Thursday, 16 December 2010

The harem's newest member - "Olivia"

My new pride and joy arrived today, even if initially it was inexplicably delivered to a Mr Hill at number 39, a house a significant distance down the street from mine. It matters not, she's here now and she looks gorgeous. I've never seen such a piece of willow. It's a good thing I'm not superstitious, as I counted thirteen grains on the face...

I spent a while wondering about names. I knew it had to be a girl's name beginning with 'O', and came up with about a dozen candidates. I whittled these down to Odessa, Ophelia and Olivia before finally plumping for Olivia after I got one of my twitter friends to decide a winner. Given the olive-green colour of the labels I suppose it's rather apt!

So now comes the preparation, and I'm really rather nervous about it. I really don't want to muck up such a lovely, expensive bat. I rang M&H for some tips and they were very helpful, and I'm going to try my best. The first coat of oil went on at 2pm today and the second is due at 10pm. By the time the tea-break rolls round tomorrow (much of my life at the moment seems to revolve around the timings of Ashes Tests) the oil should have soaked in and I can start with the knocking in, which is the part that terrifies me the most. One thing M&H were at pains to stress was that I will probably need to hit the bat much harder than seems sensible, so no namby-pamby taps... Once I think I've got it nicely knocked in, the facing can go on, and the bat will be ready to start the season.

One simple, really nice touch was the guy at M&H wishing me good luck with the bat. I'm already dreaming about what shots I'm going to play and how many runs I'm going to score. I know a bat, however good, can't turn a rank amateur into VVS Laxman overnight, but for the moment it's nice to dream a little...

For those who asked, here are a few photos of my new bat:

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A new blade

I've finally done it. I've finally bought myself that bat that's been nagging away at me all season.

As you read this a Millichamp & Hall Original weighing 2lbs 7oz with facing and a toe guard is winging it's way closer to my loving embrace. I don't quite know why I've bought it though, My batting average is, as I keep reminding myself, a mere 1.43 after my seven innings last year. How can I possibly justify spending £185 on a piece of wood? Well, it's a very nice piece of wood, and I've never seen anything but praise for Millichamp & Hall's hand-made bats. I suppose it fits in with my age-old maxim of making sure I'm never in a position to blame my tools. Certainly last year I felt a few times that I'd struck the ball pretty well but it hadn't gone as far as I'd expected. With my new bat, if it doesn't go like a rocket I'll know I can't blame the bat.

To justify this expense, nothing less than a ten-fold increase in my batting average will do, although 14 runs an innings is probably still too small a contribution to be meaningful. I still think in our league a team needs 160 or more to have a good chance of winning, so I need to be looking to 20 or more before I'm really pulling my weight with the bat. Hopefully having a lighter and better bat will help me to regularly make double figures.

So what do I call this one then?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

In Affectionate Remembrance of Australian Cricket...

...which was mercilessly put to the sword by England at the Adelaide Oval.

England have beaten Australia, in Australia, in a match that actually counts, by an innings and 71 runs, and we have a 1-0 lead in the series. Now re-read that sentence. I know. I can't quite believe it either.

Michael Atherton said that this was the best performance by an England team in 30 years, which since I'm not yet 29 makes this the best in my entire lifetime. Having watched most of it, I can easily believe that. We comprehensively thrashed them on four out of the five days, and if it hadn't been for the rain we could have wrapped this up with Monday off. From start to finish, our batting, bowling and fielding were an order of magnitude better than Australia's. There's only one word for it, this was a ROUT.

I was going to write a post a couple of weeks ago appealing for everyone to stop being so bloody English, stop thinking this series was going to be close and realise that actually we have the better individuals and the better team all round. I couldn't quite bring myself to write it, as I guess I was being too bloody English! If we can maintain our current form, this is the promised land for us. Our performance in Adelaide was so good, so ruthless, so utterly flawless in every department that we can with some justification look forward to challenging not just for the odd series but for nothing less than World dominance in the Test arena. In recent years we've beaten the West Indies, Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan at home, beaten Bangladesh away and drawn with South Africa. Next year we face India and Sri Lanka at home and if we can win against them we will be right up there. Good times!

In the meantime, the nature of Australia's performances so far - and don't forget that our second innings at Brisbane is still going at 1137 for 6 - allied to the lack of any clear way back for them, leads one to think that it's not a matter of if England retain the Ashes, so much as a case of how much we win the series by. Right now, a cricket match between England and Australia is like a battle of the bands between Led Zepplin and McFly...

Saturday, 4 December 2010


The England vs Pakistan series seems a long time ago now, but it's worth returning to one particular match, and one particular moment.

Let's go back to the Oval. England were two-nil up in the four match series, but while our bowlers had proven adept at skittling Pakistani batsmen cheaply, many of our own batsmen were also struggling for form. Only Morgan and Prior had scored centuries, and of all England's batsmen Cook was looking particularly uncertain. Never mind what had happened on the far-away winter tours, no matter that he had competently understudied as captain in Bangladesh, in the English summer season he had posted scores of 7, 23, 29, 8, 12, 17 and 4 prior to the Oval Test, where in the first innings he had again succumbed for just 6. Even against some clearly highly capable bowling, for an opening bat this was simply not good enough. At that point, frankly, he was for the high jump.

So in the second innings, Cook was under serious pressure. It showed. His innings was not one of those where you very quickly see that a big score is coming, it was one of those where every ball survived seems a decided bonus. He hadn't come in to form, he just seemed to be riding a rare flush of good luck. Somehow, he rode this luck all the way to 96, but there was nothing certain about his transition to three figures until another generous dollop of good luck came his way. He blocked a ball back to bowler Asif who, frustrated by Cook and Trott's continued presence, pick the ball up and shied at the stumps with a throw so wayward it went directly over the keeper's head, and on over the boundary to give Cook his first and only century of the summer. Cook's ticket to Australia was finally booked.

That overthrow has so far cost Australia 438 runs...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Waugh's declared...

"I am speaking to you from the Long Room at Lord's Cricket Ground. This morning the England Cricket Board's representative in Australia handed the Australian Cricket Board a final note stating that, unless we hear from them by 11 o'clock this evening that they were prepared at once to concede that we are the superior cricketing nation, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country's cricket team is at war with Australia."

