Sunday, 8 May 2011

What a difference a week makes!

Well if last week was the worst I've ever known so far, this was definitely the best. I finally got that wicket I've been working so hard for these last 16 months, I got my first run of the season, the 4ths got our first win of the season, and I played two enjoyable matches against two teams who were both wonderfully friendly. It could not have been more different to last week's match.

Saturday's game was against Church Eaton, and while it had been raining quite heavily on Friday night and Saturday morning, we got to the ground and found the wicket a little damp but not too sticky, and the game was on. We lost the toss and were put into bat, I went out to umpire and although we lost the first wicket early on and then continued to lose them at regular intervals we were humming along nicely with Sam's brother Dan making a very impressive 54 not out. I myself was batting at 11 and came in with three and a half overs to go and the score on 181, but sadly after what was by all accounts a very solid block to the first ball I couldn't repeat it and the second ball beat the bat and ripped out middle to end the innings.

We went into the field knowing we'd set a decent score on that wicket, and even though the sun came out it very quickly became clear that we were odd-on to win. Some excellent bowling from Sam and Nick and a very attacking field reduced them to 52 for 6 before Ben came on to bowl and immediately took three wickets in four balls! It took me a while to realise they were down to their last man, and I hadn't had a bowl. Luckily, the final pair hung around for a while putting on a steady 31 and Sam brought Nick on to see if he could get his Five-fer, and brought me on at the other end, into a light wind.

Bob set the field for me and it looked pretty good. My first over was so-so as far as my execution goes, probably too loopy and slow but on the whole reasonably accurate. There were a couple of full-tosses that were hit in the air, so that was encouraging, and I was amazed to find when I looked at the figures that I'd only gone for four singles. Nick thankfully didn't get his fifth in the next over but as I came back on for my second I thought I heard Sam telling someone else to get ready to bowl at my end...

The ball I bowled first up in my second over was an absolute jaffa - it pitched a foot outside leg, turned, passed between bat and pad and missed off by barely a couple of inches. I gave it the big "Ooooh..." and smiled at the batsman, their number 11. There you are mate, now you know I can turn it! I got a bit lucky with my second ball as it was a little wide down off but was cut straight to a fielder for no run.

Third ball I fancied a top-spinner to see if I could find a top edge or just surprise him with the bounce a little. I landed it perhaps a touch too leg-side but it turned slightly and did bounce up nicely, and the batsman swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker and hoiked it high into the air and into Bob's thankfully-reliable hands at deep backward square leg. I'D DONE IT! We'd won by 95 runs, and I'd taken the wicket that clinched it.

As soon as the catch was taken I let out probably the biggest yell I've ever produced. I raced over to Bob, gave him a full-on bear-hug and thanked him, then caught up with the departing batsman and shook his hand. When I turned around all the guys were coming towards me and I said "I've just been checking where to send the cash-stuffed envelope!" then walked back to the pavilion for an extremely enjoyable cigarette. "How're you feeling mate?" said Dan after, "pretty good mate, it's taken me 29 years to get that wicket!"

After we'd driven back to our own clubhouse everyone was patting me on the back and shaking my hand and it was really nice. I think most people at the club have seen how hard I work and how much I've improved, and a lot of them have been very supportive over the past weeks and months.A few of us went out on the town and I couldn't very well not go with them, I know well enough from last week that I'll have to enjoy the good days as I'll have plenty enough bad ones...

Good points: Got a wicket! Bowled pretty well, no mistakes in the field, more vocal than usual.
Points for improvement: Forward defensive was inconsistent...

Saturday's stats: (Church Eaton 2nd XI vs Stafford 4th XI, 50 overs each)
Batting: No.11, Bowled J.Burslem, 0 (2bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 10th 0)
Bowling: O 1.3, M 0, W 1, R 4
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

On Sunday I woke up feeling the worse for wear and was rather grateful that the Under 17s game I was due to do the scoring for was called off due to a damp wicket. Thankfully I was a bit more alert by the time our match started at 2, and with that wicket under my belt I was feeling much more at ease and ready to enjoy the game.

