Sunday, September 28, 2008

Season Review

You can't teach and old dog new tricks. Well I'm an old dog and I reckon this season despite my sporadic appearance I've learned some new tricks.

Just to recap; I'd never played cricket till August 2006, my only prior experience was probably bowling a tennis ball up against a wall with stumps drawn on it and even that's a lost memory. With regards watching cricket and having some idea of the rules - again a similar experience. When I came to the game two years ago my understanding of the rules was very limited.

So having mucked about with the game and forming my own team at work with a bunch of similarly clueless blokes on the whole for 11 months and having played 2 games where we'd been thrashed I joined Grays and Chadwell Cricket Club with a view to playing the game properly. I joined in July 2007 and played in a handful of games which was great but traumatic. Winter 2007-2008 saw me practicing continuously in order to try and make some kind of valuable contribution to the team and here we are at the end of the 2008 season and it's time to reflect.

At the end of last season I'd watched in awe at the likes of Ross Fulbrook and Neil our captain bowling seemingly flawless overs getting maidens and taking wickets. I was amazed at the bowling of an old bloke older than me in one of our last games against us, he'd bowled 12 overs and had got 5 maidens or something in that region totally dominating our batsmen and all he appeared to have done was bowled straight balls 95% of the time on a line and length. So I'd started the closed season with the intention of learning how to do that - bowl line and length and also look at the possibility of re-learning the Leg Break as I'd lost it over the summer of 2007. By around the end of October I'd given up on the Leg Break it was lost. Even my Top Spinner was more like a Googly than most peoples googly's. My Leg Break more often than not ended up looking more like a Big Googly than a small googly and despite the cries of You must be able to bowl the stock ball Leg Break to be a wrist spinner on many a forum page on the internet I threw the towl in and gave up concentrating on Bowling Top Spinners and Googly's.

By the end of the winter I was happy. In the games I'd had with G&CCC through July, Aug and Sept 2007 it was pretty usual to have bowled 3 maybe for 4 wide balls per over. Once I'd bowled one I'd then go to pieces, the panic would set in with the sense that I'd let everyone down and my bowling would fall apart and if I then got through the over not bowling another wide after the initial one that would be abnormal and accidental. Once my confidence was shot I just went to pieces. This season having spent the whole winter spot bowling I went into the new season with a new sense of confidence and in my first game against Loughborough in the pouring rain not only did I catch a ball that was a foregone conlclusion drop but I took a wicket whilst Neil our captian dropped 3 easy balls and failed to take a wicket?

The season then carried on pretty much the same - a massive improvement on the first season and all this with only 2 sessions in the nets as our net sessions fell on the same night I have to work late which i was devastated about. Looking back I think one of the key points is the wides issue. Simply not bowling shed loads of wides has made so much of a difference. Last year when I used to get the nod to bowl a spell I'd have been s******g myself leading up to it primarily because of the wides. This year I've been able to enjoy my bowling a lot more and have been nowhere near as apprehensive as I was last year.

So last year I was aware that the wides was the main issue and over the winter I was able to address this. There were other things that were mentioned but I simply didn't understand why they were and what people like Fozzy and Neil were driving at. Through the 2008 season I've now grasped concepts like the neccessity to bowl at the off-stump. Last season thinking I was Shane Warne I was bowling down the leg side trying to get the ball to turn into the stumps. Needless to say that approach tied in with the wides didn't work too well! I've also realised that bowling Googly's all the time is fairly flawed, I know this from playing with my sons, they know exactly what to do with them - they just step back and play the ball off the back foot knowing it's going to turn into their bodies.

The other realisation that I've come to terms with is that where I practice

  • On concrete with Hockey Balls
  • On football pitches with long grass

I get a lot more turn than I do on a cricket pitch. This means that it's even more important to bowl a good line and length at the off stump. Not one of the wickets that I've taken this year has resembled the kind of turn I get during practice, so it's pointless bowling wide of off with the intention that the ball will turn massively - it's been far more affective to bowl at the off-stump as this then causes the batsman to play a lot more defensively and the net result is that the run rate is massively reduced. Then on the odd ocassion when the ball has snuck through the turn off the pitch has meant that it has turned in and hit middle and leg ocassionally and that in itself is satisfying.

I've also become aware of the fielding in relation to my bowling - my Captain sets my field and because I now bowl down the offside he has players on the off-side ready to take any balls, but the reality of this is that unless he or some of the more experienced players are there, the likelyhood of anyone catching a ball on the off-side is pretty slim. So I've realised that bowling a ball slightly wider trying to entice the bat to play a square cut or a front foot drive into that area off a safe looking ball that's not threatening the stumps is usually pretty fruitless. So the last few games the intention has been straight balls down the wicket at the off-stump and it's been working. Again these revelations have come about not through people explaining the theory but me just analysing and reflecting on the games.

One of the last realisations is that it's useful to look at your bowling figures. Again this is obvious but it's not been that much of a concern to me because I just want to bowl straight and on a length and to start looking at my stats so early would have been demoralising. But I reckon next season I may feel confident enough to look at them and to be honest I wouldn't have known where to look and what I was looking at! But my second from last game I bowled 10 overs, took two wickets, 1 maiden and went for 45 runs which is my best performance ever and I knew it was as I was going through the spell. So next season I'll be tracking that closely looking at things such as economy and strike rates (Is that right)? I'll also be looking at my figures in comparison with my contemporaries - The Wizard and Ross Fullbrook. I'm not even going to imagine I'll get anywhere near Neil.


Well - towards the end of the season I started to get my head round the idea of supporting the other bloke at the other end e.g. make sure he gets on strike. But I still need to be able to hit the ball and not feel so intimidated by the whole thing. I'm just hoping that I get some net practice this year? The upside though is that although I didn't beat my all time highest score of 9 with the MPA team I have hit 2 or 3 fours this season.

The Leg Break

Bowling Googly's all season it's obvious that I need to bowl the Leg Break, but there has been a break-through in that I bought and read Peter Philpotts book The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling in amongst the chapters he writes about something I call The Googly Syndrome which I'd come across before. It's the process of losing the ability to bowl the Leg Break simply because you bowl too many Googly's and it's what has happened to me. But since reading the book and understanding what has happened I've comitted myself to re-learning the leg break as of Sept 30th. But this weekend not getting a game I've already started and have made a massive turn round in bowling the Leg Break see so it looks like I may be onto something that will lead to a better season next year?

Goals for 2009

  • Be able to bowl the Leg Break - good line and length
  • Be able to bowl my Gipper on a good line and length
  • Increase my speed with my bowling
  • Get better bowling figures than The Wizard and Ross Fullbrook
  • Maybe look at bowling the Doosra if the others come together
  • Attend the nets sessions and get better at batting
  • Score more than 9 in match next season
  • Keep fit
  • Try and get my kids playing for G&CCC colts
  • Try and play more games next season
  • Get all the local kids playing cricket right from the start of the season
  • Learn as much as possible about the game
  • Try and see at least one of the Ashes matches live

I don't know how well Ross Fullbrook did this season, but I know his attitude is erratic so I'm not sure whether that goal is realistic or not? I may have to back track on that if his economy is ridiculously good.

So all in all I reckon that I've done okay. I think I may have been less positive about this if it wasn't for 'Super Dave Gaylor' as I'd said to him in a match something about how good Ross Fulbrook was bowling and he said something along the lines of 'Yeah but you've only been playing for 18 months whereas he's been playing and getting coached for the last 4 years'. So maybe I'm doing alright for an Old Dog?

