Stumped – a memoir of the author’s days as a cricket umpire – is a book of two innings: the first his early years, umpiring men’s league cricket in Kent; and the second, his seasons umpiring women’s cricket in Melbourne.
Its 200-odd pages are divided more-or-less chronologically into 51 short chapters, the very longest of which can be read in a couple of minutes, almost all of which centre around a particular match, often using it to reflect upon a wider facet of the game: pubs (very much part of the game in Kent apparently), teas, LBWs, and so on!
For women’s cricket aficionados, the second half of the book will obviously be the focus. After umpiring a handful of men’s games upon his return to Australia after his years as an expat in England, and not enjoying the more combative experience, Harrison informed the convenors of the Cricket Victoria Premier Umpire’s Panel that he would continue as an umpire only if he were able to stand exclusively in women’s cricket.
They acceded, and so the next few years were spent in the women’s game in and around Melbourne, watching the rise of the likes of Sophie Molineux, Elyse Villani, and of course Meg Lanning, about whom he describes a memorable incident arising from the Australian captain-to-be encroaching upon the pitch when fielding at silly mid on during a club match.
“By law, that is a ‘No Ball’ and I called and signalled exactly that,” writes Harrison.
“What followed was a wildly disproportionate reaction from [Lanning] as she expressed her obvious displeasure and absolute disbelief at the decision…. In the end, I suggested that she should contact the MCC, if she wanted to seek any clarification (or have the law changed).”
The whole book is chock-full of such anecdotes, recorded with wry, dry Aussie humour, which slip down like a pint of bitter on a hot day. And like that pint of bitter, it will be followed by another and another, until the barrel is dry. It’s the kind of book to have by your side, ready for a wet weekend when you still need your cricket fix. And in that regard, it won’t disappoint.