Strewth it's Oct 30th and I've just had the most amazing practice session and a generally very good cricket day! The day started out well when I took yesterdays obvious batting/bowling idea to Ben and Joe and tried it out on them and sure enough they had a knock about outside the house in 'The Square' for more than an hour with total enthusiasm and it was only stopped when Michelle came back from the shops and we helped to unload the car and put all the shopping away. But the theory worked well - I bowled straight - seam up and they had to hit the ball and generally they did and in doing so they obviously enjoyed it far more than facing spin and not being able to hit the ball. So that's the obvious way forward.
That'll mean that the wicket in the paddock will have to be fairly flat and smooth so that the ball goes on straight so that'll have to be something to keep in mind.
Then this afternoon the boys went off with their Mum to somewhere with some of their mates leaving me with 3 hours on my own to either do decorating or maybe some bowling. Hmmmm - yes I went bowling. I rang a few people to see if they wanted to meet up at Chalkwell nets but they were all busy so instead I went over to Glouscester Park on the artificial wicket. I used the same wicket this time last year as well, what with the grass being too wet this is a good option. So with a bag of 40 + balls and a set of stumps and my video camera off I went.
The plan was to concentrate on my 4 variations with the primary focus being on the 2 main Leg Breaks that I bowl. A big turner and a small turner. Normally I bowl the small version because of it's accuracy, but lately I've become a lot more enamoured by my big turning sub-variation and because I've been using it more frequently the accuracy with it is increasingly better.
Last year on this wicket I noticed that there were two distinct characteristics - No bounce and no spin. So I wasn't surprised that despite the fact that I've improved a great deal since last year my small turning leg break didn't do a great deal at all and I then reverted to my big turning sub-variation. This one turned, nowhere near as much as it does off of other surfaces but enough to make me feel like I was bowling Leg breaks and to be able to call myself a Leg Break bowler.
So the practice went on and I remembered I'd got my camera in my bag and that I could video the procedures. Needless to say that when you get the camera out you then start bowling differently trying to show off and sure enough this happened a bit and the bowling went slightly awry. But the footage I was shooting was in sequences of 30 balls and generally the 30 balls were fairly decent especially as I was using my secondary version of the Leg Break and one that I don't have a great deal of control over, but it was working fairly well.
I ended up being on the wicket for the best part of 3 hours and must have bowled in the region of about 50 overs and I just got better and better. About half way through I realised that the balls that were going wrong and were ending up down the Legside were turning in across the face of the stumps and going wide of the Off-stump. So for the first time in almost 2 years I started to bowl down the Leg-side with the intention of turning the ball into the stumps and you know what it worked - again and again and again. It ended up being one of the most productive and enjoyable practice sessions ever. I also put a readers wind ball on the wicket on the length and line I bowl for my leg breaks that go away from the bat and in the end I got fed up of having to reset the ball back in it's position! All this with this new bigger turning Leg Break.
So all in all a staggeringly good practice session. I reckon my biggest issue is not quite understanding the right length to bowl, yesterday I was reading somewhere on a forum that with the tail-enders you should bowl slightly fuller as they're obviously not that good at batting, but it's the better batsmen that I have trouble with and it's understanding where to bowl to them that I want to learn. Again I have to refer to the older blokes that I've seen bowling that don't necessarily turn the ball that much but put it on an troubesome length and cause no end of problems. It's the understanding of this length aspect that I feel is one of the missing aspects of my bowling now. The other thing that probably would have seen me get at least another 5 wickets is asking for LBW's. But I'm working on that already with the kids.
The other thing that I noticed over at Glouscester Park is that the development is underway for the Olympic facilities. I'm not sure what the connection is with the Olympics but it's because of the Olympics that the money has been made available. Anyway - the new stuff that is already in place includes some top notch Netball courts with 20' anti-climb fencing and two courts to each bay. But the two courts together provides excellent practicing facilities for someone like me because not only is it a lovely flat area with fencing all around it but it is floodlit with massive lights! But all the courts have locks on the gates and you can't get in there. Whether there's a charge or not I don't know and I'll have to have a look into how much it is to use the courts or what the access arrangments are. I think they're also multi-use and can be used for tennis as well as that was the arrangement with the old facilities.
While I was bowling the park groundsman was mowing the wickets and I had a chat with him and he was saying that the wicket he was mowing was being given over to Rugby and that the old 3rd wicket was going to be re-instated up the other end of the park near the athletics track. I also asked about the really neglected 2nd wicket near the lake and he said that was being used last year quite a bit and that was staying too. I can't say that I saw either of the wickets get used last summer, so I was surprised that he had such an upbeat account of their use.