Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Putting the hours in

I'm not sure if all this rain is good or bad for me at the moment, on the one hand a few matches called off early probably serves to help me get my bowling fully grooved before I'm called to bowl in a match, but on the other hand I can't get much practise in if it's constantly pouring with rain. Last night the weather was dry so I took full advantage with a marathon 2 1/2 hour session, after which I felt pretty limp as you can imagine. My rhythm's coming back but I'm still far too prone to the odd wayward delivery, too many short, full, or wide ones to really be reliable. The spin's there, so there's enough dip and plenty of turn, but I'm not feeling right overall. Happily my attempts at coming round the wicket seemed to work surprisingly well, so I may use that as part of a three-card trick to left-handers - two or three sliders from over the wicket so they think I can't turn it much, then come over and bowl into an area quite wide of off-stump with maximum turn back to hopefully disturb the furniture.

I got the camera out and the results are interesting. Not only am I bowling with a much lower arm than I thought, I'm also in much more danger of back-foot No Balls than I ever imagined. I also filmed some variations, which perhaps was a waste of time when I should still be focusing on getting my stock ball grooved. My top-spinner was curiously unreliable, as it's been OK for the most part this winter, and it's still more of a bouncy leg-break than a genuine pure top-spinner. My slider was decent enough if a little slow. My flipper's definitely coming along, even if I still can't really trust it, so I'm going to start practising it more frequently than I currently do. Wrong 'Uns  were a total waste of time and energy, not surprising given how low my arm is, although my current attempt at a wrong 'un seems to quite often turn out with pure topspin, so I may adapt it as that. I need to get my arm a lot higher if I'm to crack the wrong 'un, and being such a big admirer of Mailey I won't really feel like a proper leg-spinner until I've got it in my armoury.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Nice weather for ducks

The season has arrived, along with, it seems, all that rain we should have had over the winter when the nets were shut. Oh well, at least the 4ths managed to complete a game on Saturday.

This was the first match under Dan Haynes's captaincy, and there was a little controversy over his (thoroughly sensible) no alcohol rule. There was also a great deal of speculation as to what his "big announcement" would turn out to be, and we were all surprised to hear that apparently he'd been in touch with Sky Sport's Cricket AM show, who appear to be interested in having us on the show at some point. I'm told they're going to get me on the speed gun, but if I break 35 mph I'll die of shock on the spot. It's not a show I watch, not having Sky being a severe impediment, but it sounds like fun.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A new season dawns

Well that went quick! Later today I kick off my season with a league game against Leek & Moorlands, quite a tough first game for us. My own preparations haven't been perfect as the good weather came in March but the outdoor nets weren't open until April, but I have been gradually finding a rhythm and a length, albeit that my long-hops and full-tosses are endangered rather than extinct.

This feels like quite an important season for me. I made a huge amount of improvement last year so I need to carry that on if I am to really make a decent fist of this cricket thing. If I can't then it would appear that I will have found my level. I need improvements in all areas of the game - bowling, batting, fielding and last but not least captaincy.

My bowling of late has been so-so - I do feel a little undercooked but it's hard to bowl when it's pouring with rain. My stock ball is reasonable and my top-spinner is coming along nicely, my zooter isn't terrible but my attempts at a wrong 'un have all failed - they just come out with top-spin on, if they come out at all, so I'm still very much "LB" rather than "LBG". I did try a little bit of conventional off-spin but they were worse than my wrong 'uns. I've been concentrating hard on getting my front arm high and ruddering the action, and it seems to be a good improvement although it has caused soreness in previously untouched muscles. It's allowed me to straighten my run-up a touch so hopefully I'll be a little less vulnerable to back-foot no balls compared to last year.

I really don't know where my batting will be, I have at times felt a significant improvement in winter nets but there's still some pretty fundamental kinks in my technique to be ironed out. Maybe I can finally reach the lofty heights of double figures. Time will tell. I haven't had much fielding practice, but helping out with the juniors last night involved a lot of catching, so that's boosted my confidence a touch.

Of course all this is immaterial if, as forecast, the heavens piss on us from a great height this afternoon.

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You really can't grumble about a girlfriend who buys you a massive cricket-themed cake and the latest copy of WISDEN for your birthday, and it did make the discomfort of turning 30 on Wednesday a little more bearable. WISDEN 2012 is as usual a great read, and I'm heartened by the brief mention of club spinner Jim Eyles, who took his best bowling figures at the age of 72. So there's hope for us all.

As next year marks WISDEN's 150th edition they're holding a competition for people to write a piece on any cricket subject and the best one gets printed in the great book. There's no way I'm going to let an opportunity like that go begging, although as yet I'm a little unsure as to my topic. I've got until the end of November though, so there's no great rush...