The Leg Break

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grays & Chadwell CC v Wigan team

Grays & Chadwell CC v Winstanley Park XI (Wigan)

A lovely Saturday morning blue skies a bit of an Easterly breeze and the prospect of some cricket after last weeks PB on the bowling front. The only thing was I hadn't heard from Neil whether I was playing at home or away or in fact whether I even had a game. My phone had run out of credit last week and I was avoiding paying for some new credit whist at the same time I didn't have any computer access other than at work and the last two weeks have been hell with very little time. I'd called Neil a couple of times and had got his answer phone and left a message but none of the messages had been returned so I was beginning to think it was either the wrong number or he only does text messages? So I was forced to go and top up my phone credits which I didn't mind too much as I was killing two birds with one stone in that I also sorted my subs money out e.g. I got it out of the cash machine outside the shop where I did the top up.

In fact at this point good fortune so far was smiling on me - as I'd cycled up the shop and crossed the road my glasses fell out of my pocket and into the middle of the road, I was up on the path before I realised what had happened only to notice that a VW golf was bearing down on them and they were right where the wheels would pass. I got the drivers attention and pointed to them and he slowed down and purposely avoided them and I was able to retrieve them.

Once home I sent Neil a text and within a matter of seconds he'd answered saying yes I'd got a game. I replied asking when we'd be kicking off and again within seconds he replied "We're here now setting up - it's a 12.30 start". I looked around at my family, they were right in the middle of doing homework, even Joe was settled and working well and they were all expecting me to join in and help.
"Any chance of a lift it's an earlier start today"? Strewth the reaction from Michelle was more akin to me having asked "Any chance I can have a divorce so I can run off with 20 year old page 3 model"?

The drive to Blackshots was conducted in silence with everyone looking as though we'd just had our dog put down or something. But I got there before the opposition and helped set up. Neil put me on sweeping up duty as I'd turned up late and I had to sweep up some piles of rubbish that had been swept out of the changing rooms. I mentioned to some of the blokes about how much grief playing cricket gets me in and one of them suggested that it might be an idea to try and get tickets for all of us to go and see one of the test match games in the summer next year as his wife was pretty much the same but having seen a test match suddenly came round to the idea of cricket being a positive force in life. It may be worth a punt?

The Wizard was there and we soon got down to some bowling practice while the others all looked on taking the Michael. There were a couple of blokes hanging around who looked like they were on our side who I didn't know but most of the faces were familiar but we were looking as though we were short on bowlers. The opposition soon arrived and they were all older big geezers in their mid 30's and older, the sort of blokes that looked as though they new what they were about. I heard Neil say he was worried about them as they might be exceptionally good. I was expecting a team from Hornchurch but it sounded to me like they were all Northerners? It turmed out that they were - they were from somewhere outside the M25, somewhere called Wigan, but strangely they didn't have moustache's like most of those northern types do, but they did look like those blokes that play that strange game that poshies play round this way - Rugby?

We were fielding first and the team was as follows - (Batting order)

Nick Buckley (Wkt Keeper)
Super Dave Gaylor
Phil No.2
Phil Downes
Lee Downes
Chris Buckley
Cameron the Kid Daly
Roy Gant
Alex McClellan (The Wizard)
Me (Dave Thompson)
Neil (Capt)

The blokes that were new to me were Phil No.2 and Roy who I've seen around the club spectating and drinking but have never played in a game with them and the kid Cameron who looked about 13.

There first bat was Billy Hunt who could show Steve Austin a thing or two and Super Dave was up to prove that he wasn't such a superman. Super's first few overs were blinding with appreciative oohs and aaahs coming from Neil and those that could see what was going on and our start looked very good because they simply were not making any runs. 13 minutes in and Super put an end to Billy Hunts attempt at world domination and had him out for 0. Maybe this was Karma for having Super entered as 'Gaylord' in the scorebook. Meanwhile bowling from the estate end we had (as described in the scorebook) Benwell AKA Samwell. How Samwell ended up as Benwell I don't know but it may have something to do with our Cockeney accents depsite the fact that we've all got South Essex accents (Well I have)? Anyway Neil was bowling well and maintaining an extremely low run rate along with Gaylord. At this point the run rate was less than 1 an over and we'd already taken a wicket and I was wondering whether this was going to be a repeat of last weeks game where at no point did the oppo make any real attempt at scoring runs. I beginning to think is this usual and something to do with fatigue at the end of the season and other shite excuses usually offered up by lamo footballers?

Both Neil and Dave bowled really well and by the 10th over the Wigan boys had only just reached double figures with it being less than 2 per over. The new bloke that had replaced Billy Hunt was at this point playing a really cautious innings too. It looked as though soon there'd be a bowling change and looking around at our side it looked as though it would be the much derided right arm spin coupling of me and the Wizard.

But before that just a comment or two on the fielding. Earlier on off of Neils bowling while I was fielding at Mid on or thereabouts one of their blokes hit a ball out my way to my right and I went after it knowing that I could get there if I got a lot of body behind it but it would require going to ground and I didn't want to go diving right, so I went beyond it to then fall on my left side thus blocking the ball. I mistimed it and it passed under me going for 4 screwing up Neils impeccable bowling figures up to that point. That was my only cock up of the whole day in the field. One of the new blokes Phil the 2nd looked a bit jaded and had something of a decoy player about him, he missed a few chances that went straight his way, but at this point it didn't look to worrying as their run rate was exceedingly poor and Neil had been so concerned about this teams potential. Me and the Wizard would soon be at hand to help them out!

The change over saw me and the Wizard bowling from opposing ends. The wizard was bowling from the Flats end and I was at the bowling end. I think both of us had opportunites to get wickets denied from dropped catches and the like, I don't generally dwell on these too much because as with the incident during Neils spell I screw up and so does everyone else at times. The only one I can recall was a little edge off the bat that Nick should have had as it hardly deviated off it's line and yet Nick was nowhere near it and it and it went past him down the offside. The thrid man in was some bloke called Hetherington who did start to make runs but I put a stop to him with Wrong Un that was a lot slower than the previous balls and he went after it far too early and it went past him and turned in and hit the off stump. So that was nice to have hit the stumps rather than have it caught. I kind of like the idea of being able to draw them out of their crease so that the wicket keeper has their bails off, maybe next year? Both The Wizard (Who's was named as "Merlin" in their scorebook) and I bowled 6 overs each I was hit for 43 and took one wicket. The wizard was hit for 42 but no wicket so in the Super Dave's Thompson v The Wizard battle I think I won that one? The wizard bowled a bunch of wides as well including 3 in his last over and I think looking at the scorebook I only threw 1 wide? But then you look at Neils stats 21 runs off of 12 overs and a wicket and you can see how much better he is then us!

Roy Gant was up next and bowled 3 overs and went for 21 runs with no wicket. Cameron Daly was pretty good he bowled 3 overs and went for 14 with no wicket. Supposedly he was bowling leg spin, Neil had said something along the lines of "Here we go then - we're going to see how you should bowl RH Leg spin now" with reference to the Wizards and my bowling. He did well as the figures suggest, but it looked a bit unorthodox and I couldn't see if he was getting the ball to turn. Chris Buckers had two overs and went for 21. Lee Downes had an over went for 5 and bowled the bloke clean and then Neil and Super came on and had a few overs each. Super was running out of steam by the time he was retired from bowling but he had taken another wicket and Neil bowled the last. From a ridiculously slow start they'd ended up getting 222 for 6. There were a couple of blokes that did well Darbyshire looked very impressive during his time at the crease he brimmed confidence and technique and scored shed loads of runs really quickly including a 6. He was an older bloke - late 40's early 50's maybe obviously got a few years of cricket under his belt looking at the way he played.

Have a look at the score sheets for more details.

Then it was teas. Teas included fish, chips and beans which went down well with some nice cheese cake. There was some lovely Salmon sandwhiches as well - we were spoilt for choice, the only crticism might be that there wasn't enough chocolate for my liking, other than that it was very commendable. Such a civilised game cricket.

