Thursday, March 29, 2012

Paddock News

Last August as you may recall the fence was taken away along the side of the paddock adjacent to the road - meaning any cover drives or balls through the off-side could end up through the windscreens of peoples cars either stationary or otherwise. For the last couple of months I've been in contact with the local council looking to get the fence repaired or replaced and I've just checked my emails and discovered that I had been invited to meet with two council reps last Tuesday to look at the situation and discuss a resolution to the issue. Having missed the email/meeting the council officials duly turned up and had a look and sent me this email following their visit...

Good morning Mr Thompson, I just wanted to let you know that I am meeting R.B. out at the park area that you have bought to our attention, to look at the problem with the fence. I am meeting R.B. at 1pm today, if you get this e-mail and are available to meet us we would welcome your input. I am sorry for the very short notice.If you cannot meet us today I will e-mail you to let you know what progresshas been made.

This was then followed up with....

Good afternoon, just to keep you informedI met with R.B. at the play area, today. We will be getting quotes for the price of metal fencing for the area and this will then be passed on to our Environmental Champions group who have a budget for these kind of works. I will let you know of their decision following their next meetingon 24 April.I hope that this helps.

If this comes off... what a result! It may mean metal fencing all around the paddock, which will be brilliant as the current fencing has holes all over it and we're losing balls through the fence left right and centre. Watch this space!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nets for kids

Had another bowl yesterday and that went pretty well considering how much I bowled yesterday indicating that my fitness levels are pretty good. British summer time has now kicked in and we have an extra hour of light in the evenings so getting half hour a night in after work is now possible and will become a regular feature of my day now, so I'm hoping for things to come together now.

The kids had their practice session yesterday and first up was Joes mob - the under 11's. They've been practicing without nets this year and this session they were in the nets and Joe did amazingly well! Joe bowled against his captain first up who in their age group is an accomplished batsman and Joe got him 4 maybe more times! Joes moved on from Leg-spinning and now sees himself as a fast bowler and it suits the team and him as he's probably with the exception of one other boy who doesn't bowl the biggest of the under 11's and so has that intimidation factor. Furthermore, when it was Joe's turn to bat, I was amazed at how well he batted too, most of the shots he played were as far as I could see very well executed albeit primarily defensive, but loose balls he seemed to put away with a level for assurance and for the most part along the ground rather than in the air like last year. He then stayed for Ben's session and bowled and batted with the U13's and although I couldn't see him in his net from my viewing point he said he batted and bowled far better against the U13's, so that must have been very impressive.

Ben on the other hand had a different session. Similarly he was moved up into a net with the more advanced boys and the U15's. Initially he did really well, bowling the captain of the U15's at least once and generally pinning him down for much of the time, but when it came to his turn to bat - remembering he's a very reluctant batsman, they let him have it a bit and the first ball off the big 15 year old hit him in the ribs. He held it together for most of the net, but having been rattled he then got completely frustrated and probably intimidated by the bowling of the much better and or older lads and wasn't getting anywhere and felt like a fool I'd imagine and in the end his emotions got him and he stormed out of the net upset. Since then he's been relatively reluctant to play cricket with me and Joe and I'm having to tread carefully so as to not put him off completely.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Paddock gets its first mow

With the knowledge of a warm day on the cards, I decided that I'd give the paddock a cut with the mower. So after the dew had dried out I got in there with the mower set on a relatively low blade and cut 2/3 of the wicket from the batting end. Having done that and noticing that it's pretty damp still in areas where Ben would bowl, I got the roller working as well and gave it another going over with that.

So here's how it's looking today 24th March. The bare patch where the batsmen stand is already cracking up and the unrolled bit in front of that is too dry to be affected by the roller, so that'll cause problems for anyone batting against spin.

