Monday, October 24, 2016

Accuracy Drills Wrist Spin Bowling

Just spent a whole day (almost) knocking up what is really the first proper page on my website The post is inspired by the last post on here on the subject of developing accuracy, so there's some ideas on there about what you might do as a training drill and there's also some ideas with regards to producing your own pitch map of your bowling in order to plot your development.

Interestingly what with all the talk at the moment about England's spinners being so poor when it comes to the accuracy I've produced a comparison of my bowling versus Adil Rashid's using the illustration here...
Check the whole thing out at...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cricket history Tilbury Essex

Currently I've got two photographic projects on the go that are kind of based around cricket. One of them relates to recording cricket pitches as they are now, so I'm travelling around the country as and when I get the opportunity and I photograph pavilions and the grounds, along with some of the other features. But at the moment the key aspect of it is the pavilions as a record of their architecture... see here. This project is trundling along nicely and is the easier of the two.

The other project is a little different and requires a lot more research. The other project is a landscape project focusing on cricket pitches that were. So for this I have to find out the locations of old cricket pitches and establish where the club house/pavilion was. I then take a shot from a position that would have been directly opposite the pavilion/clubhouse approximately from what would have been the other side of the cricket pitch. So what I'll end up with is a set of odd landscapes where cricket pitches used to be.

I've started in my own locality and I've quite quickly discovered that there is a rich cricket history which is on the cusp of disappearing without any sign of it at all. In my own lifetime in my own town - Tilbury, I'm aware that I've witnessed the demise of two cricket grounds and their associated teams. Tilbury CC who used play on the Daisy Field in Tilbury town folded sometime in the 1980's and the players moved to other clubs in the area. A bloke I played with at Grays and Chadwell (Alan Fulbrook AKA "Fozzy") had played on the Daisy field in Tilbury during the 1970's and 80's as a Tilbury player and had knowledge of the West Tilbury cricket pitch at Condovers. My research so far has indicated that cricket has been played in the following areas...

1. Condovers West Tilbury
2. The Daisy Field - St Chads Road.
3. The Dockers Field?
4. Tilbury Fort - (See below)

There may also be another field outside Tilbury along Dock Road, but as yet there's no indication that cricket was played there... "Hedley's ground". *See update on 17/10/16 below.

Tilbury is quite famous when it comes to cricket as it's one of the only places where cricket players have killed each other over a game of cricket. In a match against Kent played at Tilbury fort a number of blokes killed each other having got into a punch up and then picking up guns (It was an active fort at the time) and shooting each other. See the account here

On the SEDCB's website there's a piece on cricket in Tilbury.

In the SEDCB's article there's the mention of the Interknit Siley Weir cricket team that was based in Tilbury Docks. In the article it's identified that they played on a ground in Tilbury...

