Monday, 16 August 2010


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.

I spent most of the match fielding around mid on, mid wicket and square leg trying to cut off the singles, and I was solid apart from two disappointing episodes, first near the start of the match letting a ball slip underneath me for four overthrows, then in the final over getting tangled up with the bowler meaning a high catch went down. The first was inexcusable, the drop was just that neither of us called. If I'd known sooner that the bowler was under it I would have left it to him as he has better hands than me, but it didn't affect the overall result too much - I just felt sorry for the bowler. Overall I tried my best and did OK, but there was too much sloppiness for my liking and the aching knee meant I didn't enjoy it as much as usual. Ultimately they set us a target of 270 which looked ambitious but not impossible.

As I wasn't going to be bowling I was put down as #5 so I'd be pretty sure of getting a bat. After three ducks and a high score of 1 I'd started to think in terms of focusing almost exclusively on my bowling such was the poor state of my batting so far this year, but after having a look at me yesterday Phil got me in the nets before the match today working on my footwork with some gentle throw-downs. I was hitting the ball much better and also finding the middle more often, and I was feeling a touch more confident as I put my pads on.

When the third wicket fell it was already clear that the match was getting away from us, but I wasn't going to let that cloud my thoughts. I was in with the #2 who was batting well and went on to make 70, so I wanted to help him out running as fast as I could, knee or no knee. At all times I tried to remain focused on a few things I had to do:
  • Relax
  • Stay on your toes
  • Bend your left elbow
  • Don't overthink - choose your shots instinctively
  • Walk around between deliveries
  • Look for quick singles
  • If someone's going to get run out, make sure it's you
I came in at the non-striker's end with one to come, and we stole a single so the #2 kept strike. The bowlers were a very young off-spinner who was barely 5 foot at one end and a veteran medium pacer at the other. There's no doubt it was more comfortable facing the off-spinner! When I came on strike for the first time, against the young 'un, I made sure I took my time to take guard, kept on my toes and hoped for the best. I blocked a couple, making sure to have a wander between balls, before I made contact with one and we made a single. Off the mark. Good. Now lets relax and see how many we can make. A single for my partner, then another for me. High score for the season. Now press on.

Their fielding was sharp but we were running our singles well. There was one nervous moment as I tried to avoid running into the young 'un and nearly got run out for my politeness, but it was OK. I blocked and left the medium pacer for an over, then after a drinks break I was back facing the offie. After a few wafts I managed two more. All the guys on the boundary were cheering every run, which seemed a bit over the top but put a smile on my face nonetheless.

I was feeling wonderfully relaxed and concentrated, even to the point of giggling along with the fielders at one point, and my calling was nice and loud. At this point I was in a good place, although against the veteran an even better place would have been the non-striker's end. I played and missed one, then played a loose shot and top-edged him. I thought the game was up as my partner screamed for the run, but it sailed inches above the slips and the biggest cheer yet confirmed my first ever boundary! Pinch me!

So now I was on 8 and I could scarcely believe it. I'd more than exceeded my expectations and from this point I was just going to try to stay relaxed and be as attacking as possible. Sadly, the very next ball looped up straight to the fielder at mid off who pouched it with the minimum of fuss, but at least I won't die wondering.

As the guys clapped me off (heaven knows why, but it was nice) I wore a grin from ear to ear. I know it's only 8, and it hardly changed the state of the match, but for the first time in my life I had a bat in my hand and "I can do this" in my head. A couple of the shots I'd played felt and sounded just right, and between us we put on 18 for the 4th wicket from about five overs, which added a little colour to the innings.

In the end we just about made it beyond 150, so sadly not quite enough to salvage a point. Ultimately I think everyone worked hard and tried their best but we just came up against a superior side. Anyway sod it - today was my happiest day on a cricket field, with perfect weather, some nice shots played and a few runs scored. I wish I could bottle how I felt in the middle today, and until I have an even better day I'm going to store it in my memory banks to visualise before future innings. We lost the match, but in my own battle against my limitations I feel I'm winning the war.

Good points: Batting was much improved in every department especially footwork, Maintained a very good mental state in the middle, batted with a good mix of brains and instinct, Played some authentic strokes, running between wickets was good, fielding was mostly competent despite two major distractions, played two games in two days without any fitness issues.
Points for improvement: Competitive instincts in the field a little lacking, sloppy fielding allowed overthrows, didn't call for the catch, must remember to slide the bat in when running.

Today's stats: (Stafford Sunday XI Vs Nether Whitacre, 40 overs each)
Batting: Caught Rawlings Bowled Blears, 8 (~16bf, 1x4, 0x6 prt: 4th:18)
Bowling: (didn't bowl)
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

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