Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grays & Chadwell v Eastside

Grays & Chadwell v Eastside
As predicted it looked like a lovely summers day was going to be had for the game against Eastside. Michelle and the kids went to Chalkwell by train as Ben and Joe didn't have a match today and I was left alone to take it easy. I got there early at about 12.30 and there were a few people milling around in the club. I got a few balls out as Ross Fullbrook, the legendary Callum Sellars and Priyan Prankhania were all messing around bowling and this looked like an opportunity to have a bit of a warm up, so I threw a few balls and got them to turn quite and some of them that came out of the rough really turned which looked fairly promising. But within just a few balls the old Medial Epicondylitis started to play up and I thought I'd better stop. I was quite worried because I'd only bowled a 5 balls or so and the twinge did seem to feel substantial, but I also realised I hadn't stretched as I should before I bowled. Keeping my fingers crossed I was hoping that by the time I got to bowl it would feel better?

Then the opposition turned up in dribs and drabs and they looked like proper cricket players e.g. all youngish - in their 20's and pretty mean and lean. All of them without exception were of Asian extraction which to me - and I know that I am the king of generalisations means they were born with cricket in their blood and probably had cricket bats and balls in their cots when they were first born rather than teddy bears! It looked like it was going to be a tough game. Neil agreed saying this looked as though it was going to be one of those games where they score 300 odd and we're all bowled out for less than 100 or worse. The teams name was Eastside and they were from the Ilford area just outside London.

Neil made his way out onto the wicket with their captain and came back having won the toss deciding to field which he said the bloke was surprised at. Looking at our team as they'd turned up there didn't seem to be that many obvious batsmen with the exception of Mason and again many of the players were people that I've only ever played alongside once or twice before last year. The line up was as follows -

Wayne Simmons (WKT keeper)
Priyan Prankhania *
Mason Wren
Phil Downes
Roy Gant
Tom Hills*
Danny Groves
Neil Samwell (capt)
Connor Scott (Chirpy)
Ross Fulbrook
Dave Thompson

Those indicated * are blokes I've not played alongside before.

So with a Westerly wind coming diagonally across the wicket from the houses towards the pavillion (Same as 2 weeks ago) under billowy white puffy clouds and 23 degrees centigrade we made our way out onto the wicket. Worryingly the arm was still feeling sore and I was worried about energetic fielding and having to throw the ball in from the outfield. Wayne took his place behind the stumps and the bowling opened with Mason who I've only ever seen bowling in the nets on rare ocassions and he was fast there and sure enough he was very fast here! Mason bowled into the wind very promisingly and the next over was down to Tom Hills who looked almost as fast and equally threatening. The 2 bats looked as though the fast bowling was keeping them on their toes and there was plenty of oohhs and aaahh's as the ball whizzed through at high speed only just missing the bails and stumps. Wayne was doing a good job stopping the ball and generally the fielding in view of our gloomy assessment of what the outcome was likely to be was very energetic and efficient and we kept it nice and tight and gave away very little in the way of missed chances and mis-fields. A few understandable mis-fields happened due to the lumpy nature of the pitch - Phil had a dodgy one, but generally we were all backing each other up and keeping the run rate under 5 runs an over for Mason and Tom's spells.

The breakthough came with the first wicket being taken by Tom in the 6th over. Mason in the meantime despite his lack of wickets was bowling exceptionally well giving away virtually nothing and getting himself a maiden in his opening over. Mason's reward came in the 9th over - just clipping the top of the bails. Mason finished up with an impressive 1 for 31 off of 8 overs and Tom got the same score 1 for 31 off of 6 overs. During their bowling I was fielding at Mid Wicket and got my fingers on ball with a dive that went on to Deep Mid wicket but was stopped from going for four and another ball was hit and dropped in front of me low and I almost got it and they were both off Mason's bowling. The 2nd one if I was a few years younger and slightly more agile or maybe not carrying an injury I may have caught it? No-one at this point seemed overly bothered because generally we were fielding in a fairly tight and impressive manner much to Neils obvious vocal delight. One other highlight was a ball off Mason's bowling while I was at Mid Wicket the bloke hit it and it hit the deck before it got to me low and I used my legs to stop it going through and it hit me on the knee. Everyone kind of cringed and went 'Oooh'! And a few said s**t that must have hurt and Roy called across "Don't show the pain". But it hadn't hurt at all!

