Monday, April 29, 2013


Have a friendly game against Upminster they said, the sides will be equal… it’ll be fun they said. Ben had been asked to play against an Upminster u15/u16’s mixed team, he was slightly concerned because of the u16’s factor, remember he is only 14 still, as are many of his mates in the team. I asked Dave the manager and he said… yeah it’ll be fine, they’re putting out a similar team and we’ll have Jimmy Breeze and Bradley staff (Our U16’s).

Kieran (Under 13's bowler of the year last year) was added to the team line up later in the week, he's one of  Ben’s mates and one of the "Paddock Boys", the lads that I've been instrumental in introducing to the game and therefore another bowler. But also like Ben, still only 14 and not that enthusiastic about the prospect of batting against established U15's and U16's seam bowlers. Ben, during the week had time to come to terms with the prospect of batting and was ready come Sunday morning, but Kieran having had the late call-up hadn't quite got in the zone at this point and was still really bricking it,  pacing up and down and not able to keep still, like someone waiting to be interviewed for a job. By the time we left Ben was pretty composed and we drove to Upminster with the weather on our side.  Everyone turned up, but there were some notable omissions, apparently some of our key players were not there because of that other game.

The team consisted of…

Sonny Downes
Mark Broadhurst
Jimmy Breeze
Mitchell McLeod
Bradley Staff
Harrison Birch
Harrison Morris
Anthony Ayres
Tom Hardy
Ben Thompson
Kieran Barbero

The game started off really promising and within a matter of a few overs we had the prospect of a hat-trick with Bradley Staff taking a couple of back to back wickets, unfortunately I didn’t video his bowling which is a shame as he bowled well. The bowling from my vantage point looked reasonable so early in the season and with the fact that wickets were going down reinforced this to some extent. But, there was the odd short ball and a handful of wides, but overall it was fine and the game ended with the lads restricting them to 96. This looked like a reasonable performance considering that some of these lads were BIG. For the most part it looked as though their team was made up or predominantly U16's players and all at the upper end of the age limit. Whereas most of our team are under 15's players and mostly at the lower limit of that age group, many of them still only 14. Later in the week I was told that many of the Upminster lads were ex - Essex players and district players, so the bowling and fielding performance was in fact very good.

It had crossed my mind that maybe none of the Upminster lads were batsmen and that this team was made up of bowlers? But then again, watching them face our lads bowling, they were playing proper shots.

Our main man strode out –  Sonny Downes, he’s one of our bigger lads from last years U13’s team and took the first ball. One of the other batemen said... “He’s said that he’s going to try and stick it out for the full 20 overs”. So there was obvious confidence in our camp after their fielding performance. The first bowler Chuter marked his run-up out – he was a seamer and one of their bigguns. His bowling looked okay, but Sonny seemed to be equal to it and then on the 5th ball, Sonny drove at it and the ball caught a thick edge and the bloke at slips "Leach" moved cat-like from his position taking a very well executed catch to his right and suddenly, we were a man down. The next bloke up was our biggest lad Jimmy Breeze a genuine U16 player, he joined one of the ex U13’s who’d been at the non-strikers end… Mark Broadhurst, who is still finding his feet and confidence as a batsman. The bowling rotated and another biggun took over. Another seamer and fast again, bowling slightly wide of the off-stump. Mark did his stuff, but looked a bit stuck in the crease, not moving his feet enough maybe, or should he have been leaving these balls as they were fairly wide? He nicked one and it went to ground – short of the slips, but you could sense they had their tails up. Meanwhile, once Jimmy was back on strike we got some runs on the board, six runs which had included a 4 and a couple of singles, but in the process, Mark fell victim to Jimmy's superior fitness and was unable to make his ground on a tight single and was run-out. Not all was lost, we still had Mitchell McLeod, who in his day is very good, but then - so were these blokes. Mitchell went for a golden duck bowled by Chuter.  Harrison Birch came in and looked promising getting through to facing 8 balls, but Chuter struck again with Hazel taking a catch off his bowling and Harrison went without disturbing the scoreboard operator for another 0. Harrison Morris then made his way out and similarly faced a number of balls not able to find the gap and get the ball away for runs, 11 balls he faced before being bowled by Pickering for another duck. I think during that partnership Jimmy was lost as well having faced 10 balls. Another couple of wickets went both facing 1 ball successfully before being bowled for 0. Anthony Ayres bowled by Sadek and Bradley Staff by Carter-Millar. Tom Hardy was the our next run machine scoring 1 off of 11 balls, again, simply not being able to find the gap when he got some bat on the ball.

