Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Gipper is ready

An amazing practice day today! The rain had stopped and everywhere was wet and damp and the sun came out and it got hot and muggy. In the morning I'd checked out GBOS and it was soaked and will be for a few days so initially I thought I was scuppered. I'd taken the day off work so I was also in a position where I was having to look after my kids and they'd already moaned because I'd stopped off at GBOS to look at the state of the field, so it was obvious that If I'd suggested "let's go over to one of the fields and........." they be giving "Oh no Dad, not cricket"! So I was stuffed. I tried bowling outside the house but I need to be bowling the Leg Break over the full 22 yards if it's going to develop and there isn't the space. Then I noticed within sight of my house there's a little patch of rough grass that the local kids all play football on. I've bowled there before but we're talking rough, but being desperate I thought at least I can practice bowling the length and I can leave the two boys playing with their mates directly outside our house and I can still see them and hear them.

So with my stumps and a handful of balls I went and had a look. This patch of grass has one other good feature it's surrounded by a wire fence but that's about it. It's other features are that it's covered in dog crap, it's uneven and it's on a fair old slant. Initially I tried going across the slant but didn't like that and resorted to bowling up the slant as I did a couple of times last summer. That was preferable. Within a short while I thought it looked as though despite all the bad things going for it I could improve it by cutting the grass a bit and seeing how uneven it was down there. Some time later with the grass cut in front of the stumps for a few yards and bashing the lumps flat with a spade it looked do-able and bowling could commence with some purpose.

See the image here. The red spot indicates where my garage is and our house is directly behind the garage.
So the order of the day was The Gipper again but this time concentrating on getting the leading arm up high and the bowling hand too at the start of the rotation as suggested by someone on http://www.simplycricket.net/. The other thing I was looking to do was to get the ball on the stumps, none of that bowling it wide of leg or off with the intention that it turned into the stumps. I also got an inner tube off of a kids bike and used it as the target into which I was bowling.

The whole session went like a dream. Of all the balls the Gipper was the one that was working best turning from the middle towards off, but I was getting a consistent line and length with it and was able to vary the placement at will, so if I wanted to bowl down the legside and turn it into the stumps I could. I also noticed there are subtleties to this delivery like the leg break. Small variations in the way you grip it and twist your wrist mean that it can vary massively in what it does - Straight and skidding in like your bog standard flipper or straight and bouncing like a top spinner and then when you get it right and slow it up it turns very affectively. But the best thing was how consistent it was in the basic delivery aspects - line and length. I was also trying the Leg break and by the end of the session that was coming along nicely but requires of me absolute concentration in order that it spins towards off. The good thing about it is that it's faster than all my other deliveries I think and it bounces well.

By the end of the session I was bowling alternate balls - off-spin and Leg spin at will and hitting the stumps all the time.

After tea -

What with having such a succesful bowling session I now needed to try it out on someone so rang my mate Thomas and he was up for it. But.... Instead of going to one of the many grassy fields that we usually frequent he suggested that we used the artificial wicket over at Gloucester Park. I'd completely forgotten that it was there within the fenced off square at the main council pitch in Basildon. We drove over there and sure enough it was within the chain fence, so I'm not entirely sure that you're allowed to simply turn up and use it? We threw caution to the wind and set up there and threw a few balls and took a turn each to bat.

Now, what was interesting is that like a real cricket pitch (the ones I've played on) it didn't bounce that much and I couldn't get the ball to turn much either. So that now gives me the opportunity to practice on a surface that reacts like a cricket pitch potentially? Because of the lack of turn I could get out of this surface my bowling didn't look that special and I was getting tonked all over the gaff. But then towards the end of what seemed like a real lack lustre bowling session I realised that I hadn't incorporated the high leading arm and high starting position of the bowling arm. As soon as I did this my bowling immediately improved! As with earlier on getting it turn in either direction at will.

So what with re-discovering this artificial surface I feel like I'm onto another potentially important chapter in my development as a bowler.