We fielded first and throughout my fielding was alert and reasonably effective. I've never seen a team with so many left handers. Of the eight who batted only two were right-handed - it was insane! We got them to 33 for 4 before two of them, southpaws of course, got on a bit of a roll. Mike (the Sunday captain) was planning on bringing me on with a following wind but Manu talked him out of it before I had a chance to turn it down (which I certainly would have!) and eventually I got a bowl at the end with a pretty strong headwind.

Overall I bowled pretty well, especially considering I was bowling against left-handers. I was totally at a loss as to what field to set, so that's something I'd better work on. To right-handers I've got a pretty good idea of my initial setting and how I'd change it depending on how it's going, but to lefties I've no idea. Ultimately this probably cost me a few runs but I'm never that bothered about leaking runs as long as I'm bowling well.

I did start off rather loopy again, which was perhaps a consequence of me trying to force it a bit into the headwind, but it didn't go too badly until the final ball of the first over was wide down leg-side and got swept away for 4. Even so 7 off the over is a decent start and my second over only went for two singles and a 2. I tried to keep it up but I did start getting a bit wayward going for 11 off the third, before a tidy-ish fourth for 6 runs which included 2 wides, then went for 10 off my fifth over including a no-ball (which I hasten to point out was above waist height and not a front-foot issue) and told Mike that'd be enough for me.

One ball I bowled was simply unbelievable. It was so wide down the left-hander's off-side it didn't even land on the astro, but it turned off the grass so much it missed off stump by probably less than six inches!!! It goes without saying it was a terrible delivery, there's no way I should be landing it that wide, but somehow it turned out to be the most eye-catching delivery of the day. Apparently at that point the 1sts playing on the next-door pitch had stopped for some reason and were watching me bowl, so there's a few witnesses to that one!

Overall the two batsmen were a little uncomfortable at times and with a bit more luck I could have got one of them, but I was very grateful for my five overs (almost as much as I've bowled in all other matches combined), it was good experience for me and while 38 off 5 is not a brilliant economy rate in absolute terms I was pretty satisfied that at least I wasn't being smacked about. What was really great was that for the first time I didn't feel like an imposter as I was bowling, I felt totally at ease, a lot like the first day after you lose your virginity. Hopefully I can carry this confidence on and build on it.

In the end they made 220 for 6 after their 40 overs and as we started off we thought it was a little high but ultimately gettable. Mike runs the Sunday team in a nice way, with his main priority being not to win but to make sure everyone's had a chance to either bat or bowl, so he either lets you bowl some overs or else bats you high up the order. As such I knew I wouldn't be batting for a while and settled down with the scorebook.

We started well with Ravi doing his usual Sewag impression to move to 28 off 19 balls before getting out, while Mike did his usual job of patiently getting himself in. Duncan (whose hangover had probably just worn off by then) went in at 3 but sadly got a duck from 7 balls, then Chigsy played a pretty good hand before getting out just 6 runs short of a hundred partnership with Mike. I had a turn at umpiring but we lost wickets fairly quickly and I had to pad up to go in at 10.

We got a bit behind the run rate and by the time the 8th wicket fell there were only 3 balls left. I was all ready just to block them out but first ball I got an edge to a vacant gully area and we ran a single - my first run of the season at last! Off the last ball of the match Amar hit a 4 which it turned out got us an extra point, and we finished up only 25 runs behind. Still, everyone agreed it had been a good match played in a nice spirit, and I'd got a few more overs under my belt.

Good points: Very good concentration in the field and only one minor mistake, bowled pretty well to left-handers with reasonable concentration, felt very much more confident and relaxed.
Points for improvement: Need a better idea of what field to set to left-handers, need to practise that line more to get more accuracy, need to bowl a little flatter, could have tried coming round the wicket, need to achieve a more consistent performance from over to over, need to remember to back up more especially when bowling.

Sunday's stats: (Stafford Sunday XI vs Hammerwick, 40 overs each)
Batting: No.10, Not out, 1 (1bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 9th 5)
Bowling: O 5, M 0, W 0, R 38, Wd 2, NB 1
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

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