Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What the hell?

On my way to work this morning I looked up and someone has nicked the bloody fence from the paddock over night on a Bank Holiday Monday. They've nicked the side which protects cover drives and balls bewteen there and backward of point from going in the road or onto the cars. WTF is that about, it had holes all over it as well, so you wouldn't be nicking it to put in your back yard? It doesn't make sense either from the point of view of your usual suspects nicking it either, they usually nick stuff to claim the scrap value, but this was a flimsy wire fence!

The paranoid part of me thinks this is stage 1 of a more malicious process. Will have to wait and see. It's bizarre, because they've done a really neat job of it and taken it away and left all the rest of the fence on all the other sides which in some ways might have been easier to nick and it's of a better qaulity. There's been a group of teenagers who've been in there playing football of late who are not from our estate, but why they'd do anythng is beyond me unless stage 2 is due to happen soon?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Controversy at the U13 semi final

So, today was the semi-final in the U13's league. The contenders for the title are us - (Basildon & Pitsea) our opponents for a place in the final - Rayleigh and the other match was between the favourites Orsett and their oppo's Leigh On Sea. As mentioned earlier this week my son Ben wasn't selected and was the 12th man, so we were up this morning with all the gear ready to support the team and Ben to take anyones place if they didn't show up or got a ball in the teeth during the game.

The weather looked iffy, bright and breezy, what photographers would call cloudy bright and what weather men would describe as having the potential for a heavy shower. Initially because of me we ended up at the wrong pitch, but a phone call to Neil soon sorted that out and we arrived at about 6 overs in and 1 wicket down and the score at about 30, so they were doing okay at this point.

We settled down to watch the game, as usual there was a big turn out of supporters for B&P despite the fact that we were the away team.

I reckon again like the Southend match earlier in the year we outnumbered the home support by three to one easily. The bowling was on the money generally and the fielding supported the bowlers efforts, Anthony Ayres and Ryan stopping a few balls between them that would have gone for at least two and possibly four. The Rayleigh batting looked okay and their scoring was steady with communication between the batsmen ensuring for the most part that risky runs weren’t made. Nothing un-toward happened throughout the game except for one contentious run out shout that everyone went up for – team and supporters and the Square Leg umpire didn’t give it. Some of our supporters were shouting from the boundary at the umpire and had to be reminded by Mike Blerkom that the umpires decision had to be respected, football fans I guess getting a little carried away? I’d shot a picture of the stumping and had a look at it on the camera screen and you can clearly see that the bails have been removed but on closer inspection see below, it's inconclusive, the shutter speed was so fast that it's frozen the ball in flight not leaving any blur-trail to indicate where the ball's come from. Added to that the Nathan isn't near the stumps either so the picture ends up offering no clarification at all.

Ryan Davies bowled well with three wickets off his spell which was 3 or 4 overs, and he didn’t concede that many runs either. Trying to take pictures it’s not that easy to keep track of what’s going on, but I got the sense that no-one else bowled out of their skin particularly, there were one or two mediocre performances, but generally the team bowled quite well as a unit and the job was done pretty well in that the oppo scored 101 off their 20 overs for 7 wickets.

During teas, the trainers and G-man had an inspirational chat with the lads ‘Don’t go made trying to smack the ball everywhere'. That kind of thing. They all sat there looking quite anxious and I don't think any of them went out and got any biscuits or drinks!!!

The game resumed under rain leaden clouds but huge expanses of blue sky either side of us. B&P batted well. Sonny Downes hitting a series of 4's in amongst some singles. Reagan Mead in support struck a couple of balls that they ran 2 on before being bowled by a small fair haired lad in the 2nd over, Reagan playing too early and hitting the ball straight to extra cover for an easy catch, you could see he wasn't happy with the way he was dismissed. Harrison Morris then took up the task of getting us on track for a win and he followed in the same vein as Sonny hitting a couple of boundaries. Sonny was next to fall to a catch made very low on the ground bowled by a bigger fair haired lad in the fifth over, but by this point our run rate in comparison to theirs at the same point in the game was better. Sonny fell with the score at 26 for 2.

Mitchell McLeod wasn't at the crease for long having replaced Sonny, he only faced one or two balls before swinging the bat and being bowled clean by the 1st bowler. By the 8th over we were half way almost, at 48 runs for 3. Around about this stage they brought on their Wrist Spinner, some of us had seen him last year and he was pretty tidy and took 2 or 3 wickets in just a couple of overs. John Bonnet passed me saying 'Watch this kid - he's pretty good', He finished his spell on 3-1-7-0 our lads had survived. Jack Green made his exit after being run out after getting 14 runs. Harrison Morris scored a steady 20 before being caught.

The score at this stage had us still in front and with Harrison Morris and Jack Green gone we were nearing the tail. Anthony Ayres made a quick exit via another run out which had always looked risky and it was his call to go for it, he only gained us another 1 run and all this under an ever darkening sky. The last of the recognised batsmen Harrison Birch and Nathan Hubble (Wicket Keeper) went in with a mission to maintain the lead and keep inching up the run rate difference to put the game safely in our hands. It was looking do-able we were in the leading and ball by ball extending that lead. There were 3 overs to go and Hubble and Birch looked to have it in the bag with just 12 runs needed, my heart was in my mouth 4 an over, yeah it could happen, but the next ball could be a wicket and then we're into the tail-enders and anything could happen, it looked like a bit of a nail biter ending and then it rained. The rain didn't stop either a big black strip of cloud coming in from the west ran west to east right over us. Everyone legged it to the pavillion. The score stood at 89 off of 16 overs.

Crammed under the canopy of the pavillion everyone peered out as the rain looked to be here for quite some time and it wasn't letting up. Even from more than 80 yards we could see that the already wet wicket wasn't looking to good. All around us people wondered what was going to happen with the game, had we won because of the rain? People were saying that their lads couldn't play next week, others were saying that there'd have to be a re-match, but the re-match would then be played with a different team?

Neil and some of the coaches were now getting agitated because a game that we had in the bag was now being potentially called off for a re-match with only 3 overs to go and us in a position where we'd have won all for the sake of another 10 - 15 minutes of play. Others were saying that we'd see what would happen if the rain would stop. Some people were grumbling about the fact that their lads were supposed to be at football, the atmosphere was one of simmering anger. G-Man was thumbing through the rule books looking to see what the ruling on rained off games was.

A crowd gathered peering over his shoulder looking for a solution that would see the correct outcome. The rain in the meantime had faltered slightly and was now only light. In the west a blue sky was moving in as the rain cloud petered out and the rain finally stopped. Both teams made their way out on to the pitch, people were getting annoyed. Clusters of people discussed what was happening, but no-one seemed to know, the feeling seemed to be that now the rain had stopped, we would all wait to see how the wicket would drain, but the wicket had standing water on it and it was already water-logged when the game had started.
Their annoyance was stepped up by the arrival of a bag of sawdust. At the start of the game because the wicket had been wet when B&P were bowling we'd requested sawdust for H&S reasons, but were told that there wasn't any and now with the prospect of their lads bowling on a wet wicket a large bag of sawdust suddenly appeared, it all seemed a bit fishy.

The sawdust was put down and we all waited for another 20 or 30 minutes, it looked as though the oppo was happy to play the last three overs, but then of course they would be, they had sawdust down, the ball wasn't going to bounce, all they really needed to do was bowl straight, but we were caught between a rock and a hard place, if we didn't bat, the other ideas were to have a bowl off which had been suggested by the district league manager or call it off and play again next week. All outcomes worked against us, the game was in the bag as far as we were concerned and all the alternative options levelled the playing field when it was in our favour half an hour earlier. Despite all the heated meetings in the back rooms of the pavillions it looked as though we were going to be stitched up and the best option looked to be to try and bat the three overs and get the 12 runs.

