Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grays and Chadwell Vs Runwell commoners

The only contact I'd had from Neil aka 'Sammers' was a text that said "Swimming Pool at 12.30" so that kind of implied that it wasn't necessarily going to be a home match. It turned out that there was going to be three games (I think) and for some reason they were going to mix the 1st team blokes with the 2nds and 3rds and so on. I ended up in a team which was pretty much the usual 2nd team with the addition of "Cat" one of the first team blokes. Sorry Cat if you're reading this - I still don't know your real name!

The Wizard was there - first time I'd seen him in ages and I spoke to him briefly before we all headed off to our respective games, he seemed a bit peeved saying that he hadn't played for three weeks, but not saying why?

Once the teams had all be selected we all shot off and I'd been given a game near where I live in Basildon at "Lake Meadows", Billericay. WKF Rating 7.5

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Which is just up the road, so close in fact I rang Michelle who needless to say had the hump about me playing today and suggested I pick them up on the way through and they could hang out at Lake Meadows for the day or watch me play some cricket. She asked the kids and the answer was that one was saying yes (Joe I'd imagine) and the other saying no. Eventually they said no. So that was that. 'Cat' the first team player was looking for a lift so I drove over to Billericay with him, boring him to tears with my story of how I got into cricket and fishing for clues as to how I can encourage my boys to get involved - but his entry into cricket was self motivated and happened around the time he was 14 so didn't give me any ideas.

Eventually got there and was surprised to find a pretty nice looking pitch and again like the other Basildon Council Cricket pitches quite well maintained - so well done Basildon Council and good use of our Council Tax - Cheers! Unfortunately I didn't take the camera which is a real shame because it looked like a real traditional cricket ground with the exception of the pavillion which was a bit 70's, but the field was nice surrounded by biggish Oak trees and other types.

Initially it didn't look as though there was going to be any opposition because there was just us and the green keeper, but eventually they turned up and they looked better than last weeks mob e.g. there were some old blokes and a few kids rather than 11 athletic youths as per last week.

I don't know who won the toss, but it sounded like they did and they put us in to bat. Neil asked me if I wanted to bat at 10 or 11 and I opted for 10 with him following my Duck no doubt, whereas if it was the other way round I'd never have got to bat? So out we all went to do battle in a 40 overs match.

If you're reading this and you're one of those blokes that's got an autistic fixation with cricket statistics and scores you're on the wrong blog. But if you want the real figures check out in a few days time if you're looking at this on the 16th June and you'll find a break down of the results/scores. In taking down notes for the blog I don't get the stats sorted and just aim to give a general feel of what happens.

So for the match report in order of appearance today with vague details of what happened -

The day was lovely and warm - a shirts off day with sunshine and blue skies with the occassional cloud. John and Nick Buckley to open (Father and Son respectively). A slow start with only 11 runs all made by Nick off of the first four overs. Apparently last year we beat this team and at this point no-one seemed at all bothered by the run rate and Neil was saying that Nick should be good for a 50 at some point soon as he was due one. More or less as soon as he's said that Nick then hits a ball out to square leg and the fielder fumbles it and drops it. The bowling at this point is in the hands of Oakes Snr and a young bloke - Williams and it's pretty neat and tidy seam bowling. Oakes Snr gets himself a maiden for the 5th over and eventually John Buckley gets some runs in the 6th over as the ball glances off his hand and flies off through slips into the outfield. 7th Over and Oakes Snr stamps his authority on the game with another maiden.

Eventually around the 8th over Nick Buckley batting from the "Tree end" glances a ball out towards backward square leg and gets 2 runs. The very next ball Williams bowls him top of of stump. Next player up to join John is "Cat" of the 1st XI. His innings starts off with a single and we're subjected to some athletic fielding by the oppositions younger players as the try and hold the Cat down.