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Latest scores

Watson (NSW) ..............................6
Katich (NSW) ................................1
Ponting (Tas) .................................7
Clarke (NSW) ........................Injured
Hussey (WA) ................................0
North (WA) ..................................17
Haddin (NSW) .............................10
Johnson (WA) ...........................121*
Hauritz (NSW) ...............................0
Hilfenhaus (Tas) ....................Rested
Bollinger (NSW) .............................0

Meanwhile, in Tasmania:
Panesar ......................................13

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: Bodyline

If there is one word in the cricketing lexicon that's bound to arouse controversy, it is "Bodyline". The tactic devised by Douglas Jardine to counter the prowess of Bradman, carried out to devastating effect by Harold Larwood, created a full-blown diplomatic incident at the time and has a lasting legacy in Anglo-Australian relations to this day.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sit Rep

From: A. Flower, CiC, Ashes Expeditionary Force
To: ECB Command HQ, Lord's
08/11/10 09:10 GMT
Overall our first few days behind enemy lines have gone to plan, and we have encountered surprisingly little hostile resistance of the sort we have experienced on previous missions.
We did engage a localised force on 05/11/10 and I am pleased to inform you that after a dramatic breakthrough yesterday morning our first skirmish resulted in a notable success. Cpt Strauss excelled himself, 2Lt Pieterson seems to be back to his former self, and Cpl Broad and Sgt Swann did well to capitalise on some inspired work from young LCpl Finn. There are however still some concerns about Lt Cook and other middle-ranking members of the raiding party, but overall confidence remains high.
We have obtained a document detailing the morale of the enemy populace, and it makes for extremely encouraging reading. It appears that a majority of the locals are convinced that we shall ultimately prevail, and in addition there seems to be considerable mutinous intent both within the populace at large and within the enemy's elite force itself, and we will obviously be aiming to exploit this as much as possible. The enemy have suffered a run of setbacks on a number of fronts of late and seem to be suffering from a certain amount of mental disintegration. Nevertheless I am taking steps to ensure we do not become complacent.
We have now moved camp to Adelaide where preparations will continue.
God Save The Queen.

Ashes advent calendar: The Baggy Green

The Baggy Green Cap is surely the most revered article of clothing in Australian sport. Worn by the Australians since the turn of the twentieth century, the cap is an evolution of the traditional English eight-panelled woollen cricket cap, and features a pre-federation version of the Australian coat of arms.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Shane Warne's nightmare

Ashes advent calendar: Melbourne

Melbourne was founded in 1835 and named after William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, a Whig politician who was British Prime Minister at the time. The discovery of gold in Victoria in the 1850s saw it grow exponentially and with a population of 4 million it is now Australia's second-largest City and it's busiest seaport. After Australian federation in 1901 the national Government resided within Melbourne as an interim measure, until it moved to a purpose-built Parliament in Canberra in 1927.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A solid start

So far, so good...

England wrapped up a good win against Western Australia this morning, and I'm pretty sure that's the first time we've won a First-Class match down under since the 2002/03 tour! We won by 6 wickets after some great bowling by Broad and Swann created a WA collapse and set us up to chase down 243 with just over 50 overs in which to do it.

Good old Captain Fantastic made 120 not out, great to see he's in good nick as his runs have been key for us for a couple of years now. Disappointingly Cook only scored 9 to add to his 4 in the first innings, but Pietersen seemed back to some form with 35. Hard to know how to judge the middle order as we needed to score at a one-day pace, but the main thing is we've started our tour with a win and can build from here.

Ashes advent calendar: The Boxing Day Test Match

The Boxing Day Test Match has become a great tradition in Australian cricket, thanks to a combination of glorious summer weather, one of the world's largest test venues and good old Christmas cheer. This year's Boxing Day match will be the tenth to form part of an Ashes series, with the score currently standing at 5-3 in favour of the home side with one draw.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: Richie Benaud

A international leg-spinning all-rounder, captain, author, journalist, commentator, and Australian national treasure, Richie Benaud is probably the most well-known and well-loved personality in post-war cricket. Indeed, such has been his success with pen and microphone since his playing days ended that all too often his endeavours on the cricket field are overlooked.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: "This thing can be done"

The 29th August, 1882, has, thanks to the Sporting Times obituary, passed into history as the day that English cricket "died". The manner of England's undoing only 8 runs short of victory in an epic match has cemented the everlasting fame of Australian pace-man Fred Spofforth, whose bowling in the final innings almost single-handedly won the match for the tourists, leading directly to the birth of the Ashes.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: The Obituary

While Test Matches had taken place between Australia and England since 1877, and exhibition matches had started considerably earlier, it wasn't until 1882 that the Ashes acquired its name, thanks to the wit of an anonymous cricket fan placing his famous mock obituary in the pages of the Sporting Times.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: Sydney

Host for the fifth and final Test on 2nd January, Sydney is the oldest and largest city in Australia. The city was established in 1788 close to Botany Bay, where Captain Cook had landed 18 years earlier, and from its origins as a penal colony it grew steadily and is now the financial centre of the country and state capital of New South Wales, ranking as one of the wealthiest cities on the planet. It is the site of two contrasting Australian cultural icons - Bondi Beach and the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: Sledging

A firm fixture of the Ashes these days is the practice of Sledging, whereby the fielding side, particularly the bowler or wicketkeeper, attempts to disrupt the batsman's concentration by way of verbal intimidation, mickey-taking, abuse, or anything else with half a chance of working. The Australians are past masters. Rather than give you some long analysis of where it came from, I'll just list as many of the most amusing examples as I can find.


Monday, 1 November 2010

Ashes advent calendar: WG Grace

(the first in a series of trivia articles counting down to the First Test in Brisbane)
What is left to be said about William Gilbert Grace? In his day he was, quite simply, the most famous sportsman on Earth, sport's first real superstar in fact, and even 95 years after his death he remains cricket's most iconic personality.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Presentation evening

So after my first season of cricket, last night saw me attend my first presentation evening, as the club came together to look back on the year and give out prizes to the best performers.

After a beer or two and a three-course meal, it was on to the presentations. Firstly ties were awarded to all those who had taken hat-tricks or scored hundreds - there were 5 centurions and no hat-tricks - before each team captain in turn described his side's season before picking his player of the year. Only the 3rds seem to have had a decent season, but everyone seemed to have had a fun year.

The Eagle has landed

From: A. Flower, CiC, Ashes Expeditionary Force
To: ECB Command HQ, Lord's
30/11/10 09:10 GMT
All sixteen members of the raiding party have successfully landed behind enemy lines. So far everything is going to plan. Will proceed to acclimatise and prepare before the raid commences on November 25th.
God save the Queen.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Coming soon: the Ashes advent calendar

As I'm completely stumped for what else to fill this blog with between now and the start of England's glorious crusade to retain the Ashes, from the start of November I'll be doing an Ashes advent calender, counting down to the First Test in Brisbane with feature on a different Ashes-related subject each day.