The bats were ready and the Rayleigh boys had taken the field and then the rain resumed again. It was the last straw, some of our officials were saying 'If they're that desperate to win and they want it so much that they'd go through by cheating - let them'. Shortly with nothing resolved and with the rain now completely rendering the pitch unsuable we all drifted home with a decision seemingly being placed back in the hands of the league manager.

One of the daftest rumors was that at a pre-match meeting the issue of a rained off match had been raised, but the Rayleigh contingent simply said 'It wont rain' and despite several attempts to get an answer on the rain issue, they'd simply come back with the same answer..... It wont rain.

later that day we all got a text saying in the end the situation was resolved by the use of the Duckworth Lewis method and that we'd won by 7 runs and justice was finally done. We were through to the final against the mighty Orsett. Meanwhile spies at the Orsett game were texting saying that Orsett had turned over their opposition (leigh on sea)for 23 runs winning by 10 wickets.

The next day was fun day and the lads were given their moment of celebration somewhat belatedly and subdued during the day, but the crowd cheered and celebrated their historic win.

See also Dave Ayres official response to the match

Saturday, August 27, 2011

3rd XI League cricket call up

All week not a sniff of a game and a heap of things needing to be done with the house and car, and I'm thinking on one hand I need to do these jobs, so if I get a call now at this late point e.g. the morning of the game I'm going to say no. On the other hand the weathers fine and I've been at work all week and I've only played in a handful of games this season. 11.00hrs and I get a text from Neil - 'Do I want a game at the Rec with the 3rds - 1pm start'? The car and house will be getting done tomorrow now......

I arrived late 13.05 and the game had started, fortunately we were batting and if the game was to pan out normally I wasn't going to be needed for a good few hours yet. I looked around, there were very few people that I'd played with before, only G-Man. Neil was there, I've known him for some years now as he's involved with the youth cricket and he deals with all the photo's for the club website. There were others I knew by face and others like Frank McLeod who I know because his son is the captain of the U13's. But there were several I knew nothing of.

The context of the game was that the last time Basildon and Pitsea had played this lot - (Southend on Sea) they won the game easily bowling us out for some miserly figure like 40 odd. For us it was an important game as far as I could make out, as we needed x amount of points over the next two games to secure a place in the current league. If we lost the final two games this one included we were relagated I think and the points that were needed in order to secure a place for next year was 6.

Rain interlude

The whole of the game was played under the threat of rain and early in the game (13.30hrs) play was stopped to shelter from a heavy downpour. The rain stopped after about 10 or 15 minutes as the clouds moved through and the sun came out. All week though there's been rain and the already soaked pitch was being scrutinised as to whether it was playable on. There was an agreement as the sun had come out that they'd all look at it again at about 14.15 hrs and see how well it had dried off and see whether play could resume.

Phil (With bat) discusses the pitch conditions with some of the players.

G-Man (Umpire) Inspects the application of sawdust at the Eastern end of the wicket.

Frank McLeod, 'Legs' and Gary Ayres inspect the crease at the Western end.

Sawdust was put down and with bright sunshine and a bit of wind the wicket dried out sufficiently for the game to resume. On the horizon though coming in from the South West were more rain clouds. But each set of rain clouds looked to be interspersed with sections of clear blue sky and over the afternoon, other than a short spell of rain spitting a little, the game was un-affected and we were able to play through to the end with no more interuptions.

Thankfully the batting this time was a lot better and only one wicket fell on the way to setting a total of 221. One of the batsmen - Phil Murdoch scored 109 not out.

R.Davies batting went on to score 46 before being bowled by M.Barnes.

A. Hayton the No.3 scored a 38 not out and the rest of the score was made up of extras of which there were 28. At one point one of their batsmen came off the pitch and spoke to me for a short while moaning about the fact that he felt that the rest of the team were putting in a lack lustre performance. Some of our blokes were saying that Southend were safe with regards being relegated, but well short of coming anywhere in the league and therefore weren't bothered whether they lost or won as it wouldn't affect their overall standing within the league.

Ominous clouds threatened the proceedings all afternoon.

When I turned up, one of the questions I asked was who won the toss and I think the answer was that it was the opposition and they put us in to bat first. Now, this team has no doubt played here before and you would think that having done so or maybe you would even think that perhaps this was common knowledge amongst teams that play at Langdon Hills Rec, but to bat second out of choice is an odd strategic choice.

Our bowling went well from the outset helped by the fact that led by G-Man we were far more vocal in the field when it was our turn. The opposition seemingly after the rain interlude lost all enthusiasm for the game, many standing around with their hands in their pockets and sitting down at every opportunity. In stark contrast we were busy in the field, backing each other up, getting round quick, encouraging the bowling and doing all the things you'd expect in league cricket. There was a fair amount of diving around and sliding to stop balls which was good to see, I always feel that this should be the forte of the younger players, but to be honest I rarely see it, but today there were a few examples. Overall the fielding was good. I did alright, I was put in a number of positions, Gully, Short fine leg, Square Leg and point being directed by Frank McLeod as when it was required.

The bowling overall was pretty impressive with Southend not being able to get going with any conviction. One of the older blokes (Southend) was bowled clean and walked off with the hump moaning about the pitch and the fact that the ball skidded through low to the ground and yet the ball hit the off-stump about 3/4 of the way up and one of our blokes had just scored 109 on the same wicket when it was far wetter. Highlights of the fielding were a nice catch divng forwards by G.Ayres off of Hassans bowling to take L.Nugents wicket for 0. Another event was - the field set by McLeod for S.Ejaz looked to capitalise on the fact that he seemed to only have a leg-side shot which he preferred off his legs and the bowling was pretty much all down the off-side. So the field was split 8-2 on the with an off-side bias trying to encourage him (I think) to use his weaker off-drive or get him to try and play the flick to the leg-side which would have created potential for mistakes. Seeing what McLeod was attempting another one of our blokes seemingly without any prompting (Alastair Hayton) moved into Silly Mid-Off and within two of three shots had a ball smacked straight at him, but unlike Ian Bell and the likes who jump up and try and turn their back on the ball he just stood there like a wall and wore it on the chest. 'I'm just pissed off that I dropped it' was his response!

I was having a good day in the field, I seemed to be reading the batsmen and sussing where it looked as though they were trying to hit the ball and only 1 or two got past me that perhaps I should have stopped. What with this being the 3rd XI and no-one knowing who I am, I didn't expect to be thrown the ball, but towards the end of the game with there being no chance of them matching our score and the overs running out I was thrown the ball to my surprise. So, this week I've not practiced that much other than with Frank, Mark and Jack so I wasn't that sure how it would work out. As usual I was pretty nervous, but having seen G.Ayres opening over and his second one as well, I was fairly optimistic that I might be able to better his and came up to the crease in a fairly confident state of mind. The first ball was a shocker - wide almost Pinno-esque and off the cut strip, but there after I included the use of the bound albeit slightly flat footed and it came together okay. My field set with some help from Frank was along these lines...........

