Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Overs remaining

Our first home fixture of the season on Saturday saw an all too familiar tale. The formula so far this season has been to win the toss, bat first, lose nine wickets before the drinks break, creep just beyond 100 and then wonder why the team batting second aren't chasing the game too much. Only three of our partnerships made it to 20, and none got to 30. To be honest I'm pretty fed up with our batsmen giving their wickets away so cheaply. Maybe they've been watching too much IPL and are labouring under the impression that all innings only last 20 overs nowadays.

As for my own cameo, I came in with 25.3 overs left and the score on 89 for 9. "We must stop meeting like this" I said to Jamie, as for the third time in three matches we prepared to see to what extent the last wicket stand could rectify matters. Jamie was keen to stay on strike and I was happy enough to let him, so I saw out my first three balls without any real trouble. Jamie was batting pretty well and hit a few boundaries, I meanwhile was taking wild swipes at anything pitched safely outside off (and missing) and solidly defending the few balls that threatened the stumps.

I edged a couple through the slips (always down and safe - nice soft hands, me) and made a single and a two, so I stopped swinging now I was off the mark and settled down. I had that real comfort at the wicket that I have occasionally, nothing seemed terribly challenging and I was seeing the ball very well indeed. We nudged the score past 100, gaining an extra point, and I said to Jamie that 125 was the next target. We got to 113, and a partnership of 24, before Jamie was undone by a slower ball which he looped up for the bowler to take a sharp diving catch. Another red inker for me then.

As we went into the field I said to Chigsy there was no need for him to feel he ought to give me a bowl, as not only do I hate bowling when we're defending such a small total and the batsmen don't need to chase the game but also the wind was swirling around from every direction and I hadn't felt too great about my bowling warming up before the match. Astroturf wickets are always a bit of a bowlers' graveyard so there was little point in putting my confidence in jeopardy in return for the rather slim chance of maybe picking up the odd wicket. A little weak from me maybe, but I think on balance it was the right decision.

Jamie and Josh opened the bowling and again did a very solid job, Jamie keeping it tight and Josh bowling one of the openers. The required run rate was 1.53 so even though we were fielding pretty competently they were well on target, once again not needing to risk anything to get easily enough runs. Their number 3 batsman was taking quite a few risks though, and was dropped at least three times.

Joe came on for three reasonably expensive overs, with Sam bowling solidly from the other end but also being hit for some runs. That's the problem with fast bowling, the faster it hits the bat the faster it leaves. Simon was playing with us for once as he's winding down his cricket a little, and bowling his occasional off-spinners he seemed to have some success, putting the batsmen in two minds and creating a couple of catching opportunities. Sam took out the remaining opener to a slip catch, and Simon trapped the number 4 LBW, but they were still motoring along with the number 3 closing in on his first ever 50.

As for my own contribution, I did reasonably well to start off with. I was at square leg as usual, and as usual I was being regularly beckoned forward closer to the batsman. Penny wise, pound foolish - what you save in getting on to singles earlier (not much) is more than cancelled out by the boundaries scored by the balls that pass out of your reach which you could have stopped from a little further back. This is my third season fielding regularly at square leg and I think I've seen enough to know how far back I should stand, and with some appropriately aggressive body language you can quite easily put the batsmen off the singles, too.

There were some black marks though. After one ball trapped by a right boot popped up elegantly into my right hand, I'm afraid another got underneath my foot as I was chasing it hard. Sam gave me a hard time about it but I doubt it cost more than one run, if that. Then later a catch looped just short of where I was standing and I just couldn't get there in time, reached it on the half-volley and then had to scurry back to retrieve it. It didn't help much having Sam bellowing "Caaaaaaaaaaatch" as the ball came to me, as it only increased the pressure.

I really wish the guys would think a little bit more about how their actions can have the effect of putting people off, and I really can not understand the sense in venting your frustrations on your own fielders. You're going to get some dodgy fielding in the 4ths, that's just inevitable. If we were better cricketers we wouldn't be playing in the 4ths, and I rarely make mistakes because of a lack of effort. Confidence is a valuable commodity and it pays to conserve it.

Anyway, they made the runs. With three needed the batsmen ran two and turned back for a third, leading to a run-out with scores level to give us another point, then the new batsman ran a single off his first ball, and naively called for a second... Out of the 95 overs scheduled, we'd batted 31 and they knocked them off in 26.2, so hopefully you'll forgive me for feeling a little short changed about the 37 overs left unplayed.

Good points: Very comfortable at the crease, never looked like getting out, played a part in a useful partnership, fielding mostly competent and alert.
Points for improvement: Catching still an issue, need to work on avoiding distraction.

Saturday's stats: (Stafford 4th XI vs Porthill Park 4th XI, 50 overs each)
Batting: No.11, Not out, 3 (15bf, 0x4, 0x6 prt: 10th 24)
Bowling: did not bowl
Fielding: Ct 0, St 0, RO 0

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