Saturday, October 30, 2010

Knock About in the Tennis Courts

We had a knock about as usual while the weather lasts over at the Tennis courts at the Rec. We took a couple of cans of spray paint and marked out the crease lines as well.

A couple of Ben's mates joined us it and it seems that Cricket at Billericay school is most definitely on the agenda as these 2 kids are playing it at lunch time in their sports hall. Apparently its very informal with a teacher sitting on the sidelines eating his lunch who just looks up every now and then and shouts 'Change' so that the bowlers and batsmen rotate ocassionally. One of the Kids, Kieran, who's dead sporty seems to be really benefitting from it as he's gone from being a poor bowler a few weeks ago to a half decent bowler on the basis of todays knock about. The other kid Ozan has got some catching up to do as he spends 95% of his life on You Tube or Xbox PS3 type games. We play a couple of different formats dependent on who's around, because it's a double tennis court area with a big fence round it, it's like indoor cricket to some degree, the important thing being even if there's just 3 of us, the fence means the balls never a few seconds away from being retrieved and ready to bowl again.

I'm hoping that we can get 5 of us over there on a regular basis as that means that we have two blokes batting and we work on forming good partnerships installing the need for good communication, backing up with both the fielding and the batting. We have a couple of cones that we place either side of the bowlerand fours and sixes can only be scored inside the cones (through the coloured area in the image). If the ball is struck along the ground between these cones that gains the bat 2 runs without having to run and a ball struck through the air hitting the fence gains 4 runs. Sixes can only be scored through the same region and they have to go over the fence, which in a cricket maych would be equivalent of striking the ball over the bowler and mid on and mid off. This set of rules encourages them and me to play straight back down the wicket. The ball hit elsewhere over the fence is out so again this encourage playing the ball late so that it stays low.

I'm also now (see below) adding a competitive element to the procedure in that I'm logging the scores and some of the stats as this hopefully will encourage a different dynamic to the game - Pressure. Last week Ben and Kieran who are good mates and extremely competitive posted a batting partnership of 28 and twice now two different partnerships have got within a whisker of equalling their 28. The partnership that is most likely to achieve this is Joe and I and again we came within 2 runs of equalling their 28. Joe was on strike today when we were 2 away from equalling and Kieran was bowling. He offered up a slower ball just outside off and Joe's bat was through it too early looking to hit the ball through cover and it just went straight up in the air and Kieran was able to take a catch for a bowled and caught.

Last week when they set the 28, there was a similar situation where Kieran's Mum who's sporty and extremely competitive was batting with me and the two boys looked as though they were going to be usurped by their parents one of whom was Keiran's Mum "We'll never hear the last of this if she beats us" said Kieran. In that situation with it looking very likely that we were going to set a new high score again Kieran bowled a similar ball and his Mum played it too early and Ben who I think was behind the stumps ran 40-50' towards Mid wicket to take a pressure catch to keep their total.

The good thing about the partnership aspect is that the individuals runs get forgotten and they play as a team, so I'm more than up for working with them with this format, just need a few more fielders.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blog Update

I'm still working on the update of the Leg Break blog, it's taking a lot longer than I expected and it's turning into a book rather than a blog. I'm also on the verge of being able to get my hands on a high speed camera which I'll be able to use to record my release and slow it down and see what it is that I'm actually doing. For the last 6-8 months I've been getting to grips with the The Big Flick release and it's coming together, but I have days when it works really well and other days when it just doesn't come out of the hand right. I also still have slight issues with getting it going over the full 22 yards - shorter 20 yards it goes well, but that extra 2 yards seems to screw it up a bit. On these kind of days (I had one today) I revert back to my conventional approach which I suspect is more of a 'Roll' than a 'Flick', but it still turns as much as the Big Flick technique, so the sooner I get my hands on the camera the better.

