Sunday, June 28, 2009

G&CCC V's Woodford Green

Here's the headline - 2 for 23 off 9 overs including 2 x Maidens. The opposition came at the game in a rather unusual manner erring towards caution at the expense of the game in the end as we bowled the whole team out for 110 with no-one really looking to put runs on the board at any point in the game. Throughout my 9 overs I had one bloke who would not be tempted to throw caution to the wind and have a go hence the low number of runs across the nine overs. Our openers were Reece Downes and Wozza followed up by Bobby Ewing and Chirpy. The Woodford boys seemed to be taking a somewhat measured approach to their batting and seemed to me to be over cauitious especially when the actual ground itself was pretty small and if you could get a ball through the gap or over the fielders head you'd be looking at getting a load of fours and an increased chance of hitting sixes. Straight down the wicket shots though, the boundaries were much longer what with the pitch being a long oval shape.

The fast bowlers got through some wickets and by the time they'd reached 30 they'd lost three as I recall and some of these went to Wozza and one disconsolate batsman left the pitch mumbling something about Wozza being a chucker. Yes he's got a round arm action and he holds the ball through his gather in a peculiar manner but the arm comes over and round nice and straight as far as I could see - just a bit low in a slightly Malinga-ish manner.

Bobby Ewing came on for one over where Reece was having problems with his bowling. The pitch ran off at angle from left to right and as Reece was coming out of his follow through he was running on to the middle of the wicket and the umpire was pulling him up for this, so Wayne decided that he needed to change ends and Bobby was brought in for one over so that the end change could happen. Bobby's a player I may have only played a game with maybe once so I didn't know what to expect, but Wayne who was the captain for today didn't seem too optimistic about his prospects, but then it turned out that he was pretty good taking a wicket in his first over and bowling a good line and length causing the batsman all sort of problems.

Jay had **** good overs. He didn't take any wickets but he varied his pace, length and flight considerably and only conceded **** runs. I watched realising that this team was taking a completely different approach to their cricket than any of the previous games I'd been involved in this year and increasingly it was looking as though it would ultimately lead to their downfall because at the current RPO rate it looked as though they'd be lucky to reach 100. The only rationalisation of the approach would be if when it came to the bowling they'd be phenomenal and look to be clearing all of us out by a much lower figure, so they were either supremely confident about their bowling and fielding or maybe weren't looking to win which was a shame.

Again another massive learning curve. The key points of which were to do with the nature of the wicket and the fact that it was so wet. This it seems which I did notice sucks all the potential for the ball to bounce away and make my bowling half as affective. I also expected too that I'd get more spin and that didn't happen either. The other key thing was the leg side approach. In the first over or two there was a bloke who obviously just didn't like it on his legs and he really struggled with the balls that were leg-side and that led to the first Maiden as 5 of the 6 balls all went legside turning into his body or round the back of his legs none of which made contact with the stumps.

Then I was called up to have a go. Wayne had asked me what end I wanted to bowl from as the pitch angled away quite steeply from one side to another. I decided that I’d bow from the end that slanted downwards towards off thinking that this would assist my Leg-Breaks? The bloke that was facing me was P.Shearman and I think he’d only arrived at the wicket and he had a look about him that suggested he knew what he was up to. Once he realized I was bowling spin he kept a poker face and then the battle commenced. Shearman sat out the whole of my spell which I was imagining would have lasted maybe 5 or 6 over based on what had gone on before me, but was extended to 9 overs because I think that Wayne was enjoying the battle and wanted to see me win it.

