Sunday, 21 April 2013

A mixed affair

Thanks heavens, the cricket season is here again. A beautiful sunny day greeted us as we travelled to Keele to play Porthill, now moved from their old Scot Hay 2nd ground due to over-greedy landlords. The old Scot Hay ground was invariably a pudding when I played on it, while Keele tends to produce a fair amount of shooters, so even without a sticky wicket we were in for a tough time batting-wise.

I was in an optimistic mood, albeit outwardly appearing a little grumpy; I'm always a little grouchy when I haven't slept the full eight hours, and I rarely get the full eight hours the night before the season starts. Certainly the previous evening I'd done some good work in the nets, before and after coaching the juniors, and considering how little practise I've done on my bowling so far this year (maybe 6 hours I would estimate) I was bowling pretty well, especially later on.

We got to the ground with plenty of time to spare (always a plus). Chigsy won the toss and decided to bat, a good start to his season as skipper! Our opening pair went in and started making progress immediately, with Brad batting solidly and Sam batting in his standard swing-at-absolutely-everything style. Sam was dropped once, they moved the fielder, and he was dropped again by the very same fielder who'd been moved. "That's it Sam, pick your fielders" said your humble narrator rather cruelly. Sam was eventually out for 17 (caught, obviously) and not too long after a ball spat up at Brad and he was gone too for 19. Azar and Dan put a few on but after that wickets fell rather too quickly, and after being 50-odd for none we were barely past 100 by the time I went in at 11.

I have to mention, at this point, that I do rather like to be left alone when I'm next man in, but of course one of the younger members of the team thought now would be a good time to sit next to me, ask inane questions, fiddle with my chair and basically put me off. No sooner had I told him to go away, rather more politely than he deserved, the 9th wicket fell and I was in. I paced to the wicket briskly but unhurriedly, conferred with my partner, took a guard, inspected the field, prepared to face... and comprehensively missed a straight one. Quack!

Oh well, we should have put more on but by last year's standards 102 is pretty decent. We set about defending with Jamie opening one end and Pete at the other. Pete's new to the club, let alone the team; he's a little older than me, rather large, and hasn't played in six years. his net form is decidedly mixed, he either bowls fast and really dangerous balls (as my left toe bears witness) or fast and really wide balls. So it proved.

After Pete had had a couple of mixed overs he was replaced by Josh, and he and Jamie did really well keeping the runs down and picking up three wickets between them, including one caught by Chigsy at slip after he'd just shelled a very difficult chance a couple of overs earlier. I myself blotted my copybook pretty badly when a ball was hit hard slightly to my right, and I simply chickened out of getting behind it, the ball grazing my finger on its way to the boundary.

Sadly after Jamie had run out of overs due to his age Dan Brown was brought on and turned out to be thoroughly under-prepared. He seemed to have no idea about his run up, and just couldn't get his release point right. His second over was one of those that went on for ever, as ball after ball sailed well over the batsman's head. In the end he bowled a marathon 14-ball over (equalling my 'personal best'), although only five were legitimate balls. I did sympathise with him, although to be honest if you don't bowl a ball all winter what do you expect?

At about this point things were clearly starting to slide away, although the absence of a scoreboard didn't help those on the field keep track of the game. A couple of fielders were beckoning me to be more vocal, rather an annoying feature of matches I've played. I can't change the fact that I'm not the sort to be shouting and yelling for the sake of it every other ball, nor would I want to; I give credit where it's due, encouragement when it's needed and crack the odd joke when it seems appropriate, but quantity over quality is not my style. In the end all these calls of "lets hear you" achieve is to put me off.

Sam came on to bowl and was pretty decent as always, conceding ten off two overs, four of which were my fault again. I've been told again and again to use my hands rather than my feet to stop the ball, and it must have sunk in as this time I missed with my hands a ball I could easily have stopped with a well-timed right boot. Chigsy beckoned me closer in, to which I replied that I'd had two go past me but I'd field where he asked, and the very next ball a shot came right out of the middle out of my reach in this new position but relatively easy pickings where I would have been otherwise. I'm not saying Chigsy was wrong, merely reporting the event. After I'd retrieved the ball he posted me on the boundary and moved himself into the vacant area.

Anyway, Chigsy brought Azar on to bowl, with me up next at the other end. Sadly Azar conceded 14 in his first over and that as they say in America was the ball game. It's not the first time I've had a pre-arranged spell aborted by the end of an innings and it was a bit of a shame not to get the monkey off my back, especially as it looked like my kind of wicket, but after the game I was unusually un-miffed about it, quite happy to have taken part in a fun game of cricket and to get the season under way at last.

That said, I did bowl very well in the nets when we got back to the pavilion, and that was after two pints of Guinness...

Good points: Throwing the ball in seemed much better, subtle contributions to team spirit.
Points for improvement: Really shouldn't have missed a straight one, fielding was pretty rusty and on occasion a little cowardly.

Saturday's stats: (Porthill Park 'A' 2nd XI vs Stafford 4th XI, 40 overs each)
Batting: No.11, Bowled J Ellams, 0 (1bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 10th 0)
Bowling: did not bowl
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

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