So, today I had a bowl and it went well, still sticking with the new 'Non skip' technique and walking in off of about 3-4 steps. Went really well with the exception of the absence of the big flick. I'm still slightly concerned about my initial foot position as I transfer the weight onto the pivot foot, I reckon observers would say that it's too straight as I point it straight down the wicket at the stumps. But that aside I'm very happy with what I'm doing at the moment and there's no sign of any Planta Fasciitis which is good.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Practice with Suhail

Back in the early days of this blog one of the many people I met up with on this cricket journey was a bloke called Suhail, who hailed from Pakistan and now lives and works here as a surgeon. I bumped into him again for the 1st time in 3 years or more last week and loosely arranged to have a knock about today over at the tennis courts at the Rec.
So this afternoon I sent him a text saying that I was going over there for a bowl and he joined me a bit later on and we had a bit of a knock about.
Bowling a good length is one of the issues that I had last year, but here I had the chance to bowl against a bloke who's got lots to say and it all sounds very knowledgeable and he was saying that my bowling since last seeing him has massively improved. I bowled with him last week and he was saying that in his opinion the only thing he could see that I was doing wrong last week was that the length was wrong (I was bowling on to a mat). He said that I needed to bowl to a batsman and bowl the right length in accordance to the whether the batsman played off of the backfoot or front foot. So today he turned up with his bat and I got to bowl at him.
Again he was pretty impressed saying that the length that I was bowling was causing him to play off the front foot and block most of the time and that my length was spot on. Anything slightly legside he was hitting with a sweep shot which at the same time he seemed to be covering himself in the event that it got past the bat by padding it away. I got a few past him for stumpings - wrong un as he bounded down the wicket and he hit a few to positions where he'd have been caught, so all in all it was a good knock about. Got to bat as well which is something I need practice at and he bowls off-spin so if I can keep practicing with him which seems to be his intention I may survive the offies next year?
He was saying that he intends to play a lot more cricket next summer so there may be a chance we can get over the Rec quite a bit?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Field settings

This is one suggestion being discussed on bigcricket at the minute and it's similar to the one below set by 'The Wizard' in my last game at Thurrock. This one is being suggested as a defensive approach and requires that you bowl around the stumps turning the ball away from the edge of the bat. The key being that you're able to put the ball on a good length with accuracy with your line as well.

Wizards Field setting: This one below set by Alex McLellan AKA 'The Wizard' another Legspinner who primarily attacks bowling outside the Leg stump turning the ball into the stumps with big turning leg breaks. We bowled in tandem and his own field was different to mine and he wasn't taking any wickets. When he set the field I thought that it was very creative and initially couldn't see what his strategy was, but I think as the captain that day with 2 blokes that were pretty settled, he'd observed that they were strong off their legs with a definite aversion to playing through the off-side. He instructed me to do my usual stuff which was to bowl Leg Breaks tight in to the stumps over the wicket down the middle at the off-stump, turning the ball away from the edge. In five overs 5 balls went to hand at the positions marked A to E and were all put down. An additional ball dropped short of (A) and another just short of the bloke out at deep square leg.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NZ V Bangladesh

I like seeing the underdogs win a game and I try and keep an eye teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as they're full of spinners albeit finger spinners, and this series saw Bangladesh win

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Plantar Fascitis and winter practice

This time last year I'd ended the season with pretty severe Plantar Fasciitis and didn't rest it that well. From the end of Sept the bowling tailed off and we moved into the tennis courts and practiced there once a week batting a couple of overs each and bowling four overs each just mucking about, but at the same time Joe and Ben were learning in that slow drip, drip technique through the mistakes and it worked for us. I didn't do any warm ups and the main issue for me was the Plantar Fasciitis (PF). Over the winter it didn't seem to diminish or get worse particularly and by the time the season started there was no difference and I entered the season suffering with PF. Fortunately by the end of the season looking at different approaches to treating it I eventually stumbled across Aussie bloke on youtube or who made some suggestions with regards to massage.

Up till this point the main approach I was taking was stretching before and after any activity, but looking back now it may be that I was over-doing the stretching. The break through came with the suggestion that I massage the feet around the areas where the tearing occurs and the actual muscles that stretch and create the tears. So I started a process of massaging these areas and the muscle. The sensation that I seemed to get from it was that it loosened up the muscle and prepared it for that first stretch when you put the foot on the ground for the 1st time in the morning and it worked. The muscle seemingly having been manipulated and pre-prepared suffered no-where near as much pain and over a period of only a few days, I went from the basic massage to very gentle stretching in both directions forward and backward using the toes and the ball of the foot causing very slight resistance to the plantar. Within 5 days the improvement was 95% and I was getting out of bed and able to walk around immediately with minimal pain.

In addition if I know I'm going to be more active I now do very gentle stretches in comparison to what I was doing previously and if there is any pain due to activity as there was in the first 5 days of the new regime I put the foot in ice water for 15 - 20 minutes which in itself is pretty painful, but the outcome is in comparison to the situation in July 95% better and wholly manageable.