Having got it ready I had a bit of a bowl - 28 overs worth, went okay. I seem to have picked up from where I left off last year which is good news as I was bowling pretty well at the end of the season last year. I then went on and grooved my bowling action through October and November and I'm pretty much where I was back then already and it's not even British summer time! Additionally I seemed to have gained some control over the way the ball spins - being able to bowl with the seam at 45 degrees and another method with the ball almost at 90 degrees and switch between one and the other quite readily. As a result I'm getting the ball to turn big. But additionally I've got accuracy! With the accuracy and the results I've been seeing in nets I'm now bowling round the wicket pitching the ball wide of Leg Stump turning the ball in to the stumps. I'm not that sure how that would work with good batsmen as I've got a feeling they would play the ball off the back foot - but at the same time these batsmen may fall to Deep Square Leg? But, I've been bowling the ball on or about leg stump with the better bats and this seems to have been causing problems, so it'll be an option. This new approach initially would suit bringing the field right up, but I think I'd have to prove consistent accuracy in game situations to justify taking that approach. But, overall my bowlings looking very strong and if I can increase fitness and stamina things look promising.

Easter Break

It's only a week and it'll be Easter and potentially 2 weeks of non-stop cricket either in the Paddock or over at the Rec. It's over this 2 week period that my fitness and strength increases exponentially because I'm out all day doing nothing but doing stuff with the kids - cricket, cycling, swimming, walking, running, rugby - even a bit of soccer! Today bowling those 27 overs, my arms and shoulders are fine, but my feet are the parts that are sore. My knees have come through fine too as last year they were ropey at times. So just some general activity over the coming three weeks should see a good level of fitness. More fine weather tomorrow, so more bowling and hopefully I'll be able to get Joe, Kieran and Ben involved.

Warm summer in prospect

The prospects of a very dry and warm summer continue with the last couple of days being very warm and sunny for this time of year. The temp yesterday was in the 20 degree centigrade region and no sign of rain. One end of the paddock is already drying up and cracking, so the paddock this year is going to be a bit ropey I reckon. The intention is that we'll get over there and mow it today, so hopefully we'll post up some pic's.

2nd from last nets

2nd from last nets last night, hardly anyone there, but our net had most of the regulars in it and they're a good bunch of blokes. It includes a handful of spinners including the off-spinner who bowled me 6 times in sucession last year, a leggie and 3 pace bowlers of whom one is very quick. With regards my batting I reckon I've made some advances this year to the point where now I opt to be the first in the nets and get to face all these blokes when they're fresh and fast, whereas last year I used to be one of the last to bat ensuring they were already knackered! The same off-spinner from last year hasn't bowled me once this year and my abilities against the seam bowlers have improved since the end of the season last year when I showed that I could keep them at bay. It looks like now if the balls outside of the off-stump I may be able to score some runs through the region between point and cover and hit the ball back past the bowler on the offisde between the stumps and mid off. I'm definitely a No.10/11 still, but I may score a few runs this year and be able to see that the bloke at the other end gets rotated and puts runs on the board. The biggest area of improvement is that increasingly the fear factor of getting out and getting hurt seems to have diminished, I've still got a tendency on the rare occasion to turn my back on the ball if it bounces up, so I've got to stop that.

Bowling went really well tonight, took several wickets and had batsmen defending rather than slogging and most of those that were getting some bat on the ball were running a very high risk of being caught at square leg. Increasingly I'm bowling round the wicket pitching the ball outside of leg stump turning it sharply into the batsman and tonight I bowled beaut, very wide outside of leg and then it spun in across front of the batsman hitting top of off - lovely ball! More and more I'm finding that bowling like this and onto leg stump is potentially bringing wickets and this is on a mat, so what it'll be like on a wicket should be very interesting.