Then it was our turn to bat and see if we could match their performance. It was generally agreed that it was some ask as the side we were playing had been subjected to some last minute poaching by the 1st team who were playing away. Phil Downes and Nick Buckley it seems have been dogged by bad form of late and someone else said that Chris Buckley was half the man he'd been last year and all season had been playing with a lack of confidence, so it looked like it was down to ton up boy of the moment Lee Downes and Super Dave.

Nick out of form Buckley faced the first over from the flats end the bowling was slow straight from the outset and Nick survived poking one ball over the top of the close in fielders with big looping ball that seemed to be in the air for an age inviting a catch from anyone who might have had a bit of spark about them, but fortunately being older blokes they were lacking spark. Super faced the next over and survived seemingly quite comfortably. Nick in the 3rd over hit another ball in exactly the same area in exactly the same manner out to Extra Cover but having seen it once their only sprightly fielder who had the look of Herschel Gibbs about him and was younger than the rest came racing in while the ball was in the air for about 10 seconds and slid in only to fumble it after covering about 50' to get there having passed about 2 or 3 of their more pedestrian players who I think were using zimmer frames. So Nick survived again.

At this point we were in front of their score 6 runs off of 4 overs but Nick's luck didn't hold out much longer he edged a ball that went straight up in the air above him meaning the wicket keeper had to take 2 paces and caught it easily. Super Dave hit our first four out to long on after being joined by the Decoy player Phil G (Sorry Phil can't read your name off of the scorebook). But this is where Phil the Decoy comes into his own. Phil's one of those blokes that hasn't played cricket since he was a kid 20 - 25 years ago and this is his first ever real match. He'd walked out to the wicket suggesting that he'd be back in the next few seconds but straight from the outset he was hitting the ball, then came the fours, not one, not two but four fours! Buy the time Phil made his way back to the pavillion having been run out, he'd hit the ball and it had gone straight up the wicket and been heading for a bloke at 1st slips. All through his innings Phil had been riding his luck having been mis-fielded and dropped time and time again. Having hit the ball hard and seeing it heading off to this bloke he's assumed that it would be another mis-field and shouted 'Yes' to Super. But the bloke stopped it, dropped it and picked it up, the law of averages was on Phil's side (So he thought) Phil was barely past the half way point on the wicket and the bloke took aim and threw it directly at the stumps and he was gone. He'd made 30 runs! Which just confirms my belief that some people can bat and it's a natural ability, maybe these are the people that with a bit of guidance and coaching can go on to be really good batsmen, whereas others like me will probably always be crap at it?

With Phil on 30 all of the players on the boundary line and doing the scoring were half hoping that Super wouldn't make it to level and go past Phil just so they could have a pop at him. At 16 overs we were on 61 thanks to Phil's impressive innings. He'd now been replaced by Phil Downes and Super was next to go

Whilst waiting to bat or do umpiring duties I threw some balls at Phil and Cameron the Kid and during the warm up with Cameron I threw a few balls that were an attempt at small leg breaks and again like other forays into the art of Leg Break they worked. Needless to say there's lots of work to be done on line and length, but just to get the ball to go towards the off-side is a good start and makes me feel optimistic about the prospects of Sept 30th when the commitment to full time Leg Break training kicks in. Another promising thing happened when I was bowling at Phil. I bowled a few Gippers at him and they were okay with the line and length but not much spin, but Phil said that one of them had some good drift? If I could repeat that at will that'd be interesting?

Sunday Michelle had arranged to drive to Frinton - a beach-side town up Clacton way. All I knew of it was that it was known for not having a pub or arcades or things like chip shops, which sounded alright as it might mean there'd be no riff raff - blokes with DA haircuts in thier 50's and 60's walking around in leather jackets with tassles on humming Elvis songs - you know the sorts. I wasn't particularly up for it as there's a field 100 foot from my house and only so many dry weekends in which to play cricket in, but I tried to be of a cheery disposition. But I've got to say it was a result. If there was a beach on which you could play cricket - this is it. The sand is flat and dense, none of that undulating rubbish you get at places like Camber Sands, this is smooth and firm and takes a bit of a pounding before you have to move the stumps over because of the bowlers foot holes. Then when the tide comes in there's a nice bit of grass at the top of the grassy cliff where you park your car. For a cricket/beach day I reckon if you took your own beer it gets a 8 out of 10.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Game tomorrow!

Another lovely September evening sweating my nads off coming home in a coat having gone to work on crisps and chilly morning – but equally sunny and autumnal. I asked both Ben and Joe whether they were interested in going over the field for a bit of a knock about, Joe almost did but then chose to go and play with his mates, so I ended up going over on my own and having a bowling practice which I wasn’t fussed about. You can still distinguish where the cricket pitch is so put down more markers so that I can keep and eye on it over the winter.

Bowled mostly flippers because they’ve been going really well and again tonight was no different. I was trying to bowl them all at a certain length at the off stump at varying speeds and for most part it went as planned. Using 10 balls (My white ones) I probably bowled 70-80 balls and only bowled three down the legside. Generally I bowled very well with a similar kind of accuracy as I did last Saturday which kind of makes me feel really optimistic about bowling and quite confident. The only worry is that last game was odd in that the players were not coming after the ball, but then maybe if they did maybe they’d be more likely to make mistakes. What I can’t believe retrospectively is the off-side/legside theory. Because this year I’ve committed myself to bowling wrong uns I’ve gradually got more and more accurate and bowl far fewer down the legside. But because I do bowl fewer down the legside I’ve now noticed that most RH bats love a ball that goes down the legside and they easily get onto it and hit it with a degree of pleasure and assuredness. Looking at the way Neil sets offside fields when I bowl there’s obviously less chance that they’ll be caught if they hit the ball to the legside? What I’ve now noticed is that if I bowl down the offside they’re a lot less reluctant to go after the ball and if you’re accurate and bowl at the off stump they’re really tied down and will normally play defensive shots. A lot of you reading this may think Duh! That’s obvious, but then as Super Dave reminded me on Saturday when I commented on how well Ross Fulbrook bowled he said “You got to remember he’s been playing cricket for 5 years whereas you’ve only been playing for 2”. But it’d be nice if I could bowl ten overs or more again this weekend and display the same amount of accuracy and put these theories into practice. I loved the way the flippers were going tonight and if the same accuracy could be applied to the game combined with the variation in pace and ball (Googly/Top spinner) I may be onto something?

Again I’ve been going over the principles of batting as a tail ender so hopefully this time I’ll be a little more alert and less inclined to ball watch with my ears turned off! Maybe I’ll get the elusive 12 runs that I’m after to set my PB. Okay let’s go for it let’s try and get 3 wickets as well and make it a bowling PB with a low run total as well!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

17th September

September is looking pretty good so far – fairly warm and sunny and it looks like it’s going to continue into this coming weekend, so that’ll be nice for the cricket. My time table at work has been sorted and again this year I’ve been lumbered with the late shift, so I do 2 lates per week Tuesday and Thursday. The reason I mention this is because after Christmas G&CCC will be going into the nets and I bet you it’ll be Tuesday night as that’s the night that’ll continue all year.

Looked at the wicket over at Valence Way tonight and it’s now growing out. You can still see it at the moment as the grass is still shorter than the outfield grass. I’ll need to mark it in some way so that it can be reinstated in the spring. At each end of the pitch and at the sides there are markers that will enable me to find the centre, but there is a chance some of these may get moved so I’ll have to think how I mark the pitch more permanently.

