Sunday, 31 January 2010

Back in the saddle

And so, for the first time in nearly ten years, I finally swung a bat in anger this afternoon. The occasion was Stafford Cricket Club's first nets of the year at Blessed William Howard's School (hereafter known as Blessed Bill's).

I turned up not quite knowing what to expect, but the natives seemed friendly and I contented myself observing what was going on for the first hour. I spoke to the team secretary,  the 1st XI captain (who I'd already met), and also had a little chat with Joe, the captain of the 4th XI, who I'll hopefully see much more of as the season progresses. I didn't dare bowl though, as I didn't want to waste anyone's time with the rubbish I'd produce at this early stage. Maybe next time.

There were three nets in use, with the 1sts and 2nds in the two far side nets and the 3rds and 4ths next to the benches. The level of bowling varied from some really top bowlers on the far side to some absolute beginners, and after a while I summoned up the courage to have a go with the bat myself, nipped home to pick my kit up and borrowed a bat from the Team Sec for the last 20 minutes of the 2 hour session. My excitement was mixed with a great deal of nervousness.

A couple of clearly well-established guys bowled some spin at me in turn, clearly trying to be a bit easy on me, as well as another guy who chipped in occasionally. I can't say I was overflowing with talent, but I had a smile on my face, my heart was pounding and I worked up a good sweat (probably because I was wearing jeans and a couple of substantial T-shirts). I found it quite easy to hit the ball early on, probably as they were easing me in gradually, and it was a lovely feeling to have a good swing and feel the sensation of ball on bat after so many years. Then they ramped it up just a little and before long several flaws immediately made their presence known!

Firstly I was waiting for the ball to pitch rather that choosing shots out of the bowler's hand, leading to my feet hardly moving while my upper body moved too much. After adjusting to try and rectify this by following some advice to move my right foot back and towards the off side to get in line with the ball as the bowler bowled, the next problem was that I was leaning back too much, which explains a great deal about my previous batting experience all those years ago of regularly hitting into the air.

After all this advice my head was a bit overloaded with information. I didn't find the seamer overly challenging but the two seniors were both spinners and were tying me in all sorts of knots - especially the leggie. Still, I could feel myself quite definitely improving and towards the end I hit some really sweet shots. Finally I hit one dead on middle, the sound producing a heartily pleasing ringing in my ears. At that point I decided to call it a day so I could go away with that sound and sensation fresh in my memory, and after saying thank yous and goodbyes I went home grinning from ear to ear.

So now I've got plenty to think about ahead of next week's nets, and I'm really looking forward to it...

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