At Wollaton CC we had chilli and jacket potatoes; at the Cavaliers & Carrington CC it was a spicy offering that would see us rushing for the juice; while playing in the north of the county, homemade cakes would dominate. Cricket teas in Nottinghamshire and around the UK have been a staple of the game.
The only time I recall ever missing out on the mid-game feast was in a Notts Colts match up at Kiveton Park CC in the early 90s. The batting performance of our young side so enraged coach and former Notts batsman John Birch that he barred us from entering the pavilion and subjected us to brutal fielding drills in lieu of tea, while the opposition looked on, mouths full, with amusement. Letters of complaint were written to the county club after the affair - forgoing tea was a serious business.
Then came 2020, a pandemic and a brief hiatus from playing at all. When we did eventually return in the Nottingham Premier League, one of the stipulations for getting the game on was to bring your own tea. Understandably, the sharing of food in the clubhouse was off the menu.
This was a small but not insignificant sacrifice. At my club, Caythorpe CC, we have the magnificent Jean Green (supported tirelessly by daughter Debs), our tea lady since days of yore and a local legend both for her selfless dedication to the club and for her fine spreads. While those famous cheese and onion sandwiches and homemade macaroons were missed, oddly mealtimes fell into place.
When the game commenced at 12.30pm, the lower order from the batting side would retire to their pack-ups and eat at, wait for it, lunchtime. In between innings, within five minutes of a drink and a snack, both teams were prepping for the second half of the game. Bowlers were enjoying a run through, skiers were whacked for eager fielders and batsmen got their throwdown fill in the nets.
Both sets of players then took to the field without carrying the sluggish malaise of tea in their guts. Digested, prepped and ready to do battle in the best possible condition. It just felt right.
For those lamenting another dagger in the social fabric of our game, just bear with me. While teas up and down the country and especially with Jean at the tiller were lovely, the only socialising in my experience was uttering a ‘well-played’ through gritted teeth while reluctantly passing the milk to the guy that had smashed you around the park.
I’d also wager the notion that clubs raise funds from making cricket teas is also misguided (try feeding 30 oiks on a strict budget!). So let me offer a solution which is being considered by the Nottingham Premier League.
Rather than stopping the game midway for a munch fest, how about laying on a spread after the game, when all battles have been fought and players and officials are in the afterglow of a day spent in the field?
It works in rugby – chilli and a pint – so why can’t it work in cricket? Encourage more socialising after the game, utilising the time saved from not stopping a match mid-flow. You can extend the hospitality to spectators too, maybe even raising vital club funds each weekend.
And maybe, just maybe, Jean can get a well-deserved lie in on a summer Saturday, with a lovely social to look forward to at the end of the day. Wouldn’t that be great.
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