Then it was Priyan's turn to bowl his fast stuff. Being somewhat younger (probably about 14 or 15)? He was an awful lot slower than the likes of Mason and Tom and I got the sense he was being chucked in at the deep end as we all are when we start out. Neil encouraged and cajolled him and generally he seemed to be doing okay, but these blokes were pretty adept. Later on Roy showed me their scorebook and several of their games they'd scored run totals in excess of 300's and 400's and in some cases this was in less than 30 overs! Priyan bowled 4 overs and went for 41. He bowled in tandem with Neil and Neil kept it nice and tight and went for 11 across the same 4 overs and then he was joined by last years champion Leg Spinner Ross Fulbrook who was bowling with the wind behind him assisting his turn if he was bowling Leg Breaks. But already someone had said before we'd even started to play that Ross was going through that lean period that young Leg Spinners go through when they have growth spurts. Apparently when you're a youth your bowling is massively affected by sudden increases in your physical height and possibly strength. So it seems that over the winter Ross has grown and got stronger and is now having a bit of a lean period, so it was fingers crossed for Ross and we'd see how he was coming along with coping with this situation.

By now we were well into the game and only 2 wickets had been taken, the drinks had come and gone and the game was sliding away from us. As usual Neil was being accused of trying to profit from cheap wickets but as yet only 2 blokes had been dismissed. With Ross bowling and the fact that I new Chirpy (Connor Scott) was up next I thought that perhaps I was not going to get a chance this week and resolved myself to the fact that maybe this was in fact a good thing because of the earlier twinge in the arm. Ross and Neil combined to control the run total once again and kept it around the 4 - 5 balls an over again and it looked as though we might finish the game up having conceded perhaps 200 runs which in view of the fact that we were expecting a routing seemed pretty acceptable. What had been noticed though was that one of the players looked like he played for Cambridge Universities cricket team (He had a shirt) and there was talk that either him or one of the others was capable of bowling at 90 mph so we were crapping ourselves and in between batsmen there was some 'I'm not opening - you can open' kind of conversations going on anticipating a bowling onslaught when it came to our turn to bat. I didn't have to worry as I'd be well down the order and would miss all that thank God!
The next wicket was Ross's caught by Wayne at the stumps. Chirpy then started his spell and he did pretty well too, keeping the run total to a managable rate after a bad first over. In his 3rd over he took another wicket and it looked as though we were going to end up doing a lot better than we imagined.

Then Neil indicated that I was up next bowling from the pavillion end into the wind. So was the last week a fluke or could I take a wicket or two this week. These blokes looked as though they new what they were about even more so than last weeks lot, so this was really going to be a test of my abilities especially with the knackered arm. The chance came and again just like last week Mason said to Neil 'Neil do you want me to go and stand over behind the pavillion'? Whether Neil thought that was reasonable or not I don't know but he put Mason on the boundary at Deep Mid wicket. So Mason obviously thought that last week was a fluke. The thing is apart from the fact that I've gone from being a Wrist Spinner with a good Wrong Un and no Leg Break to a Wrist Spinner with a Leg Break and 3 or 4 other variations, the main thing is the fact that I'm just so much more confident in that I can do what I'm supposed to do and no longer phased by the situation.

Once I'd got the shout to bowl and the Chirpy's victim left the field and we were waiting for the next bat, Wayne approached me saying that I needed to give him some kind of signal for when I'd be bowling my Wrong Un. So a simple signal was agreed. But at the minute I can't bowl my wrong un cos of the arm, but the Top-spinners have a tendency to go wrong so I decided that I'd signal these as he'd then know at least they weren't going to break to his right on bouncing.

