"A Village Cricket Match" is actually a chapter from England, Their England though it is sometimes read by itself as a stand-alone story. The main theme of the story begins in the preceding chapter at a weekend party in the country where English public schools enter the conversation. In England, public schools are the elite schools like Eaton, which Princes William and Henry attended. The conversational assertion is that public schools form England's great gentlemen.
"The public school," agreed Sir Ethelred, "is the breeding-ground of great men."
Grasping the theme is helped by understanding the focalization of the story: who focuses the reader's attention on who through whom. The narrator tells the story from an involved third-person point of view. He is objective though not without involved ironic comment. The narrator's story is about Donald, who is introduced in the early part of England, Their England as a Scotsman sent out by terms of his father's will to explore the world.
Donald is trying to understand the English, who are to be distinguished from the Scots. This quest of Donald's is relevant to the theme because it ties into his accumulating idea of the English gentleman, trained and nurtured at public school.
The central theme is brought out during the cricket match the weekend following the weekend party in the country. At the match Donald observes and the narrator comments upon the strengths, weakness, oddities and nobilities of the collection of gentlemen assembled to defend their wickets and make runs. Some of these illustrative theme revealing instances stand out most interestingly.
Strength: The English gentleman's grasp of his rights seen in the insistence of the man in flannel on his right to play since duly invited.
a third gentleman in flannels as well, who swore stoutly that he had been invited by Mr. Hodge to play and affirmed that he was jolly well going to play.
Strength: The small, quiet, mild mannered man turning out to be the best player!
he was the famous novelist, Robert Southcott himself ... [he] hit the rate-collector's first ball over the Three Horseshoes into a hay-field.
Oddity: The sexton and postman both representing English caution.
Oddity: The ready enthusiasm for adjourning to the inn pub for stout or ale at any opportunity.
Nobility: The ironically exact results of the mathematics professor's calculations of speed and trajectory relative to the exact location of the descending cricket ball (the professor forgot to step aside once he pinpointed the spot ...).
it was a striking testimony to the mathematical and ballistical skill of the professor that the ball landed with a sharp report upon the top of his head.
Nobility: The admirable commitment to team spirit despite individual preference or painful injuries.
It was the Team Spirit at work--the captain instructing his man to play a type of game that was demanded by the state of the team's fortunes, and the individual loyally suppressing his instincts to play a different type of game.
Oddity: The commitment to performance despite the presence of a stand-in runner in respect of the injuries (odd when both the runner and the stand-in runner run ...).
Weakness: The equally admirable commitment to performing well despite head-on crashes in to each other.
Village cricket is a term, sometimes pejorative, given to the playing of cricket in rural villages in England and Wales. Many villages have their own teams that play at varying levels in local or regional club cricket leagues.
When organised cricket first began in the 17th century, matches were played between rival parishes or villages and this level of competition has endured. It contrasts with what may be termed representative cricket whereby a team includes players from more than one parish (e.g., a team that represents a county or a country).
Village cricket teams are often made up of local residents only, although some teams' first XI can include players with connections to minor counties cricket clubs and members of the academies of the county cricket club of the county in which the team lies.
In many non-professional cricket leagues, the adjective "village" is a descriptor used humorously, self-deprecatingly, or, sometimes, pejoratively to convey a sense of amateurishness of some aspect of the team's (or an individual's) preparation, dress, conduct or play.
The annual National Village Cup competition began in 1972 and each year's competition is covered in detail (particularly the final) in the following Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. The Cricketer magazine is responsible for organising the competition.
It is open to qualifying teams (ie those from villages (not towns) up to a set maximum population - originally 2,500 but more recently 5,000 - and surrounded by open countryside) from across England, Wales and Scotland. The final is played at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. The competition's headline sponsor has changed often in recent years; the 2017 competition was chiefly sponsored by British milk producers, Watsons.