Sunday, 31 July 2011

Blinded by the light

Stuart Broad seems to have had a dramatic return to form, and this weekend I have too, with my best ever bowling figures - and they could have been even better.

We were playing Wooton at Waterhouses, which is very much a bowler's wicket - last year we were all out for 57 when 80ish would have been competitive. Today it was a little less sticky than last year although it was still slow, low and occasionally lively and the outfield was still VERY slow. After a slightly fraught journey to the ground thanks to some truly hopeless navigating by my team-mates, we won the toss and chose to bat, although I thought that may have been the wrong decision as it was sunny and the wicket could only get better.

We didn't start off brilliantly, and when I went into the hot-seat as next man in the score was 42 for 4. Dan was in and Azar joined him with the two of them doubling the score before I went in to join Dan and give my new Ultralite pads their first outing. My mindset was simply to hang around and run quickly between the wickets, relying on Dan to score the runs. I was only in for 10 minutes facing just five balls before once again I blocked over the top of a straight one that kept low, but we did put on 18 which turned out to be the third-highest partnership of the match.

Dan top-scored with 40 before being given out to a dubious LBW decision, and we were all out for 130 after 33 overs, giving the opposition a full 67 overs in which to bat. Nick got two early wickets to have them 15 for 2 after half an hour, then Oxo got another to make it 44 for 3 fifteen minutes later. However the next pair really got themselves in and played extremely patiently, moving on to 72 for 3 while Sam called on several bowlers before I was brought on at a time where we desperately needed a breakthrough.

Now I must admit I didn't have a good feeling before the match, as my practise on Wednesday had been awful and I was pretty low on confidence. I'd said to Sam before we went out to field not to bowl me unless he felt he needed to, and identified the end I wanted to bowl as the one behind which the sun was setting. A little flight, I thought, would have the batsmen looking directly at the sun and this losing sight of the ball - "beware of the Hun in the sun" as the old Battle of Britain adage goes.

My first, rather nervous ball wasn't great, probably a wide if the batsman hadn't chased it but no run scored and no damage done. Their defensive mindset played right into my hands as I was able to gently bowl myself in. By the third ball I was feeling really focused and in control, gesturing to the mid-on and mid-off and saying "Back a bit fellas", and only a slightly dodgy final ball which was swiped away for a single denied my my first ever maiden. 73 for 3.

Starting my next over at 78 for 3 I bowled an incredible ball that pitched well outside leg, turned back and glanced the off-stump, agonisingly failing to dislodge the bails. I gave the batsman a good stare after that one. The next ball was near-identical, but didn't turn as much and as the batsman came across to block it it deflected off his pads, on to the stumps and this time the bails came off. I'd got the breakthrough!

After the pandemonium that is now customary whenever I take a wicket had subsided the new batsman - who had taken my wicket as it happens - came in and my first ball to him turned only slightly and just missed his leg-stump. My second ball to him felt really good, and as he came down the wicket he hadn't even brought his bat down before I was screaming at Shaun behind the stumps to whip his bails off. He did, the umpire's finger went up, and in the mayhem that ensued I may well have sustained a cracked rib*...

Well, this was special. I'd been brought on to bowl at a time when the team really needed me to do something and I'd fashioned two wickets in three balls. 79 for 5 and the game was alive. Perhaps I could be forgiven for then dragging one wide down the off-side, but had it not been for that my first maiden would have been of the double wicket variety.

My next over wasn't so good, and facing the well-set left-hander I was only too happy when he nurdled a single so I could have another go at the right-hander. I did manage to fashion a catching chance off a full-toss, sadly dropped by Dan, and there was an even more egregious drop at deep mid-off in the following over, so together with the glancing blow earlier it's not inconceivable that I could have registered my first Five-fer. I was taken off - the score now 100 for 5 - but for once I knew I'd played a really decisive part. When I looked at the scorebook after I was amazed to see I'd only conceded 11 runs:

Sadly, we couldn't manage another breakthrough and the left-handed Boycott lookalike reached a well-deserved 50 shortly before Wooton struck the winning runs to end the game.

It was a game we should have won, but I was still overwhelmed to have returned such good figures and made such an important breakthrough at the time I did. I've probably bowled a better four over spell, and the sun certainly played its part, but I've had so many reasons to feel down this season I'm entitled to milk my good luck when it comes, don't you think?

*this isn't a joke, by the way, it really does hurt to breath at times, and this is the only time I could have sustained such an injury!

1 comment:

jamespbutler said...

excellent stuff

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