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.

Friday, 14 May 2010

When Saturday comes

Looks like I'll be playing for the 4ths against Keele Park 2nds on Saturday. It's a league game so this will be my proper debut for the club. Wish me luck...

Unfortunately I had a commitment last night, and have another tonight, so I haven't had any chance to practise my batting at all since the 3rds V 4ths game three weeks ago. It's a real bind but I'll just have to do my best. I've no idea where I'll be in the batting order, but the best I can hope for is to get the odd run - any more than 5 and I'll be pleased. As for my bowling I'll struggle to have the confidence to have a bowl, as I haven't had too much of a chance to practise lately and what practise I have done has been a little discouraging. Too many balls on too full a length, too inaccurate a line, and the spin's been a bit hit and miss, in so far as my garden gives any reliable indications. If I do bowl it'll mainly be top-spinners and top-spun leg breaks, but I might try the "Baffler" if the situation dictates.

I also have a new bat. I was browsing in Sports Direct in Stafford the other day and saw they had some old stock on sale, so I looked them up and down, went home and thought about it, and today I've gone back and picked up a Slazenger Hyper Blade Elite Pro, a steal at just £50 - about 75% off. This is advertised as being Grade 2 English willow, so it should be plenty good enough for my purposes. It's also a shade lighter than "Virginia", which should hopefully suit me a bit better, and has an oval handle with a green octopus grip. I think I'll call it "Hyacinth" (as in Bucket). I've taken the labels off the front and sides, sanded off the varnish and oiled it, so it's ready to go for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Catching practise - "I have a cunning plan..."

No match for me this week, I've been pretty busy and the Girlfriend wanted (and deserved) my undivided attention. I note though that the 4ths lost pretty badly. The scoring looks to have been a bit chaotic but it would appear that only 10 turned up, and the nine wickets fell for 72 runs off 24 overs, with the opposition winning the match in eight overs without loss. On the positive side I suppose it gives me less pressure in future games. I was pleased to see the 3rds won well though.

Anyway, I've been thinking. I didn't have any chances come my way in the last match but I'm still paranoid about my catching. I had an idea that just might help give me more confidence - perhaps I should ask Jo (the team captain) to let me don the gloves and go behind the stumps for a match or two. That way I'm guaranteed to have the ball heading towards me at full pace many, many times throughout the match, and I'll know it's my job to catch them all so there'll be nothing for it but to give each ball my best.

Unfortunately it's not entirely clear when I'll next be able to play, as this weekend I'm away and I'm not totally sure what I'm up to next weekend. It's a little frustrating and to add to that I'm too busy to go to nets on Thursday evening, but I'll just have to muddle on as best as I can.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

...and now we have the flipper

After much playing around trying to get it I've finally got the action for the flipper working. I've spent ages trying to figure it out, discovered the "Baffler" on the way, but in the end all I had to do was move my thumb the other way and there it was... With only a slight variation (gripping the ball with two more fingers) I can also perform the Clarrie Grimmett flipper action, which is supposed to give more spin than the more orthodox Benaud/Jenner/Warne version with just the two fingers. It needs a lot of work before it's worth bowling though, the ammounts of spin I'm getting are pretty piss-poor.