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.