For once I managed to get the line right and generally the length was okay too, although there were several full tosses where I was trying to make best use of the facilities G-Man's description of exploiting the fact that as mentioned earlier the wicket at Langdon Hills runs East to West. Therefore if you bat second there's an inevitability that later in the day the sun is going to be low in the sky behind the bowler, so there's some logic in bringing on the slow-bowler and getting him to toss the ball up high. For the most part my bowling went okay, the balls that were hit were intercepted and stopped by the fielders and later in the spell a couple of balls that were hit legside were almost caught at Deep Square Leg and Mid Wicket. 'Legs' was out at Deep Square Leg but he was carrying an injury and wasn't able to hobble in to take the catch and it dropped short. Frank then swapped him for Neil Da Silva, putting Legs in at Mid Wicket, no sooner had he done that then the batsman hit the ball straight through mid-wicket at a catchable height above his head, but again because of his injury he wasn't able to catch it.

Towards the end of my spell I could sense that the last batsman to come out M.Barnes fancied his chances against my bowling and was looking to score some runs in the last over, so I varied the speed of my bowling a bit and went faster looking to possibly introduce some of the aspects of my bowling that I've been practicing with (Dip). But in the last over one of the faster ones came out and ended up down the leg-side pitching quite full and he attempted to just guide it through fine leg, but the ball alluded him and broke and hit middle and leg - another bowled round the legs bowling over the wickets which was quite satisfying. So I ended up with 6-0-25-1 which I was quite happy with only going for one wide and that was the first ball.

G-Man seemed well pleased for me and congratulated me on my bowling, he's seen enough of it on the bad days to know that was one of my better spells since being at B&PCC. So a good day overall. There had been another grumble from the opposition and that was over the issue of the East west wicket layout, one of the umpires had said that it was out of order and that if it was reported we could be fined or something, but as Frank McLeod said 'I've been playing here for 10 years and no-ones said anything about it before'.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Spin, Drift and Dip

Spin, Drift & Dip (Edit 001)

This is another section of the up-date of my other spin specific blog. I'm going to post it in here as I get it together, so in the short term this is an early edit.


Six years into my apprenticeship as a wrist spinner I’m now beginning to un-ravel the mysteries of spin, drift and dip. Part of the reason this journey has taken almost six years is that there is very little in the way of useful information on these key attributes on the Internet and even when it's covered in books, even the classic spin manuals, it does seem to be over-simplified. Add to this the much bemoaned fact that there are very few spin coaches at grass roots level and it's easy to see why Spin, Drift and Dip are probably an elusive combination that we as wrist spinners struggle to attain as part of our bowling. Whilst, at the same time as - slow bowlers, this magic combination is virtually essential if we're to rise beyond being seen as a risky, expensive and for the most part ineffectual as a strategic option within a game of cricket.

It may well be the case that some club spinners produce all three with a degree of ease which they don’t appreciate and therefore never go questioning – it just happens for them. Others (and I've seen very fine examples) might produce two of the attributes - generally Top Spin with Dip and do so exceptionally well, but for the most part if you ask them how and why, it’s likely that they won’t know or simply cannot articulate how and why? This goes some way to explain why wrist spin coaching is so poor in this country.

The books and Internet websites that are out there that explain Spin, Drift and Dip tend to follow the same pattern in that they simply tell you what spin, drift and dip are and if it extends much beyond that, the advice is to simply spin it hard with the inference that if you are able to spin the ball hard, the drift and spin will magically happen. There is indeed some validity in this over-simplified instruction, because if you do spin it hard and your bowling action is technically good you will potentially get all three.

I think it is even the case that in Philpotts, and Grimmetts books, there is an unsatisfactory explanation of how these are achieved and this where I step in. Again I have to highlight the caveat that this is empirical in its nature, these are my findings based on my own bowling and the observations made of a handful of other spinners and this may not work or make sense to everyone. But if you're a learner, there may be one or two small passages of text here which may lead you on your own road to discovery.

The dichotomy of fast slow bowling

So, there you are, you've taken the plunge, you've realised that you're of the temperament required to pursue the art of wrist spin bowling and you're on your journey. Then one day you reach the point where despite the fact that you're able to get the ball to turn off the pitch with a degree of turn, you realise that you're being hit for fours easily and you're being 'Given a rest' after only 3 overs of bowling whilst many of the quicks were given 5-7 overs despite not taking any wickets. On reflection, you might come to the conclusion that one of the obvious factors does seem to be that despite the turn off the wicket and perhaps relatively good accuracy, the batsman is able to play you too easily either hitting you on the
half volley or playing you off the back foot. The conclusion might be more speed? Watching international and first class cricketers on the TV you'll see that they are generally bowling 45mph - 60mph. But, you will already be aware that simply by bowling faster the trajectory of the ball becomes flatter and easy pickings for a batsman with even a modicum of skill. With your slow loopy bowling at least the ball would have been up above the all-essential eye-line causing problems from the outset.

What went wrong for me

Six years is a long time to be bowling Leg Breaks without dip and drift which were the attributes that alluded me. But the roots of my problem lay in the pursuit of the Wrong Un see Googly Syndrome for the full story. But, having fallen victim of the Googly Syndrome I had to adopt an unusual approach in order to over-come it and to get the ball spinning towards off again in a Leg Break manner. In short my manifestation of the Googly Syndrome meant that no matter how hard I tried bowling with a cocked wrist, the delivery produced an Off-Break turning off the pitch towards Leg. The way that I over-came this was to bowl with a rigid wrist totally discarding the cocking aspect of the action. The spin over a period of almost two years was gradually introduced by using what can only be described as a finger-centric technique. Over that period of time I faced a series of difficulties because of this approach, one of the key problems I found was that it needed a high level of dexterity in order to release the ball from the fingers at exactly the moment required to get the ball spinning. This requirement for such fine tuned dexterity as part of what is a complex bowling action caused no end of problems and frustrations. Getting the ball to come out of the fingers rotating at 90 degrees to its direction was nigh on impossible and most frustrating of all, was that the faster I bowled the more it impacted on my ability to be that precise with the release. The faster my arm speed, the less I was able to get the ball get the ball spinning with the seam pointed towards slips on release. The notion of being able to bowl the ball with the seam at 90 degrees to its trajectory was becoming increasingly obvious that it was probably impossible.My bowling had hit a brick wall and was going nowhere.

Despite all this because of my enthusiasm and knowledge on the subject I was given the role as mentor/coach to a lad at our cricket club - Frank, who's about 11 or 12 years old and bowls Leg Breaks. I started working with him earlier this year Jan/Feb and have kept an eye on what he does through the season, primarily just offering encouragement and advising him to
keep things simple. One of the first things I noticed about Frank was that his whole body action wasn't text book and there was room for improvement and initially I felt compelled to perhaps work on his bowling action, but then I remembered somewhere I'd read or picked up from someone that, if a young lad is getting the ball to spin and turn off the wicket and he's enjoying his wrist spinning don't mess with it. So, despite the feeling that I might be able to improve what he was doing, I erred on the side of caution and left him. The only thing I did introduce him to was the Stand Start Drill which we used when he was having trouble getting the ball to turn off the wicket.

But watching and encouraging Frank over the next few months made me ponder what it was that he was doing that was so radically different to my bowling, that allowed him to get the ball to spin and drift far better than me? The conclusion that I came to was his wrist action and the fact that it was cocked, nothing spectacular with any indication that he flicked or un-furled the wrist in any dramatic way, just a simple but obvious cocked wrist.

So since September 2009 when I'd decided that I was going to consign my Googly Syndrome to the bin, I hadn't bowled with a cocked wrist since. Fourteen months earlier the cocked wrist had produced beautifully spinning Wrong Uns, had I un-learned the action, had I bowled so many Leg Breaks now that I'd re-wired my brain so that my wrist would do the right thing and I would bowl out of the front of the hand with a cocked wrist? I could only but try. So a couple of months back I tried it and it worked, not only did it work, but in a matter of a few balls the difference was fundamental.