Neil put the fielding in place and off I went with a pretty poor over the same as the previous week 2 x 4's a dot a single and a 2, but I felt quite happy with that even though I'd conceded 11 runs. The first ball had been a full toss and the 2nd 4 was pitched okay but the bat had just hit it well and Neil had said 'Don't worry Dave - he hit that well, you're ball was okay'.

2nd Over; This started well with the wicket of Usman caught by Swiss Tony (Danny Groves) out at Cover, one which he had to make up a fair bit of ground to get to it - having been a high ball off the top edge of the bat from a Leg Break. The rest of the over went dot ball, single and three dots all off of Leg Breaks going down the Off-stump line trying to draw the bats out of their ground.

3rd Over; another Good un with Dot ball, single, dot, single, dot and finishing with a 4. I think in this over one of the singles was another top edge that flew off the bat looping up towards Square Leg and Chirpy was right underneath it almost and only had to move slightly to catch what everyone else was saying was a dolly. I looked at the amount of time he had and the fact that he was in place a long while before it came to his hands, but when it did he dropped it which was a bit gutting. He apologised and I wasn't that fussed I'd had one wicket and these batsmen were now looking a bit flustered. One of them 'Taj' during the 3rd over had said to other bat 'This is s**t bowling - it's so slow' having hit the last ball for a 4, but also acknowledging the fact that one of the earlier balls to him had gone the other way and he'd looked as if to say 'Whoa - that went the wrong way'.

4th Over; I was now facing the 'Taj' bloke again who'd just made the dispariging comment about my bowling, I looked him in the eyes and could see he was looking at me as if to say come on let's have it you s**t bowler I'm on 28 and I've just hit your for 4. I went back to the Leg Break and the first ball broke and he swung it only to miss it and for it to land in Waynes gloves. The 2nd ball was tossed up slower and sure enough he went at it and smashed it right over my head miles into the sky towards Mason sitting right out on the boundary at long off. Mason stepped forward one or two paces with the sun up on his left hand side not causing him any problems and caught it safely. My s**t bowling had taken wicket No.2. Taj was replaced by Rizwan who copped another Leg Break and blocked it with the ball stopping at his feet - another dot ball. The second was another slower loopy leg break down the middle that he didn't move for and seemingly hit it unconvincingly off the bat up near the grip and so knocked it straight out to 'Swiss' again at cover who caught it with ease. The next few balls went for a 4 and a 2.

5th Over; First ball went for a 4 down the Legside and the next was another wicket caught by Phil nicely out at Gully easily taken. That was followed up by two more dot balls a four and my final ball which was another dot ball which really should have been my fivefor. The bat swung at it, it nicked the top edge only just - Wayne took it and it bobbled out of his hands and was dropped. I wasn't that fussed I'd already got 4 and had one dolly dropped by Chirpy so another wasn't going to be that much of a big deal and besides Mason and many people before me have never made a fuss about any screw ups I've ever made. But Wayne was gutted and was beside himself with distress at screwing up my fivefor on the last ball of my spell. Needless to say Neil and several of the others were rubbing salt into his wounds and as we walked off the pitch Wayne could help but apologise profuously all the way back to the boundary.

It was later suggested in jest that my main rival in the stats game - The Wizard who I ended up almost on par with at the end of last season and therefore is the benchmark with whom I'm trying to beat, had rung Wayne and said something like If Dave looks like he's putting in another good performance make sure you drop a couple of his and that was the one!

Their final score was 213 for 9 wickets. Which was okay considering our first estimation of their potential. Generally we'd done alright, the fielding was pretty good and I think Neil was pretty happy with the performance that we'd put it. We all made our way to the hall and had our teas.