Out on the boundary Neil reckons "Swiss Tony" AKA Danny Groves will get himself a 50 today with his new £25 bat that he's bought off a mate. Neils already offered him £50 for it but Danny's not up for selling it. In the meantime Chris Buckley and the outed Nephew Nick have been round the pitch to have a look and they reckon the bowlers are getting the ball to swing in the air a bit. In the meantime Cat is now hitting 4's off Oakes Snr. In the 12th over John actually gets his bat on the ball and goes for a sprint and it's fielded really quickly and has to return to his crease and only just makes it as we all sit there thinking he hadn't made it. Cat hits a couple of fours straight down the pitch past the bowler to long on where there's no-one fielding. Then Cat hits a couple they get twos off of by hitting lofty balls over the top of the fielder at Mid wicket. Eventually in his 20th over (obviously feeling settled) John hits a 4 from the pavillion end out to Long Off bring his total up to 15 having scored 6 in the 20th over. By the 24th over Cat has made his 50 and John is eventually bowled in the same over going for a big sweeping hit having scored 16 runs total. As he comes off the pitch to the derision of Neil et al -
"That was crap"!
"That wasn't even good enough to be called crap"! John comes back with. He then says seeing me taking notes "I hope you don't mention that in the Blog"! Thing is, I wouldn't have done until he mentioned it!

Next man in is 14 year old (Almost 15) Lee Downes, who generally plays with a really positive approach and gets the run rate up. Lee starts with a good positive attitude hitting the ball and looking confident in the 25th over he hits a 4 from the pavillion end out to cover point. By the 26th over we're on 126 so we're round about our usual run rate, so it's looking a lot better now with Cat and Lee in the centre. Neil's positive too looking for Lee to go on and score a 50 "Lee will score 50 if keeps playing like this".......

Cat is next to go bowled clean with the bails flying off all over the shop and stumps well and truly parted he leaves the field having scored 72. "Swiss Tony" makes his way on to the pitch with his £25.00 bat looking to make a big impact batting from the Tree end. The 2nd ball off of Oakes Jnr he hits nicely right out of the centre of the bat with the ball zinging down the ground like an exocet missile down to long on only to hit the ground just short of the boundary - it's looking pretty good! Neil says "Danny's been talking a good game out here - lets see him do it"! The 3rd ball he does pretty much the same thing again. His 3rd ball hits the edge of his bat and flies up into the sky heading off towards Mid on hanging in the air for an absolute age. The wicket keeper goes after it, mid on is after it along with Deep mid on and they all miss, the nearest still being 8' short of where it lands! On his 5th ball he's bowled and Neil makes the comment "Why does he pay £10 to go out and bat like that - that's just cost him £1.11 a run - that's what you call irresponsible batting"!

Fozzy's up next he's a bloke my age and he bats pretty well, I think I saw him bat a few 50's last year and he might have hit a 100 in one game? Next to go in is 13 year old Rhys as Chris Buckley gives up his place in the order to give Rhys a bat. In the meantime Fozzy gets to work along with Lee and we're 133 off of 28 overs. In the 30th over Lee hits a lofty shot out towards Long Off and is caught at deep mid off. Little Rhys makes his way out and is dispatched within a couple of balls bowled cleanly having made no runs at all and I get the nod to pad up as Chris Buckley makes his way out to the centre. While I'm getting padded up Fozzy's innings are cut short and his son Ross makes his way out to the crease to join Chris Buckers. Within a matter of seconds Ross is bowled clean too having made no runs? And it's my turn to repeat last weeks pile of crap. Having done what I did last week, this week I kept that in mind and was again optimistic and was hoping to stay for at least an over? So concentrating on not stepping out of my wicket I set about at least staying there a while. Fortunately the bowler was fairly crap and kept bowling wides down the off side so to counteract that he bowled over the wicket instead and I managed to hit one down to long on and scored my first 4!!!! I then defended a couple off the other bowler and hit another where we were able to score a couple of runs. Then in my 3rd over the wide bloke bowled me clean coming over the wicket again. But at 6 runs that is now my record for Grays and Chadwell.

Sammers makes his way out as the last man in at 143 at 36 overs. Taking my pads off and taking notes I didn't manage to keep an eye on what was going on till the last over when everyone was clamouring for a final flourish from the last two. So into the last over with Sammers on strike. First ball is a yorker that Neil stops dead almost under his bats toe. The second ball Neil dispatches with aplomb for a 4 down to Long On. The 3rd ball the same as the 2nd and finally with the 4th ball the match is finished with Neil being bowled. 176 all out. Having no idea what these blokes are like with the bat 176 didn't sound that good to me - with a split of 50/50 between a bunch of old blokes which means potentially they've got experience on their side and the other half being young blokes and memories still fresh from last week I wasn't that confident that we'd have it easy.

