Saturday, September 29, 2007

Learning Curves

After last weeks disasterous spell I'd come away from the game having watched one of the oppositions spin bowlers come away with about 5 maiden overs. I'd then asked our blokes what it was that this bloke was doing that was so troublesome and they come back with the fact that he was bowling a line and length that was really problematic. No-one said that he was making the ball turn (None of us had managed that either) but he was on target and an length where you was going to have to come down the wicket and have a go. It seems none of our blokes fancied it so that kind of implies that maybe he was varying his speed and bounce - so perhaps he was bowling over-spinners?

Anyway I gave this some thought and concluded that this blokes bowling made a lot of sense and this is emphasised by the amount of maidens he got. So I evaluated my approach and came up with some conclusions.

  • In all sorts of practice situations I can make the ball turn ridiculously and as a consequence I bowl wide looking balls normally varying flippers and Wrong Uns. But I'm realising that on a proper cricket pitch I'm not getting the same amount of turn - why? I don't know, but the consequence is I'm not threatening the stumps and so everyone is having a go at me and knocking me for fours and having a great time of it.
  • Having watched this bloke and seen how affective he was just throwing straight slow balls that seemingly might have turned I've decided that in the short term I'm going to stop trying to pull off Shane Warne style Mike Gatting round the legs deliveries and aim to be more accurate and consistent with where I pitch the ball.

So today I went over to my local field set up the stumps and laid a piece of fabric down in the zone where I intended to pitch the ball. The fabric was 4' long by 12" wide and placed 4 yards in front of the stumps. So all I had to do is pitch the ball at any length along that piece of fabric and it would be threatening the stumps. It would also be a short delivery that would mean the batsman would be tempted to come out after the ball.

I decided that I'd only bowl Flippers and Over-spinners, so I used 6 white balls and 6 red balls and put them in a bag. As I got the balls from the bag randomly I'd bowl the white ones as Over-Spinners and the red ones as flippers. The reason I'd gone for the Over-spinners is that theoretically they're the straight balls that bounce up high and contrast nicely with the Flippers that back spin and skid in low. So just the action of the variation alone causes an inconsistency in my bowling for the batsman? But added to that I have a tendency for my Over-spinners to turn into leg like a Wrong Un which again contrasts with the Flipper because they turn into Off like Leg Breaks. Despite being bashed all over the park by the batsmen last week I did hear their best batsman say "This blokes a bit tricky cos he's bowling offspin and Legspin" so that was encouraging to hear. So today with my strategy set off I went for a practice.

Initially it was awful which brings up another problem... I took about 4 overs to get my eye in as such. I'm wondering that if I was to have a practice before the game or during teas - would that loosen me up enough so that I could go straight into my spell and be affective - or would an hour or so waiting for my spell be so long that I'd need to bowl a couple of bad overs before I got then hang of it? I suppose this is something I could test on the practice field?

So anyway 4 overs in and suddenly it all came together. I found that bowling the flippers a lot shorter than I normally do and bowling them down the middle faster than normal meant that they didn't turn so much but they definitely seemed more threatening and I was hitting the stumps a lot more consistently. Without a batsman there it's difficult to tell how they'd handle them, I know my mate Nakul who I practiced a lot with over the summer (if he knew they were Flippers) would just step back and play off the back foot and whack em. But mixed up with the bouncy Over-spinners he might come unstuck?

The Over-spinners were good too. As I said without even trying to do it my Over-spinners have a sneaky and inconsistent tendency to turn to leg slightly and when I get into a bit of a groove with them it's just really easy to twist the wrist just a bit more and hang on to the ball a milli-second more so that it comes out of the back of the hand and turns loads. Again I was threatening the stumps so much more than I would normally do and having the bails off a lot more too.

In conclusion it looks as though if I adopt this approach where I'm aiming directly at the stumps I'm going to be more difficult to bat against and this might improve my figures. The only uncertainty is the length, so ideally I need to get someone to face my bowling, but as long as my line is consistent I don't think changing the length is going to be too problematic? So over the next few weeks I'm going to be sticking at these two deliveries making sure the line is consistent and just observing how often I hit the stumps and how much turn I get on the faster balls.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Last game of the season

Couple of things today.