Sadly, since no-one has yet devised a way to send it down a telephone wire, you will have to get your own chocolate...

You've gotta love the Aussies...

Monday, 18 October 2010

Aiming for a place in the record books

I've been having a look at the club's 2010 fixture book and it seems to me there's some low-hanging fruit in the 4th XI records. I would obviously like to get my name in the club's record books even if it's something pretty minor so here's a few for me to aim at.

On the batting front, a few of the records will have been surpassed this year thanks to Bob Singh's amazing season, but some of the partnerships further down the order seem ripe to be beaten. My own highest partnership last year was 18, so with a little improvement to my batting and a good partner I should be able to push this significantly higher. Unless these have been beaten in 2010, the 6th wicket record is 32, 7th is 48, 8th is 41, 9th is 23 and 10th is 25. I fancy those last two but not sure I'd be willing to bat at 10 just for the sake of a record. Perhaps I should persuade the captain to put me in at 8 when possible and have a chance with all of them.

No-one broke any bowling or fielding records this year, so it's simple to know what I'm aiming for. 21 wickets in a season would put me 6th on that list, and match figure of 6 for less than 49 would get me another mention. 7 or more catches would merit a mention in the field, but with all these things it's probably best I think about getting to 1 first...

Of course, most of these records rely on someone properly filling out the scorebook first, so maybe I need to impress this upon my team-mates. I think that in matches where I'm not playing next year I'll take it on myself to do the book, do a full job and and see if that helps encourage them.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Entering uncharted territory

Wonders will never cease - I have at last decided to join a gym. Such a thing would have been unthinkable only a short while ago, but such is the devastating effect that my cricket habit has had on me.

It was clear in a few matches this season that after a couple of hours in the field I was prone to rather too much fatigue, and in those overs where three or four ball-chases came my way the third and fourth were considerably more challenging. I am pretty much the only smoker on the team, which doesn't help, but my overall fitness has had precious little attention in about 11 years and overall I just haven't taken care of myself. Back then I could run a mile in a little over 5 minutes, but today I'm not sure I'd even make it that far.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A word of caution

So today Australia lost to India again, losing the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-0 in a series which was all you could ever hope for apart from being at least one match too short. Today was crushing for Australia, as India cruised to victory with not much undue fuss, leaving the Aussies languishing below England in the Test rankings for the very first time. Australia's tail was mopped up in under an hour, and they only managed to get three Indian wickets with some poor bowling, poor fielding, poor keeping and poor captaincy all playing a part. Truly I have never seen an Australian team, whatever the situation, look quite so adrift on a cricket pitch.

So the Ashes should be a piece of cake now, right? Well, no.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The IPL, T20, Sky, ECB, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all rant

So the Indian Premier League seems to be going through another crisis as the BCCI seeks to remove any trace of Lalit Modi's malign influence (at least, malign in the view of the BCCI). You know what? I don't care. I watched a few live IPL games last year and frankly I thought it was bollocks. You had all the nauseating "DLF maximums" and the "Citi moment of success", and you had the scantily clad women jumping up and down every time anything even remotely exciting happened to the accompaniment of loud, fast-paced music.

I'd say the same to them as I'd say to the dolly birds who turn up inexplicably on motor racing grids - "Move over love, you're in the way of what I came here to see". If I wanted loud music and half-naked women dancing around inanely, there are plenty of places where I could find that. Frankly, if the cricket doesn't excite you enough in itself, what the hell are you doing watching it in the first place? I remember going to Lord's to watch a Test Match against South Africa a few years ago and I didn't need any dancing girls - chatting with the 93-year-old MCC member next to me was quite enough to pass the time. Surely the secret to the attraction of watching cricket is that it's one of seemingly few sports these days that doesn't absolutely crave your attention the whole damn time.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Not bad for a first go

With my cricket withdrawal symptoms reaching a new peak all my obsessive-compulsive tendencies are being furiously channelled towards my kit, and today it was Virginia's* turn for the TLC.

I'm disproportionately fond of Virginia, my first "proper" bat, but unless the most apocalyptic scenario were to unfold I'll never use her in a match. Hyacinth is ahead of her in the pecking order and by the time Hyacinth retires I'll have another member of the "harem" to take her place. Virginia does, however, have an important role to play in the nets, as her extra two ounces and smaller sweet spot compared to Hyacinth will, I hope, mean I can get into position just a fraction earlier in matches, thus evening out a quick bowler's tendency to ease up a bit when practising, and encourage me to really middle it.

Anyway, Virginia's grip was starting to get a little tatty and in need of replacement. I've never changed a bat grip before - I've never before used a bat often enough for the grip to wear out - and it's one of those tasks you approach with an even mix of excitement and trepidation. It's a new challenge (and there's something weirdly awe-inspiring about those who can make putting a new grip on look effortless), but also a new way to utterly humiliate yourself by making a gigantic mess of something that looks so simple. I took the old grip off and had a couple of goes at putting it back on using a gripping cone, which didn't go fantastically well, but the new grip was much more pliable and as you can see, in the end I did a pretty good job of it!

*for those new to the blog I should explain that my bats have girl's names - the Kashmir willow V1 is called Virginia, the English willow Hyper Blade is called Hyacinth Bucket - Hyacinth for short.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

When looks can be deceiving

I had a little time to kill at lunchtime today, so I popped into the sport shops in town on the off-chance that there were any good bargains to be had. There weren't really, but I came across something that absolutely astounded me.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Now that's what I call a test match!


Batting pads fit for a God

I love the way every now and then you come across a story of a man with a tremendous passion. Look at Barnes Wallis and his half-bonkers, utterly brilliant Bouncing Bomb, and those of you like me who love their motor racing will be aware of the story of Connew F1 team where a bunch of three guys literally built a Formula 1 car in their garage at home and ended up with it lining up on the grid in a World Championship F1 race.

Such a tale came to my attention today. It starts with an Englishman called Mr R.H. Lewis, who in the early 1970s had an unconventional idea about how to make the lightest, most comfortable batting pads.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

How to play Pencil Cricket

There’s no cricket being played by me at the moment, so rather than let the blog fill with cobwebs I thought I’d keep it ticking over with a few random (but cricket-related) articles, of which this is the first. Looking at my Google Analytics data I can see a handful of people have sought out this blog in the understandable search for information on how to play Pencil Cricket, so allow me to illuminate the uninitiated as to how this procrastinator par excellence is played…

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger

At last it's over. We can say goodbye to Pakistan and pretend the whole sorry saga never happened.

