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
6.Ross
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.