1. Swollen thumb; does anyone out there also bowl flippers? If so have you ever suffered from a swollen thumb? My thumb seems to have swollen up and seems to be really tender and has been for over a week now. I'm not sure whether it's suffering because of over-use with the flippers or something else. I can't think of any other reason it should be sore and swollen. Has anyone else had this happen?

2. Learning curves. W'hey I took a wicket today, but at the same time went for 52 off of 2 overs and my Captain understandably withdrew me. Basically at the end of the match I reckon I must have cost us the match as the opposition scored 242 and in return we managed 210. Anyway talking to the other blokes and watching one of their spin bowlers who I think bowled 5 or 6 maiden overs out of about 10 I asked what was it he was doing that made him so difficult to bat against? Our batsmen said that he was bowling a consistent line at off stump and at a length that was just out of reach whereby they'd have to come forward and out of the crease. So I can only assume that he was flighting the ball so that it was high enough to make it impossible to judge where it was going to land and possibly varying the length from time to time? Otherwise why couldn't our batsmen just step back and hit it?

After my performance today it looks like I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board and practice landing the ball consistently a just short of a good length, but obviously on target with the stumps rather than varying it. Although saying that I heard their best batsman commenting to one of their players that my bowling was confusing him because I was bowling both Leg breaks (My flippers) and Wrong Uns. The ball that got the wicket was a straight one that bounced up that was wide of off stump and a sitter, the bloke went after it and got caught at cover.

But it does look like at the level that I'm playing my main objective needs to be just to thwart the runs primarily?

So what now? G&CCC more or less shut down after the last game next Sunday and there seems to be no practice of any sort until February. There's an AGM on Oct 16th which'll be interesting as there's loads of new proposals being put regarding the fees we all pay. It seems that most people don't every pay thier subs and try and avoid paying the game fees, yet they all work! It seems they're aware of the fact that the club wants to play as many games as possible and to do so they have to pick blokes that haven't paid their subs.

I reckon I'll do as I did last year I'll bowl right through the winter if the weather allows. But I'm kind of looking forward to some bad weather that'll stop me for a while and maybe my sore shoulder and thumb will get better?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Throwing update

A while back I posted an entry saying that I'd pulled muscles in my back and arms throwing the ball in from the outfield during matches. I have to bowl, so this needless to say probably affects my bowling abilities. So I looked into - exploring both the website and also the BBC website. From the Harrowdrive website I found some useful info about practicing with balls of different sizes and weights and tried that out and that seemed to hold some potential if I was to pursue it and keep the practice up. Unfortunately practicing on your own isn't that inspiring, so I've put that on the back boiler. But more interesting was the BBC website which features a guide on how to throw the ball, showing you the correct technique. I tried it out practicing on a field and it works and this weekend I had throw a few balls in from the outfield and I've not caused my arms any problems neither immediately or later on. It's definitely a technique issue as opposed to a strength issue.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

G&CCC win again

Another win today which was nice. I never know who it is we're playing, but the team comprised of mostly adults with 2 very passionate younger lads around 16-18 years old maybe younger? All our faster bowlers had been drafted into the 1st XI team so we were left with a bunch of leg spin bowlers (5) and one seam bowler. Needless to say the opposition thought that all their christmas's had come at once espcially as the opening delivery went for 4 and the match then continued in the same vein. They eventually finished with 248 for 4 with 3 of their blokes scoring more than 50 each off of 40 overs.

So it looked like we were going to get hammered. But I've learnt to never under-estimate these kids on our team and a few hours later we walked off the victors having lost 3 batsmen with 3 overs to spare.

I had to umpire today and was allowed to do so at the cover position - so that was okay with only one serious appeal, but our bloke had his foot in and on the ground when the bales come off, but only just.

I fielded at Square leg, deep square leg, mid off and mid on. I've got to get my head round all these different positions so I don't have to ask where? I also got 6 overs and I think I went for about 58 runs or something. I had 2 stumpings that our lot said were dead certs but the umpire was having none of it. I had a few balls skied out to forward square leg - mostly off of longer balls that were loopy full tosses - which is something I should watch as a potential tactic to get blokes out? As usual I stopped a few balls, backed up some loose balls and probably made a fair contribution out in the field. Oh yeah I threw a few wides (3).