But we shouldn't, because in the midst of all that's gone on England have been genuinely impressive. It's not so much their actual cricketing skill that has impressed, although they have on the whole played very good cricket. It's more to do with the way they've coped with being innocent bystanders in one of the most toxic scandals ever to hit any sport, let alone cricket.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Preparing for an Ashes winter

Well obviously the only preparation I really have to do for the winter now that the Club have put the nets out of use (dammit!) is put my kitbag in the loft, but I haven't the heart to yet so I thought I'd give the blog a thorough tidy-up. As you'll have noticed, the scoreboard and bowling figures have gone. Not much point having them on display all winter, not least for my own sanity as I'm sick of that big fat zero, so instead I've totted up my season's figures. They make for pretty bleak reading it has to be said... The next thing you'll notice is my Twitter feed. I know Twitter can be pretty inane at times (trust me, I've seen the conversations between Anderson, Finn and Swann...) but I thought that when the Ashes are on this would be a better way of communicating my reactions to the world than clogging the blog up with comments like "Pietersen you muppet, you needn't fish at that one!"

I'm not sure yet how I'll follow the Ashes this year, last time round I tuned into Test Match Special but this time I'm tempted to get a Sky subscription on my computer. It's not cheap though and having tried it out for a month I found that my computer was inexplicably changing its identity, meaning that after a while Sky thought it was five different computers and cut me off. At least I got to see the Trott-Broad partnership at Lord's though. The TMS route is a pretty old-school option, although it has to be said cricket on the radio can be remarkably gripping.

In other news I've decided it's about time I nail a County's colours to my mast and I've decided it's Warwickshire for me. I took a few days agonising over it, since in Staffordshire there's no obvious choice. I looked at all the neighbouring counties - Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Worcestershire - plus Lancashire and Yorkshire. I had a big soft spot for Yorkshire because so many of my favourite players seem to have come from there, Hoggard, Vaughan and Rashid being the obvious examples, but in the end I decided Headingley was just too damn far away. I ruled out most of the neighbouring counties for one reason or another (I think I've only actually set foot in Notts once, for example), so I was left with either Lancashire or Warwickshire. What ultimately tipped the balance was the leg-spin connection, with a whole stand at Edgbaston named after Bradman's famous party-pooper Eric Hollies. Added to that we have Imran Tahir's match-winning spell in the CB40 final yesterday, and the fact that Edgbaston's a reasonable distance away, and it all fits snugly into place. Also a Liverpool fan such as myself can never think of Old Trafford with too much warmth!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

2010 Season evaluation part 2: Bowling

It's rather amusing to look back at what I said about bowling at the start of the year, given that it's the one thing I've spent most time and effort on subsequently. Go back to what I wrote in January, and I had this to say:
I don't at this point think I've any hope as a bowler. I'm pretty sure I haven't got the build or the endurance in my body to be any kind of fast or even medium pace bowler, but I might have a go at spinning and see how I get on. I think I have the head on me to think my way to delivering a good ball, but as to whether I can actually master the biomechanics of bowling what I intend to and bowling it consistently I'll just have to wait and see.
Since then pretty much any opportunity I've had I've been thinking about it, reading up on it, asking other leggies at the Big Cricket forum about it, fixing problems with my action, imagining field settings, planning how to take wickets, and of course actually practising my bowling for up to (and sometimes beyond) six hours a week. Of all the things I've done to improve my game since January, the work I've put in on my bowling is by far what I'm most proud of.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Two down, one to go!

The latest addition to my rapidly-growing collection of cricket books came through the letterbox this morning, a copy of C.V. Grimmett's "Grimmett on Cricket". I haven't had much chance to flick through it yet but on the face of it it would seem to be a more thorough and all-encompassing version of "Getting Wickets". The book's in very good condition and I'm amazed I only paid £20 for it, maybe the seller was a proselytising leg-spinner (is there another kind?). Now I'm just missing "Tricking the Batsman" from the holy trinity. I did see one copy for sale, but then I saw the price - £250. I don't think I want it quite that badly just yet...

While I've mentioned Grimmett a little update on my slowly gestating flipper. From the discussion at the BigCricket forum about the exercises required to prepare one's forearm and fingers so that they have the requisite strength, I'm given to wonder whether with my tiny forearm and feeble fingers I'll ever be able to get to that level. It may be that the flipper's beyond me, but I'll keep working on it.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

2010 Season evaluation part 1: Batting

So with the season now over, I thought I'd do a series of posts looking at how I've developed over the season, and looking at what I can do over the winter to come back next year even better. My starting point should probably be the targets I set myself in January, and in batting terms I set my targets out thus:
Right now, in batting terms I just want to get out in the middle and face a few balls, see what I'm up against and not be a complete ferret. From there on it'd be nice to score my first boundary, then aim to reach double figures for the first time, then once I've done that a few times think about 25 as the next target, and after that I can see whether I can aspire to anything greater.
How successful have I been? Well I'm not a complete ferret, and can usually count on sticking around for a dozen balls or so, and I have at last scored a boundary.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

"yeah that's going to sting a little..."

Back at nets tonight, I had a little real-world frustration to get out of my system so I turned up about half an hour early. I did a more thorough warm-up than I usually do, then started to bowl. It seemed to be coming out pretty good, and my first two bagfuls (I have a bag of a dozen or so balls I bowl at a time) was some of the best bowling I've done all year. Too bad that, as usual, I was the only one there to see it...

Of course when other people do turn up it inevitably gets in the way, as they'll want to have a chat, borrow my balls, use the net I'm using... They're entitled to, obviously, but it does distract me. I hate queueing up to bowl. It's impossible to get the rhythm you do when you're just bowling on your own, and those pesky batsmen just look to slog. Much better to just aim at a mat and bowl as many as you can one after the other.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Is Shane Warne yanking my bat chain puller?

I've been trying to keep this silliness to myself but it just had to burst out sometime. I've spent so long this year looking for material about leg-spin bowling, reading articles, books, forums, watching videos on YouTube, and so on, and inevitably Shane Warne comes up virtually all the time.

Now of course I was aware of Shane Warne before this year, being reminded of him mainly when the Ashes came round every couple of years. However, such has been my overexposure to him this year, I may have gone a little dotty. Now whenever I see his face I keep thinking the same thing:

"He doesn't half look a lot like Captain Beefheart..."

For those of you unfamiliar with the Captain, he was a rather splendidly bonkers musician from the late 60s and 70s whose music sounded so weird you didn't know if he was an avant-guard genius or should be confined to a mental institution.