The teas were nice - salmon and cucumber, Cheese and onion, Ham, Cheese and tomato sandwhiches. Fruit including strawberries and grapes and some other posh looking fruit like melon or mango - after all it is Billericay and it's north of the A127 and I'm from Tilbury! It looked posh to me! Why have you got to have all that poncy stuff when there's oranges, strawberries, raspberries and 80 or so different varieties of English Apples and we're mincing around with bloody mangoes!!! I don't know! Anyway - a lovely cup of tea, pork pies, quiche and a rich chocolate cake it all went down very well.

So out onto the pitch with the prospect of a few more overs than normal as we were short on bowlers. The bowling line up looked like Neil and Ross bowling wrist spin along with me trying to do the same and little 2'9" 13 year old Rhys/Rees our single pace bowler. Ross and Neil were to open and they got on well with the job taking wickets pretty early on, I think Rhys/Rees took the first few (You'll have to check the stats on the link further up the page). Neil had them on their toes with his off spin and he was looking to get two wickets to bring his seasons total up to 25 (It's obvious I've got s**t loads to learn at this game)! Next up was Ross Fulbrook again a young'un - probably 13 or 14 years old but normally bowls a pretty mean and consistent RH leg break. But he's a bit sensitive and moody and takes it to heart when things go a bit tits up. Earlier I'd seen him bowling short balls to Rhys/Rees and they were turning but it seems that sometime in the last few weeks he'd had a good innings with the bat and racked up his highest run score in a match and today he'd gone out there full of confidence expecting to stamp his authority on the match and went for a duck. It seems he didn't take it well. With his confidence shot he was now giving it "I'm s**t at batting and I can't bowl either" as he took to the track as one of our key bowlers. In that state of mind it wasn't surprising that he then went to pieces in comparison with his usual performance and it was down hill all the way it seemed with him getting more and more frustrated. Everyone was trying to buoy him up with positive comments but he got hit over the boundary for some fours and a couple of sixes later on just prior to Sammers changing his strategy.

The fielding was okay. Lee was having a bit of a duff game with some dives that were well short of his target with everyone taking the mick. Cat was fielding at Mid wicket (I think) and he had a ball go straight at him at a normally easily caught speed and height and he dropped it early in their innings and everyone took the mick out of him as well what with being in the first team. Maybe his name 'Cat' has something to do with him having cat-like reactions and agility? If so it wasn't on show today. Rees/Rhys got a few wickets and Neil had a similar number if not more? I bowled better than normal producing some balls that turned (off-spin) quite nicely causing the batsmen to comment. One nice one that pitched well outside off stump spun off just missing the top of leg stump having passed right across the front of the batsman. Some of the overs I was getting the line and length right and Neil was encouraging as usual as was Cat. I even bowled a maiden over and again I think that was a first for me. The fielders all done pretty well stopping some of the big hits from going for fours, but nothing was in the air particularly.

Neil was trying to coach me, suggesting different things I should be doing - primarily the length I was bowling. Too many times I was bowling so short so that the batsmen could just step back and have time to line up the shot and hit it miles. Looking back I kind of get what I should have been trying to do, but I think I need to have it explained in a practice situation - I'm the sort learner that needs to have it very clearly set out what I should be doing - more a visual learner than an auditory learner, so to have the thing explained in verbal terms doesn't quite do it in the same way as visual teaching does. I recalled that an Asian bloke over at Gloucester Park explained where I should be bowling the ball - what he basically demonstrated was irrespective of where the stumps are, you bowl to a zone in front of the batsman and he stretched out his bat and drew an arc round himself saying "That's where you want to be bowling - not any pre-determined length a flexible length just short of the batsman so that you tempt him to come forward". I think this is what Neil was trying to say? He's offered to do one to one coaching and I reckon it'll be beneficial, but as yet it hasn't come together so that I can take his offer up. But I reckon it's what I need. He also said that when he's training the colts he puts a hankie down and gets them to spot bowl, so keeping that in mind what I'll try and do is spot bowl over the next few weeks and move the spot back and forth and see if I can contol the length affectively?