So even though we've got the likes of Gavin, Riley and Dean potentially on our side this match if it happens wont be a foregone conclusion.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Batting practice

I can't bat. I'm useless especially when facing fast bowlers. It's rare that in training situations I get to face bowlers and if I do they're generally of the faster variety as I'm the only spin bowler in our team and the other slower bowlers - Nakul and Badger they're not around much. Besides up till recently I'd always take the opportunity to bowl at people in order to hone my bowling techniques rather than practice batting.

So for ages I've been trying to come up with ways that I might be able to force some improvements. A couple of weeks back one of my team mates at Chadwell & Grays CC pulled me aside and gave me some advice about where I should stand in relation to the stumps when batting in view of the fact that I don't really move that much. What he said made sense, but I hung on the fact that he said I don't move my feet. So I had a look at some batting video tutorials on the Ninemsn website in Australia and listened to what was being said about moving your feet and being on your toes and mobile.

I was thinking it all through a bit miffed that I can't get anyone to practice with, but kept looking around for other ways to practice. I've got kids - two boys 8 & 6 years old and they've got all sorts of balls - footballs, tennis balls, wind balls, sponge balls, golf balls etc. I opened up the back of the car and noticed a bag of balls and the golf ball caught my eye and I thought - now that's a small and potentially difficult ball to hit with a cricket bat. I realised if somehow I could practice with a golf ball and hit that it would be so much easier with dirty great cricket ball. I took it and bounced it on the ground and realised the potential to possibly hit the ball bouncing off of a wall. Using a smaller bat - a size 5 I gave it a go. To the cut the story short I tried a range of balls including tennis balls and tonight ended up with a hard plastic ball (The type found in bat & ball sets used for beaches on holiday) that bounces well off of walls and it's hollow and light. Using this ball I found I could bat it against the wall and the level of ping off of the bat and wall enabled me to stand 15' - 30' away from the wall and practice a variety of strokes having to respond quickly in order to keep a rally going. The ball is smaller than a cricket ball and using a smaller bat means that (1) my eye/bat to ball co-ordination is being used and hopefully improved and (2) because the bounce combined with the spin means the ball comes at me at different heights and angles and in order to keep a rally of returns going I've got no choice other than to dance around quickly in order to get my body/bat in line and my head over the top of the ball to return it. It looks like it's proving to be a really useful exercise if only to prove that I can get the bat on the ball which usually evades me in a cricket match.

I did this last weekend using a golf ball and tennis ball and last weekend (If you read previous blogs) I score a few runs and felt a lot more confident at the crease. I'm hoping now with this plastic ball, it just means I'm going improve my confidence in that I know I can get the bat on the ball and I now can sense how vital it is to move your feet and get your head over the ball when playing shots.

What's more during the rallies because the wall where I practice has a second wall at a right angle it means I can move my feet and look to hit the ball out to square leg. Additionally the walls are only about 4'6" high so I have to strike the ball keeping it low, so I'm practicing that aspect too. All in all this looks like it may be a good practice technique - half hour of it and I was dripping with sweat.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sports Science merge with MPA shock

I bumped into Gavin today and he asked how we'd done in our re-match with the Aussies and Kiwis which as you'll probably know or realise never happened because can't ever get a team together. Gavin went on to say they had another match scheduled which similarly didn't happen either and asked about my involvment with Chadwell and Grays CC. I then thought - here's my chance to suggest the idea of a merger between us and Sports Science to create the beginnings of a SEEC cricket team? So I said 'If you're up for a game still before the end of the season I may be able to fix a game between you lot and C&GCC'? Which he seemed well up for.

So it's been left that he's going to talk to his blokes and Dean and that the game will be played at Welstead Gardens. Tonight I've emailed my captain Fozzy at C&GCC suggesting that this may be a possibility? So all I've got to do now is find out how many people are up for it in Sports Science and see if some of the MPA boys will be up for it. I've spoken to Simon and Richard and they are, I just need to email some of the others.