Ben was at Cubs tonight and Joe has decided he no longer wants to go to Beavers, so instead we gave the option – Beavers or stay in and do homework and it seems that he chose homework so it does seem that he really doesn’t like Beavers because he’s not a big fan of homework either! By the time I got in he’d done his homework so we went out for a bike ride and then we ended up on the Valence Way wicket for some practice. When he’s on his own in a one to one situation Joe does really well, he knew what a front foot drive was and said as soon as we got there “Do you want me to do front foot drives”? So it’s obvious that he does listen, but he will only put things into action on his terms it seems? So I threw some balls to him and he did really well and like Ben last Sunday it seemed to boost his confidence. He also bowled some slow stuff and produced balls that spun both ways and then it got too dark and we had to call it a day. It’s now dark by 8pm and it’s getting dismal in the evenings.

I held out from throwing googly’s and tried to bowl Leg Breaks – it went okay, not too bad, it feels like I just need to practice so much that I get used to my hand being in that position to bowl the leg break. I’ve had the call up to play at the weekend and I’m going to play again on Saturday, so I’m looking forward to that. I just hope that in addition to bowling I may get the chance to bat and advance my run rate a bit and perhaps do a lot better at the communication aspect when I’m out there. 11 is still my all time highest run rate and it’d be nice to beat that in the next game or so. It’ll also be interesting to see if my bowling will be as good as last week especially if the bats play with some intent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not a lot going on

Sorry not a lot going on at the moment on the blog as my computer at home has been inundated with viruses 208 in one hit and it looks like I may have to simply throw the thing away? A bloke at work has said to take everything off it and re-load windows xp and then the other programs - is it really that easy?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sidcup v Grays and Chadwell
Sat 13th Sept home

Lovely sunny day – cloudy bright 17 degrees centigrade with a negligible breeze. The opposition were a bunch of older blokes and some young uns – 16 year old and thereabouts. After the toss it came to pass that we’d bat first. The team despite being a Saturday match was pretty familiar –

1. Wayne Simmonds
2.Chris Buckley (WKT)
3. Lee Downes
4. Matt
5.Reece Downes
7. Imran (He’s new to me)
8. Me
9. Super Dave Gaylor
10. Charlie? Blonde kid
11. Neil (Captain)

I think this is roughly the order in which we batted although I seem to be a long way up the list and it maybe that the blonde kid at 10 had batted and I’d not noticed? To tell the truth I didn’t take that much notice of the game once I’d discovered that I’d forgotten to pack a battery for my camera and therefore couldn’t take pictures. The game was decided to be a timed game, Neil did try and explain how it works but I didn’t have a clue what he was saying.

Recently there’s been loads of rain and loads of cancelled matches and today there was only one pitch being used. Lee rolled the wicket before the match but it soon became apparent that there wasn’t a lot of bounce in the wicket. They led their bowling attack with the young kids and right from the start they looked pretty slow and what with the soggyness of the wicket all our bats were having trouble swinging their bats at balls that weren’t there yet and this soon had the Sidcup boys on a roll with a few wickets quite quickly but we were getting runs in between. The game then settled down with the middle order it seems and we piled on the runs. I wasn’t watching as I was bowling at people warming up and practicing. Then I seemed to get the call fairly early seemingly a lot further down the order than I’d normally play, but I know that all through the earlier overs Super Dave had been moaning about he didn’t want to play and there was a bit of argey bargey going on between him and Neil. Next thing I knew it seemed that the lower order bats were falling like flies and I was up and as I walked out one of the umpires said that I had 20 minutes of batting left.

I’ve been reading about batting down the order as a tail ender and watching it on the tele/DVD’s so went out there probably more aware of what my role was and better planned strategy than before. I think I joined Ross and he was on strike and the first ball that went to him he hit it and it flew in slow arc towards short of Mid on and someone caught it easily. We had to wait ages then as Super Dave had to get all of his gear on while we all waited – he’d obviously had no intention of playing still but was forced into doing so or had a change of heart – but whatever happened he wasn’t ready.

I still hadn’t faced any balls at this point and was concentrating on not trying to hit it particularly but just to stay in and go after the easier balls that were not on target and just get Dave on strike so that he could play properly and score the runs. The bowlers alternated between a bloke who was bowling short balls that were wrong uns turning into the stumps from the off-side, but they were fast and flat. The other bloke was a seam bowler and relatively slow. Because my mind was in a concentration mode trying to think of all the things I needed to be doing there were a few farcical calls to run from Dave were I didn’t even notice him shouting YES! At the top of his voice to run. One was off a Bye where the spinner had got the ball to turn massively outside of off and I swung at it realizing that it had turned in towards my stumps. I looked round to see that it must have just missed the stumps and the wicket keep had missed it as it was now legside and I stood there watching it run off towards the boundary whilst Super Dave was shouting YES! YES! And the wicket keeper then said (As I was still facing the wrong way).
“I think he wants you to run”. I turned round to see Super about 5’ from me still shouting “YES”! I did eventually run, but still did similar things at least twice more but not quite as bad as that first instance.

I managed to stay in and I scored 5 runs whilst super scored 14 (I think)? And the game come to an end with both of us still in. In 42 overs we’d scored 211 which is pretty good. The weather was still holding out and had improved it was sunny and warm now with primarily blue skies and I’d been sun-bathing earlier as it was that warm.

So to the better bit – fielding and bowling. For the most part I was fielding at what Neil calls “Round the corner” (which looks like extra cover)? Mid off and a short spell at cover. The good thing was it looked like everyone was up for it, there was none of this sitting down lark or standing around with your hands in your pockets malarkey, everyone looked pretty alert and all of them were walking in each time the bowlers bowled. Most people were backing up and Chris Buckers who was being ribbed about the fact that he was wicket keeping did pretty well too.

Their batting was the reverse of their bowling. Where they’d started with the young uns for the bowling they came out with the adults first in the batting with the more likely looking candidates taking the earlier order positions. Super Dave and Imran led the way with the bowling both doing really well and the overs initially ticked over at about 2 runs an over while they got their eye in. 10 overs in and they were still trying to get their eye in as the scoreboard was showing 22 runs having been made. They looked like they knew what they were doing – their strokes looked okay and the impression I got was that they would suddenly unleash their skills and start playing with some intent. More overs passed and it was pretty much the same situation. Maybe they know we field a lot of spinners and that they specialize in taking the spinners to task? Neil at this point is calling for wickets to be taken as the game seems to be stagnating and it needs a change of pace in someway, but these two bats seem to be in intent on occupying the crease at the expense of making any runs?

Then I get the nod and I join Neil as we do our stuff. The run rate climbs slightly as I get into a rythymn and concede some runs, but it’s not as bad as I usually do and most of it is down to some shoddy fielding where the ball passes between the fielders legs having had the ball batted straight at them. The game settles down again and the runs revert back to about 2 per over (4 off mine, maidens off Neils). Then I bowl one unintentionally wide and the bloke square cuts it straight out towards Neil but wide of him Neils does a spectacular dive with one hand reaching for the ball and it sticks and he hangs onto it as he comes crashing down to the ground and the bloke is gone and we get the break-through care of me.

The next bloke makes his way his way to the crease and I’m thinking – maybe the nature of the game will change with this bloke coming to the crease? No chance, despite the fact that we’re rattling through the overs because unlike the seamers these blokes are simply not hitting the ball so there’s no fielding going on so the over rate is fast and their score rate slow. Surely one of them has got to try something different. Meanwhile the younger lads on their team are walking round the pitch lurking, waiting for their chance. Bat No. 3 comes from the same mould as 1 and 2 e.g. he’s happy with the run rate being 1.8 an over or whatever it is. Ross comes on and there’s a slight change bat 3 seems to perk up slightly and has a few swings at the ball with some intent, still no change and then the wickets start to fall with Neil taking one or two. I take another with a Googlie pitched down the offside, he swipes at it misses it and it turns and hits middle and leg – one of my better balls as it did what it was meant to have done. There after the wickets come thick and fast, the older blokes make way for the younger blokes. One of the first out looks really sure of himself and confident, but he still doesn’t try and take us on and is eventually taken out. The next batch only last a few balls each, but they’re swinging at it and missing it and it soon becomes apparent that they lack the experience to bat against the likes of Neil, Ross and Wayne. But we’re still all baffled why the older blokes didn’t have a go? There was so many runs to make up and yet they didn’t address this fact with the batting. Towards the end of the game on the last 4 bats Neil found himself on a hat-trick and on the hat trick ball Buckers missed a nicked edge!