The only other gripe I had with myself was that I wasn't trying to spin the ball up and bowl it faster as I have been doing recently in practice. The spinning the ball up tactic became evident later on when Neil changed tactics and it does seem to be something that works. I was remembering to reach higher with my leading arm which seems to help and I was keeping the variations simple - Top Spinners and Wrong Uns. I did use two balls that were Gippers and the batsman did notice as they were straight and both just missed the leg stump but neither turned in, but they skidded low. So I think what I'll do is keep practicing them alongside the wrong uns alternating each ball but concentrating on the spot bowling as mentioned earlier.

So my practice agenda for the next 2 weeks whilst I'm not playing in matches is -

Gippers and Wrong uns. Spot bowling whilst trying to spin the ball up above the eye-level and increase the speed a bit.

I think as a learner of this speciality and this goes for the likes of Ross and the Wizard we're lucky I reckon in that the captain of the team is himself a wrist spin bowler? Because I can't imagine that any seam bowler who doubled up as the captain would have the patience and understanding that is required to allow us into the game to then watch us be smashed all over the park for 4's and 6's. I often feel the same applies for the all the blokes that don't bowl. It sometimes seems that we're doing okay with the seam bowlers they keeping the run rates down and it looks impressive - they look like they're affective simply by virtue of appearing to chuck the ball fast and hard. Whereas on I come and I start throwing balls that look as though a Granny could clobber for 4 with a handbag without wearing any pads! As Shane Warne says in this video clip at the end -

"You need to be best friends with the captain cos he's the one that's going to try and keep you on and you need a lot of love from everybody because it's hard and it can be embarrasing sometimes. You also need to have a bit of courage - no matter what's happening you've got to throw it up and getting hit for six sometimes can be fun - you might not like it, but no matter how far it goes you get another chance to bowl the next ball and it might be a different ball or what have you - so"?

I think it's either very good captain or a captain that bowls spin himself that would understand those sentiments properly. So cheers to everyone that has to endure the agony of watching us bowl 3 wides consecutively and still manages to come up with encouraging words the next time one is on target and flies over the boundary! Even Neil this week had an over where he threw a bunch of wides and full tosses, so it happens to all of us sometimes.

At which point at 32 overs and still quite some way off of a win Neil decides to go for a radical approach - bring on the secondary wave of bowlers -

Chris Buckley
John Buckley

And for the very final over - Lee.

Now this was really interesting from my point of view because apart from Lee I'd never seen any of these blokes bowl. Lee I'd seen bowl before and take wickets - he bowls slowish straight balls and I think gets the wickets on the basis of accuracy and the fact that the pace at which he bowls is unusual and catches out the batsman. I wish it was something I could incorporate into my bowling! First up was Chris. A couple of weeks ago I'd thrown balls back and forth with him on a wicket where I couldn't get it to turn, but he was bowling off spin that was deviating off it's line. I think his first over was okay, fairly tight keeping the run rate down. At this point they were about 35 - 40 runs behind so only needed around 5 runs off of each over, so Chris did okay. Then on came Fozzy from the tree end, I've never seen or heard of Fozzy bowling so wasn't surprised when he bowled that the ball took an arc that at it's highest point was around 20'! But the batsman was completely bamboozled by the delivery that he did nothing with it. The rest of the balls were pretty much the same and each time the batsman wasn't able to dispatch the ball in the way that it should have been (I think at this point they were both youngsters) allowing Fozzy to pull Ross's leg "See Ross - see what I mean - pitch it up and they can't do anything with it if it's above their eye-line"! Ross wasn't impressed - probably mortified that his old man was bowling pies. Then off of one of Fozzy's the bat hit one straight down Cats throat and Cat dived forward but it didn't carry "See they should have had me on earlier"! Shouted Fozzy. Ross managed a smile at this point. Fozzy continued and I think he may have been clobbered once or twice with one of them getting past me for a 4 and then Neil more or less put everyone out on the boundary. Suddenly the Runwell boys sensed a chance of victory with their team shouting encouragement from the boundary. I looked at the field placings and thought that if they were clever they'd change tactics and go for singles at this stage and just get the runs ticking over.