Later on Neil whilst working out the scoring said 'Dave your results today put you in the top 7 bowlers for the club at the moment'. Which is nice as I think I ended up last year with the worst bowling figures, but I'm not going to take too much notice of that as yet as there's still quite a bit of cricket in between now and September and I would suspect that I'm not going to be able to sustain this current run for the rest of the season? I'll just take things one at a time and try and learn as much as possible as I go along. I did have in mind though when I was bowling my Owzatt ask approach and I reckon I'd have done it in this match had the LBW occured. Other than that I reckon I did alright again - nice and straight with a bit of turn and a little variation. The fact that when they're getting a bit cocky I can turn the ball the other way and they then seem to be slightly concerned. I'm liking the fact that the slowness seems to be their un-doing and despite the claims that it's s**t bowling for the 2nd week running the figures don't really suggest that this is the case? Interestingly over at the other match the kid that bowled with us last summer against the Tilbury Mod Life Crisis team and took the key batsman and most of the others is producing some phenomenal spin form. In his last 3 matches he's had three fivefors - 5 for 10; 5 for 7; and today 5 for 21, this combined with Lovejoys 3 for 0 and 2 wickets by the Wizard and some others the oppo in that match were bowled out for 28 or something. One of the fivefors was a league match and this kid Callum Sellars is only 14! But what he does is put the ball on the same spot again and again with varying degrees of flight and spin. So that's something to aspire to and aim for and I reckon I'm getting there.

But having said that later in the clubhouse I'd pointed out to Neil or Monkey that this was my second week getting four wickets and yet this is with a bad arm where I'm still unable to bowl my Wrong Un or really give the ball a big flick. Neil came back with the 'Dave it just goes to show what happens when you don't practice too much - maybe you practice too much and the other thing is what with your batting today it just goes to show that you're not s**t anymore!

Reflecting on this again the next day I’m beginning to get some idea of why I’m getting these wickets. Reading Ashley Malletts book Clarrie Grimmett, the Bradman of Spin the last chapter looks at Grimmetts strategies and notes some of the things that Grimmett said about his own bowling. Grimmett was primarily a Leg Break bowler with a good range of variations. He himself explains the main balls that he took all of his wickets with was a small turning Leg Break and the Top Spinner. He tells a story of seeing a batsman walking off showing the incoming bat how much his leg break was turning using his hands to show the width. The batsman walked in expecting the first ball to be a leg break that was going to turn big and instead Grimmett threw up a Top Spinner that went straight on.

Grimmetts Wrong Un by his own admittance didn’t turn a great deal and his Flipper (Which he invented) wasn’t brought into action till the end of his bowling career. The variations were used very sparingly, but the Leg Break was used deftly using exceptional accuracy and variations in speed and flight. It’s these basic aspects that have caused the turn around in my own bowling. I recognize that my own Leg Break I can bowl with reasonable accuracy at the Off Stump.

I'm now getting the sense that within a few balls or possibly as a bat comes out to the crease to meet his mate they're recognising that I am a Leg Spinner, which as far as I'm concerned straight away puts me into the ascendancy. If I now chuck one up on the Off-stump attacking it they're faced with the situation that it might go straight or turn away from the bat and therefore have to deal with it.

I’ve now recognized that there seems to be 2 approaches depending on how suicidal or confident the batsmen are. The confident types recognize the fact that I’m slow and then try and attack me learning as they go that the ball breaks and spins away from the bat. Initially in that situation my current mode of play is that I’ll continue with the Leg Break and capitalize on the fact that many club players assume that I only have a Leg Break. It's this situation that I've got to learn more on as it seems important that while I'm spinning my web of deceit convincing them that it is going to go away from the bat each time with varying degrees of spin or bounce, I still need to attack the Off stump but not go for many runs? Whilst at the same time realising that this is only 40 overs cricket and that ideally I'd get a wicket at least every other over.

This approach will always need adjusting on the basis of how the bat responds. For me there’s two ideal scenarios here, one is that his confidence then grows and he starts to come down the wicket which hypothetically is an ideal situation and one that I’ve not faced yet and is a much favoured one in the nets. At which point I have to say that I agree with Grimmetts assessment of bowling against batsmen in the nets. Grimmett wouldn’t do it, saying that the scenario created in the nets just wasn’t realistic, no batsman on the field would ever approach his batting in the same manner as he does in the nets and therefore from a bowlers point of view practicing in nets against batsmen is not only demoralizing because it gives the bats the upper hand but it’s virtually pointless. Far better practice can be had anywhere just as long as you can bowl the correct distance with the intention of landing a spinning ball on a small target. Assuming that I am faced with a suicidal/confident batsman charging down the wicket to the pitch of the ball, I might let this happen twice or more but then just do something different – a Top-Spinner perhaps that drops even shorter and shoots on creating a mis-hit opportunity that would be readily fielded or something so much faster that would just go past him – Flipper or a Wrong Un?