Prior to going to nets I had a bowl in the Paddock for the first time this year on grass and while I was there I was focusing on getting the ball to really spin and it came together combined with pretty good accuracy and this transferred to the nets, so overall, if this is going to continue into the start of the season, it looks like I may make a good start with both the bat and the ball. I just need to get my core strength back on track and general fitness as I've lost some ground there due to a crappy cold.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sidearm, Paddock and kids training

It did rain over night so I took advantage of the fact and had the roller on the paddock again. It looks like the layout of the Paddock is going to be exactly as it has been for the last 3 years, which means the batting area is going to be dirt, the rest of it seems to have recovered pretty well and come the Easter holiday might be fairly usable if the council get in there and mow it. It will benefit from some rain once it's been cut as that'll allow me to get it really smooth and flat. Overall I'm optimistic that it'll be usable for a few months.


We had the sidearm out today, both Joe and Ben didn't fancy facing it, but they were willing initially to give it a go with me. In order to protect the wet grass at the bowling end we deployed the heavy duty bowling mat for the first time and that looks very promising as a good solid platform from which to bowl off of, so that'll be used all summer to prevent ruts and loose material under-foot. Ben and Joe's use of the sidearm was a little below par, with Joe soon giving up with it and Ben following not long after. Ben at least was asking 'Well, how long have got to use it in order that I get good at it'? I think he wants to be able to use it, but gets frustrated by the fact that it isn't that easy. They don't seem to want to put the effort in over the longer term to get it sussed. He made the point that he'd learned some pretty difficult stunt scooter tricks by watching youtube tutorials and that I needed to show and tell him what to do and how to do it, but I couldn't... It's one of those intuitive things that you get a feel for with practice, every time I use it I get more accurate with it and once they'd given up I threw a few buckets of balls and was amazingly accurate. I've got it sussed now that I can use differing types of balls and differ the technique, but describing the subtleties in the technique for each ball is nigh on impossible, it's just something you feel.

I think we're going to have to change our practice regime in order that it includes a section of practice where they face the sidearm fully padded up, as I'm pretty certain it will be beneficial to them both especially Ben as he'll have to face some pretty fast bowling this season.

Kids Training

The training was different this week, no nets, so G-Man had them doing a series of different drills and then eventually they had a bit of a knock about. Both Ben and Joe took wickets and their mate Kieran probably made the biggest contribution to his side with the bat as the last man standing. Kieran with some guidance and encouragement could be a half decent batsman and he too might benefit from practicing with the sidearm. In Joe's U11 group as well, his mate Harry Hodgson is one of those kids with good eye/ball coordination and could easily improve in leaps and bounds as he get older and starts to listen to instructions and takes on board the theory and puts it into practice.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Paddock

Here in the UK we're heading for a drought unless a lot of rain falls pretty soon, rivers and reservoirs are up to 50% down on capacity and this is before the summer even starts. We've had 2 consecutively dry winters, with very little in the way of rain and increase in colder snowy weather which only lasts for a week or so.

As far as the Paddock is concerned, what with the removal of the fence, I was in two minds whether I'd maintain it this year, but last week we had a bit of a knock about in there using the sidearm. I've said to Joe, Ben and Kieran that whoever bowls me out 10 times first will get a tenner and that's given them all incentive to pick up the sidearm and start using it therefore improving their accuracy with it and giving me the chance to face faster bowling. But interestingly, even though the paddock is in a real mess at the moment, the ball was coming through fine, so with a little rain today I took the opportunity to get in there with the roller and give it a going over. As I write it's raining right now and due to continue through the night, so it's likely that I'll have another go tomorrow and I may also seed it.

With regards the fence, I contacted the local council and they've said that there's a small chance that something may happen, so fingers crossed if they've got to spend money before their financial review and they're looking for projects to spend the cash on quickly, we may get lucky?

Slow start to early season prep

Haven't been on here much. Combination of still feeling a bit ropey, and work being harder than normal because of factors linked to the recession meaning I'm just knackered. But slowly I'm feeling better and a little fitter and I'm still chucking the ball around and flicking it.

