graham Bucknall, it was a day he had long been waiting for.
“It’s been a long 21 months since we last played cricket here so it was absolutely fantastic to be back together,” he said.
“It was quite emotional for a lot of the players who love their cricket, not realising just how much they had missed it until they were back out there.
Banter and camaraderie
“When the first ball was bowled and our player played a defensive shot there was a cry of ‘it’s not a test match’ and it was a perfect example of the banter and camaraderie that we’ve all been missing.
“You can’t play cricket on a zoom call or on your own so it was lovely to be back.
“In the past we’ve crammed people into the beer garden but now we can’t do that we’re blessed with a large beach so people can still enjoy an afternoon’s cricket and have enough room to feel safe.”
And as well as the weather playing its part, The Ship Inn enjoyed a resounding victory by scoring 198 from their allotted 30 overs, including what Graham jokingly referred to as his “majestic” 51 not out.
Kilmacolm reached just 93 but Graham said the result was second to that of the feeling of a return to normality.
“Just being back, seeing people sat enjoying an ice cream or lazing in a deck chair on the beach was magical after so long,” said Graham.
“It’s wonderful to be back and with 12 matches scheduled this summer, including our annual visit from the MCC, one of the world’s most famous cricket teams still to come on July 4, it’s nice to get off to a winning start.”