They first played on a ground at Dock Road, Tilbury.  The pitch preparation on the ground was done by the club’s own members in their spare time, as this was a time before the days when the local council began maintaining pitches.
The ground was let to them by a Mr. Bill Stickings, who, in order to avoid paying higher rates on a developed field, let cattle graze on it!  Mr. Bannister recalled: “The outfield was a bit rough, but we enjoyed ourselves, both clearing it and playing on it!”
This was around 1918. The same article says that they moved to Blackshots in 1936, so it seems that this ground then disappears from sight as such and it's difficult to ascertain where in Tilbury it was. Recently though via a Tilbury memories page on Facebook one of the blokes commenting on the subject of playing fields mentioned a field in Tilbury along 'The Broadway' where cricket was being played in the 1950's. The Broadway road back in the 1950's prior to Dunlop road being built went pretty much straight towards the Go-Cart track adjacent to Gaylor Road.
The end of the Broadway nee Dunlop Road, Tilbury. (Approx 2014) This view here is the gate entrance to the Go-Kart track looking towards Little Thurrock.
During the Facebook conversation the bloke Ron pointed out that the Broadway originally ran from Dock Road all the way up to this point here where it stops at the Go Cart track. He also mentions the impressive gate entrance and suggested that there may have been a big house here and this was the original gateway, but wasn't sure and had no evidence. I can remember that if you went through the gates, the ground between Gaylor rd and the Go-Kart track was strewn with slabs of concrete and bits of metal suggesting possibly that the site may have been used for industrial activities? Or it may have been left over stuff from the construction of the estate. But all around the Go-Kart track there was evidence of industrial activity and it had that 'Brown-field' feel about it.
Another interesting feature of Dunlop Road nee 'The Broadway' was that there was further evidence of a different past because just at the Adelaide road turn off on what was the Broadway you'll find a number of pre-1970's houses that still exist and must have been in the location when this area was playing fields (Siley's playing field)? or as we called them 'The Dockers Fields'.
Old pre-1960's houses along 'The Broadway' nee Dunlop Road, Tilbury.
These are the houses above and from what I can make out prior to the 1960's these houses just stood in the middle of what was basically countryside and a set of Playing fields as described by Ron and confirmed by maps of the time.
This is the current map of the area. The red line shows the original 1950's road 'The Broadway' running from Dock road right up to the Go Kart track - now Gaylor Road. In Ron's descriptions and my own very vague memory a road ran from the old Broadway - possibly now Adelaide Road onto Siley's fields ringed approximately in blue. In this area, there were tennis courts, rugby fields, football fields and a cricket pitch and at least one changing room building/pavilion? At the current moment I'm still in conversation with Ron and a few other blokes trying figure out exactly what was where.

This is an approximation from 1960-66 based on my memory and Ron's information.


The blue line heading north in the image is the route of the old 'Broadway' which went all the way through to the border between field A and F. My own recollection from the late 1960's is that E was an established allotment, which once the tower blocks were built was moved to the space between the green block D and the school (St Chads secondary school). My Dad had allotment over there which was flanked by the multi-storey car park to the south of it and to the east St Chads school the other-side of the manor.

D - was a farm of sorts, I don't remember there being any houses, possibly caravans, but it did have pigs on it which you could smell and hear. As kids we were always a little wary of it for some reason - it may have had signs up saying private? To the left of D where on the map it says FP there was a thicket of hawthorn bushes.

B - Is where the football pitches were when I was kid and we called this area 'The Dockers Fields'. At that point the road indicated by the bigger blue dots was built and it had new houses on it with conventional roofs, Dunlop road and 'John's' corner shop was being built. I had a mate Ricky Ellingford who lived in the houses opposite 'John's' shop as soon as they were finished. John's shop was at the junction of Dunlop Rd and Adelaide Rd in the 1970's and 80's.

The field A appears to be broken up on this map into sections which may be borders (Fences) indication private land and you can see that the houses which are almost certainly the old houses mentioned above on the map have their boundary lines indicated too. So I'm guessing this isn't a playing field, I need to have this confirmed by Ron.

Field C (grey) is as far as I know St Chads school playing fields.

Much of this is speculation and I'm hoping to get access to more detailed maps in the next few weeks at Grays Library and see if I can dig anything up from the books they have there. My main objective is to figure where the Interknit Siley Weir cricket teams Dock Road cricket pitch was.

17/10/16 Update - Ron on the Internet (Face Book) contacted me having seen the post here and said that the pitch was definitely nowhere near the gates at the end of Dunlop Road/Gaylor Road, looking through the gates where the Go-Kart track used to be was marshes in the 1950's. He then said that pitch that was mentioned as being on Dock Road on the SEDBC website "Interknit Cricket Club" might have been one that Ron says was up near the Rookery at the corner where the Dock Road turns into Little Thurrock. Ron's mentioned it previously and has said that it was known as Hedley's ground or field. Apparently it was there until the mid 1950's and was flooded in the late 1950's. This potentially fits the description on the SEDCB's website...