Last night was a good night at nets, a relatively poor turn out, which is odd, because you'd think that we'd struggle to get sides out on the basis of the numbers that turn up at nets, yet in the summer I struggle to get a match in any team as you might record from the blog last year. But I bowled quite well causing one or two of the better batsmen some problems and one or two acknowledging that the bowling was good. The previous nets before last night were similar, although they were getting the ball away it was in the air - short cover, gully, point and Square leg all potentially places where the ball could have been caught, so overall I reckon I'm doing okay. Last night changes in pace did for a lot of them and I'd been watching some of the senior players bowling - one a finger spinner who bowled obvious big turning off-breaks and the other bloke just seemed to be dead accurate always on the stumps forcing the player to play the ball. I noticed the 2nd bloke varied his pace and length loads, bowling in a way that suggested that if you miss I'll hit the stumps, he bowled off of one or two steps and whipped all the balls in surprisingly fast for such a short run-in, but then out of no-where he had an effort ball that was just so much faster and either, right at the base of the stumps or in one case half way up the stumps. But both of them deployed the same approach - several balls at one speed and then one out of no-where much faster.

I'm noticing more that I'm resorting to a couple of tactics, both of which rely on fairly accurate bowling. I'm now starting with an off-stump line (Over the stumps) which has to be accurate - threatening the off-stump looking to see how they play the ball. I'm hoping that they play with a straight bat looking to drive me, but then dependent on what they do... if they're able to get the ball away I then change the line bowling over the stumps still - bowling a leg stump line a lot fuller. I find that this fuller ball mixed in with the normal deliveries seems to cramp them up and causes problems with the potential for close in fielders to take catches. The other tactic is similar but I go round the wicket and bowl right into the feet and again this usually catches out those that are not so adept on the legside. The blokes I play against seem to have the ability to flick the ball off their pads when it's bowled with some pace, but slower bowling combined with some dip doesn't seem to suit this approach and the ball ends up ballooning up for an easy catching opportunity for Square Leg. I'm in no way saying that these are going to work against really good batsmen, but 3rd and 4th XI players I may have a chance I reckon? It's going to be interesting this summer as my bowling with the new action is going to be far more threatening I reckon.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Cor blimey, I was hoping to get a good start to the season, good levels of fitness and good start with my bowling, but it's all been put back as I came down with a horrible cold that took the best part of 3 weeks to shake off. Thankfully, the back end of it is fading now and I'm getting back into the swing of things and working on my fitness. I seem to recall a similar thing happened last year which meant that I was bowling poorly in the nets and I think that was remembered by the blokes that pick the teams and subsequently I hardly got a game at the start of the season last year. Whether that was the reason I don't know for sure but that's how it felt?

My Bowling

Potentially, with the new action pretty much in place now, I just need to get to full fitness and perhaps all I need to do is tweak my action a little. This Friday gone I bowled at nets and noted a few things that I wasn't doing. I'm not sure whether other people have the same issues, and it probably only affects the afflicted or those of us looking to improve to the extent that we go looking for variations or maybe over-analyse what we do, but, I find that I bowl with a check list in my head. I have a feeling that more naturally talented people just simply bowl and get the desired outcome. It may be the case that had I not gone down the learning the Googly too early
route I may have been one of those naturals? But having had the Googly Syndrome, I've had to re-learn the Leg Break and in doing so have disected it to the point ridiculousness? So now I bowl having to think...

Run up straight.

Come out of the bound with my foot landing sideway to get side on.

Cock the wrist.

Have the leading arm long and strong reaching up and out.

Rotate the shoulders and hips in unison - not seperated.

Get up on the pivot foot toes and rotate.

Keep the motion going forwards.

Keep my head steady and in alignment with where I want the ball to go.

Whip the arm over fast.

Flick the ball from the hand.

Bring the bowling arm down and past the hips through the fade out in the follow through.

If I get all that together it works well! Thing is if I just miss out on one of those components it doesn't work that well, but then if you're thinking through this lot too much it then screws up your rythym, so the whole thing is a bit of a conundrum. With lots of practice it does come together every now and then, but it relies on fitness to some extent.