Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grays & Chadwell Vs South Loughton

You know middle class types, the guilt ridden ones that are educated and have a sense that they should set an example to all the working class and under class types? They do this thing where because they drive around in big posh cars and heat their houses all year and fly to holiday destinations all over the world and have a massive "carbon footprint" they then offset the carbon footprint by sponsoring some tiger or Orang-u-tan and that then enables them to sleep at night happy that they're okay to still produce as much carbon as they like. What they tend to over-look is the fact that the tiger/Orang-u-tan sponsorship deal is at the expense of some poor village populated with humans that include babies, children & mothers who because the "Cuddly cute animal league" think that it's really important to save the cute little tigers campaign to have the humans removed from the jungle/swamp where they've lived for centuries and move them to a dust bowl or slum on the edge of a gehtto, so that they don't compete with the Tigers/monkeys for space/food? You get the picture?

Anyway my cricket is a bit like that, I have to offset my "Cricket Footprint" by doing stuff with my kids and more importantly DIY, so I gain cricket credits by painting doors and walls and fixing stuff that I thought that at this point in life I'd be able to employ someone to do. Sadly being a teacher I can barely afford the paint let alone get someone to do the painting for me! So I have to do DIY to keep things ticking along. Cricket takes time - practicing it and playing it and if you're like me and you're obsessed with trying to make a half decent job of doing it and you're handicapped by the fact that you're nearly 50 and you've only just come to the game in the last 2 years - it potentially takes up a lot of your time (See rest of blog). If you're married with 2 small boys and suddenly this all happens out of the blue it's easy to see that it doesn't go down too well with your wife. It might be very different if your wife was your cricket girlfriend and she's had to suffer the fact that you're mental and over the period of your courtship leading up to your marraige she has become only too aware that you expect to spend all your summer weekends having your fingers broken, shins bruised and body abused in the name of cricket. Unfortunately it hasn't happened that way for me, so cricket is a point of conflict.

So this morning having woken up to the fact that over night it had rained I looked outside to see that the ground was damp and the skies leaden. A part of me kind of looked at it and thought that's a result there's probably not going to be a game and all will be well at home. But then the other part looked and thought "Gutted - am I ever going to find out if my bowling has improved"? With all the potential for conflict there's a part of me asking "Can I justify the amount of commitment and time required to play for G&CCC or shall I not play for a year and try and get something going that is far more informal with the Asian blokes over at Gloucester Park". So today I was sort of thinking that if I do get to play and I bowl and play like crap I may have to assess the situation and consider all the options in the context of the impact it has on my family?

I checked to see if I'd had an email from Neil (Captain) regarding the match and my phone number, I'd told him I couldn't be contacted by phone because I'd lost it and it had then turned up at home not having been lost at all. No emails, checked the club website and found a vague description of where the match was and got myself a map. Michelle asked what the map was for a couple of times and before I could answer someone either phoned or the kids asked a question, so it wasn't until around about 10.00am that she realised that I was actually going to play cricket. I pointed out that it was on the calender and had been for a month or so and she retorted "But you said you weren't playing because of the weather yesterday"? A discussion ensued, it wasn't heated but you could sense she was clicking up the potential for cricket credits off the back of the "Surprise game".

I left as Michelle was sitting with both of the boys helping them do their school homework, again I can imagine a future heated discussion regarding my absence because of cricket where that'll be brought up against me in evidence And who always ends up with them helping them with their home work while you run around with your cricket mates - it's all about the cricket with you la-di-da- la-di- da......

I drove from Basildon to Grays with memories of my first game with G&CCC which was also an away match threatened by rain - it rained on the way there and everyone else turned round after phoning each other and came home leaving me waiting there for about an hour before I realised no-one was going to turn up. I'd been dropped off by Michelle that day in Hainhault as she needed the car and I'd had to make my way home from there and it was a nightmare.

There was loads of people there and I got them to show me where we were going on a map. The weather was holding out - muggy and warm a far cry from recent weeks. We all jumped in our cars and headed off for Loughton. I had to stop for money and possibly diesel as I was already very low, I skipped the diesel and gambled on getting there on the little I had left. The journey was pretty straight-forward and I only needed to stop twice to check the map and I arrived about 2 minutes behind all the others. I was pleased to see the others because as we'd gone round the M25 it had started to rain and then as we entered Loughton it had started to rain much harder, so seeing them all dragging their kit bags through the pouring rain up ahead of me was a relief.

