Monday, 4 April 2011

On the pull

Yesterday's nets was a bit of a strange one. I turned up ever so slightly early and started bowling to an empty net trying out a new run-up (more below), then when 3pm turned I got my pads on since there were plenty there but no-one padding up. It turned out to be an inspired tactical move as only myself and Sam (and two in the next-door net) got a bat before the heavens opened. For the first time I had a camera rolling so here's the highlights and lowlights: (should you wish to, you can see the full unedited 'innings' here)

In contrast with last Sunday, where the second ball cannoned into my left ankle, this week as you'll see I played the shot of my fledgling cricket career. It was lovely, a low front-footed pull shot, hit powerfully and safely through mid-wicket. It happened so quickly and effortlessly. Happy birthday to me. Smack. Middled. Four. "Fetch that and bowl me another..."

Of course, it couldn't carry on like that but I did play some nice shots here and there, and my general attitude and concentration seemed good. Five balls were possible catches, and I've included another in there as even though it hit me on the bottom of my arm-guard I think it's 50-50 whether an umpire would give it out if there was a convincing appeal. Satisfyingly not once were my stumps disturbed, and I think on the full ten minute video you can hear Sam's frustration when I executed a nice block to a straight one towards the end. I feel I'm improving. One thing I can't escape is that my cut shot is absolutely woeful. Of the dozen or so times I played it I think only one made contact, and that was a skyer. I can't exactly blame it on uneven bounce on a brand new artificial wicket, now can I? It's definitely going to need sorting out, as it's a shot I'm going to need if our bowlers are anything to go by.

One thing I need to crack is that virtually throughout I was shying away towards leg, something I was vaguely aware of before but which the video has confirmed. Perhaps it's time I introduced a trigger movement, for while my feet are moving they're not terribly decisive movements most of the time. I think I'm going to copy Michael Vaughan's left-right shuffle into position and see how that works. My reasoning is as follows: Firstly, it will force me to travel towards, rather than away from, the line of the majority of balls I face, and secondly, if I move my left foot and then my right foot, it stands to reason that after 28 years of walking upright my body will be anticipating a movement of my left foot next, and this will make it easier for me to come forward, something I am very poor at. I also think I need to look at a more side-on stance, and my current open stance is by it's nature hindering my ability to hit through the off side.

Anyway, enough of batting - on to bowling. By the time I'd got my pads off and had a smoke I only managed about four balls against Sam before the rain came, but I did manage to entice a top-edged cut to slip, so getting the wicket of my team captain won't have done me any harm... After the rain had stopped and the surface had dried a little I tried it out  with no-one batting and although the balls were getting a bit wet it seemed just about passable. I was bowling pretty well, even if the wetness of the artificial surface was severely hampering any turn, and after a while I joined in with some of the 2nds in the neighbouring net.

I always enjoy bowling at the better players at the club as they tend to bat more seriously in the nets than the 3rds and 4ths and I get a better idea of what would happen in the middle. At one point I bowled three or four consecutive deliveries on a good line and length with the batsman prodding them back to me each time. "How come you're blocking him and slogging me?" asked one of the guys I was taking turns bowling with, to which the batsman replied "well to be fair to him he's bowling good balls..." Well, if I've got the 2nds blocking me ball after ball on a wicket that's barely turning I must be doing something right!

Of course, he did get plenty of pretty hefty hits but given the difference in level between us it was still pretty good overall. I was using a much simpler "run"-up which involves three paces in before a little hop into the side on delivery stride. It felt much more stable and until such time as it seems to be causing problems I'm going to hang on to it. After a bit the other bowlers were called away to help shift some stuff and I was left one-on-one against another 2nd team batsman, and again this is a situation I enjoy as the batsman responds more realistically than if I'm bowling in amongst two pace bowlers and an off-spinner for example.

I'm not sure how or why it's happened but my zooter has turned into an exceptional variation for me, flat in flight and bouncing low, usually landing on target and 9 times out of 10 it elicits a humbling swing-and-a-miss by the batsman, since so far no-one's been able to pick it. A good one to get them thinking! My bowling remained pretty consistent although I did start bowling a few wides as I tried to turn up the 'exploding' a bit, and although the batsman did hit a fair few good shots (which is to be expected when a 4th team leggie is bowling at a 2nd team batsman) he certainly didn't have it his own way.

Overall then, a useful net despite the rain delay, during which I had a pint and chatted to Sam about how the team's shaping up. He seemed happy with the side and was looking forward to his first foray into senior captaincy. Ryan's likely to be our first choice keeper and one of the openers but disappointingly I haven't seen him much in pre-season, as I'd like to get a relationship going - leg-spinners always need to work well with their keeper, just look at Warne, MacGill, Healy and Gilchrist. Apparently Bob, our stand-in captain last year, will be playing with us again, probably at number 3, which put a smile on my face. Bob's a great guy to have in the side, two centuries last season and plenty of post-match fun as well. I detected a certain apprehension when I asked Sam where he was likely to want me to bat, followed by relief when I suggested somewhere around 8. He seemed very agreeable to that, which if it comes to pass means I can start looking to target those 4th XI 7th and 8th wicket partnership records...

Two other things to mention: Firstly, Olivia's taking a bit of a battering I'm afraid, skinny shoulders and my tendency to often block the ball high up the bat and catch the top edge combining to create a couple of cracks which have had to be taped up. It can't be helped I suppose, but it is a bit annoying. Meanwhile I've removed all but the front and back stickers as they seemed to be a bit superfluous anyway, and before our first match (less than three weeks away now!) I'm going to replace the facing as it's getting a bit tatty with the toe end starting to peel off. She's nicely knocked in now and she's a really very good bat. Now that I've got used to it the pick-up is just right and get the ball in the middle and it's just gone! Cracks notwithstanding, seems like a good investment, and I may well be a regular M&H customer from now on.

The second thing is that tonight I've been at the gym doing some weight training to try to get more power in my upper body, which should hopefully help both my batting and my throwing from deep. It seems from things I've read on the internet that for extra power (which is not quite the same as strength) I need to be lifting as much as I can for only three or four repetitions, rather than a lower weight for a dozen repetitions as I have done previously. It feels like I'll be a bit sore tomorrow, so I'll have to wait for that to wear off before I can start deciding whether it's having any positive effect. I took a notebook along and kept notes on what I was doing on each individual machine, so next time I'll know what weight to start with, rather than having to start afresh every time. Next time I go (and Monday seems the only night that gives me enough recovery time between net sessions) I'll do some more work to give my rotator cuff muscles more endurance so as to prevent any wear-and-tear injuries from all the bowling practise, but that's only very, very small weights. Overall though, I'm much fitter and stronger than I was before Christmas, so I should be much, much better prepared for a day in the field than I was last season.

1 comment:

Tumo said...

Right, I'd just written out a shedload, and it wouldn't let me post it. Strange. I'll keep it short. With your batting, you shy away either through fear of getting hit, or trying to free up the off-side. I suggest, like you say, getting towards the ball. I wouldn't recommend a trigger movement, but that's just me. Get your body behind the line of the ball, and play it under your head/eyes. I've posted a link here, with Joe Denly (Kent CCC) and Michael Vaughan, and hopefully you will see what I mean. :)


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