Shearman’s approach was that anything down the off-side aimed at the off-stump he just blocked it or just offered a block shot when they were faster and so many of those balls just skimmed the edge of the bats. The occasional wrong uns that you could see he was in appreciation of (Raising his eyebrows and allowing himself a wry smile) he blocked with his body or got the bat on them blocking them so that they fell to his feet. The run rate was still staggeringly minimal. The first over against Shearman produced a Maiden. The next over the other bloke took the stand and he wasn’t so much of a problem and he came after the ball offering a dab off the leg breaks almost creating catching chances at short extra cover but there wasn’t anyone there. Seeing that his approach was similar to Shearman’s I put a ball down the Leg Side and this bloke was all over the shop and couldn’t do anything with it and I could see that he was aware that I was able to turn one in around his legs and suddenly looked very vulnerable. I then tried to put one in there and get it to turn but without my compression tube bandage on my arm I wasn’t able to give it the big flick to get it spinning. The balls were going straight threatening to be given as wides. I tried another of those but more on his Leg Stump and he got onto it hitting it out towards Mid On off the bottom of the bat, the ball looped up and Wozza gave chase having to cover a lot of ground. Being only about 16 Wozza was up to it and made up the ground catching the ball over his shoulder producing a very good catch and my first victim.

Back to Shearman. Having had the legside success with the other bloke I then adopted the same tactic with Shearman. Shearman got the bat on the ball and put it down the Legside behind him getting a boundary 4 off the last ball of the over. Luck or skill? I wasn’t sure but went back to the leg breaks. The next over was pretty much the same story – anything down the off-side he was defending it well or leaving it and the ball was just passing the bat but still nothing not an edge or any sign of him attempting to make runs. The 4th ball I put down the legside again and again he dealt with it getting himself another boundary 4 but I was still unconvinced that he was that sure of his abilities down the leg-side.

In the fourth over I tried again and he hit me again with a ball towards Deep Fine Leg. Roy Gant was fielding out at Long leg and saw the ball heading for the boundary. Up till this point as I mentioned the pitch was nice and wet and loads of the younger lads were covered in green grass stains where they’d been doing sliding stops recovering the balls. Unfortunately Deep Fine Leg was under a big Conker Tree and the grass was very thin and the earth was as dry as a bone and Roy made a massive effort to get to the ball to stop it going for another 4 by sliding in where no man should slide. He slid and stopped and then crumpled and stayed down, chirpy who was nearest went over and Roy sat up holding his knee and we could see that he was shaking his head and obviously in pain. Bit by bit we all walked over to him and it was obvious that he wouldn’t be taking much more of a role as a fielder. He was sat on a chair and the locals got him a cold wet cloth.

With a Roy off the pitch surely this would be the point where they’d look to exploit the fact that we were a man down? No such luck Shearman stuck at the same tactic not going for anything. In previous games balls down the leg-side or on the leg stump have produced chances and catches, but this has been partly reliant on the player looking to get it over the boundary. Whereas Shearman here was just getting his bat on the ball and using the speed off the bowling to get it on it's way - deft little flicks. I tried him at least twice more down the Leg-side just tempting him or checking to see if he would deal with it again and sure enough the same measured response earning him a couple of 2's. At this point happy that I was at least containing him with the balls on the off-stump I went back to that strategy and the run rate dried up. I then realised that if I hadn't put all those balls down the legside I'd have had a brilliant figure for all the overs that I was getting.

And so to our innings, with a target of 110 it looked as though it would be easy. I was wondering what they’d come up with in the way of a bowling attack considering their approach with the bat. My assumption being that they were taking it easy because they were more than aware that they’d clean us up well short of 110. To me with little knowledge of the game it looked as though they straight away went for the conventional approach of using fast bowlers in isolation. I noticed that one of the older blokes in their team was in fact the captain so he would have been at his peak during the 1970’s and would have seen that period when Spin had been cast aside and rarely seen on a cricket pitch. So it was tediously obvious that he would try and rely on fast bowlers. Sure enough as I suspected with the fast bowlers our runs came thick and fast. You don’t have to be physically so strong to get the ball to the boundary with a fast ball because you simply use the speed of the ball to do that part of the job and both our openers set about getting a half decent total going right from the outset. In fact several balls were so fast that their wicket keeper let a few go by that ran off to the boundary for 4. I’m yet to be convinced of fast bowlings merits over spin when it’s half decent.