The pitch was okay a small pitch running alongside a river (River Lee)? Which you couldn't actually see, it was a fair distance from any houses and set amongst playing fields and football fields skirted down one side by tall Lombardy Poplars. The pavillion was small and being fitted out with showers and toilets, so we had to 'Go' in the bushes, thankfully I didn't need to have a dump - God knows what you'd have had to do if you'd needed to 'go'? The pavillion was ram packed with all their rollers and mowers and other ground keeping gear and being nothing much more than a shed it was a bit cramped but okay. We all stood around looking at the rain pouring down and the ominous steely grey clouds, our team broke out the playing cards and started playing. After what seemed like an hour the 2 captains tossed and we were put in to bat as the rain eased to drizzle. I took my rightful place as No.11 but was surprised that Neil (The captain) put himself as low as 10? There seemed to be some competition between a few of out blokes to have the last 3 places - why?

I was happy to be at 11 - Ben my 9 year old bowled me yesterday with his first ball hitting middle stump and then he went on to force what would have been 2 catches to silly mid off if there'd been a bloke there within about another 10 balls!

So the rain had weirdly stopped and ominous clouds lingered over in the west and the game ensued. (Note; if you're one of our blokes reading this I've got to apologise in advance if I get the order of things wrong and or names or scores). The other thing is I'm primarily a bowler, so I probably see this from a bowlers perspective? So out they went (the openers) and in they came pretty rapidly and Neil who was doing the scoring gradually down-graded his estimation for the total across 35 overs from 150 to 120 to all out for less than 100! We started really badly, but to be fair the grass was soaking wet and the ball was probably bouncing weirdly because of it? But then in came our No.4 Danny Groves Joining 14 year old Lee who'd had a good go and was producing some nice strokes with people commenting that by the time he's 17 he's going to be a good batsman as even now he hits the ball hard and well. Danny then produced a few sixes, two of which were off one over and a glimmer of light appeared and then Lee was bowled.

Dave Skeels took the pitch amongst banter regarding a poor performance the day before with one of the Saturday teams, so he had something to prove to himself. With Dave on the pitch the game changed. The boundary on the far side from us (The river side) was ridiculously short, not much more than a 100' I reckon and "Skeelsy" was able to get the ball over there when he was on strike able to play to his Leg Side and he did this regularly getting the ball over there for numerous 6's and 4's and our score gradually picked up from looking a bit drastic to increasingly competitive. One by one the rest of them joined Skeelsy adding to the score generally as the overs ticked by. Dave passed his 50 mark and edged closer and closer to his first 100. Then "Super Dave" Dave Gaylor (There's at least 3 Daves maybe even 4) joined him and almost straight away run Skeelsy out and proceded to repeat the same suicidle approach to running between the stumps seemingly oblivious to the fact that Skeelsy should be given the opportunity to be on strike as he had his first 100 in his sights! "Super Dave" was eventually out with only 1 over left and Skeelsy needed 17 off of the last over. Neil "Sammers" Samwell the captain made his way out for the last few balls of the last over at No.10 ensuring that I was alleviated the humiliation of having to bat. The game ended on us having scored 180 + (I think) and Dave Skeels producing his best ever knock at 86 and saving the day by giving us a chance of bowling the opposition out.

I was asked to do some umpiring and had to ask John if he'd do the behind the stumps bit and I covered the easier umpiring at Point - I'll have to learn all the signals so that I can do the job properly?

As the teams came off for teas the skies opened up and it began to rain again. The bowling was to be -

fast/medium "Lovejoy", "Super Dave" and Glen Ewing (Bobby)
Spin - "Sammers" and me.
Medium - Lee

*Looking at the team list there's no-one called Robert or Bobby but there's a G Ewing so maybe it's a derivitive of Bobby Ewing a reference to the Character in that 80's TV programe?

Anyway - as teas finished the rain eased up slightly and the sun came out and we made our way out onto the field to see if we could win the game. As mentioned Sammers had indicated that I'd be bowling and I was a bit apprehensive as I might end up putting in a performance like the last game of the summer, but I thought I might be okay because I've been putting in the time.

After what seemed like 10 minutes of waiting on the field there team eventually produced 2 batsmen and the battle commenced and in a matter of minutes they'd been sent packing back to the pavillion with only 1 run on the board. Something like 6 overs in and we'd dismissed 3 blokes and their scores were in single figures our fast bowlers were doing a good job. A big geezer turned up at No.3 standing at 6'4" and looking like he was going to make an impact and he went on the second ball for a duck and then we 2 older blokes at 5 & 6. A bloke that looked a bit like Daniel Vetorri and a larger bloke I'm going to refer to as Dwayne Leverock (Bermuda) but white. They kind of turned up as the fast bowlers finished their spells and had started to make in roads with the scoring and had started a rear guard action. Then Neil (Sammers) started his attack and the nature of the game changed completely it might have been his 2nd ball took the No.4 I think both his first balls had turned nicely and the poor kid that was batting stepped way out of his crease and the keeper had his bails. I was then called up and between us we then stiffled the batting pretty much and the run rate and the pace of the game slowed right down.