The premise of this blog is that I'm trying to put together the most comprehensive guide to the many aspects of Wrist Spinning, some of it gleaned from books other parts through empirical research (Trial and error in the field). So grips the first part of the Spin, Drift and Dip phenomenon.

Our (Wrist Spinners) grip undoubtedly seems to the be the most versatile and stable of the four that I know of. Versatile in that the basic form of the grip allows you to bowl the ball with 4 key spinning attributes - Legspin, offspin, topspin and backspin all produced with the same grip but with the rotation of the wrist to faciliate the four variations. Stability I touched on earlier in this section when I wrote about the need for finger dexterity with my old grip and style of bowling. The basic instruction for the leg-break *(Your stock ball) when you are learning is very straight forward and is readily available in video demos all over the internet. Warne and Jenner both illustrate the grip and say that it is as simple as two fingers up and two fingers down. Interestingly Richie Benaud has a slightly different take on it. But returning to the stability aspect quickly - I've found that because the ball sits in the hand and has more contact with the hand than any of the other deliveries/releases, it creates a far more stable and robust platform from which the ball is released. To my mind this is integral to the ability to impart more spin on the ball.

So, as you can see if you've viewed the links provided, Warne and Jenner are singing from the same Hymn book, advocating the two up two down approach. Warne the expands on that with a very important point that I would whole heartedly agree with and that's the idea of holding the ball fairly loosely.

"I think one of the most important things with your grip is that you have to feel comfortable with your grip. As long as you've got your basics right - not too far in your palm". He illustrates and explains that he feels that there needs to be a gap between the ball and the inside of the fingers. Remember though, when you're exploring these facets to the grip, his hands are known to be relatively big, so where he manages to grip the ball leaving that gap, it may not be the case that you can do the same. Remember too also that balls are different in size and this will affect the grip. He then explains that the gap enhances the leverage that you get on the ball enabling you to spin it more. "You need the gap, to get the levearge to spin the ball, that's important'. He then talks about the pressure of the grip and the tightness saying that many coaches and spinners will tell you to grip the ball really tight, telling you to spread your fingers in the way that an Off-Spinner does. Again he reiterates that these choices vary from individual to individual, but he goes on to say why he has a relatively loose grip..... Regarding the wide fingered tight approach "The reason I don't like that is because you're tense, when you come to the crease, your holding the ball tight and your tense and it just makes everything really hard. I like to feel relaxed, I feel relaxed when I'm bowling I'll be able to get the ball to do what I want down the other end". It's universally agreed that when you're bowling wrist spin you'll note that your best bowling is produced when you're relaxed and free of tension. Philpott in his book 'The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling" goes over this aspect again and again and goes so far to write an entire chapter on the subject entitled 'Mind and Body'.

Benaud on the grip

Benaud has a different take on it, he grips the ball with a different approach, the fingers splayed making contact with the seam with both the first finger and the conventional 3rd finger. Benaud though is recognised as being tall and therefore may have the attribute of having equally large hands allowing him to grip the ball in the way that he does illustrated here.

Benaud says "The first knuckle of the index finger is placed on the seam. The first and second knuckles of the third finger are also on the seam and the ball is held quite firmly and the thumb doesn't play any part at all, it can be up in the air or it can be on the ball, it makes no difference". The video from which these images are lifted can be found
here. Note too, that like Warne, he leaves a pretty substantial gap between the ball and the palm of the hand (See the image directly above). This aspect isn't mentioned and it may be due to his physique and the fact that he's a big bloke.

At this point I have to return to the idea of a solid base from which the ball is released. Benauds grip looks far more like a 'Fingery' grip with the ball not sitting in the palm at all, from what we can see here and without the use of high speed, high definition it looks as though the ball is released primarily as a fingery action?

Peter Philpott on grip

"You may like to experiment with the way you hold the ball – ‘The Grip’. I have seen so many leg-spinners grip the ball differently, yet still bowl it effectively, the most important factor is that the grip is comfortable and suits you.
Even so, it is always sensible to understand ‘the orthodox’ method. For ‘orthodox’ simply means the way that suits most people. Whether you eventually choose to use the orthodox method or not, you should understand it and experiment with it. Look closely at the illustration here. You will not that;

• A cup has been formed by the hand with the little finger and third finger bent up.
• Half the ball fits into the cup so made.
Try the orthodox and spin. Try your own way if it is different. The most important thing is that you find the grip which makes it easiest to spin the ball hard."

Peter Philpott;The Art of Wrist Spin Bowling ;Crowood Press; Marlborough; 2006

From a layman’s perspective my own experience has seen me go through different variations of the 2 up 2 down grip as advocated by Jenner and Warne. The subtle variation was in that the ball either sits higher in the hand or lower, sometimes I gripped the ball hard, sometimes loose. During all of these differing phases I was still able to spin the ball and in one season I took a sequence of 4 'four-fers' in consecutive matches using the high in the hand grip technique, which I’ve now totally rejected. My own Leg Break grip which has gone through many transistions over the years, I've never been happy with, it's worked and it produces some spin, better some days worse others, but fundamentally it has lacked some of the indicative characteristics that I've looked for to indicate that it was correct. For instance it rarely 'Fizzes' as it flies through the air. It hardly ever drifted and I never suffered from the spinners finger where the release off the third finger was so definite and localised that it caused the abrasion that many wrist spinners report when bowling.

Bob Woolmer On the grip.

“The grip for wrist spinning does not rely on the pressure point of the fingers as much as orthodox spinning, but relies on a very supple wrist. The grip starts with the first and third fingers running down the seam of the ball, with the second finger resting on top (1). Fold the hand down behind the ball until the thumb is running parallel to the seam (2 and 3)”.

Bob Woolmer; The Art and Science of Cricket; 2008; New Holland; London.

The closest version of this seems to be the Benaud version and again this description kind of sounds like it would require larger hands. Woolmer then goes on to describe the action in relation to the wrist…..

“Cock the wrist down and away from the body (1). As the arm swings over in the bowling action, the wrist flicks open as if you are opening a door anti-clockwise (2 and 3). It is important to keep the bowling arm very high when delivering the ball: This will create a natural in-drift and dip that can be enhanced even more when bowling into the wind. As the bowling arm comes over, the front leg should be braced. The back leg will pivot round it, turning the shoulder towards the batsman".

Bob Woolmer; The Art and Science of Cricket; 2008; New Holland; London.

Here at least Woolmer makes the connection with the fact that the release is integral to the introduction of drift and dip. Again in my opinion this is very simplistic explanation, but then maybe it only needs to be? To be so rigid as to suggest that there is only one way is obviously wrong. It's dependent on your own physique and the levels of flexibilty in the wrist and fingers

Sections that will be added......................

Philpott on Drift
Grimmett on Drift
Jenner on Drift
Woolmer on Drift
Others on Drift

To be continued

* Stock Ball - link to the Leg Break basic section

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Andy Bull @ The Guardian

I was having a mooch around the workings of my blog and I stumbled across some tools that measured and indicated how people are directed to my blog and was surprised to find that one of the biggest directors of traffic to the blog was the Guardian newspaper! There's a writer/journalist on the paper that writes the cricket blog The Spin and he'd written a review of the Twirlymen book and in it he starts to write about the physics and dynamics of the spinning ball. He then uses some info in my blog here to help illustrate the complexities of the spinning ball and links it to a piece I wrote a couple of years ago about drift and spin where I quote Grimmett. Woolmer and Philpott. I kind of feel validated now!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Net Practice

Via the blog it’s fairly well known at our club that we’ve got the paddock as a facility to use and as you’re probably aware it features on the blog and on my youtube channel quite a bit, so it’s not like it’s a secret. Over the last couple of years a few people have joined us in there for a knock about and this year I’ve invited people to come over when they’ve mentioned seeing it on the blog.
On Saturday I got a phone call from the Farrington’s saying that they might come over and join us on Sunday evening. Being so late in the season it’s looking a bit worn out and it was in need of a cut, so Joe, Ben and me decided in the afternoon that we’d go across and give it a bit of spruce up.