"Interknit cricket club was formed in 1918 by William Bannister with his friends from the firm of R. N. H. Green and Silley Weir.  They first played on a ground at Dock Road, Tilbury.  The pitch preparation on the ground was done by the club’s own members in their spare time, as this was a time before the days when the local council began maintaining pitches.

The ground was let to them by a Mr. Bill Stickings, who, in order to avoid paying higher rates on a developed field, let cattle graze on it!  Mr. Bannister recalled: “The outfield was a bit rough, but we enjoyed ourselves, both clearing it and playing on it!”

Once they had their ground, players began to think of what to call themselves when writing away for fixtures.  They wanted to maintain their connection with the firms for whom the majority of the team worked, but also wanted to remain independent.  They finally chose the name “Interknit” for this was the telegraphic address of R. N. H. Green and Silley Weir.  This encouraged the firm to help the club and a hut, chairs and table were provided for changing and for tea.  But after this initial aid and interest, no real notice was taken of the club, except for the annual Firm v Club match".
 Looking further using Old maps online I've found a 1947 map of Little Thurrock with the lay-out of the fields and roads. I'm going to show Ron this and see if he pin-point where the Headley's ground/field was.
The green line coming from the bottom of the map is Dock Road and Tilbury is just off the map at the bottom. You can see the Rookery just right of the Little Thurrock. The orange road as far as I can make out is Marshfoot Road. Looking at the map I've noticed something, but I'm not going to say anything till Ron has a look at it and gets back to me. But Ron's field is probably on here somewhere and hopefully he can identify where it is?

17/10/16 Further research - I've also dug this out which is really interesting. Somewhere near the Bull Pub off Dock Road, there seems to have been a football ground, which later was a Greyhound racing track before being built on. This football ground was known as 'The Lawn'.

"Located off Dock Road, close to the Bull Inn, The Lawn was just over half a mile from the Recreation Ground and, fearful that their new rivals would steal a march on them, Grays Athletic resigned from the London League and joined Grays Thurrock in the Kent League, which comprised both professional and amateur clubs.   Despite a lack of spectator facilities, an encouraging crowd of 3,000 made their way to The Lawn on September 4th 1924 to see Grays Thurrock take on Sheppey United in their first match in the Kent League. A couple of old army huts were converted into changing rooms and club offices and, as the months went by, the ground was gradually improved, with a post and rail replacing the original rope around the pitch, and a wooden grandstand coming into use in early 1925.  The first local derby between the two Grays clubs took place in December 1924, an eagerly awaited event which saw an attendance of 4,000–5,000, with some spectators using the skeleton of the not yet completed stand as a vantage point".

Surely this ground, must have been relatively close to the cricket ground we're calling Headley's? I've tried to contact the bloke who wrote the above and see if he can shed some light on the missing 'Interknit' cricket ground.
Tilbury's Interknit gets mentioned here along with 'Hedley's' right at the end of the article there's a mention of the Co-op cricket club having a cricket ground in Bridge Road Grays!!!! I've go to try and find whoever wrote this as they seem to have a wealth of cricket knowledge.

Bowling practice ideas

I've got to admit that I'm not that enamoured with my website it's awkward to use and so much slower than blogging and at the moment I can't figure out how it'll pay for itself. This blog here is free and with the adverts on it, people click on them if they're relevant and I get a fraction of a pence here and there and it builds over the year. So here I am for the moment on the blog. I'll put the content on the website as well, but it's so much easier to create the content here and then copy it over.

I've had a pretty poor season with the ball, but had an interesting match with the bat see here which ended up with me and the bloke who can bat... Adam 'Village' Green winning the 'Champagne moment of the year' award at our annual club awards night. Which was nice, as I've never won an award for any sporting event in my entire life.

The season started off poor with an injury and then the yips for a big section of the season and the two combined led to an indifferent season. I've kind of given up on the longer run-up idea because of the injury situation and the fact that it didn't seem to be adding anything except for expensive overs. It looks as though if I had the opportunity to practice more it might come together, but I'm also working against the fact that I'm not getting any younger.