Jay and Bobby Ewing were our openers and right from the outset despite their obvious and misplaced belief in their fasts got off to a good start helped along by Byes. Around about the 6th over Jay hit a skier and the fielder at Cover looked as though he had it all under control what with the sky cover being cloudy, but the bloke dropped it. Eventually Bobby Ewing fell as the first victim clean bowed and Jay was eventually caught at a position a bit deeper than Mid Off. Ricko replaced Jay and my understanding is that Ricko is a good batsman and Reece replaced Bobby.
Ricko upped the ante even further dealing with the fast bowling deftly all over the ground keeping the run rate ticking over and despite their fast bowling strategy we were soon moving towards a quick win. The fasts still were used through the first 2 wickets and Reece got off to a good start hitting some pull shots and getting the ball across the boundary. Eventually the fast bowlers cleaned out Reece hitting the stumps. Wayne then made his way to the crease for some of his stuff. Wayne was putting the odd ball away for four and frustrating the bowler (Farhaz) with big lunges forward and being hit on the legs with cries of Howzat for an LBW. One bowler had three attempts at that and each time Fozzy and Chris Buckers shook their heads. This bloke was well miffed and not happy. We reach fifty for 3 and Ricko and Wayne are going strong still. Wayne continues with a series of 4's.
Eventually they see sense what with Wayne gradually smashing his way to victory with his series of fours and they bring on a slow bowler (Tom) and not a paricularly good one at that. But within his 1st 2 overs he had Waynes wicket. Wayne was replaced by Wozzer who did okay for a while but inevitably he fell to Tom as well with his slow bowling.

Wozzer took the fight to them and then Wozza was also dismissed by the spinner too caught at Point. At which point Roy Gant came on with Jay as his runner. Roy put away a couple of balls including a 4 and ended up 9 not out with Ricko 38 not out.

Back at the club

As the teams came back in from their games at the clubhouse in Grays I was interested in hearing that Neil hadn’t got any wickets but I think he’d been miserly with the runs made against him. ‘Super’ Callum the 14 year old spin wizard had taken 2 wickets and someone said something about Neil is getting worried about my figures as I’m bowling so well that I’m looking as though I might be giving him a run for his money! But there’s no way that I’ll ever beat him wicket wise as I play about 1/5 of the games he does if not less, but some of those other figures that they produced averages, strike rates and what have you – they’re the figures that might give an indication of how affective I am as a bowler and these for all I know maybe creeping up towards Neils. At the start of the season my main objective was to ensure that I keep in front of ‘The Wizard’ and so far I think I’m on track with that? The next goal would be the other spinners – Wayne, Ross, Jay and Callum, from what I’ve heard with Callum getting a series of 5-fers while I was getting my 4-fers and him dismissing whole team almost single handedly for less than 50 I reckon he’s out of my league along with Neil. But the others I may have a chance with?
Mason was at the club with his arm smashed up and in plaster. The day before he’d fielded an in-coming ball and it had caught him on his forearm and broke one of the skinny bones. The consequence being that he’ll miss the remainder of the seasons league matches which I reckon from what I’ve seen of his playing is a serious loss. Matt was pulling his leg saying that he broke a leg and was playing league cricket again within 5 weeks "And you’ve broken a little chicken bone in your arm and you’re out for the season – what kind of a cricket player are you"? Not only has it affected his cricket but he’s off work and on statutory sick pay as well and was saying - "I reckon I’ll have to get a paper round"!

It’s now Thursday 5.30 pm – I write this stuff up at night on the train going in to work and home from work and it’s taken this long to write it up! I reckon I’ll have to do less of it as its taken hours and is probably too long?
The fast bowling theory
I also asked Buckers and Fozzy about the conundrum I came up with last week with regards why don't they use spinners earlier in the game. Seems that at club level your average spinner isn't accurate enough to contain the batsman and it's therefore seen as a no - go as a strategy.