Joe gets to work painting the crease lines at the bowling end.

Not having had a measure up since March we checked the length of the wicket and had to make some adjustments. As you can see, it was shaping up as a spinners wicket.

Joe got a shot of me sweeping away some of the loose stuff in order that we could get some paint down.

Joe carefully painting the crease lines.

Me and Ben took the mower over and cut the grass. Then Joe and I went over, measured the length of the wicket, marked out where the stumps would go and painted the batting and popping crease lines.

Some nice lines are prodcued by the Ransomes Ajax mower that we use.

The main issue we had though was the timing of their visit. They were due to arrive at about 5.45 which is around about the time that the football types get in there and the gangs of youths, whereas we’re usually in there earlier in the day or later than 7.30. So we decided that we’d get the nets up by way of discouraging anyone from getting ideas about playing football in there. So at about 5pm the nets went up and we got most of the gear ready. We then had to go in and have our dinner, so we left all the gear there and sat in the kitchen keeping an eye on it as we ate, that’s how close it is to our house! After scoffing the dinner down we got back and shortly Mark, Jack and Frank all turned up and the cricket got underway.

We all got to have a bat with the exception of Ben as he’d had a bike accident earlier and grazed his ankle and it was still all wet and weeping and his pads would have worn against it and he was saying it was feeling sore anyway. Initially Joe wasn’t interested in batting and declined the chance to bat, but then changed his mind later as he got into it and realised that he was really enjoying it and fancied his chances. So he went home while Frank was batting and got his gear on. My bowling wasn't too bad, ropey for the first few balls as always, but then as I relaxed and got the arm speed up a bit the balls began to dip and spin a bit and they looked a bit challenging. Franks as ever though was quite adept at putting them away, but I reckon I got one or two past him and he may have hit a few out to Mid Wicket for a catch?

Joe, fired up with enthusiasm at having some proper cricketers in the paddock batted out of his skin, I've never seen Joe bat so well and agressively. Almost every ball I bowled at him he came down the wicket and blocked and maybe once or twice I got the ball past him for a stumping chance. It was good to see and he really enjoyed himself as well which is really good to see as sometimes Joe can lack enthusiasm.

I batted as well towards the end and like Joe I batted reasonably well getting balls on the legs and the legside away, I even got a couple of those deft little paddle flick things that Ian Bells does. The ones where you reach the bat out forwards almost on the ground and length-wise to the ball as it come in and you just angle the bat so the ball comes off it and goes fine down leg. Ben who is totally dismissive of my batting and technique was pretty impressed, but then went on to bowl me out three times. His bowling in comparison to what I faced on Saturday was far superior, faster and as far as I'm concerned impossible to play. It was so fast he's on the verge of getting the stumps out of the ground, on one of them the stumps were all over the shop! With me he gets the ball under the bat and if I'm able to block it more than a few times he has this ball that he bowls a little outside of off that he flicks out of the hand kind of using an offies action with the fingers that he gets to turn in, it is a devastating ball. Mark was very impressed and then he said he couldn't understand why Ben hadn't been picked for the big match next Sunday. This was news to me and later we had to check out to see who was playing and sure enough Ben's been forced out of the team to reserve at No.12. Some of the other lads at the lower end no doubt batting better than Ben has been. It's all gone a bit Ravi Bopara for Ben!

Joe preparing to face some of Franks fizzing Legspin.

Joe helping to get the nets up.

The nets being unravelled.

Joe captures me tying the nets to the goal posts in the paddock.

Fun Day
The up and coming funday at Basildon requires that we get ourselves into teams of 6-8 and either Mark or Jack made the point that this combination could constitute our team? I think I'm quite happy to go with that and maybe have Michelle as the female player which'll take use to 7 players on the team. Whether Frank and Jacks Mum will want to have a go or not I'm not sure, but if she does I'm sure Michelle will be quite happy to hand over the bat/ball on the day!

Post titles
I've recently learned something about this blogging lark with regards to getting hits on your blog and it relates to the titles of each of the posts. The trick is to make the titles very generic in order that when people go looking for information they then stumble upon your blog. For instance by having the title of this post 'Net Practice' it increases the chances of people clicking on it and having a look. Unfortunately though at the minute my counter seems to be out of action.

Cricket Team Selection

Here's a common gripe amongst players, I think I may have blogged recently on the same theme and this post will be along the same lines. If you look back through this blog to the good ol days of the MPA team, you'll find the dilemma that I faced as the driving force behind the MPA 1st XI. The team was made up of a bunch of blokes in our dept, some who had played cricket, but many who had not, in fact the blokes that hadn't played cricket hadn't played anything in their lives, being the victims of Thatchers playground thefts and then the ensuing idiocy of non-competitive sport in schools. As we lost the matches and I met more cricketers and practiced with more cricketers, the MPA 1st XI grew to around 20 people creating a selection issue and I was faced with the prospect of continuing with the original team that had invested all their time and money (Hiring a hall for winter nets) and lose like dogs in every game or bring in some of the new blokes. It was a tricky and uncomfortable business, that I wasn't at ease with at all and it didn't help that I consulted some of my mates that played football. Some where of the opinion that it was only the win that was important and others were saying it's about your mates and sticking through thick and thin, win or lose. I eventually went for the win option, what mattered was the win.

So my older son Ben tonight is devastated that he's not been selected for the big semi final. The team are in the semis for the first time in the clubs history and his bowling and fielding has been integral to them getting there. Additionally, he's been with this team in varying forms for three seasons now, being one of the regulars, training through the winter and summer hardly missing a session, only ever missing games because we've been away on holiday. Like my mates would have done, he's seen new kids just stroll into the side and take places that a part of him sees as being his. It's a difficult thing to deal with, but it's sport and the goal is a win at all costs other than cheating.

It's especially bitter sweet when at the moment his bowling is phenomenally good, but as I well know, in practice that may be the case, but taking it to the field and doing it in front of the people that select the team is a key objective that you need to meet and perhaps he's not done it. Over the summer I've seen this coming, I've tried to encourage him to bat more and maybe he has a little, but there's a reluctance and a sense that maybe naiavely he's considered his bowling and fielding is enough to see him through. His mate Kieran has joined the club and he's very competitive and can bowl straight, but more than that, he's got very good eye/ball co-ordination and you can sense that with some coaching if he was to listen he may become a half decent bat and in doing so push Ben to the margins of the team.

Fortunately, this is the end of the season and the make-up of the team will change dramatically next year with Ben probably securing a place in the team. But, maybe this will be a wake-up call for Ben, maybe next summer he'll look to get in the paddock as much as possible and to face as much bowling as he can rather than avoid it?