 All that was left now was the specialist bowlers, the self confessed non-batsmen - Ben and Kieran. They’d both been nervous about the match before-hand and now having witnessed the slaughter before them they too had to ‘Go over the top’ and be gunned down in an instant. Ben was first batting at No.10 replacing Bradley Staff, thankfully he was there with someone that could bat a bit... Tom, who could talk him through the process in theory? But Tom despite facing 11 balls eventually went meaning that the last two were Kieran and Ben. Kieran almost shaking in his boots made his way out to the middle like a man going to the gallows. It was inevitable that their stay would be short and fruitless and the whole thing made worse by the fact that now they had a combination of their best seamer, Chuter and a finger spinner bowling off-breaks. The only thing on their side was the fact that in our knock-abouts the majority of what they face is spin – Joes ‘offies’ and my leg-Breaks and Wrong-uns, so the pace and flight might be familiar to them?

As they’d gone out the crowd and previous victims had shouted an array of contradicting advice… “Block them”! Shouted one, “Have a go – try and score fours” said another. I said... just have a look and just see what you think you should do, there’s no expectation of you, you’ve done your bit, you’re the bowlers, just take your time and stick  it out as long as you can and play your shots when you can.

Like a corny Disney film where the under-dogs have their day, Ben faced one ball after another thwarting the slaughter and adding runs! Both of them buzzing on adrenlin and still crapping themselves and trying to get the other on strike, so as to not have to face the seamer, kept surviving. They eventually succumbed to a ball that allowed Kieran to hit one of his leg-side Cow Corner shots that went over the in-fielders almost allowing two runs, they got the timing wrong and Ben made his ground, but Kieran fell woefully short and was easily stumped.
Their partnership ended up being one of the longest and the second most fruitful run-wise in that they scored 4 between them with Ben scoring the second highest with 3 and Kieran coming in joint 3rd with his single run. But the good thing was they came off feeling better about the whole thing, they’d gone out there as nervous as hell, having seen the massacre and came off feeling good about the whole thing with a tinge of what happened to all the batsmen – if we can do that what went wrong for them? Hopefully, despite the fact that the game was a contender for the worst ever batting performance on a cricket pitch ever (I’ve not heard of anything else as bad), there may be some positives drawn from it. As their coach/manager said – we fielded really well, generally the ball was prevented from going for 4’s. I noticed that and there was a definite change in the fact that they were ready to take a hit for the team – diving and putting their bodies on the line to stop the ball. Ben in particular did a spectacular dive as he’s looking to take my title of ‘Superman’ from me because of my efforts in the field. Sonny Downes took a brilliant catch at slips and it was evident that the lads are putting their training into practice.

Bowling though on reflection (Ben and Kieran) was pretty poor by their own standards and this was backed up again on Tuesday night when Ben played for his school. He came away from that saying that he bowled poorly, giving away wides and bowling legside and the wrong lengths. At the minute I’m biting my lip and not saying anything about the fact that spending most of your life watching idiots on Youtube instead of getting out on the paddock and having a bowl will have some cause and effect. Hopefully he’ll reach a point where he admits to himself that he needs to have a practice now and then and join me in the Paddock?
Ben & Kieran

 The Upminster lads
 Ben and Kieran leave the field to applause.
A happy Ben & Kieran

But take heart lads it could be worse. Have a look at this...

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