Anyway, I suppose it won't be too long before IPL 2011 starts up so we can once again see the Old Fart at Play...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Not with a bang but with a whimper

And so at last the season is over, and not on a particularly high note I'm afraid. Saturday's game was disappointing for me for at least four reasons. We lost the toss and were put in the field, and as we went onto the field I mentioned to the captain that I fancied a bowl if the situation arose. It would have been more accurate to say "if I don't get to bowl I'm going to be seriously pissed off", but I didn't think that approach would get me very far.

I started off fielding at square leg/point (they seemed to have half a dozen left-handers in the team) and not much came my way. Later I was moved to mid off for an over or two, then in one over I became part of a gradually swelling slip cordon. By the time we had five slips finally the edge came, and of course it was in my area! I reached out but couldn't get a hand to it unfortunately. I was then posted at Deep Fine Leg for pretty much half the match, and as usual, much to my annoyance, had to run the full length of the field between overs or else be in position too late. I find it hard to understand a captain who puts his fielders in this position, as in my case I find that at the start of each over I'm out of breath and therefore my concentration suffers, and by the time I'm recovered and able to concentrate the over's just about to finish and then it happens all over again. Daft, but it always seems to happen to me.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

It's all in the elbows

I had a very productive net session this evening, with both my bowling and batting showing signs of improvement.

After bowling on Tuesday I was all set to pack it in such was my level of frustration. I could hardly bowl a single decent ball and it was just getting me down. Tonight though I think I may have seen where I've been going wrong. It seems as if the car crash in March has had a greater effect on me than I'd realised, and the way my upper body muscles have recovered has left me either with less flexibility or at least with a few weird quirks in the way I move. Tonight I really went to town with the stretches before I bowled, focusing particularly on the muscles down each side of my torso, as I'd noticed last night that they seemed to be a bit tight, tempting my elbow to bend as I roll the arm over, perhaps to compensate for the lack of bend in my torso.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A magnificent England performance - allegedly

The spot-fixing allegations hanging over the fourth test have left me feeling all sorts of emotions one should never have to feel in connection with a Test Match. I have to express them somehow and here's as good a place as any...

To play in a Test Match is the greatest honour a cricketer can have bestowed upon him. He has the chance to measure himself against the very best of his contemporaries, and these measurements are precisely chronicled in order that that cricketer can be evaluated alongside the rest of the chosen few who have reached this elevated status since the very first Test Match took place in 1877. A Test Match is just that: the ultimate test of a cricketer's ability. You owe it to yourself, and to the great game of cricket, to channel every fibre of your being into giving the very best performance you can at all times. But for some people, who were born with natural ability and have worked hard to hone their skills to the fullest extent, it seems like being a Test cricketer becomes an entitlement. This is understandable, but what is inexcusable is when they get to the point where they see it as their own plaything, to be played around with as they see fit.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

...And you thought Pakistan were out cheaply!

Today's match was probably one of the shortest I'll ever play. We weren't even at the ground before it all went pear-shaped - first we were one short and then 2/3rds of the way there one of the guys I was taking in my car realised he'd picked up the bag of someone playing for the seconds who is about half a foot shorter than him. We found the ground and the Captain Jo took the guy back to Stafford to make sure everyone had the right kit and since we now only had eight players actually present and ready to start we decided we'd have to bat first if we won the toss, which we did.

It then rained a little for ten minutes or so on an uncovered wicket that was probably already quite damp, but eventually we got underway and as I was in at No.5 I began to leisurely put my pads on in the dressing room. I was about halfway through this when the first wicket fell, but when I emerged we ticked over a few runs before I went in at 25 for 3. My partner was on 16 and going reasonably well, but somehow I felt a little flustered.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Playing tomorrow

It looks like I'm in the team for tomorrow's game with Oldfields Cheadle 2nds, against whom I played earlier in the season, picking up my first ever golden duck as we won by 7 runs in an exciting, high-scoring game. Looking at it today there's nothing like an England middle-order collapse comprising one golden, one silver and two bronze ducks to make me feel better about my own performances with the bat... I'll probably be available for the match next week as well, but can't be sure I'll play so I'm approaching tomorrow as if it's my last match, hoping to end the season on a high with a solid all-round performance so that I can go into next season looking back on how much I've learned and developed this year.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Trying to get my leg over

After the comments I got on the video I posted last week I've been back in the nets tonight working on the pivot around my front leg. I dispensed with any meaningful run up, just walked into the delivery stride and bowled, trying to swing that right leg round and seeing what happens. I had my target positioned on a length slightly on leg-side but I wasn't too fussed about hitting it.

Obviously with a whole new method of delivery I wasn't expecting much in terms of accuracy and I was right not to, but I was surprised at how much faster I was bowling, without really trying to, and how even with this extra speed I didn't lose any spin. Most of my balls are still too shiny and new to be naturally conducive to turn but on occasion the older balls that are a bit roughed-up seemed to spin further than I've ever managed before - one in particular turned about two feet! I was bowling pretty flat though, something I've certainly never been guilty of before, so I'll need to get a bit of the loop back at some stage if I'm going to get proper drift. Previously I've been looping the ball too high so I need to find a happy (i.e. effective) medium. All in all though it was a promising start and after a winter of work on it I'll hopefully be in a very good state come next season.

This evening I've given "Virginia" and "Hyacinth" some TLC, as I doubt I'll play more than one more match this year and want to make sure they're ready to go in the loft. I took the tape off, a very messy procedure involving scraping all the sticky goo off, then I've given the faces and edges a sand down and a coat of oil to keep the moisture in. I also rounded off the front edges with a knocking-in mallet, something I should probably have done ages ago as the many edges and nicks had been leaving dents. Anyway, all in all they're both looking in good nick and should be back for more next year.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Game on

I try not to spend too much time talking about "serious" cricket on this blog, but you have to say today's play at the Oval has been remarkable.

Out of action

A matchless weekend for me, unfortunately, as I simply can't see how my knee will take it. If I am feeling up to it I might pitch up at the club just in case, as I'm told a fair few players might be at the V festival down the road. I seem to remember at the last match one guy saying "How many people are going to be at the V festival next week then?" getting the response of "Erm, a few hundred thousand probably". "No you imbecile, I meant how many people from the CLUB..."

Also nets last night was a no-show from me as firstly I was engrossed by whether Alistair Cook would survive the evening, then it was raining, and then my girlfriend was on the phone. My previous post seems to have garnered a few comments from the leg spin sages at the Big Cricket forum, so next time I get the chance I've got some pointers as to where to go from here. As my action stands my run-up does seem an unnecessary waste of effort, so I'll just concentrate on the delivery stride, particularly the pivot round my front foot, lifting my right leg up and round, and swivelling my my shoulders, and see about putting a run-up on once I've got that sussed.