On a final note, all is not lost as he is the 12th man and it is the middle of the summer and as yet there are 4 boys who have yet to confirm that they can play, so we've all got our fingers crossed for him. If he don't play, he'll be there supporting and hopefully he wont be there begrudging the place to the bloke that was deemed a better player than him.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

League Cricket

So, after moaning about the fact that I hadn't had a game for a while and not getting a game last weekend when for some reason I was expecting to, this weekend primarily because the teams have been decimated by the fact that the V-Festival is on and others are on holiday, I had two offers. The 1st Sunday XI initially and then the Saturday 4th XI, who I've played with the most this year, so I went with the 4th XI's as that's more my standard and they're the team I'd like to play with the most.

So an away match against Belhus cc 4th XI at their pitch in South Ockendon, so that meant meeting early at 11.30 at Mopsies Park and then giving two young lads a lift (Matt and Aaron). In the car discovered this was Aarons first adult match at 15 years old and that he's only been playing cricket for a couple of years with an all time high score of 9 when batting. The other bloke Matt was 20 or 21 and I didn't really get much background info on him, but got the sense that he saw himself as a bowler rather than a batsman.

I took an unusual scenic route through Langdon Hills, Bulphan and North Ockendon and got there first. Once everyone had turned up it turned out that we chose to field first, which is always my preferred option. The weather was nice when we'd set out - blue skies and white puffy clouds, but we'd driven towards the weather front and by the time we stepped out onto the field the sky was a blanket of grey.

I got put at Mid on and the game started with Dean Parkinson opening with Riz Ashraf at the other end. Right from the first few balls both the batsmen looked troubled by both bowlers even though there were a few wayward balls, but as the bowlers settled and improved their line and length the batsmen failed to do the same (Settle) and pretty soon the wickets started to come with Riz taking the first wicket. Dean picked up one pretty soon after and the Riz went to town, bowling a good line outside of the off-stump and one after another the edges and wickets came, some were put down, some dropped short, some were flashed over the top. A spinner (Maidan) was introduced in place of Dean and between Maidan and Riz they bowled Belhus out for 88 in 27 overs.

Riz Ahsraf - 13-1-35-5
K- Maidan - 7-0-22-4
Dean Parkinson - 7-0-25-1

It was a sound thrashing with the rain starting to fall lightly around about the time the 8th bat turned up to the crease. Being League cricket, there wasn't a lot of sympathy on show and each wicket was greeted by exuberant celebrations and demands to keep up the pressure and really stick it to them and to not take any prisoners.

As the last two wickets were taken the rain had increased and once or twice there were the odd look at the skies and wicket as if to say shall we go in? B&P weren't having any of it and bowled through the rain and once the last bloke was sent back to the sheds we were pretty much on his heels to get out of the rain. Once inside the rain got worse and the prospect for getting back out there to bat looked increasingly bleak. People were checking on their phones and saying that the England v India match at the oval was stopped because of rain as were all the B&P matches elsewhere across the district and the Essex match at Chelmsford. The impression therefore this was no shower, this was a big old lump of rain with no sign of it diminishing. The teas turned up and we ate that through the rain and whilst that was happening I got my head around some of the rules with regards League cricket and the way the points are allocated.

Whilst we'd been in the field both of the oppo's umpires had been doing rain dances and I'd wondered why, but it turns out that if the match was called off, despite our very impressive dismissal of their team for 88, both team would be allocated 6 points each. So, from their perspective, this rain was a Godsend, because if we were able to bat the likelihood was that we'd end up with 18 points (Or something like that)? Not having a clue of how all this works initially I thought that was it, we'll be packing up in a minute and going home? Nope, not a bit of it, I soon realised the captain and some of the regulars had every intention of waiting for the rain to stop.

"The forecast is that this rain is going to last about an hour and then if we wait an hour or so it'll be okay to play on".

I wandered out in the lulls and looked at the wicket, there wasn't any standing water, but at the same time there wasn't a lot of grass at either batting end and the potential for those areas to become a mud bath was pretty obvious. Despite this our captain John was still optimistic.

"Once the rain stops, we'll give it an hour and then have a look".

I was bemused at the fact that there was no covers of any sort, in this situation some big pieces of polythene would suffice, I thought. But then thinking about it maybe they did have some stashed away somewhere, but why would they bring it out and potentially make the batting easier? Perhaps if the boot was on the other foot we might have been up to our necks in sheets of polythene and pegs ensuring the wicket stayed as dry as possible?

The rain as scheduled did stop after about an hour and who says the Met Office is crap? Virtually minutes behind the rain came a beautiful clear blue sky and hot sunshine and even a bit of a breeze. Bored by now I set up a can in front of a fence post (Once of those rigid metal fences you see round council playing areas) and bowled at the can. Initially it was crap, but it started to come together as usual after about 25 balls and then I bowled really well. The rest of the team and the oppo's captain went back and forth to the wicket prodding and squidging seeing how it was drying. I could see it was drying quite quickly, the grass I was bowling on soon dried out and then after about an hour or so of drying I noticed that they were all preparing as if it was on and the game would soon commence.

Shortly, 3 batsmen strolled out all padded up and stood at the edge of the pitch, a kid ran out into the middle with a bag of sawdust and put some down supervised by the captain of the oppo. The scorers took their seats and the oppo walked out onto the field ready to do battle to try and save some face.
Amongst their team were more youngsters than ours, if you lined both teams up they would have probably evened out age-wise and would have been very similar using that as a measure, but our team looked stronger, we had more 20 year olds. At the extremes we had me at 51 and Aaron at 15 in his first adult match, but in between we had youth and experience, whereas their team looked a lot more of a mish mash of players and the batting sort of reinforced the fact that they were a disparate bunch.

Our openers John Bedford (Capt) and Erskin Peters strode out to what would surely be a formality, that's the way that it had been put across to me, and having seen them collapse for 88 off of 27 overs, surely there wouldn't be a lot of bowling to be had either. But J.Martin Hussey and J.Plane had other ideas and within a matter of minutes batsman number 4 was scrambling to get his pads on in time to take his place in what looked like a annihilation! It was lambs to the slaughter one after another bats 1,2 and 3 all fell for 0!

Our number three Riz Ashraf, who took the six wickets looked disgusted with himself as the week before he made a good score in excess of 60 and a fortnight before that he'd done a similar job with the bat, but in each intervening week he'd gone for ducks!
No.4 Anit George made his way out there and haphazardly made a stand and swung the bat baseball style much to the dismay of the higher order bats and mine too, okay, so I can't bat, but I know that if you've just seen your top order all bowled for 0 even I know the thing you don't start doing is swing the bat baseball style, especially if the pitch is soaking wet? Anit made contact with one and hit it through mid wicket scoring a boundary 4, and then continued with the same approach. Needless to say there was an air of inevitability with regards the outcome and he was soon marching back to be replaced by the next victim. We were four wickets down with 6 on the board two of which were wides! At this rate it looked as though I might get to bat!

Aaron Waldon, the youngster in his first game kind of did better, the captain had been told that he was a decent batsman which kind of didn't concur with the conversation I'd had with him in the car, but he'd taken his place at 5 and at least seemed to have had a look at the bowling and keep a calm head. He was leaving balls and waiting for the loose shots and he hung in there for a few overs before mis-timing his shot and getting on to it a little too early looping the ball up for the bowler S.Hall to take a pretty spectacular catch diving forward with one hand. But Aaron had looked steady scoring a couple of singles and a two for his total of four. He'd been joined at the other end by the other bowler who'd taken four wickets K.Maidan and he was looking very tidy and business like hitting the ball in the manner I'd expect to see of someone batting at No.6. But again despite the good start he perished as well for a measley 9, but that had taken him to the honour of being the top scorer. He was joined by one of the older players Lee Dutton who normally does pretty well. Matt followed, falling to S,Hall again for just two. It was looking like I was going to get a bat and G-Man told me to get my stuff on a bloke or two before Dean Parkinson started his innings. Dean looked at a few balls and then got off to batting in his usual style which is pretty aggressive, looking to hit boundaries. He got a 2 and a boundary 4 before falling to another youngster S.Stonham who looked about 15 years old perhaps a little older.