The other type would be the cautious nervous player standing his ground not being tempted out of his crease. With these I'd keep attacking the Off-stump and simply vary the length, speed and keep turning it. There seems to be an inevitability of the fact that at some point he’ll edge it or mishit it out to cover? With trickier batsmen maybe introduce the variations if they’re insistent on playing with this approach? Much of this is theory because as of yet I’m yet to encounter a batsman that’ll take me to task. But a massive advantage in our team is the fact that we seem to bowl spinners in tandem with each other and the differing styles and approaches seem to complement each other and facilitate a quick ending to the batsmans attempts at ascendancy.
I’m no expert at this and I’m on a steep learning curve and all this may be a fluke, but it does look very promising and it does seem to hinge massively around the fact that my line and length is controllable.

With the line and length issue I’ve also considered mixing up seam balls with spin as I can bowl a much faster seam ball and have had some success in practice using Off-cutters. This may be useful as a one off ball that goes through so much faster amongst so many slow balls? Similarly mixing wrist spin with Finger spin may have some merit, I seem to be able to bowl using the Iverson Gleeson technique and get the ball to break like a Leg Break or a Top Spinner which may also be useful? But for the minute with 4 for 28 off 7 overs and 4 for 32 off 5 overs I’ll be sticking with wrist spin. But it does seem that I am learning and beginning to see different ways of scheming a batsmans downfall. I noticed this week and last week that any balls that I put down the middle or on the Leg Stump seem to be greeted with glee and if they're anywhere wide of Leg Stump they are going to be going for 4's and 6's out to Deep Backward Square Leg. But this also seems to be an option for a trap, not that I've tried it. It strikes me that a ball down the middle that goes straight could either produce a LBW as they did last week or one that bounces or rushes on could produce a top edge mistake or come off the gloves?
Another good tactic that I've got to look out for is the sense that something is about to happen when I bowl. I know Neil does it - he oohs and aahs at loads of the balls that I bowl, but I didn't notice whether Wayne was or not. Watching the documentary today that I recorded off the tele (Empire of Cricket BBC2) Shane Warne was remarking on how this helps to build the pressure on the batsman and he was saying even if the ball wasn't really doing anything the rest of the Aussie team where giving the impression that it definitely was.
The Batting
This didn't sound or look hopeful in the slightest. We'd done well in keeping them below 220 what with Neil predicting a score in the 300 region and their scorebook suggesting 300 or even 400 wouldn't be unusual for this team, but the batting line up didn't look that strong. Our main man Lee Downes seen here getting some Man Love from Dave Gaylor had been banned from playing as far as I could make out, something to do with him not turning up for a match, it all sounded a bit political to me and I got the sense that he wasn't welcome at the pitch for his misdemeanour, but Neil or someone had said to come along and support us and in the picture we see Lee being forgiven at least by Super Dave.

Our other bats included Mason Wren seen here getting his gloves on and Swiss Danny Groves seen flaked out here at Teas after a hard session catching balls at cover for me (Cheers Dan). But half way through the match to find Dan looking this knackered didn't bode well.
The batting line up was a listed above, but that hadn’t come about by design it was a case of who was prepared to face the Demon bowler from Cambridge, someone had said earlier that he’d been recorded as bowling as fast as 80mph and he wasn’t the only one that could bowl that fast, so there wasn’t a great deal of blokes stepping forward to do the job. In the end Pryam put his hand up and said he’d open along with Wayne and so by and by as the game progressed and it did become apparent that these blokes weren’t quite as good we had first lead ourselves to believe people were more motivated to step up to the challenge. The first two bowlers as far as I could make out weren’t actually that fast, our openers Mason and Dan looked a lot faster especially Mason. But what they were doing was getting the ball to swing. One bloke was bowling out-swing and the other In-swing and it looked pretty tricky. As I was umpiring for the first 11 or 12 overs I wasn’t able to note the details that readily but if you look at the bowling figures none of our bats made that much of an impression.