I went through a phase of self reflection thinking about what I might do, I even pondered just bowling dibbly dobbly straight stuff, as I see so many people taking wickets with relative ease doing just that? Thinking it through, I brought into the equation a number of observations. One of which was the slowness of Majid Haq's bowling.

Inage from -

Haq bowls sub 40mph on occasions and has taken some seriously big wickets including Jaques Kallis. So the whole idea of having to bowl as fast as physically possible in order to take wickets is somewhat negated by Haq's example. This gave me food for thought and a little more optimism at a very dark period in my bowling career. Like everyone else, I'd seen plenty of blokes bowling dibbly dobbly straight stuff and taking shed loads of wickets, but to then know that Haq was doing it at this level got me thinking... Could I bowl slower and what is it these blokes are doing that is so effective and yet seemingly not a lot different to what I do?

More analysis of the situation led me to look at the contradiction of the fact that as I've got better over the years I've seemingly taken less wickets? I spin the ball more than I ever have done, my line is better and I reckon I bowl a bit faster even off of just  2 or 3 steps, so what's different? The adage "S**t bowling gets wickets" I realised might be the answer to the last question.

I was then left thinking... So a number of aspects to my bowling have definitely improved, yet I'm less effective - what's the story there? I've always attempted to bowl a line just outside of the off-stump. Some years back when I used to bowl a pretty good wrong-un, mixed with Flippers this used to work well, with my best bowling figures and season had with that combination. This was the period when I had 'The Googly syndrome'. Since deciding that I'd re-learn the leg-break and drop bowling The Wrong-Un I've pretty much stayed with bowling the same line and despite the fact that my Leg-Break has got gradually better, my figures have got worse.

No-one at our club bowl Leg-Breaks other than me, all conceding it's just too hard, even the legendary youngster Frank Farrington has gone the way of many a Leggie, neglecting his Wrist-Spin in favour of becoming a better batsman and to be fair it's worked and he's now seen as a very promising batsman playing in the club 2nd XI who bowls a bit of leg-spin when they need him to. So with all of these problems there's no-one really at the club who can offer any advice or guidance, so it's just a case of having work things out yourself and this can take years. I'm primarily a Kinaesthetic learner, so I have to do things in order to learn, reading about it and people telling me about it is less effective, but this year I picked up on some suggestions made in the games by my captain and one very important observation by a bloke on one of the forums I used to contribute to.

Recap. So at this juncture I'd pretty much scrapped the idea of trying to add speed to my deliveries by having a longer run-up, age and time to put the effort in, to totally re-model my action by adding speed through the longer run-up increasingly felt like a 3 year plan, which would have taken me up to nearly 60 years old. So the short term plan was... Focus on bowling at a comfortable speed off of a 2 or 3 step walk-in but figure out what enables Haq and others to be successful. I knew one of the key factors as to whey they're successful and this includes Frank Farrington at our club is the inclusion of getting the ball to drift. Over the summer on the forum discussing drift, one of the blokes said something along the lines of "You'll always struggle to get drift because you bowl with such vertical arm".

Lowering the arm angle. I'd hardly ever over a period of 10 years of bowling tried this, so when I gave it a go, it initially felt weird, but very quickly I noticed that the ball was coming out of my hand and spinning through the air with the seam pretty at 90 degrees to the direction of flight every time. That was massively encouraging. In one day over three practice sessions of about an hour each I introduced the consistent 90 degree seam, dip and the thing that has eluded me for ten years... Drift!!!! Not only that, but this was all with what appeared to be an increase in accuracy despite the fact that the action was new.