Then it was me. I joined Lee Dutton who was still surviving at this point. We met in the middle for the usual chat, I asked him whether he wanted me to ensure that I got him on strike, he just said, 'No, just play your shots, anything on the stumps block it, anything wide, just have a go'. Lee didn't last that long either, while he was there I played a ball outside of the off-stump and I offered an angled bat that guided the ball along the ground and through the slips for 2 runs. I think at that point Lee went at the change of the over. He'd gone on to score the highest total so far before being dismissed for 13 clean bowled by S. Hall, of whom Aaron had said earlier 'I can't believe that a 12 year old can pull off a catch like that' when he was dismissed. To which the scorer replied 'He's not 12 he's 15', but yeah, S.Hall didn't look that threatening, but he was getting through our batsmen.

Then G-Man came out at No.11 with about 12 or 13 overs to go. In order to get some points we either needed to score another 40 runs or block out the game for a draw. Neither of which were likely with me being there, but I took some positives out of my last game where I saw the bloke through to his 100 across 2 or 3 overs and I'd already survived a couple of overs here. As far as I was concerned the bowling was okay,but certainly not fast. So, me and G-Man set about our mammoth task of surviving the next 12 or 13 overs. It went okay. How long I was out there I'm not sure, but it seemed to be at least another 2 overs before the next eventful happening and that was the loss of G-Man's wicket. So I ended up with another 'Not out', this time 2 not out and I was feeling fairly comfortable with the proceedings which was quite good. G-Man congratulated me as we left the field saying that 'Not outs' hold some credence and are not to be sniffed at. Which is something I'll have to look into, as I can't see why they would hold any real value unless you were able to make your way up the batting order off the back of them? I can see that if you were good at 'Not outing' as a No.10 or 11 you might find yourself on a regular basis in the position I was in last time, with a middle or high order batsman or someone that could score runs and you could prove your worth in a support role ensuring he got on strike and defending your end.

So, from a very promising start and a position of very loud gloating we were humbled into silence having scored a very measley 48.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Big changes afoot

Nearly six years into this wrist spinning journey and I've probably had the steepest learning curve process during the last 6 months. As you'll all be aware I've bowled with this odd skip during my bowling action and it's been pointed out and understood by me that it is detrimental to my bowling so at the end of the last season I started to work on it to get rid of it. Initially walking in, but eventually I had to look at bounding, which at the time seemed to be a step too far. But after some help from my nine year old, it looked as though this old dog was up for learning a new trick!

The bound came in its basic form and it's still a work in progress as its a lot more complex than what you'd imagine, but the thing I want to highlight here is the grip. My grip was formed years ago after watching Warne on the tele and it served me okay in the 1st year, but like most people I was soon wanting more and some of the variations were introduced and needless to say I got the Googly syndrome and lost my Leg Break. Two years of bowling off-spin and getting no-where forced me to re-learn the leg break and that's been on-going and it's been difficult. Come this Sept it's been 2 years trying to re-configure my wrist position and more importantly the hard wiring in my head. I've been able to come up with strategies and bit by bit it has been getting there. But fundamentally the last two years has been pretty flawed in my approach.

My Wrong Un/Googly is good, very good sometimes and I can return to it easily with a bit of practice, but choose not to. It's bowled out of what I perceive to be a cocked wrist and in the past if ever I tried to bowl the Leg Break with a cocked wrist I would produce a wrong un (My younger son has the same issue). To rectify this I've had to use a rigid wrist and keep it straight for the last 2 years, using my fingers primarily to impart the leg - spin and this has been okay, but not particularly affective.

This year I was charged with the task of keeping an eye on a young leg-spinner at our club and in doing so noticed that despite what is probably a bowling action very much in its early stages which in time will need a lot of tweaking, he still bowls a good Leg Break with dip and drift and good turn off the wicket. Analysing it, I realised that the key thing that he was doing that I wasn't was cocking the wrist and that his release technique looked pretty straight forward and no-where near as complex as the stuff that I had been trying to do. So for the first time in almost 2 years I cocked my wrist and bowled. And lo and behold I produced a very promising Leg Break!

Since then, the combination of the bound and the re-introduction of the cocked wrist has seen an exponential development in what I do. It's no-where near ready yet, but some of the fundamentals required like drift and dip which have for the most part been missing are there. So the long and the short of what I'm saying here and I would imagine most people know this already is that the cocked wrist is absolutely integral to what we're trying to do. Further more it almost negates all of the things I've been saying for the last 2 years in relation to grip on this blog and my other blogs unless of course you are going through the Googly syndrome. I'm still convinced that if you're someone who suffers from advanced Googly syndrome as in, you've got it and you've then tried to live with it and not bothered to try and address it, the advice on the blog and elsewhere with regards correcting it still may be valid?

But other than that if you're learning to bowl the leg break, that cocked wrist is so much of a key aspect of your bowling, so you need it and you have to practice with it despite how awkward it may feel initially.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spiders, cricket and BMX fun

Steatoda Nobilis

Seems that where we live is the rare spider capital of the UK or is it that I'm just interested in this kind of stuff? Got up this morning and we had an odd looking spider in the washing up bowl unable to get out and having had several incidences of Steatoda Grossa's in the house and garage and having done some research into false black widows I recognised that this one looked like a Steatoda Nobilis. So I took it outside and shot some pic's of it on my Canon G9 and let it go in the plam tree thing outside the front door which is full of spiders including a Steatoda Grossa a couple of months ago. This is the shots of the Steatoda Nobilis below.

The Cricket bit

So today was the last day of my holiday and having been at Marks studio all week I was able to get out in the paddock with Joe and Ben and have a knock about bowling with my new bowling action which features dip and spin and the occasional bit of drift. But we played with the plastic balls without a seam and it wasn't quite happening for me except for the dip as this was then producing exceptional bounce out of the dip. Ben dealt with much of it in his stride and does appear to be improving quite a bit and this was using the skinny training bat.

The BMX bit
Towards the end of the day another idea I'd had a few days ago off the back of Joe going on one of those paid play schemes which are bit like a one day PGL thing, was to make a BMX time trial track in the woods. The initial idea was that it was going to be in the wooded area directly behind where the stumps are set in the paddock, but having gone in there and had a look around I realised that it was too compact. We all went in and had a look around at the existing tracks and decided that the existing loop in the woods indicated by the extended yellow lines in the ariel shot below was too long and we cut a new path through the brambles and under-growth to create a smaller track. Fortunately, very little work was required to clear it and within half an hour we had a pathway on which you could force the bikes through whilst getting scratched all over the arms.

Initial time trials were set with with times of in excess of 1:45 seconds, but by the end of the evening the record was set by me at 45 seconds all round, with Ben following up at 52 seconds, so as they get used to it I reckon my time of 45 seconds should be beaten. Click here for a video of the course ridden by Joe, taking it easy, he does it here in about 1:15 -

The image above is where Joe didn't get round the corner from coming out of the woods and into the paddock successfully and end up almost ripping his goolies off!

Ben races across the paddock into the final straight.

Ben taking the tight corner out of the woods into the paddock with more success than Joe above,

Ben racing through the woods.