I'm hoping that the new bowling technique without the 'Tich Freeman skip' will mean that I'm using my leg muscles in a different way and this on it's own will alleviate the problem to some extent. I wont really know till nets in the new year.

Winter practice.

There's been some discussion on the Bigcricket forum with regards to whether you should practice over the winter, with some people saying most definitely you shouldn't and that in my case I run the risk of putting Ben and Joe off of cricket by carrying on through the winter. We did have a break of a month or so when we didn't do anything as far as I recall and the practice that we do take part in is more about general exercise than being heavily cricket specific and attempting to teach new skills or outwardly looking to improve on something.

What we do is spend about an hour in a disused double tennis court, so the space is fenced off and the ball never goes any further than the fence. The three of us face 4 overs each of batting, which means we bowl 8 overs each. We use windballs and Kwik cricket bats and a 20 yard wicket. We place cones in positions - Mid off and on and have a rule whereby if you drive the ball back past the bowler inside the cones you get 2 runs, if the ball hits the fence in the air through the same zone you get 4 runs and over the fence 6 runs. Anywhere else over the fence and you're out. We have running between the stumps and backing up is important as there's only 2 fielders. All in all the skills that have to be used are very cricket specific and the objective is to make as many runs off your 2 overs. Minus 3 runs if you're out. It works for us and I don't moan at them for any bad practice, any bad practice simply equates to loss of your wicket or being spanked all over the court if your bowling is ropey and it seems to me that they benefit from it quite a bit. It keeps their bowling ticking over and they look to try different things independently without my input. The amount of time that is involved sees that they don't get bored or knackered and it works out just right.

The weekend just gone we all faced 5 overs each and that didn't work out so well as we'd decided that we'd bat the five overs consecutively and boredom had started to creep in after they'd both batted and Ben had more or less set an unasailable total with his five overs. Normally we'd do 2 overs and rotate and that seems to work better so we'll go back to that next week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Paddock Update

Not posted much late, works been a bit of a nightmare so far this year and I'm knackered all the time.

Paddock News
On Saturday the growth was looking very healthy and dense
and realising that the this was more than likely the last period of fine weather I set myself the task of cutting the wicket one more time before leaving it for winter, so that was done today and it's come up quite nice as below.

After an initially disappointing end to September what with buying the cheapest grass seed I could get and it being fairly dry, the amount of new growth on the really well worn parts of the wicket was poor. Good news was that although there seemed to be some football played on it and a kid gouged out great big divots with a wedge and general damage caused by non-cricket activity it has been pretty limited so far..

In the last 2 weeks we’ve had far more rain and last week it’s rained almost every day, so early in the week I put down the last of the cheap seed and decided that I’d have to get more seed to see if I can get some stronger looking and more dense growth with a new batch of seed. So last Sunday I got another box of seed with a mix of nutrients in it designed specifically for repairs in high use areas. This was made up of Rye Grass and Red fescues, what that means in terms of longevity next year I’m not sure, but I think the Red Fescues grow and propagate themselves through rhizones, which basically means the root system spreads and the grass expands it’s growth from roots as well as seed eventually. What I did need was for it to rain overnight as I’d put down more topsoil and fortunately it did rain all night so this new seed did get off to a good start as it’s still quite warm. The rain also meant that the Paddock saw limited use over the next few days.

A week later and with the rain, the new seed and some of the dormant older seed it seems has burst into life, helped with the last few days being dry and sunny. The really worn out area at the wicket end That looked like this only a few weeks ago has now recovered substantially and now looks like this -
The bowling end which sees more action as we tend to use it for bowling mostly and only get to bat at the end above for a couple of months in late spring early summer, gets a lot of damage and has never ever been good, so that ended up like this -

But I rolled it and raked it this year and just about the time the shot above was taken I did a lot of work removing big lumps and a lot of uneveness, and this too is coming up quite nice as below.

Practice: Ben, Joe and I went over to the Tennis courts yesterday and had a knock about we rotate the bowling, batting and wicket keeping meaning that we all do 4 over’s of each discipline not that wicket keeping is a key part of it as it’s a specialty. Ben and Joe had done any full distance bowling for month or so and Ben was surprised that he bowled 2 or 3 massive wides to start off with and commented about the fact that he’d lost the ability to get the ball on an off-stump line so quickly with no practice. By the 4th ball he was back on track. It was a good session, with there being very little wind and warm enough for Ben to take his shirt off. Ben came away having really enjoyed it, but Joe wasn’t so impressed what with having been unable to produce his leg breaks. His Wrong Un was okay though.