The batter nudges the ball and sets off for a quick single. A fielder charges in, and in one swift motion, picks the ball up and flicks it into the stumps behind him.

Key points:

  • A century-old church is a unique venue for a Melbourne cricket competition
  • Over a decade, the competition grew to include hundreds of players
  • The church parish is shutting the competition down, citing safety concerns

Pandemonium erupts in the stands and it looks like the batter is short of his ground. To be specific, the umpire makes a referral to the Decision Review System (DRS).

It’s the kind of scene that plays out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground each summer. Still, tonight it is happening inside an Anglican church hall, underneath a replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece, The Creation of Adam.

For over a decade, St Columb’s Hawthorn has become a spiritual home for the players who take to its cricket pitch five days a week.

The church hall, which is more than 130 years old, ranks as one of the most unique venues in world cricket.

“It’s the perfect combination of outdoor, indoor, and backyard cricket,” said Anil Mirchandani, the head of St Columb’s Premier League (SPL) and captain of one of its teams, The Misfits.

Much like the famed Lord’s Cricket Ground, the SPL ground also has a sloped pitch. But that is where the similarities end. The church cricket surface is made up of carpets that were once used in Olympic Games, and the arena is secured by fencing and nets, protecting the spectators who sit in old church pews. At one end, the umpire stands beneath an old archbishop’s chair.

Electronic scoreboards, a four-camera DRS system, speakers, and the live streaming of matches elevate the game to another level. A hall-of-fame has even been set up.

“It makes every single player feel like they are absolute celebrities here. For that hour-and-a-half, they get to masquerade and feel like they’re on top of the world,” Mirchandani said.

Adds Sunny Krishna, a fellow SPL player, and commentator: ‘It’s just like backyard cricket on steroids.”

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