Monday, 7 May 2012

A long way to drive for fielding practise

I suppose after the weather issues last weekend I should be happy to have played two matches this weekend, but in all honesty I'm feeling pretty low. Two matches, both at charming little grounds in obscure corners of North Staffordshire, but I faced a total of three balls, and bowled none. The consolation that the last competitive ball I bowled took a wicket (last year) is beginning to wear just a tad thin.

Saturday's game was against Porthill Park, but played on their Scot Hay ground - a nice if slightly tatty ground half way up a large hill near Newcastle under Lyme. In classic fashion a few drop-outs in the club left us a man down before we'd even started, and we turned up to find a large rectangular pudding had been inlaid into the ground where the wicket should have been. Dan was of a mind to bat first, but a few of us (including me) persuaded him that with the sun out the wicket could only get better so we'd bowl first. In the end we lost the toss and had to bat anyway...

Well, it didn't go well. Pretty soon Ryan walked back, followed shortly after by Scerri, then Joe got a golden duck, George made two before holing out and then Dan got out to what a few said was a poor decision, although I didn't see it myself as I was already busy getting my pads on. 27 for 5 became 27 for 6 and no-one seemed willing to dig in. In the end I came in as last man at 35 for 8, I blocked the first, left the second and Steve got out at the other end. 36 all out.

I took the field again utterly resigned to the fact that there was no chance of me getting a bowl, and set to work at square leg, now my signature position. We had a couple of new guys in the team, Indians from who knows where, and one of them was tentatively given the honour of opening the bowling. He was ok as it turned out, and the general consensus after the match was that he'd be pretty handy on the artificial wicket we play our home games on. Steve opened at the other end and despite some rustiness (he's too good a bowler for the 4ths really, but he hasn't played in a while) he kept it tight and looked the part, a headwind helping him swing the ball. We fielded pretty well and took 5 wickets before they made the total, including 2 for Phil on his return from a one-year paternity sabbatical, which I was really pleased about.

Overall then it was a second case where we seemed a pretty good bowling unit without enough runs on the board to defend. We just need a bit of discipline to bat through the overs and I'm sure we'll start winning matches.

Good points: Fielded solidly throughout with no mistakes, didn't throw my wicket away.
Points for improvement: Can't think of any.

Saturday's stats: (Porthill Park 4th XI vs Stafford 4th XI, 40 overs each)
Batting: No.10, Not Out, 0 (2bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 9th 1)
Bowling: did not bowl
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Sunday was technically my 2nd team d├ębut, but I only played for want of anyone better - I was simply the 22nd person to be available for the two matches. I knew the night before that it was that sort of deal, so I went into the game with carefully-controlled hope rather than any great expectation that I would be doing much more than fielding, assuming I played at all. Ali, who stood in as captain for the day with a team that was essentially 3rd team standard, seems to like my bowling but knows I'm still wayward and, justifiably, is wary of picking me for the 3rds until I can reliably bowl 4+ good balls an over.

We bowled first and I was sent to fine leg, but Ali moved me about a bit so it was a nice change to field in some unusual positions. I've never played under Ali's captaincy before and was very impressed, he placed his fielders with the precision of someone working to a plan and had us switching positions to different batsmen, something I haven't seen in the 4ths except for left hand/right hand. I spent most of the game alternating between Square Leg, Point and Third Man and on the whole I was reasonably solid if unspectacular, with my biggest problem being the slow, inaccurate throwing from deep. I'm still bloody hopeless at throwing, I put all my effort and all my body into trying to propel the damned thing and it just loops up at a snail's pace, rarely going the distance. I did make two disappointing errors in the field, firstly failing to get a foot to a ball that was moving quickly to my left - I really need to work on picking up on the move - but by far the worst was when a ball was mis-hit into the air a few yards in front of me at Square Leg.

Reader, I bottled it. Absolutely, totally bottled it. I moved forwards to it but was aware of Amar running in from my left, so despite being comfortably able to make the necessary ground, and despite Amar not calling for it, I left it to him. There really is nothing more soul-destroying on a cricket field than that feeling when you know you've crumbled at the crucial moment.

In the event, Amar got there but wasn't able to hold on, and it was a terrible point in the game to drop a catch. Their openers had batted well and both were on for 50 at the time, and we desperately needed the breakthrough. It was, on reflection, incredibly cruel of the cricketing Gods to send the pivotal chance of the innings my way, but c'est la guerre. Thankfully I didn't let my head drop, and to be honest I totally forgot about it until the innings was over. I did get a little frustrated, as I always do, when following the drinks break each over rolled by without me being called on to bowl.

It appears afterwards that a few where fighting my corner, and Ali was sorely tempted to bring me on, but it didn't happen and so be it. Ali was probably right to judge I'd get smacked out of the ground against these batsmen, and while I accept that as an occupational hazard and still back myself to sooner or later get a mis-hit or stumping out of anyone, if he felt that such a battering with no great chance of a wicket would be a crushing blow to my confidence (which is very possible), then I'd say that was good captaincy.

Amar did get us a wicket eventually, a decent caught-and-bowled, but they turned it up towards the end and made 241 for 1, with their opener making a century. We went in to bat knowing it was a big ask but still with the idea that it was just about gettable. Gaz and Ravi opened and seemed to go reasonably well until Ravi was given out run out, which looked a little harsh. Gaz was bowled soon after but Paul and Danny seemed to be getting us back up with the rate until Danny holed out to Melton Mobray's finest from one of those off-tweakers who look considerably less deadly than they in fact are. At this point things started to fall apart a bit, and after Paul got out I went to get my pads on so didn't see Ali make a duck. Amar went in before me at 79 for 6 after a brief cameo from Manu, and after Dan, who'd played very well all game, got bowled I walked out to bat.

I've never begun an innings in such a shambolic manner. I had to stop Dan to tell me what was going on out there, and when Amar got to me all he said was that I was to get him on strike and he'd get the runs. How about telling me what the bowlers are doing? Then the drinks came out and once they were finally done I prepared to back up at the non-striker's end, only to find that there was two to come and I was facing. I took a guard and faced up, but the keeper hadn't got his gloves on so there was more delay, and not for the first time a bit of chatter about my shoes. Finally, I faced up and the bowler ran in. I knew he was an off-spinner and he looked decent as he bowled but when he pitched one pretty wide of off-stump I went back a little and thought it'd be a safe leave. It wasn't.

Of all my dismissals, this one has probably bothered me more than any other. It wasn't just that it was a golden duck, and normally I just shrug and forget it. I'm a bowler after all and while I'd like to contribute the odd run I'm never likely to get picked for my batting. It's not even as if it made any difference in the match. But this one hurt. I don't know if it's that I should been able to block it if only I'd tried to, or that it showed up in one ball what a gulf there is between the 2nd team and my own level.

Anyway, the match didn't last much longer, both nick and Steve got run out and we'd only made 110. I drove home with Manu and we chatted about stuff, and he observed that given that this weekend I'd paid £20 quid in match fees, used half a tank of petrol, bought the odd pint and only faced three balls it was a pretty expensive way to get some fielding practise. Still, even if the 4ths game was a bit of a waste of time the game in Endon was very useful experience for me.

Good points: Some solid fielding, good attitude throughout, good concentration, backed up well, experience banked.
Points for improvement: Throwing from deep, confidence to go for catches, pick-up on the move, batting against off-spin.

Saturday's stats: (Endon 2nd XI vs Stafford 2nd XI, 45 overs each)
Batting: No.9, Bowled B.Rowley, 0 (1bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 8th 0)
Bowling: did not bowl
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

No comments:

Post a Comment