I've also been playing around with my grip. I'm not even close to thinking about properly bowling a googly, but I have been trying to get my hands right around the loop and was having great difficulty achieving anything beyond a topspinner. It seems as if it's my grip that is stopping me, as my normal grip has the seem angled so that the centre of the seam is outside the tip of the third finger. This seems to naturally favour backspin over topspin, and perhaps this is why I find zooters relatively simple compared to what others seem to find. I've been playing around with it and have been trying a more orthodox grip with the seam straighter up and while the sensation of spinning it is slightly different it should do the trick in terms of making topspinners easier, and then when the time comes making a googly possible. I'll keep playing around with both grips and see what happens.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A new video at last

Finally I've got round to filming myself bowling in the club's new nets. Some days it seems that everything works perfectly and I can get 5 out of 6 landing on a good line and length and turning nicely. Today was not one of those days...

I've still got the dodgy knee and I was using ten shiny brand new balls which absolutely refused to do anything, while the eight older balls did get a little bit of turn, especially the two Kookaburras. Anyway, here it is:

Every time I look at my action it seems more comical. There's something wrong with the delivery stride, it just seems far too laid back. It's not as if I'm not trying but I was looking at my first video and noticed I had a much, much faster arm speed. I know a spinner should find a natural pace and stick to it, but I'm not sure I have found mine just yet. Maybe once my knee's better I'll have to try a shorter, faster delivery stride and see if I can control it.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The magnus effect... WOW!

I can't resist sharing this video, it's the perfect demonstration of the Magnus Effect at it's most powerful. The pitcher is using a light, aerodynamically tuned ball used as a training aid to help young baseball pitchers learn to curve the ball.


What started unpromisingly turned into a match to remember for me today, as for probably the first time I felt at ease at the crease and got some respectable runs on the board.

My first match for the Sunday side was also their last of the season, and with relegation in the bag everyone was just out to play their best and have fun. Sadly the main square was too soggy to use so we had to play on the astro wicket, which has seen some huge scores this season. We started off fielding and to be honest it was my most disappointing performance so far in the field. In my defence my left knee was aching badly from all the bowling I've been doing in the nets, which affected my running rather a lot and the firm ground only made things worse. Also my contact lens (I only need one) just wouldn't stay put which was another unwelcome distraction.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A sticky wicket

And so at last I was back in action today, playing at Waterhouses against Wooton. The ground was a really beautiful place situated on the edge of a village with houses on one side and farmland on the other. We got there just in time after a trip round some winding B-roads with Phil and Dunc riding in my car, and after some initial confusion were told that we were batting.

Now clearly I'm still pretty inexperienced so today was my first experience of a properly sticky wicket. Uncovered, and after a few days of rain, it was not only a little muddy but also two-paced, with one end offering bounce and the other just being a bit dead. The Captain was facing first up and was bowled for a Royal Duck, which would prove to be probably the key moment in the match, as it turned out to be a horrendously low-scoring pitch. As well as the sticky wicket the grass in the outfield was rather long meaning anything that bounced more than once was unlikely to make the boundary.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Oh bother

No nets tonight as it's pissing down. Just as well I got some practise in last night. I'm down as 12th man for the 4ths again on Saturday, and as you can imagine that doesn't exactly fill me with glee.

A bit more retail therapy

My veins are throbbing with the endorphins of hard cash spent. It may be a little strange to be shelling out so close to season's end but never mind that.

My first purchase was an old copy of Clarrie Grimmett's "Getting Wickets". £30 seems a lot for a beat-up old paperback but Wisden describes it as "one of the finest of coaching manuals, which should be reissued and distributed to every school and club in these monotonous times of pace, pace and more pace" so hopefully there should be plenty of food for thought in there. That's my gentle reading over the close season sorted then.

Bowling tonight

Thought I'd pop to the club for a bowl this evening. The under-17s were there so I asked the coaches if they minded me bowling in the vacant net and they said they'd rather I bowled at their batsmen. I bowled one ball which sprayed wide into the side-netting, and they said I'd better go in the empty net after all... I didn't bowl it wide to make a point, but that was why I wanted the empty net in the first place!

I was working on two things - firstly where I focus my attention during my run-up, and secondly how I pivot round my front foot. Overall the results were encouraging, and almost every ball where I felt I was properly concentrated landed roughly on the right line and length with a fair amount of turn. If I can bowl like that in a match I'd certainly have nothing to be ashamed about. I bowled for about an hour in the end before running out of steam.

The issue of where I look during my run-up puzzles me, but it's clear to see what works. My run-up now works as a left foot skip, then two paces where I get low and push back up to jump into the final two delivery strides, and if I keep looking at my target throughout my accuracy just goes. If instead I look decide on my target as I prepare to bowl, then glance down at where I want my front to land during the little skip, then focus back on my target during the final four steps I can land the ball on a good line and length at least 90% of the time.

I suppose what I'm doing is first anchoring the direction of my run-up so that I arrive in the same place in the same way, then determining where to channel that movement as I release the ball. On one occasion I forgot to look at where I was planting my foot and got my my legs tangled slightly on the third step, resulting in a ball sprayed wide to the left. Anyway, I feel I'm now back to the same level of bowling I was at before my lay-off, if not slightly better, even if the ball doesn't seem to be coming out of my hand quite as well.

Again I'll have to wait a bit before I know whether I'm playing on Saturday. I was offered a game on Sunday but it's not really convenient for me so I had to turn it down. To earn some brownie points I've agreed to do the scorebook for the Barmy Army charity match on Friday afternoon. I'd better remember to take a propelling pencil with me this time as using a Biro last week was less than ideal.

Monday, 9 August 2010

A little gentle bowling

This evening I was at a loose end (for once) so I popped down to the club and bowled in the nets for about an hour. The club was deserted so it was just me, a setting sun and a couple of dog walkers. Rather frustratingly, every time I bowl I seem to discover a new combination of things sodding up my consistency. I wasn't bowling at 100% on account of the lurgy tonight, but felt much more up to it than I did on Saturday.

There were a couple of things that I was looking at today, the first being the position of my left arm as I prepare to deliver the ball. As I've said in relation to my batting stance, I'm right hand-right eye dominant, meaning that the conventional bowling style of peeping round the front arm can sometimes mean I cover my dominant eye. However the way I use my left arm is critical to ensuring I'm balanced on delivery, so adjusting it could be problematic. Then there was the usual thing of remembering to get my head moving in a steady horizontal fashion as I deliver the ball. When I remember to do this I usually feel the main difference in my action in my legs and feet, and interestingly I was reading in Bob Woolmer's Art and Science of Cricket where he was saying that much of the spin comes from the pivot round the front foot, so perhaps this has added benefits as well. Finally I found, rather weirdly, that if I focus relentlessly on the area I want to bowl into it's not as good as if I split my focus into two steps, first for the first step or two focusing on where I want to place my feet as I deliver the ball, and only then switching my focus to where I want the ball to land.