The last few overs saw us all crowding round the bats some of us only 10 – 15 feet away. The game finished after 51 overs from us and they’d scored 117.

My bowling figures were –

10 overs; 2 wickets; 1 maiden and 45 runs conceded. My best performance todate. I was well chuffed especially as I didn’t bowl a single wide or no ball and very few went down the legside. Some of those that did had been slower straight balls that turned and ended up down the legside and could have been caught if there’s been a short leg fielder? But what was satisfying was that as some of the oppo came off one of them said “Well done mate – good bowling” and another had said “Good fielding mate”, which was nice. I also had one “Strewth moment” where one of my googlies pitched and went between the bats legs and then only just missed the outside of leg stump by 5cm totally bamboozling Chris and went for byes.

Day ended up lovely and sunny and warm a perfect way to spend a Saturday in September.

Sunday 14th September

Another fantastic day – sunny, blue skies and warm with no wind. Checked the field and sure enough there was a bunch of boys playing football on there using the whole pitch, so during the morning I designed some markers to mark out where the cricket pitch is over the winter as the grass grows and it recovers and disappears. Because that patch of grass we know is relatively flat we’ll use the exact same bit again next year. So what I’ve done is tied a cable tie and a bit of string onto a stake and banged the stake into the ground so that it’s about 2” below the surface so all you can see is a bit of blue string and a cable tie coming out of the ground. The theory is if anyone notices it they’ll not be able to pull it out of the ground and it should be able to survive any cutting that occurs between now and April or whenever it is that they start cutting it again. I’ve also done the same as last year in that I’ve pressed into the ground plastic lucozade bottle tops along the length of the wicket down the centre. Generally no-one notices these either and it’s easy to locate them making it easy to figure out where the wicket is.

Around about 2pm the footballers went home leaving it free to use. Despite the fact that I haven’t cut it for nearly 2 weeks it is still pretty short (Remember the last cut was about 5mm) . I went over and hammered in the stake/marker and some of the cricket boys were there and they asked if we’d be playing and I thought to myself – Is the Pope Catholic? So I went back home and got all the gear. 3pm lovely and sunny and we had 9 of us over there, so it was pretty good.

The nine that were there for the best part took it pretty seriously and I’ve also heard that some of them are asking for Cricket Bats for Christmas! So who knows next year they all might take the whole thing a lot more seriously? Most of them have only one interest – batting, but bit by bit some of them are realizing that their strength is in their bowling and are slowly beginning to enjoy their bowling more. Today despite being at the end of the season seemed as though it might have been a pivotal point, because some of them at last seemed to grasp that fielding can be fun and is equally as important as batting and bowling. This came about because of the fact that my son Ben was bowling phenomenally well – almost every ball on a perfect length and line – all down the offside, all just missing the off stump or hitting it, but he was getting edges as well and getting wickets because I was catching the ball as the wicket keeper. That combined with my overs where I was bowling top spinners and wrong uns and forcing edges, it meant that everyone was in proper fielding positions and wickets were being taken through catches rather than me bowling at the stumps, this involvement of the fielders via both mine and Ben’s bowling meant that a penny dropped and it went on to be the longest game over there and we managed to maintain good attention levels of all the players.

It meant that a handful of them didn’t want to go home and get their dinner they were enjoying it so much! But the highlight of the day was Ben’s bowling. His bowling was amazing. On the 17 yard wicket he didn’t do so well, but with the mowing I’ve been extending the length of the wicket and I think it’s probably up in the 19-20 yards zone now and suits his bowling. We’ve got one bloke who plays over there with us who is 14 and he’s a natural sports type kid – plays football well and is just naturally sporty and enjoys sports. The highest run total till today was 34 and he was after that total. He reached it easily and was looking to go a lot further, but instead of rotating the overs between all the bowlers one by one I realized that I needed to put him under pressure and this is where the kids that were fielding suddenly realized that they had a part to play in restricting his run rate and making sure he was out, so me and Ben bowled alternate overs putting him under pressure. Ben’s first over was a maiden with several very near misses. His second was pretty much the same and a nicked edge that fell short of me – which he wasn’t happy about – in fact he was really upset. I had to say – look use your anger to get him out next time and he understood and composed himself to then wicket keep. My previous overs had created loads of catching chances that no-one had managed to capitalize on – but in my over following Ben’s nicked edge I got a dirty edge off the top of the bat and Ben (Who’s not that good at catching) had the gloves on and gloved it so was well chuffed that we’d got the top batsman out. All the other kids were jumping up and down high fiving it and cheering.

I reckon that next year with another years worth of growth, a bit more sure of themselves, having their own bats and stuff and remembering how much fun they had this year – they’re going to come on loads as a team. Ben especially – he’s only 9 and I reckon he can bowl as effectively as the 14 year old Andy. A bit more size, strength and speed and he’s going to be pretty formidable, already all of the other kids don’t like facing him because of his speed and accuracy and he’s beginning to take notice of the things that I suggest to him. He’s picked up the idea of bowling down the off-side to right handed bats and he knows that if he doesn’t hit the stumps he can force a catch off an edge. Tonight I introduced the concept of bowling a bit shorter to make the ball bounce up into the bats face and increase the chance of forcing mistakes, so I’m well proud of him. I told him after that his bowling was really good and he then said – “What good enough to play for Grays and Chadwell”? So maybe next summer I’ll see if I can get him involved maybe even over the winter?

Other things of note; Man was I knackered after yesterday’s game. Because I haven’t played in a while I haven’t been practicing or running around much and after I’d got home and watched a bit of cricket on the tele I got up and I was as stiff as a board! The same all day today.

Now here’s a point. I bowled my best ever spell yesterday and Neil let me bowl ten overs, which is a lot for me as I usually get taken off for bowling wides and being expensive which is understandable. But I’ve not practiced at all of late – and I’m wondering if this is like other things that I do. Guitar playing for instance if I do it all the time I seem to repeat what I’m doing and go round in circles never seemingly able to break the circle. Whereas if don’t do it for a while and then pick up the guitar – something fresh always happens. Perhaps this is the same with cricket? Maybe I should have phases where I don’t practice so intensely? Maybe this is what has happened here?

Furthermore – today and the last few days I’ve been trying to bowl Leg Breaks – twisting my hand all the way round and really concentrating on not bowling out of the back of my hand and it’s working. I’ve bowled one or two leg breaks in the games where I’m playing with the kids and they’ve turned quite well. There’s a tendency for the flight to be really flat, but the turn off the pitch and the speed seems to be okay. So this bodes really well for Sept 30th when I stop bowling wrong uns. Thinking about it I may try and bowl this coming week primarily Leg breaks, say for instance each over I bowl 5 Leg Breaks and one wrong un at the end and see how that pans out? Let’s hope the weather holds out and I get the chance to try this out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guitar playing

I know some of you out there that play cricket play a bit of guitar as well. Have a look at this (Even if you don't play guitar) watch it from the start and try and imagine how fast this bloke is going to playing this guitar at the end of the clip.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Illicit Mowing

Strewth what a hullabaloo! If anyone has followed this blog over the last 2 years you might have read about the incident over at Great Berry Open Space. A quick synopsis -

The field is a council field and when the football season had finished we started to practice over on the field. But it is just a field and it's used by footballers so there's loads of ruts and damage to the surface and we found that when you were trying to bowl the ball at 90m.p.h it was dangerous because of the uneveness of the grass surface. People were ending up having a ball in the face so we had to come up with a solution. I noticed that in between the two pitches there was a bit of no-mans land and it was much flatter and smack bang in the middle of the field. The only thing was - the grass was too long. What to do? My solution was to get a mower and mow it - so okay it looks a bit nuts some bloke in the middle of a public field mowing it with a tiny little qualcast panther mower, but other than that our cricket team had no-where to go and that would have been the end of that. Besides, I'm sure that when people like Christopher Columbus set out on his journeys and Leonardo Davinci told people there'd be helicopters in the future people sniggered at them and look how fun we're all having off the back of their nutcase endeavours, who knows one of these boys in 15 -20 years time might be lifting the Ashes in Australia? So I'm not fussed what people think.