I've got to say, compared to last year I have improved. This was soaking wet grass with a soaking wet ball and not good conditions for bowling in. I'm not sure whether I bowled 5 or 6 overs but I only bowled 2 wides (I had to tell the kid umpiring that one was a wide) and one no-ball as far as I can recall. I didn't take any wickets and was hit for a handful of 4's but no sixes and remember this is with a boundary that's only a few yards away ) Although I was at the end where the boundary was to the off side. I couldn't get the ball to turn that much with either the flippers or the Wrong uns and it was the Wrong uns that were turning slightly. But the really weird thing was that both the batsman seemed to slow right down and play really cautiously as though they were really uneasy about trying to take us on. I was really surprised at their approach and this is how they played right through Neil and my spells. I didn't take any wickets but I seem to remember I had a couple of balls that went through the Mid wicket area that were near the fielder. Half way through my spell I had a ball that came off "Daniel Vetorri's" bat straight back at me and I didn't react in time, I got my hand to it and it hit my thumb and bounced and for a second I thought I'd managed to stop it falling to the ground with my arm, but hadn't. That then meant the rest of my overs and this happened about half way through I couldn't bowl flippers as I'd hurt my thumb and it was already beginning to swell.

I think between Neil and me we'd slowed the run rate down as it had looked as though these two blokes were far happier to be facing faster straight balls than spin. The new bowlers started their spell - Lee and "Bobby" and it was evident that the two batsmen were back in their comfort zone and they began to hit the ball again going for fours and finding the gaps. The big bloke "Dwayne" looked threatening and Neil had me alternating between fielding at Long on and Mid On. It seemed just as "Dwayne" was settling in looking for his 50 I was fielding at Mid On and the "Bobby" bloke (Glen Ewing) was bowling. Dwayne hit the ball and it went up and I could see it was heading my way. Now let's lay out the facts here - last summer I dropped all my "catches you should have caught" so over the winter alongside all sorts of practicing that I've been doing one of the things I've also been doing is practicing catches. So there it is the ball is hurtling through the sky and it's coming my way, I hear Neil shout "Dave Thompson's"! and I think there's no-one near it anyway and I glance across to the bowler just in case to see if he's coming out for it. Just moments earlier I'd also realised that I'm looking into the sun, but I don't notice it - must have gone behind the clouds? It's in the sky still and it's getting closer - my thumb - it hurts I think, but I look at the ball and say to myself think positive - I can do this - I'm going to catch this ball At this point I've run forwards and I check my pace and slow down and it comes and I reach up keeping my eye on it hands level with my face and smack it lands and there's a fraction of a release but I gather it up and look across to Neil who looks as though he's not realised that I've actually caught it, so I lift the ball in one hand above my head and show it to the world and then team cheers!

What a feeling! Absolutely magic - I caught one! "The catch that saved the macth" I hear Neil say at some point later on. It did look like Dwayne was about to stamp his mark on the game, I'd noticed "Vetorri" coming back to his crease with a look of resignation on his face that also indicated that was the case. After that "Bobby" (Glen Ewing) went on to take another 4 or 5 wickets as we finished off their bottom order. "Vetorri" made a good stand reaching 100 and we had a good laugh at Neils expense - three skied balls went his way down at Long On 2 in one over. One he got his hands to and palmed it into the air and failed to catch it off the bounce, The 2nd one went straight to him and he dropped it and the third went near him but after 2 screw ups he left it! Lovejoy caught a ball off of Bobby's bowling with a spectacular dive at silly mid off and Lee almost caught a low one off his own bowling which would have been spectacular too. Dave Skeels dropped one at Mid wicket as well. Despite all the hilarity at the dropped catches they were bowled out for about 140 +.

Todate that's the best game I've been involved in so far, it was funny and a good laugh what with all the dropped catches, I bowled okay and Neil seemed quite happy with my bowling and my fielding was okay too - stopping balls affectively, chasing them down and even took a dive at one off my own bowling and stopped it.

My thumbs a bit stiff and swollen, so I'll ease up on that for a few days and see how it goes, but I reckon it's okay. I can't wait till the next time! I'll also try and remember my camera as well next time.

Finally sorry if I missed your name, I've got a list but there's so many nicknames flying around it's difficult to know who is who! I can correct any of this if you email me or used the comments facility (It takes minutes to set up your own blog and use the comments function) and I'll try and take better notes next time!

One final bit "Super Dave" was calling me "Dave Warnesque Thompson" I can assure you that it was nothing to do with any of my bowling it was just the walk-in/Run-in - apparently it's very Shane Warne, I rub my hands all over the ball and then flick it and throw it up like Warney and the slow build up into the run in is like Warney too - shame about what happens to the ball once it leaves my hands!!!