Cat came on and he bowled an over with his own unique style and again it was 50/50 some of it was affective and others were hit but everyone fielded okay and they were kept just short of the required run rate. The crowd at the pavillion were getting really animated now. Chris came back on for his 2nd over and went to pieces in comparison with his first over and the run rate went up and it looked like they were now in a position to win and their team were now reaching a frenzy on the boundary line. Then Chris bowled a ball from the pavillion end that went up and out to somewhere between mid wicket and Mid on and Fozzy was there with the sun on his back in a position to make a safe and easy catch, the ball floated out of the sky and safely into his hands as I've seen his do so many times.

The kid took the walk back and out strolled their white version of Inzimam ul Haq who'd been slow in the field and average with his bowling, so may have been a half decent batsman what with his age and potential experience? Suddenly it looked like we may have blown it. He stood with the younger bat in the centre talking for quite some while discussing what they were going to do, it was obvious that they sensed victory and from my perspective I was thinking that we were definitely on a knife edge, but realised that Neil was manufacturing the end of the game to be like this just to make it so much more lively and exciting.

The next few overs seemed to be a blur, I just remember the crowd on the boundary clapping and cheering every time they got a run or a four and suddenly the kid hit a six off of someone, one of the blokes I heard say that it was his first six, this was soon followed up by the kids hitting another 4 and then here we were looking at losing the game in the last over. Neil was shouting "Lets make it a draw - lets manufacture a draw - I've never had a draw before"? I don't think anyone else was sharing his sentiment. So into the last over and they needed something like 5 runs for a draw and 6 to win. "Come on Lee". Called Neil and poor Lee Downes was given the job of either winning the match for us or letting it slip - no pressure at all!!! Lee stepped up to the role without moaning or anything and got on with it. The crowd was shouting "Go all out for it! Don't hold back smash it"! Each ball that was bowled made contact with the bat as they swung at it trying to get it over the boundary and each time it either connected wrong or went straight to the fielders only allowing a single or a dot ball. It came down to the last ball and they were one behind us and Neil was still shouting "Come on make it a draw - I want it to be a draw"! Their mob were screaming and shouting at the kid who was on strike and had been hitting fours and his first six. Lee ran up to the crease swung his arm over and the ball flew down the pitch and the bat swung at it hard and the ball sneaked past into Nicks safe gloves (My gloves actually) and we'd won by one run.

As we walked off Neil said that was one of his best games ever in a friendly situation and I've got to say the way he engineered it at the end bringing on all the other blokes to bowl had injected some real fun into the game and turned what was going to be an easy win into something a bit special at the end. The opposition seemed okay with it and we're playing them again by the sounds of it in July, so that should be fun too as they'll no doubt be looking for a victory and we may not have Cat next time?

I'll take a camera next time and do some pictures as the pitch is quite a pretty little pitch.

Just as we were leaving one of the oppo's came in and said....
"There's a T-shirt out here someone's left behind, none of ours have claimed it, so it must be one of yours"? No-one answered.
"Who's lost a T-shirt"? One of ours re-asked. Still no answer. Swiss Tony then asked.
"What's it like - is there a label on it"?
"Yeah - it's white..... Primark Basics it says".
"Ha ha no **** is going to own up to that, you'd be better off losing the two quid it costs than owning up to that"!
"Yeah - actually that's mine" I said "I can't afford not to buy Primark stuff - so cheers"!

Here's a new feature Wife and Kids user friendly or a WKF rating. Based on a 1 to 10 rating - 10 being good 1 being bad on how user friendly is the cricket pitch and surrounding countryside if your wife and kids decide to join you for the 6 - 8 hours your there. The premise is they load up there bikes on a bike rack on the back of the car and have the flexibility to ride out and away from the pitch to go and look at other features and stuff nearby. Horton Kirby in Kent for instance was really good - 9. I reckon that Lake meadows with it's Lake, fields, trees, swimming pool and skatepark is a 7.5

The images used have been blagged off of the oppo's website -

So cheers you blokes, but if you have issues over copyright let me know and I'll remove the images and any other reference to your team!

After my dinner I went over local field with the mower and cut the wicket a bit more and it's now getting to the point where it's moving towards being a full on cricket pitch (Slightly narrower). I've also noticed that the grass seems to be growing a lot slower - possibly due to the weather being dryer?