The batting line up was a listed above, but that hadn’t come about by design it was a case of who was prepared to face the Demon bowler from Cambridge, someone had said earlier that he’d been recorded as bowling as fast as 80mph and he wasn’t the only one that could bowl that fast, so there wasn’t a great deal of blokes stepping forward to do the job. In the end Pryam put his hand up and said he’d open along with Wayne and so by and by as the game progressed and it did become apparent that these blokes weren’t quite as good we had first lead ourselves to believe people were more motivated to step up to the challenge. The first two bowlers as far as I could make out weren’t actually that fast, our openers Mason and Dan looked a lot faster especially Mason. But what they were doing was getting the ball to swing. One bloke was bowling out-swing and the other In-swing and it looked pretty tricky. As I was umpiring for the first 11 or 12 overs I wasn’t able to note the details that readily but if you look at the bowling figures none of our bats made that much of an impression. Wayne, Prian and Phil all went quite cheaply victims of the swing bowling their bowlers were producing. Roy made his way out there with it in mind that he’d be batting to some serious swing one way or the other. He may have stopped half way between the boundary and stumps to be warned by the batsman just dismissed (Phil)? To look out for the swing only to come back to the scorers within a matter of seconds….
"That’s not right – the only ball that didn’t swing and it’s a bloody Yorker". Maybe the bowler had watched them speak to each other and perhaps had seen the gestures indicating swing and decided at that point to do something completely different as he was expecting it to swing?
Mason made more of an impression hitting a series of 4’s and a six or two. Mason was pulling off some nice shots a late square cut in the 10th over, deft little balls that were purposely being put over the heads of the fielders at slips and gully. By the 14th over we were more or less level pegging still, but with the latter order of the batting line up Mason would need to stay there for a lot longer and he’d need someone like Tom Hills to form a good partnership. The oppo’s bowlers (Usman) looked angry and determined picking the ball up and throwing at the stumps frequently in the event that Mason was out of his ground. Mason responded by hitting a big Six that went right over the tops of our heads at the scoring tables into the nursery play area where we have our teas. With Tom and Mason at the crease in the 14th over we were still in the game but then Tom hit the ball incorrectly and was caught at Cover. With Tom gone Danny made his way out to the crease and we were now in the hands of the Gods. Danny’s approach is unorthodox and gung ho, so he just goes big all the time and aims to get fours and sixes and needless to say this is a high risk strategy.
Super Dave said ‘We’ll do a ball by ball analysis of Danny’s batting’, but then for some reason I lost track of what was going on. As Danny left he checked to see if the opening bowlers had had there 8 over allocations and Super Dave confirmed that they had, so he was more than happy to get out there having left the opening to the 14/15 year Pryan! His first ball he gets off to a start with ball out to mid wicket that’s fielded. We at 16 overs and we’re on 78 as far as I could make out. Then the first of the Slow bowlers comes in (This may have been Taj)? Off his first ball he hits it right over our heads at the scoring tables in the nursery playground behind us. Dan’s next ball is a dot ball followed by a 4 out to Mid Wicket. Then followed by another big one bounce four that was only 4 yards short of the boundary and again out to deep mid wicket. His next ball is a single putting Mason on strike. He gets a nice little glance off the bat down to the opposite position to fine leg behind him that runs off for 4. Danny’s next ball is a big six out to deep mid on. Feeling that he’s on a Roll and facing the spinner Danny then lashes out looking for another big 6 and top edges the ball and it goes straight up in the air. The wicket keeper takes a few steps backwards, has a sip of drink and fag has a look to see if the ball is still in the air prepares himself and catches it. Danny comes away having scored 11 runs off 11 balls. Neil takes his place and I’m given the nod to get padded up as we’re now running out of players.