Note* prior to starting the mowing I checked all the byelaws regarding the use of council fields and no-where is there anything that says you cannot use a lawnmower to cut the grass. An electric or petrol mower would be a different issue. Damaging trees and pulling up plants is obviously vandalism but mowing daisies, buttercups, dandelions and an inch or two off a patch of grass that constitutes 2 or 3% of the field doesn't seem to be a breach of the byelaws?

But then the inevitable happened - I was busted! The council turned up and caught me red handed, but instead of kicking me where the sun doesn't shine as suggested by someone else on a green-keepers website, the council blokes were really positive about what I was doing and supported my actions. Now these blokes weren't labourers, one of them was the area manager for the bourough. They went as far as right there and then ringing the green-keeper of the nearby cricket pitch to see if he could get a roller onto our field and get it really flat, but they couldn't get it over without having to commission a flatbed truck. So what they then did is arrange that we could use the cricket pitch free of charge for the rest of the summer on Sunday mornings if it wasn't being used by anyone else.

So with the support of the council once a fortnight I'd mow the grass with my Qualcast Panther and we'd have a practice in relatively safe and even grass. Then one evening I noticed that there was a bloke watching me cut the grass at the nearby pub that over-looked the field and he looked agitated and animated while using the phone and watching me. Eventually he came over and basically told me I couldn't mow the grass anymore because he was in the residents association and they paid money to play football on the field and that if I had any issues about this I should ring Mr X at the council and he'd put me straight. I pointed out that Mr Y at the council had sanctioned my mowing and I'd contact his Mr X in my own time and find out why he was contradicting my Mr Y? But more importantly if his Mr X was a council employee why was he getting drunk, abusive and intimidating cronies to do his work for him?

I didn't appreciate this drunk blokes threatening behaviour and decided to bypass all the Mr X and Mr Y's and go straight to the most senior person I could find. I emailed local MP's and different NGO's with agenda's around widening participation in sport and the encouragement of sport as well as the Director of Parks and Gardens (Mr A). It took a few weeks and while all this happened we stopped practicing on the field and as a consequence the momentum and enthusisasm waned and our team disintegrated.

It turned out that the Cronie's Mr X was in fact my Mr Y and that Mr Y knew nothing of the Football yobs feelings regarding me mowing their football pitch. In fact Mr Y took offence of the Football yobs use of his position to intimidate me and also the inference that the field was under the control of the football/residents association. On Mr A's instruction Mr Y had a meeting with the residents association and the football club and reviewed their use of the field and then found that the verbal agreement that they had with regards the use of the field and the payments to use the field were not being upheld. This then kicked into place a new formal contract that made it very clear that we or anyone else could use the field for cricket out of season.

Finally I received a call from the most senior person Mr A at the council and he said that we'd no longer have any aggro off of the football bloke and his residents association. He then went on to say that we could play cricket on the field anytime we liked once the football season was over. I asked whether we could mark a boundary out and play a proper game and he said as often and whenever you like. Nothing was said about the mowing of the grass - it wasn't mentioned.

At the time this was all happening as well as trying to get support from local MP's, NGO's and the council I posted a synopsis of the situation on a Green Keepers website asking how they'd feel if someone took to mowing a patch of grass on one their field 66' x 9' once a fortnight and the reaction was unbelievable - they went absolutely ballistic. They would be livid and their main argument was that it was a massive health and safety issue and that if anyone was to get hurt I'd end up in prison and/or get sued. But the weird thing was my council sanctioned and supported my actions and thought that what I was doing was good? Again the green-keepers website were incredulous "If the chiefs at the council new what you were doing...... " But they did! The last call had been from the Director of Parks and Gardens?

Now I can see that there might be a health and safety issue if I was using a electric mower and that maybe if there were people crowding around as I was mowing within range of a stone being kicked up by the blades someone might get seriously hurt. But it's a 12" blade manual mower with no-one within 400 yards of what I'm doing and it's all over and done with within 10-15 minutes. No-one comes near me because they probably think I'm either a council employee or I'm from the local mental institute or they simply hate cricket and have no reason to come and have a chat while I'm mowing. Besides this is England when do English people ever approach strangers and start talking? It is never going to happen is it - so where on earth are the H&S issues the Green-keeper blokes are getting so wound up about?

Another point; Surely if you were a council employee and your remit was to look after the field and the safety of the people using it would you not be more concerned about the blokes that ride up and down the pathways on 400cc Quadbikes or scrambling bikes that then get onto the field and race up and down like Steve McQueen at up to 50mph doing jumps over what were Golf bunkers whilst being chased by Rottweiller and Pit Bull dogs off their leads? Or gangs of kids smashing windows of the changing facilities and toilets, pushing over site screens and smashing them up, or stealing carp out of the lakes to eat, rather than get really wound up by a bloke that cuts another 2" off your grass after you've cut it with your tractor mower? A bloke you never see and no-one else ever sees because he's so discreet?

One of the blokes as mentioned earlier said that if he caught me he'd stick his boot where the sun doesn't shine. Well - let's look at this point on the field that I was cutting this summer. Imagine the scene...... It's dusk 9pm and for ten minutes I'm on the field with my mower preparing for the next knock about with my sons and the cricket kids off the estate. Then I notice that there's a van and bloke with big boots un-doing the lock on the gate trying to come in and he doesn't look to happy. For a second I think - ooh crap has my 12" manual mower just kicked up a stone or chip from the wicket and flown 150 feet over or through the trees and embeded itself in someones eye? Probably not but I can see I'm not wanted and I'll start packing up. Now Percy Park-keeper has 2 options now -

1. He comes into the field and shouts "Hold on mate" and gets on the phone to the local constabulary.
"Is that the police"?
"Yes this is desk sargeant Plod - can I help sir".
"Yeah - I'm down the road at x and there's a bloke here vandalising our field can you send a car out and nick him"?
"What exactly is he doing sir and can you describe him"?
"He's mowing a piece of grass 66' x 9' in the middle of our field - he looks about 40 + years old - going grey".
"But what is he doing sir"?
"He's mowing the grass"?
"No sir the vandalism - what is he doing"?
"Yeah - he's cutting the grass - that's the vandalism..... I normally cut it and leave it 4" and this blokes cutting it about 1/2".
"Right sir let me get this straight - there's a man with a mower mowing a small section of your field and he's cutting it shorter than you want - is that it"?
"Yes - he's vandalising the field".
"So okay sir - I've a list here of jobs our chaps have got to attend in the next 2 hours. There's a car crash on the A2, there's a domestic issue in Acacia drive where a man is reporting a woman is being beaten up, there's a burglarly in Chard Hill, over at the night clubs there's been a fight, we've got a missing child, we've got reports of children on the railway line throwing stones at the trains........ shall I go on sir? We'll get a car out to you as soon as possible, I wouldn't think it'll be there this side of midnight though and that's if nothing else turns up in between".