Possible team -

5.Conan the Kiwi
6.Paul (Sports Science)

Then there's the possibility of Alex, Chris and Jack in the event that we're stuck for players?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tremlett signs up for MPA 1st XI

A glimmer of hope here. Drew Tremlett contacted me through Facebook tonight and asked about the cricket saying that he had been following the blog, but then noticed that it had suddenly gone quiet with no more additions. I explained that there was some enthusiasm, but not enough to continue. He then offered to play saying that he'd come down from Cambridge to have a game! So - maybe a game before the end of the season?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday - Cricket with Golf Balls

I emailed a couple of the other blokes at work today - Richard and Simon suggesting that they consider signing up for Grays & Chadwell. I've heard nothing from Simon, but Richard kind of implied that he was vaguely interested, so who knows maybe this weekend. I think I'll email him again tonight and see if he follows it up?

After the relative success with the bat (2 not outs) and I made a couple of runs I'm going to see in future if I can bat further down the order as it means you face the spinners and the slower bowlers and I get on with that a lot better it seems? I'm also looking at ways of getting my feet moving and some kind of way I can improve my timing and accuracy with the bat. One thing I've found fairly useful is to use a golf ball and bat it up against a wall. Golf balls ping off the wall fast and hitting them with a bat puts loads of spin on the ball so it comes back at you at a different angle meaning you've got no choice other than to move your feet and go after it. The other thing is that a golf ball is very small and therefore potentially more difficult to hit? I've just got to find a decent wall to hit up against now in order for the practice to be effective.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday report

A good day today. The sun was out and it was about 20 centigrade so very pleasent.

As usual the team struggled to get the full compliment and had to use batsmen from our other team that were playing on the adjacent pitch whilst they phoned around trying to get more players to come to the ground. They eventually turned up an hour or so into the match, so as I've been saying there's cricket to be had here and it's good fun because we frequently win.

Anyway they batted first and despite the fact that we didn't have any of our usual pace bowlers the people that stepped up to the job did well and we piled through easily and quickly. They did look like they were going to be good as they had Warsop Stebbing bats and some other obscure brands, but they dropped like flies and were all bowled out for 119 and we only used a handful of our bowlers. This meant that some of us including myself didn't even get to have an over which I wasn't that fussed about because of my shoulder. On the subject of the shoulder I was able to put into practice the throwing techniques I've been reading about and it worked. I suffered a lot pain which was nice and it's something I'm going to practice with - especially the using different weight balls.

Fielding today I was in the Deep Mid on position and had one chance where 'The Wizard' another leg spin bowler (real name Alex) forced a shot off a RH batsman that looped up high. I had to run back for it but needed my arms for balance at the critical moment as the ball reached me and therefore didn't get a good hand to it.

Not having bowled, the bowlers were given the option of what number they wanted to bat at and I opted for No.3. The openers batted through to 109 before one of them was bowled. I faced 2 balls before the other bloke finished them off, so I came away from the match 'Not out'.

The main team (3rd XI) were still playing and the visiting team were short of players and I was called in as their 9th batsman. I scored a few runs - actually hitting the ball a couple of times which was nice. The difference was that I was facing spin bowlers as opposed to pace bowlers. It's the pace bowlers I can't handle.

So all in all I had a good day. In addition I paid my membership fees for the current season, so I'll be able to attend the AGM. It seems there's going to be a big change in the way the club finances itself. The club fees are normally £75 a year but they're talking about dropping them to less than half that and increasing the match fees. So the more games you get the more you pay. Which seems okay to me.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I've got a match tomorrow which I'm looking forward to. I've practiced a bit recently but taken it easy since last Monday when we were supposed to have had a knock about with a few of us. During that practice I was bowling some leg breaks at a much faster speed than I normally do and in doing so pulled some muscles in my lower back, but with the rest they seem to have recovered. But today I was just throwing a ball around to see what my throwing is like and it was useless. It's got to be age because when I was a kid I was such a good thrower - most accurate, longest distance and doing it for hours on end. We used to go down to a big ditch where swallows used to fly along catching flies, zooming around looping and turning as Swallows do and we'd stand there for hours trying to hit them - zipping stones at them, always failing. Or we'd go down to the Thames and throw stones at the marker poles in the river that indicated where the sewage outlets were and I'd always hit them and they miles out. But now I can barely throw a ball 30 yards - I do better throwing underarm. If I throw over or round arm I hurt myself - pull muscles and cause myself pain and injury.

