Monday, 11 April 2011

Hitting out, getting out...

Another weekend, another net. This time it was pretty much a 4ths-only affair as the 1sts and 2nds have both started playing matches now. Indeed, I did the scorebook for the 1sts on Saturday as they kicked off with a friendly match against Newport.

For once I wasn't one of the first to pitch up, but since only one net was in use I had a chance to practise on my own for a bit. I went through the standing start drill to begin with, then moved on to normal bowling. I was doing OK, I suppose I've raised my sights a bit so occasionally I feel my bowling isn't quite on the mark when it's still leaps and bounds better than what I would have considered acceptable in February. Anyway, I bowled a few at the batsman before getting my pads on and going in. Again I had he camera running, so you can see for yourself. Order of the day was to try to smack every ball:

Well, I don't find that very satisfying to watch. Clearly I am not the slogging type. You'll see that Sam bowled one extremely nasty chin-high beamer (accidentally) and I'm afraid it did put me off a bit. That's one thing learned - I think in matches I'm going to go into bat with some spare inner gloves in my pocket and if I get a delivery like that I'm going to hold up play by changing my inners so I have time to compose myself. I know that's dangerously close to time-wasting but it seems only fair to me. I did try to get into a bit of a routine, having spoken to one of the 1sts the night before about his ball-by-ball routine, so in my mind as the bowler came in I was trying to say to myself "look to get forward, look to get forward, left foot, right foot, [where's the] ball..." and it felt quite good. Towards the end when Sam was bowling I was actually stepping slightly forward in my trigger and that seemed to help. To be fair to Sam I do seem to raise my game a bit when he's coming in, so he probably doesn't get my wicket as often as other bowlers but that's because he's a better bowler...

If there's one thing that net has taught me, it's to play my own game. It didn't feel right trying to wallop everything. There were terrible shots I played to balls I would normally have left. As I was saying to Sam afterwards, if I'm batting at No.8 my main job is just to stick around, either to support a well-set batsman or to try to eek out the last few overs while the bowlers have their inevitable slog. I'm getting to know my good shots - essentially these amount to the leg glance and that front-footed sweep/pull that has become something of a signature for me - and I know which balls to play them from. If I can leave or block the good balls and maybe nurdle some of them for singles, and if I can hit a few boundaries off the bad balls, then I think I'm well-equipped for my role. In backing up a set batsman I only need to do three things: get singles or threes early in an over to get him on strike, block at the end of an over if he's taken the strike for the following over, and run like the wind for the balls in between.

That said, I still want to improve my technique and expand my repertoire of shots. There were a fair few attempted drives in there where not only was my weight distribution utterly wrong - thanks to my inability to get that front foot forward - but also my bat wasn't coming down straight. This is most often cause by the batsman using that classic cliché "too much bottom hand", but in my case I think it's actually not enough top hand. My left arm is not terribly strong so I intend to do a fair amount of work on it in the gym, and I also need to get the basic form of the drive right - front foot forward, head over a bent knee, bringing the bat through with a bent elbow. I could do with the coach doing some one-on-one work with me, and I've also tried a few drills in an empty net where I just drive a stationary ball off the ground with good form and hold the pose for a few seconds.

On to bowling, and having got my pads off I was bowling on a nice length and again getting a few stumpings. I may need to explain dip to some of our players before the season starts because if they keep playing like this in matches any respectable spinner will cause them problems. My zooter was I'm afraid rather inaccurate, strange as it's been going well until only a few weeks ago, but on the plus side my top-spinner was pretty good on the couple of occasions I tried it. My accuracy was reasonable on my stock ball and on the whole it was a pretty satisfying session. Time and again I was being shovelled over mid-wicket, and since Duncan with his safe hands is the fielder I have in mind to field there when I'm bowling, I got in a habit of saying "Catch it Dunc!" every time the ball went in that direction. I also rather unwisely agreed to buy him two pints for every catch he took off my bowling...

Rather happily, there were two others bowling leg-spin on Sunday. Firstly Duncan was having a dabble with it, and although he was mainly bowling top-spinners, and with a rather unrefined action, he did show some promise. There was also an U15 called Harry who had just taken it up and I thought he looked really good. His action was again not perfect but a very sound starting point, and he was getting a fair amount of turn. He was using the Benaud-style grip which I've never liked but I didn't say anything as it was working for him. He mentioned to no-one in particular that he wished he could get some drift so I gave him a brief introduction to the Magnus effect, how it works and how he should try looping the ball up a bit more to make best use of it and to his credit he grasped it very quickly and in only a few balls he was showing some drift. I was very impressed. I then gave him a few more hints on length and again he picked it up pretty quick. It was nice to try my hand at a bit of impromptu coaching and my advice seemed to be helping. Hopefully me and Harry will be having plenty more of these chats in the future.

While I was chatting with Harry, who was bowling at a batsman in the next-door net, I also filmed a bit of my bowling with the camera a third of the way down the wicket pointing back at me:

I was surprised watching this back, as two unexpected things stuck out: Firstly my arm has gone a bit lower again, and secondly my arm is still bent. This second aspect really surprised me because when I was bowling my arm felt straighter than it has previously. It does concern me a little, not because I may be transgressing the laws because I'm certainly not. The laws state:
A ball is fairly delivered if, once the bowler's arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand.
As you can see from the picture, my arm is bent as it reaches shoulder level and is no straighter (probably a little more bent, if anything) at delivery, so it's perfectly within both the letter and spirit of the law. No, what bothers me is firstly I think it's robbing me of a little speed and spin, secondly it may hamper me from bowling a legal flipper, and thirdly any umpire (particularly a stand-in umpire) who slightly misunderstands this law may no-ball me for throwing. They'd be wrong, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

I was also interested to see the inconsistency of my pivot, in terms of both how far out I swing my leg and where my foot lands afterwards. Clearly, that's another contributing aspect towards my overall consistency that needs working on.

This evening the Club's cricket section committee (of which I'm now a member) met and one point that came up is worth mentioning here. I have on several occasioned popped down to the club on Friday evenings for a bit of practise before or after the juniors are using the nets, and I did feel a bit awkward, as if I was imposing on their time. Actually, there's a feeling in the junior section that they're a little neglected and it turns out that rather than imposing, they'd actually like a lot more of the senior players to turn up, to help support the juniors, act as mentors and get a more homogeneous feeling between the junior and senior sections. Sam said he'd come along when he could, and obviously if I've been popping down anyway I'm only too happy to continue!

And by the way, yes I will be getting my haircut soon...

1 comment:

Tumo said...

Just a quick one, with your batting, you are still moving while the bowler is bowling. You should look to be still. Even with a trigger, a trigger will take you back and across, and unless you're being innovative and walking into shots/backing away to create room at the end of an innings, you should be still. Watch your batting again, for the most part your feet are still moving. try and work on that, it will help you in the future mate! Definite improvement as regards timing/power though!

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