Factor #2. Over the last couple of years I've bowled with action where I twist my wrist anti-clockwise in the approach to the crease/gather where it feels as though I'm going to release the ball at the point of release with thumb pointing towards the batsman. This produces a ball that comes out with an angle almost at 90 degrees to the flight. But, sometime it comes out with the seam tilted backwards, other times with the seam upright, therefore sometimes it turns well off the wicket and other times when the seam angle is tilted it skids on, what Shane Warne refers to as a Leg-Breaks natural variation and what a lot of people refer to wrongly as a Slider. Alongside bowling with the lower arm, I kept this delivery for my straighter arm deliveries and this too came together nicely especially with regards to accuracy and it was this ball that I used in the last few games. I'd have had a bagful of wickets if it wasn't for the fact that so many of the catches that should have been taken were spilled.

Factor #3. Lee Dutton's captaincy. Lee comes up with a few directions in the game that are usually directed at the bowlers and I noticed it when he was telling the others rather than me... "Bowl at the stumps - make him play the ball". It was probably aimed my younger son Joe who's bowling is very accurate and is aimed at just outside off-stump but batsman sometimes will just leave the ball if he's bowling consistently on that line. On hearing it at a latter stage in the game when the opposition were looking to play for a draw, I realised how much sense it made, there was no way that the player was going risk playing the shot if he didn't need to, but by changing the line and making him play brings in the chance to take wickets. I then extrapolated the theory to my bowling and realised that it made so much more sense than bowling off-stump line. If the batsman reads the ball as being outside of off he has at least two options - play it or leave it, if the length is wrong it's likely to be played through the off-side for four.

Factor #4. In the last handful of games, without any real consistency in length, but with the increased accuracy brought about by the use of the twisted wrist delivery (Factor #2) I found the main problem  was anything short was played off of the back-foot far to easily. Better length balls which were played with a straight bat, often went through the gate, but turned off the wicket and missed the off-stump, or beat the outside of the bat and spun away missing everything. A couple of wickets were had caught by the keeper or slips, but Dutton intervened in the last game saying bowl on a leg-stump line. He didn't explain why, but it obviously brings in an increased chance of the ball hitting the stumps if it evades the bat.

Conclusion. With all these new attributes to my bowling and the advice from Dutton, I realised that if there was one thing I needed to do to get all these things working for me it was to be more accurate with my length. So at this point I got rid of the stumps during practice and instead started to bowl onto a bit of fake grass. The plan was to work on 3 deliveries, looking to spin them hard and land them in the Terry Jenner zone or even tighter threatening the stumps.

I practice in a paddock across the road from my house and I noticed that there was section of fence that was still intact which I could bowl towards. So I cut back all the bushes and grass and practiced here all through Sept into October including today. Here's the set up I worked with initially...

I worked on how many balls out of 30 I could land on the mat and the best so far is 17 and the other thing I look to do is consecutive balls landing on the mat and the best so far has been 9. In the last few sessions I've reduced the width of the target area and now use a piece of hardboard which is 10" by about 30" approx. as below...
 Today I got my younger son to watch where the ball landed and mark on a piece of paper where the balls landed in relation to the piece of board and the surrounding area. I then told him where the balls ended up in relation to the spin, so I was able to put together the pitch map diagram below.
 This is the distance I set the target area up in relation to the stumps.
Balls at the ready...

Once back indoors I created the graphic below...
The yellow balls ended up hardly spinning and went on to land approx in the yellow zone marked behind the stumps, Red spun a little and would have ended up slightly wide of off and so on. I think the illustration is more realistic with regards to what would happen on helpful wicket. In the paddock because of the surface the ball spins miles and isn't a true representation of what would happen in a game. But, the focus in the accuracy aspect and I'm happy with what I ended up with here. The balls are in two clusters in the diagram, the first bucket were all relatively short and Joe suggested I bowl fuller so the second cluster I tried to target the end closer to the batsman.

This seems to have worked really well for me at this point, having chosen to bowl relatively slow, the ball spins better out of the hand turns off the pitch nicely. But the two basic deliveries I've been working with as explained above both have differing characteristic, the low arm variation is especially good when it comes together because it both dips and drifts and turns miles.

Whether I can carry this forward over the winter and hit the ground running in the spring bringing this to the game remains to be seen, but at the moment I'm very optimistic.