How long this will keep them entertained is anyones guess, there is the potential to get hurt and that may put a stop to it, but they're looking at the longer track now as another option and that's potentially more exciting as it's got a good ditch with a dip in it and being longer more potential for the time margins not to be so tight and unachievable if someone sets a good initial time. Added to that, there's the option of doing both courses the opposite way and endless variations if you're going to go further into the woods! Fun times ahead I reckon, with loads of brambles and branch scratches.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dip and spin

You may also like this - there's a really good bit in this post here relating to drift

For me there has always been the conundrum that if you bowl faster this equates to flatter, whereas you'll know if you're a cricket aficionado that watches and observes spin bowling they do bowl the ball (Especially Wrist Spinners) 50 mph and faster and the ball loops landing short of the batsmans comfort zone. If you're a medium pacer or any other type of bowler do it, try and get that ball well above the batsman's eye level and get it to land at his feet, don't worry about making it turn to off or leg, just get the ball up above his eye level at least as far as 1/2 way down the pitch at 50 mph and get it to land 5 yards in front of the batsman. You'll probably find it gets to him about chest or waist height, so - how do they do that?

Nearly six years into this journey, I think I've cracked it or I'm beginning to crack it. I had a discussion with a bloke on a forum only weeks ago about 'Arm speed' he was saying that the run in had little to do with the speed of the ball through the air and that arm speed was the key aspect to the balls pace. I argued otherwise, but I didn't discount what he'd said entirely and had a look at speeding up my own arm speed.

Prior to that I'd been looking at some advice about getting up on to the toes and twisting the foot during the pivot with a rigid ankle, this twist is generated it seems from the hips and this had yielded some amazing results including dip and drift. Drift until this point was something that happened rarely and accidentally, dip was only something I could achieve with a Top-Spinner and here I was now simply because of the inclusion of getting up on the toes nice and tall and twisting the pivot foot I was getting both with my Leg Break and it was turning more frequently.

The same people that were looking at my bowling from two different perspectives - bio-mechanics and technical then made a lot of observations relating to a video I up-loaded to siliconcoach and sorting through the advice that was left I then moved on to the 'Flailing leg'.

The 'Flailing leg' is the feature here in the 3rd row down third image in from the left. My understanding is that if you bowl like this, it has a detrimental affect on your bowling and is physically demanding on the pivot leg which is in contact with the ground. Rather that swing that leg round like that, the advice that I was given was to bring the leg through towards your target. This makes a lot of sense when thought about in conjunction with the scant advice that you'll get from videos from Warne and Jenner on-line (You tube) and elsewhere. The mantra is that your energy should be directed forwards towards the batsman and with the leg swinging round like that the energy is not being directed correctly.

The result of implementing this 'Through' approach as opposed to the 'Flailing leg' approach is that combining it with the lift and twist of the pivot leg and more arm speed is that I'm bowling a lot faster and I'm getting those magic elements of Dip and drift with lots of turn off the pitch. The accuracy for the first 18 or so balls so far isn't that good, but once I find the rhythm, the accuracy increases exponentially with me landing the ball on a mat 12" x 12" in increasing frequency and this is with far more venom and speed than I've ever bowled and this is because of the dip. It's exciting times!

Old bloke

It's a bummer this cricket lark, on top of the fact that I'm a learner Wrist Spinner now reaching the sixth year of my apprenticeship, which means on the days when you bowl bad you bowl what is seen as being wholly unacceptable and from what other people tell me on forums means you don't get picked for matches, I have the added issue of being old, so it's no surprise that so far this year I've only played 3 games, which is kind of disappointing. There's the other cricket factors which I'm sure other players will know about but I wont go into them and as far as I'm concerned that is just the way cricket and most competitive sports are. If you want to be in the team you have to be mates with the people that are the core members of the team or you're there on merit or if you're young you may be nurtured and brought into the club as you're the life-blood of the club, but old geezers like me, we haven't got a dogs hope unless there is a Sunday friendly side and it seems that Basildon no longer have a Sunday side, so I'm not getting many games.

So, what to do? It almost seems pointless to carry on bowling if I'm never going to get a game, especially when on the odd ocassion you do get a game and you end up bowling like a fool and get taken off after three overs. Nah, I can't give up - I've come so far and I've nearly cracked it and it consumes me and there is a chance that maybe I'll come across a team that will have an old git or a team that has a regular Sunday side, or better still, I do crack it and maybe I'll get a game on merit?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Paddock Fun

Not being able to attend last weeks inter-club match we didn't get the nod to say that there wouldn't be any cricket this Sunday at Mopsies, but ever the optimist (when it comes to cricket) I expected that there would be something going on despite not having any emails to say otherwise and others did the same! So we turned up and there was no-one there and the kids including Kieran (Ben's mate and fellow team member) were gagging for cricket and Joe suggested we get in the paddock and have a knock about in there.

Once home after a cup of tea, we set up the paddock. In the paddock much of the batting tends to be a bit agricultural, so I'm always looking for ways to encourage driving the ball and looking through my vids a few days ago I found some footage of a variation of 'Paddock cricket' that addressed this in some ways. Batting in pairs Kieran and Ben, Joe and I we played a game where each pair faced six overs of bowling with a series of rules that forces the bat to hit straight or gently dab the ball into the middle to run a single or deftly edge the ball wide of the keeper.

* A ball hit straight back past the bowler hitting the back fence = 2 runs
* A ball hit short into the middle or either side fence enables a single.
* A ball fielded and thrown at the stumps at the bowlers end and not fielded goes for an over-throw and therefore a single and the bats would have also run one.
* A ball bowled and not stopped by the keeper goes for either a leg-bye or bye single.
* A ball hit deftly off the bat not stopped by the keeper hitting the back fence goes for 1
* A cover drive that goes through the 'Cover drive hole in the fence' is automatically 1 run.
* Any balls that other-wise go over the nets are no balls and no runs given.
* Conventional no-balls (Height and stepping over the line) are singles + an extra ball to the bowler.
* Wides are covered by the 'Back fence rule'.
* Your wicket constitutes minus 3 runs.
* Contentious balls, like those that go vertical or right up in the air to land near a fence impeding the fielder are decided on the toss of a coin and the same with LBW decisions.

The consequence of which is the batsmen have to communicate really well and be a bit fast between the stumps and back up the striker. They have to consider their batting and the most effective way to get runs is to probably hit the ball along the ground back past the bowler for two or nice cover drives through the hole in the fence. The bowling has been interesting because of the pressure that is put on the batsmen. In both the games we played this morning Joe and I batted first and off both innings we only scored 10 and 11 runs respectively. With the first innings I thought we'd lost it easily because Ben and Kieran get the ball on the bat far more readily than Joe and I, and our 10 was score primarily through defensively poking the ball into the middle of the wickets and quick singles, which was fun because of the desperate scrambles to get the ball retrieved and back at the stumps for a stumping. Initially we did really well, but then Ben and Kieran started to talk tactics and pulled our fairly high score back to ten through at least 2 stumpings caused by indecision by me primarily.

Slow bowling won the day, after yesterday's bowling abomination where I bowled like a squirrel. (Yeah - squirrel, have you ever seen a squirrel bowl - exactly, that's how bad it was)! Today I was back to normal service drawing both Ben and Joe out of their crease for Joe to take several good stumpings and Joe did the same thing with his bowling and he hit the wood-work once and forced Kieran to edge the ball into my gloves on one ocassion smartly. The second match was close, Kieran and Ben were beating us with three balls to go and on the 4th ball of the last over Joe got the one that was edged into my gloves and then he bowled 2 dots balls for us to take the win for the 2nd time. All in all it was a very good game and hopefully for Ben at least a good learning curve.