What do these all have in common? Well, it seems they're all about balance and repeatability. I seem to be having a lot of problems with balance, both when batting and bowling, and my balance has never been exceptional which probably has something to do with the problems I had with my ears as a child. At least with bowling I get to premaditate my movements, so it should be less of an issue.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Saturday on the sidelines

I arrived at the ground just after noon on Saturday and had to hang around a while before I found out if I was playing or not. I went and bowled in the nets for about half an hour or so, again with a net to myself while everyone else got on with it next door, and the results were a little improved on Thursday night despite my illness seeming to have got worse. Then eventually everyone turned up so I was left without a game. I volunteered to do the scorebook, but was still a little disappointed not to be back playing. The captain has a system now of people who played the previous match getting priority for places, so I can't complain.

Ultimately it was probably as well that I wasn't playing as with half of the second innings left my flu got worse and I had to hand the scorebook over and head home to nurse a nasty headache. Fingers crossed I can overcome this flu and get a game next week, as there's only four matches left to go!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Take it easy, fellas!

Pakistan 37 for 6 at lunch on the first day at Edgebaston. I do wish our bowlers would take it easy - I've got tickets for Sunday and at this rate I'm wondering whether the match will still be in play...

UPDATE: This is just silly now. England have missed out on two wickets, the first a dropped catch and the second an LBW overturned by the DRS, and both times I've initially reacted with frustration, followed immediately by relief. At this rate I'm in danger of failing Norman Tebbit's Britishness test!
(Norman Tebbit said the test of Britishness for second generation Indian and Pakistani immigrants was who they supported when they played England at cricket) 

UPDATE: Pakistan all out for 72. Bollocks Oh good...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Outdoor nets tonight

I went to Nets tonight for the first time in ages. The club has upgraded its nets from a single small cage over a section of grass to two larger permanent cages with an all-weather surface. It has its good points and its bad points, the good points being that the higher roof means I can give the ball some proper flight, the surface is much more like that which the 4ths play their home matches on, and because there's two nets I had one all to myself this evening with no pesky batsmen to distract me. The bad points would be that the surface doesn't seem to offer as much to spinners, the carpet ends right on the start of my run-up, which seems to upset my balance a bit, and the cage extends right up to the bowling crease, meaning I don't have an unbroken line of sight between the start of my run-up and delivery.

My bowling was not too bad considering I hadn't bowled at all for two months. I was bowling at a target - a section of rubber car mat cut to a small square and arranged like a diamond - and while I wasn't hitting the target with any regularity, there's never really been a time so far where I have been able to do this consistently. I was struggling a little with various things - balance, rhythm, focus, etc - but overall it wasn't as bad as I had feared, even if I'm not really confident of my ability to bowl a decent over with few wides.I did try an over of flippers but I'm concerned that my "proper" flippers would be no-balled because of my arm bending. I'll have to get the camera on it and see but it doesn't feel right. The "Baffler" seemed to work pretty well though.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

A long layoff

So, it's been a while... In fact I'm afraid to say it's a full two months since I last played. The reason for this? Well, it's complicated.

What stopped me playing to begin with was that my girlfriend and I had a rough time in June, which was pretty much entirely my fault, and since we usually only get to see each other at weekends I had to get it sorted out which meant I was never around on Saturdays to play. Then in July she had a very busy and very important time work-wise and I wanted to be as helpful as possible so that again meant being away at the weekends to lighten her load, and hence no cricket. That's not by any means a complaint, but for the purposes of this blog this is why I haven't been playing.

Anyway, I am available this week so I'll just have to wait and see if I'm selected to play. We're playing Ashcombe Park who are currently top of the league, and since my last match it seems the 4ths have only won one game in my absence. Just sayin'...

Seriously though, I've hardly done any practise since my last match, and it does concern me that I'll probably have gone backwards while everyone else in the league will by now have worked themselves into a fair bit of form. The 4ths only have five matches left this season, and I'll probably be lucky if I get to play in three of those, which is a bit of a shame. All I can do is play and see how I get on.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

My first competitive over

(N.B. This post was written some time after the match for the sake of completeness)
And so at last I got to bowl in a proper match.

But first, it should be noted that I had been put down to bat at No10, and sat out the entire innings as we put on 290 for the loss of 6, Bob Singh continuing his excellent run of form with 93 not out. A little part of me was ever so slightly miffed not to get a go in the middle, especially after showing some decent progress in the nets the previous Thursday, but on the whole I didn't mind too much as 290 definitely looked like a winning score and I could hardly argue my form merited a higher station in the batting order.

So into the field we went and with only three balls bowled I dropped an absolute dolly. I was pretty embarrassed as I felt I hadn't properly switched on, but in retrospect I was again trying to catch it too far from my face. Anyway, on I went chasing after everything, no more catches coming my way but a few boundaries saved. One ball in particular flew off the bat, bounced up and was on target to hit me "squarely amidships" until I turned to stop it with my right thigh, leaving a pretty impressive bruise!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Fat lip

Nets tonight, again a mixed bag. There were only four of us there tonight, but at least that was better than last week.

We were using the artificial net wicket, which sadly gives me virtually no turn whatsoever, or at least I don't seem to get any even when I know I've given the ball a good rip. My bowling was OK to start with, but the lack of turn meant I was getting whacked about a bit which left me rather miffed. The more I tried to get turn, and the faster I tried to bowl, the more wayward my bowling got, so I was progressively less effective I'm afraid. I need to work on focusing on a plan and not allowing outside factors to suck me into bowling badly - I need to stay in Philpott's "Circle of Concentration".

On to batting then, and for once it was pretty encouraging. There were obviously only three bowlers - an off-spinner, a leg spinner and a guy who was bowling several different styles, but no full-time bowlers. I was batting with "Hyacinth" and unlike last week this time I got plenty of bat on ball - she's a lovely wand. I started off wafting a bit, but then got into a much more defensive mindset which went well, and by the end I was leaving wayward balls and getting some good hits off the straight ones.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Where my bowling's at

After four and a half months of bowling what would properly be called right-arm wrist-spin (although most call it leg-spin) I thought I'd jot down a few scribblings on where I am.