So the blogging gets discarded as I get my pads on with a really good chance that I may get to bat and put my Bradman practice into action – will it work I wonder? The good news is instead of being anxious about going in I’m quite excited and looking forward to the prospect, so that in itself represents a positive step forward.
More to follow.............

So around about the 30th over it looked as though the game was going to be wrapped up and for the first time this season I was going to get a bat. Neil had suggested that I set myself a run total to achieve of 20, my previously highest score for Grays and Chadwell being 7. So over the winter I’ve been in the nets most weeks and since January I’ve been doing the Don Bradman thing of hitting a ball up against a wall using a stick 1” wide and tennis balls and golf balls and I reckon it’s made a difference I’ve learned things like the later you hit the ball the less likely it is to rise and be caught. Interestingly last night I watched ‘Empire of Cricket’ a documentary series the BBC are showing leading up to The Ashes and on this there was a clip of Bradman with his stick and a golf ball. I’d always assumed that he’d be so good that he’d be hitting the ball continuously off the wall taking the ball each time off the rebound and keeping control of its direction by driving it forwards. But this footage had him throwing the ball up at the wall each time and hitting just the once and collecting the ball by hand and repeating again and again. (Grimmett would have a dog do the collecting for him). So with my Bradman bat practice in place and no real fear of having the ball bowled at me unlike last year when I used to crap myself I took my place at the opposite end to Neil looking to try and build a final partnership with Neil and maybe reach the target of 20.
I walked across the field with my tatty gear that looks as though it's seen some action and one of the blokes said 'Here comes some years of experience' I laughed and I got the sense that Neil had said as Chirpy had walked off and I'd walked on something like 'Oh here we go - Dave'll be out with a duck'....... They all clapped me in smiling at the tail-ender come to the slaughter, ready for a bit of comical fun.
It was the last ball of the bowlers over and Neil looked down with trepidation knowing that on last years form I'd be dismissed 1st ball. The bloke looked like a slow bowler with a short approach to the crease but he whipped the ball in at a pretty hectic rate and I stabbed the bat out and killed the ball dead in it's tracks much to Neil surprise and delight. Neil took the strike and a series of two's and fours seemed to pass by with the 4's coming off me. One of which would have stopped before the boundary had the bloke not fell on it and somehow pushed the ball across the boundary. I don't even remember where they went I just remember Neil shouting instructions and me hesitating and Neil becoming agitated. I remember swinging at some that were wide of the off-stump and Neil coming down the wicket and telling me to step back and cut the ball and mentioning that I was rolling my wrists over to ensure that it went low rather than up in the air? I felt okay about it and was beginning to calm down and think in terms of his advice and I was now thinking could I possibly be on to hit this 20? The balls that came my way that needed blocking I did so and each time Neil commended me and the fielding team did the customary oohing and aahing. I was just beginning to settle down and think that yeah this 20 might be on and Neil hit a ball out to cover and that was it game over so I ended up 8 not out which as far as I'm aware represents my Grays & Chadwell record.
So being at home having had two maiden overs last week and setting a new personal best with my batting this week they cajolled me into having one of the customary yards of muck. I had sickly muck rather than the usual ale, but luckily because I live miles and miles away and drive to cricket they saw fit not to try and pressure me into the ale version. So what happens is they go around the clubhouse and get everyone to contribute a quid to the contents of the yard of muck and the poor sod has to drink it. If you're a local and you can walk/stagger home, it's made up of a variety of alcoholic beverages and the idea is you get it down your neck as fast as possible and at some point it glugs forward and you get it all over yourself and everyone laughs at you. But I think it also serves as a way for the club to make a bit of cash and it probably bonds the club together? I was very fortunate in that they put loads of sickly sweet stuff in mine including fruit pastles and these got stuck in the neck and I was spared the glug back splash affect. One of the women there who could see I wasn't up for any of this commented 'See it pays to be a mediocre player'.