Scenario 2

1. He comes into the field and shouts "Hold on mate" walks over to me and kicks me up the bum "What the **** are you doing you **** this is my field you ******* ****-taker, get your ******** mower off this field and never come back again".
"Whoa - slow down, I'm going, but I'm just going to make a phone call". Guess who I call? Yes the police but I want to report an assualt. Being realistic though I wouldn't expect the police to turn up anyway, but as I walk out of the field making the call I'd then go round to the entrance and take the blokes vehicle registration number and get a good description of him. I'd then write to his employees once I'd got and incident report number and let them know that their staff are of the type that assault people for no good cause and do my damndest to get the bloke sacked.

Admittedly there might be a counter claim on the basis of tresspass and possibly vandalism which I really think is stretching it a bit. In the meantime I'd photograph the vandalism and how soon without a trace it naturally disappears with no-ones input. I'd also photograph all of the fencing and all the (Non existent) attempst that the owners make to state clearly that no-one is supposed to tresspass on the field. There are loads of holes in the fence and the gate is never locked.

Tresspass laws in the UK are notoriously weak, you can access someones house go inside and sit in their living room, turn on the tele and refuse to leave when asked to and not commit any serious crime. The people's house in which you've tresspassed run a massive risk of falling foul of the law if they resort to violence in any way in the process of trying to eject you from their house. Even taking your arm and man-handling out of the house or off the field could easily fall foul of assault if the action ended in bruising.

So even though the Green-keepers are really wound up by my mowing, they really do need to get a sense of perspective. I can only assume that they live in little villages where nothing else happens and that they read the Daily Mail?

added later.....

Oh yeah, I've been on the field numerous times when the police have been over-head hovering in their helicopter and up there they'd be able to see what I'm doing very clearly, but strangely they never seem to have seen fit to send a squad car over and ask me what I'm doing?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ransome Ajax mower part v

No cricket today, the game had been cancelled yesterday and then guess what happens - there's no rain at all today and it's been pretty sunny albeit windy. Been over to the wicket to how it's recovering from it's very close cut and to repair some of the scuff from the footballers yesterday. The practice wicket is fast disappearing into the rest of the grass and the only difference that'll be obvious soon will be that it just looks a lot more lush than the rest of the grass around it.

I didn't get it together today to sort out the roller and thinking about it I don't think I'd roll it now anyway, I'd leave it now till the back end of the winter - perhaps March. The only thing I might do now is get some weedkiller and kill the weeds which I've identified as being Plantain which is an interesting plant. The leaves are a good substitute for Doc leaves in the event that you get stung by nettles, but they're also good for insect bites too which is useful to know because the field is over-run with Midges in the summer to the point where it's uncomfortable to be there at times. The plant may also have anti-biotic properties see The stuff to get rid of it though is relatively cheap but nasty and you spray it direct onto the plant and it works better when the leaves are in full growth, the larger and flatter the leaves the better the weed killer works, so that's another reason to hold off or stop the mowing in order that I can kill these weeds off ready for next season. It wasn't as expensive as I'd imagined either at about £3.50 to do the job.

Later in the afternoon I went over to the field and had a bit of a bowl and did okay, reverted to bowling flippers and wrong uns. I tried a few Leg Breaks but they just come out as straight balls or wrong uns. The flippers all went really well I manage to get them down the off side 95% of the time and they were all turning away from the bat like a leg break and then when I wanted to I'd bowl a googly and that then turned really well into the stumps. Wish I could bowl like that in a game! Maybe next year?

With the wicket in the middle being a bit short (For the kids) I was still gagging to see whether the grass cuttings bucket would work in practice so after my bowling session I went back after with the mower and extended the wicket by a couple of yards at one and yes it worked perfectly and again I was so impressed with this mower - the efficiency of the cut and the closeness of the cut is absolutely amazing I can't wait till next year when I'll be able to cut it this short all summer and get it really up to scratch. I was even looking at the grass parrallel the wicket at the moment with a view to having two wickets side by side so that one can recover whilst the other is being used - that's definitely a possibilty. What I now need to do as a part of the de-commissioning of the wicket is somehow mark it so that I can keep an eye on it over the winter and repair any big bits of damage as they happen and obviously be able to return to the exact spot next year and mow it knowing full well that it will be free of plantain and relatively flat.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ransomes Ajax lawn mower Part IV

Gutted! Was looking forward to using my Ransomes Ajax lawn mower today and was pleased to wake up to a sunny day with no rain and a blustery wind. The rest of the country it seems is under 3' of water. Later I went over to see what the situation was at the field e.g. was there anyone over there using it and sure enough their they were - Football Players. Gutted! I had a look and it did seem that they were up either end of the field in the goal areas rather than in the middle of the pitch, so it looked okay. They were over there till gone one so were there for about 4 hours. Once they had gone I had a look with the intention that I could go and cut the wicket again and maintain it later. At this point it was still dry and sunny.

When I had a look the wicket was a mess - stud marks all over it. Looking at the state of it, it looks like I'd better leave it now to grow a bit and recover and perhaps call it a day with mowing it so short for cricket because it's obvious that if I keep cutting it and they do play football on it, the damage may be so bad that it'll be difficult to repair next summer?

The thing is this morning I adpated the mower so that I could use the grass box from my qualcast panther and was looking forward to testing it out. It's a bit of a bodge (See images) but it should work, but then just as I was going to go and test it and mow the wicket it rained, so that was that plan ruined. Later the rain stopped and it dried out again in the meantime I'd been over there and done some repairs and planted some grass seed where the foxes had dug up the stump holes. While I was doing that again I looked at the wicket and decided that I reckon it should be left for at least a week before I cut it again. But I might be tempted to mow the practice wicket just see how good the grass collecting bucket works.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ransomes Ajax lawnmower continued

Ransomes Ajax lawnmower continued.....

I'm so impressed with this mower and the fact that the grass is now so short I can see how good or bad the wicket actually is and it isn't too bad, that I'm now going to neglect the old practice wicket that's in the corner of the field and has been for 3 summers now and work exclusively on maintaining and improving the wicket in the middle of the field.

Just recently with the change in my bowling action - the inclusion of the step over/follow through the speed at which I bowl has increased and the balls have been disappearing into the corner of the field in amongst the bushes and getting lost. So if I develop the wicket in the middle of the field I can do as I used to at Great Berry Open Space e.g. throw 35 balls up one end and the throw em all back again ad infinitum and never lose them.

So what I'll be doing is extending the length of the wicket along with the width so that it's full size. I'll fill the stump holes that have been dug up by the bloody foxes, I'll look to see if I can score some weed killer from somewhere cheap and fill any dips and holes in the wicket. I may even look at cutting a second wicket beside the current one so that one can be used while the other one can be rested and repaired?

What with the current rain and the fact that the ground is become wet and sodden I'm also inclined to try and get the roller from my mates house tomorrow with a view to rolling the wicket at least once before the winter sets in proper. I'm also thinking again about how I can make a bigger roller out of concrete and keep in on the field.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ransomes Ajax lawnmower look at the cut on that!

And here's the latest shots with the wicket cut at 5mm. I'm now tempted to go back and do it again at 2mm!
Ben, Joe and I went over to the Valence Way wicket and had a bit of a knock about. The green keeper had been over during the day and he's mowed the outfield a bit and I think you can see this in the image. They've put the goal posts up but haven't painted any white lines as yet. Last year very little football was played on the field and I'm hoping that it'll be a similar situation this year and that the wicket wont get that mangled. Actually as I'm now cutting it so short I've got more of an idea of how uneven the grass is and it's not that bad. It now seeems that the lumpiness was due to the nature of the grass and the way it grows in clumps when left. The more you cut it the more even it becomes and the growth is obviously a lot more regular. Cutting this short has also meant that the weeds have been obliterated and it just goes from strength to strength. I also noticed that I was right in my assumption that a low cut like this also highlights any surface uneveness because the mower scrape of the grass to leave exposed and scraped mud patches that I'm able to faltten out. So it's looking very good. It also plays better, Ben who you can see bowling here bowled a lot better as his balls maintained a straight line on pitching the ground and my own Gippers worked well as well - I pitched 2 right on the edge of the wicket that then went round the back of Joes legs and hit his stumps! I wish I could do that in real cricket situations!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wickets and Mowers continued..........