I started off from a pretty unpromising platform, having not played cricket at all for ten years and having hardly bowled at all ever, and never in a match. My fitness was probably about average for a 28-year-old English male, which can be taken to mean that it was woefully inadequate for any kind of sporting activity, not helped by thirteen years of smoking. I still smoke but my fitness has improved.

When it came to choosing which type of bowling to pursue I very quickly reached the conclusion that my body would be unable to put up with anything more strenuous than spin, as I've always had pretty weak shoulders. For some reason I plumped for wrist-spin and I haven't looked back since. Its distinctiveness, variations and reliance on obscure scientific principles makes it perfect for me, not to mention it's the one form of bowling that tends not to penalise my round-arm tendencies.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

An empty Saturday

No cricket for me today, but I wouldn't have been playing even if it'd been dry. Instead I'm relaxing at home and listening to Test Match Special, which has reminded me that my performance with the bat last week has one upside: I am now at last eligible for membership of the Primary Club.

Anyway, the one event of note this week is that I was bowling in the nets on Thursday. I'm not sure exactly what the deal is with nets but there was no-one from the senior teams there, so it was just me and a handful of young guys who were hanging around while an Under-15s match was being played on the main square. I got a pretty good time with the bat but it was a bit mixed.

Monday, 24 May 2010

What's the point of that then? #94

Today was one of those days where I look in the paper and react with a level of disgust far outweighing the importance of the subject matter. The subject in question was the Clydesdale Bank 40, where Surrey beat Lancashire. So far so good, only it wasn't Surrey, and it wasn't Lancashire, it was the "Surrey Lions" and "Lancashire Lightening".

Now look. There's already a place for bat-and-ball teams with stupid names, and it's called Major League Baseball. Unless Leicestershire Foxes actually put out a team of 11 bushy-tailed dog-like mammals, why not simply call them Leicestershire?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A duck and a dropped catch

Today was a match of mixed emotions for me. After all my doom and gloom we actually pulled off an exciting win, by 7 runs, but I wasn't too impressed with my own performance.

We were batting first and I was at #6 again. We lost 2 wickets pretty quickly and the third followed not so long after, so I was padded up and all ready to go. In fact, I eventually spent a full hour and three-quarters as next man in, as Bob and Jo set a new record for the 4th wicket partnership for the 4ths. When Jo was finally out for 60 I strode to the crease, took middle and leg, and was bowled first ball. I can't say I'm too upset about it, after all I'm an absolute beginner and this is only my third game, but it would have been nice to hang around a bit.

Friday, 21 May 2010


I've been studying the form of tomorrow's opponents - Oldfields Cheadle 2nds - and the omens are decidedly double-plus ungood. Not only have they won all three of their matches - the only unbeaten team in the league - they've done so pretty handsomely. Their first match was against Leek & Moorlands 2nds, where they succesfully chased down a target of 200 for the loss of just 4 wickets. Then against Oakamoor they chased down 167, again for the loss of 4 and with 14 overs to spare, before finally they set Maer & Onneley 2nds a target of 268, which even after all 40 overs left them 116 short.

Looks like we may be in for another tough afternoon tomorrow!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The frustration vortex

Nets this evening was a mixed affair. After some pretty decent bowling last night I was looking forward to some solid bowling practise ahead of Saturday's game. Sadly, I in fact ended up bowling total, unmitigated, unrelenting rubbish.

It wasn't that it was too short, or too full, or too slow, or that it wasn't drifting and turning, it was that I seemed utterly incapable of performing the relatively simple task of getting it into the net in the first place. Plenty ended up on the roof, some were dragged wide down off, some down leg, and some just stuck in the hand and fell pathetically short. I honestly can't remember ever bowling so badly. And the more it happened, the more frustrated I got, so the more it happened. Welcome to the frustration vortex. I tried taking a break, I tried bowling round the wicket, I tried going through each stage of my delivery and seeing what was wrong. Nothing worked. To be honest it was bloody embarrassing.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Back to bowling

Spent an hour and a half today bowling in the club's nets, my first real bowling practise in far too long. I had wanted to bowl alone to an empty net so that I got into a rhythm and wasn't distracted by a batsman, but there were a couple of kids' matches going on at the time so inevitably I ended up bowling at the kids most of the time. It's just as well I'm not trying to learn how to bowl quick...

I'm pretty sure now that my bowling's better than I'm able to discern in the garden, and practise is much more fruitful on level ground. Also the footholes in the lawn have been noted by others, so I think from now on I'll try to use the club as often as I can. The only problem is that while in the garden I've no vertical barrier (and none of those pesky kids), the club net has rather a low roof, so if I give a ball a hefty bit of flight it ends up on top. I'm not sure if the net is too low, or if I'm giving the ball far too much flight, but either way the fact I've been bowling uphill in the garden means my natural delivery is too high for the nets. Guess I'll just have to learn to bowl a teensy bit flatter, which is probably better anyway.

As for how my bowling ended up, well, it wasn't too bad. Too many wides for my liking, but overall I largely managed to find a good length and tie down the batsmen. the amount of turn was largely OK, although my top-spun leg-break is still far superior to my stock ball. There was a little drift, but not huge amounts. My rhythm was pretty good and I seem to have spontaneously developed a little skip on my action. I've no idea where it came from but it seems to give the delivery more energy, so I might keep it permanently.

I bowled at that left-handed kid who smacked me about again, and rather pleasingly I kept him well within his shell this time. I still haven't got him out though!!!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

So England won something did they?

To be honest, I'm struggling to summon up too much excitement. Call me old fashioned, but if it ain't test-match cricket I find it hard to attach much importance to it. If God had intended a cricket match to only last 40 overs, then yadda yadda yadda... Anyway, at least we won.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Off the mark

So Saturday saw my debut, on a ground a few minutes from J15 of the M6 against Keele Park 2nds. We lost the toss and where put in the field to start.

To be honest, we got what would technically be termed "a bit of a spanking", as we dropped about half a dozen catches and two batsman really got into their stride, knocking off 64 and 87 to get from 32-1 to 207-3 with the full score after their allotted overs reading a sorry 306-6.

For my part, I was terribly flat footed to begin with letting at least a couple of 4s past me before the guy I gave a lift to swapped positions. I did warm to my task after a while though, developing a decent base to spring from and by the end I was fairly solid. In terms of distance run I was probably up there with any of the fielders, although my throwing is still abysmal... There was maybe two half chances that came my way if I'd thrown everything at them but they came off the bat pretty quick and I'm still yet to develop a fearless attitude to diving for catches. I didn't get a bowl, which was probably just as well given the runs they scored anyway.