I'be looked at the website and seen in the cricket fitness forum a link to a baseball website and there's some stuff on there indicating how you should train with regards throwing, so I'm going to have a look at that and maybe take some advice from there.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Match this Sunday

So I've got a match this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it, let's hope I at least make some contribution to the run total if only 1 run. The most I've ever made in any game has been 19. It'd be good to beat that or get my second highest score - 11. As for my bowling - recent form in practice has been okay, but I take a few overs to get into it. I'm wondering whether it'd make any difference if I was to practice a couple of hours before the game?

Teams and Clubs

Teams and clubs you've got to have then - but what a soul destroying demoralising job it is to run them. I had a series of emails from my mate Xan and his brother Boffa saying that I was mad trying to run a cricket club reiterating their own sorry stories. But I've been there before I ran our scooter club back in 1983-84 and that was the same and later in life as treasurer of the Plymouth College or Art & Design student union 1991 - 1993 it was a similar story. So I wasn't too surprised this week when an email circulated around my new cricket club (I'm only a player/member) saying that in the last 5 years or so they estimated that they'd been short changed in unpaid membership fees somewhere in the region of £10,000 - £15,000! Gutted! The email went on to point out that the money was enough to refurbish/renew our pitch and that some of the people that continuously moan about the state of the pitch are the people short on their committment to the club e.g. haven't paid their members fees.

Apparently the situation is so bad that it's threatening the existence of the club itself. I hope that those that haven't paid get their shit together and pay their dues because it's so obvious to me that there is a lot of people in the club who's lives are dedicated to it and revolve round it. For those people the situation they're faced with at the moment must be devastating.

As a new bloke and not being that sociable a person - I like what I've seen of the club despite the location of it and I like the people involve. I kind of get the feeling that for some people it's their whole life, but they're prepared to let you be involved on a surface level and allow you your own space. I looked at a lot of clubs in the area and some of them seem to be populated with total idiots. Maybe it's because these are people from my own town and the types of people I grew up with and I just fit in with them?

It's a shame that our cricket pitch is on the edge of a big estate and no-one in the area respects the pitch and the council seemingly don't spend a lot of money on maintaining it. Whereas were I live - the pitches are amazing and surrounded by beautiful trees and parks and are maintained by dedicated park keepers and the locals respect the wicket and the fence around it is left intact all year. But the impression I've had of the people in the clubs locally are that they're different. My wife says it's middle class, whereas my new club is very much made up of seemingly working class people.


Ebay - don't you just love it. Last year when we started out I picked up a ton of gear for £28. The gear must have been about £250-£300 new! Last week when I was feeling optimistic about the prospects of an MPA resurrection there was a bunch of left handed gear on ebay and I thought about bidding for it in the event that we might reform and have a LH player. I erred on the side of caution and didn't eventually, but later in the week a bunch of other stuff turned up - 2 bats, brand new wicket keeper gloves, size 9 spikes, thigh pads, knee pads and some other bits and it looked like no-one was bidding for it so right at the last second I put a bid in for £28 and won it. Again - one of the bats alone is worth £90 and it looks barely used, so another bargain. Again - ever optimistic at the back of my thoughts was the idea that next summer or over the winter I might try and get in touch with all the Indian/Pakistani blokes that play near the local swimming pool and challenge them to a game and this additional gear will be useful as they'll need to borrow some gear as they spent all summer playing really good cricket using kids sized equipment!

So I've won it, but now the problem is that it's up country near Derby and it's pick up only stuff. The bloke has said he's okay with keeping it until I go up there next, but that may not be till Christmas, so I've just got to see what happens. Lets just hope the blokes honest.

Pratice session that never was


Last week I asked around to see if there was still any interest in cricket as some of the blokes in the MPA first XI had bought equipment so that implies there was some commitment. A few people seemed to be up for it and they said they'd be there for 6pm last Monday.

I got there for 5.55pm and found Jack and Chris there playing football, but aware that there might be some cricket to be had. No one turned up and by 6.15 Jack and Chris left as well saying they might come back later. I stayed practicing my bowling till just after 7pm. Nakul had the decency to ring and Alex emailed me with good reasons for not being there. Richard had wife problems so that was understandable too.

So I reckon that's it, there wont be any resurrection and I'll leave it to the others to kick something into action if ever there will any future game or practice. What I'll do though is carry on the blog just recording my escapades with Grays & Chadwell cricket club.