So here they are images of the wicket and the practice track in the corner of the field. These were taken this evening prior to any further mowing. But there's definitely more mowing to be had....
I cut the lawn in the backyard this evening which is tiny - probably as big as your living room maybe even smaller? I then thought I'd give it a going over with the mower with the blades as short as I'd set them last night. But I had another look at how low they were and decided that there was no way that a rough old field would be flat enough for a 2mm cut so I raised the blade to 5mm and gave it a go. Strewth 5mm is short! So short that it cuts all the grass off and leaves only mud and was a bit radical for our backyard. Having said that though it'll be interesting to see how the grass grows back? Anecdotally I've always been told that the more you cut the grass and the shorter you cut it the thicker it grows, as the roots produce more shoots to get more blades of grass up there to take in the sun and sustain the grass.
I'm now just waiting for the last of the boxers to depart from the gym/changing rooms at the field and as soon as they've gone I'll be over there in the dark giving the wicket a 5mm cut!
So....... an hour later with a 5mm cut set I re-cut the wicket in the middle of the field and from what I could see in the very dim light was that it was very commendable. The amount of additional grass that was being sprayed out of the front of the mower was substantail, so it's obviously cut a lot more off. It'll be interesting tomorrow morning to walk across the field and see how short and good it looks! If it's not raining I'll take the camera and shoot some pic's as I go past.
The local boys are up for game tomorrow night so when they stick the stumps in I'll shoot some pictures and it'll give a better sense of perspective (if it doesn't rain).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ransomes Ajax cylinder push mower

That's the name of my new mower or rather my 2nd hand mower have a look -

I did take some images on the way home tonight, but having cut the wicket in the dark it didn't look that clever - the edges were a bit wobbly. So tonight Ben, Joe and I went over and had a quick game, Joe bowled well and Ben batted okay, he needs to be a bit more confident about being hit by the ball, but he did seem to be listening to what I was saying about getting his head in line with the ball. The thing is no-one bowls at him hard, but he flinches if it goes anywhere near him. Maybe next year being a bit older he may toughen up a bit?

After our practice which wasn't disturbed by any of the other boys we decided we'd get the new mower out and tidy up the edges and finish off the work from last night - they both seemed to appreciate that the grass was exceedingly short and were quite thrilled at the prospect that they'd be able to have a go. So we ended up giving the wicket the final touches and making it look perfect, so I'll post the pictures at a later stage when I've got some good shots of it. All I need to do now is figure out how to make a grass bucket for it and maybe even lower the blades further.

On the theme of cutting lawns and cricket obsessiveness have a look at this.....
And now I'm getting really carried away - this'll be grounds for divorce if I keep this up!
And it just gets better! Not content with looking at this mower more closely over the next few days, at 11.30pm I went down stairs got a cup of tea on, put a 2007 world cup video on (Sth Africa v Netherlands where Herschel Gibbs hits 6 x 6's) went out into the garage and brought the mower into the kitchen along with a bunch of spanners and started to look at whether the cut level could be lowered? Here's a few clues - this mower in some form or another has been around since the 1930's and only went out of production in the 1970's (The MK IV) having had 250,000 of them made. Who has gardens with bowling/golf green type grass?
1. Old blokes
2. People who buy mowers in B&Q's
3. Obese people
4. Chav's
Look at the list which of these people have that type of grass and which of these people would have a 40 year old mower in their shed? Yep you guessed it - the old bloke. How does he get his grass cut so short (I always wondered this myself)? Now I think I know - he's got a Ransomes Ajax mower.
Having un-bolted the front roller sliders (You can see them clearly in the photo's) it was a case of adjusting the sliders so that the blades were lowered. I could see that it was having an affect, but it wasn't until I'd done the bolt up and got down on the floor with a torch to see how much clearance there was from the carpet tiles to the blades. 2mm - yes 2mm maybe 2.5 at a push! That is incredibly low, so low it may not work me thinks. My Qualcast Panda mower gives a cut of 12mm and I've been happy with that so far - but this mower gives a 2mm cut! But I reckon the wicket wont actually be flat enough to use it at this setting - but who knows until I try it? I can't wait!

Check out my other blog here - this is all about Leg-spin bowling and nothing else. Double click on the image below.

Valence Way wicket

Woke up as predicted to pouring rain, took a detour past the wicket to have a look at it in the light and it looks good. I had the camera but what with the rain I didn't bother to do any pictures and the forecast for the weather is that later today it'll clear, so hopefully I'll get some shots this evening either on the way through going home or later.

Because the mower has no bucket to collect the grass all of the cuttings are on the surface so they either need to be brushed off using a broom or I could use the other mower and go over it with that and see if that picks up most of the cuttings. But the good thing is - it is a very close cut and I'm fairly certain that it can be adjusted to cut even shorter and the wicket looks fairly flat. Lets hope the weather eases up over the next 4-6 weeks and we get some use out of it? Both my boys are back at school today and what with being stuck in school all day they may be a little bit more up for playing cricket?

Monday, September 01, 2008

New Mower

Cor blimey! No wonder people used to be fit and healthy back in the day..... I went round my Father in Laws and picked up my new mower this evening and just carrying it from his house to the car I realised it was a bit of a lump of a machine what with having a weighted roller on the back. Then as dusk came down I went over to the field in the gloom with it to have a mow and try it out and again the walk across the road over to field impressed on me how heavy the thing was, so much so that when I realised the boxing club blokes were still there rather than carry the bloody thing back home I stashed it in the woods.

Eventually they went home around about 9pm and I was able to do the mowing in the dark. I had to get it done as there was loads of cloud cover and it looks like rain due soon and what with it not raining today it looked as though tonight might be the only window of opportunity. In the dim light offered by the street lights across the way I was able to locate where the wicket was and got down to the mowing and right from the word go it was impressive. Even in the dark I could see that it was cutting absolutely stacks of grass and that it was very short, if it had a bucket to catch the grass I'd imagine it would been filled several times over it looked that efficient and then by the time it was all done man did it look short! Even in the dim light the contrast between the wicket grass and the outfield was marked and underfoot it felt like carpet it was that short!

Enthused by the efficiency I went over and cut my bowling practice wicket which is a lot bigger full length and about 6 or 7 feet wide, so quite a bit of grass and as I made the move from one wicket to the other I could feel the beginnings of the rain, so the grass was now beginning to pick up some moisture and needless to say would become difficult to cut, so I had to crack on a bit with it and this is where it started to feel a bit heavy and cumbersome and I began to sweat and have to work a bit. Making me realise - no wonder hover mowers and electric mowers became the vogue back in the late 60's and early 70's and no wonder your Dad and your Grandad back then were fit geezers what with all that manual mowing lark every 3 nights in the summer! But what a beautiful cut it gives you - the work is worth the look of the cut. Even in the dark I could see that I was producing lovely lines and I can't wait till tomorrow and see how short it really is. So much so I'll be taking my camera into work just so that I can take some pictures on the way in!

All I need to do now is either make a grass bucket or get one from somewhere and I'll be in lawn-mowing heaven. If I give it a few more days so that the dead grass blows away or is absorbed into the earth and then cut it again and next time collect the cuttings somehow. I'm such a saddo obsessive!