Picked up another two bruises this weekend: one on my inner left thigh, one on my right forearm. Any guesses which one resulted in my dismissal?
Monday evening I netted at Penkridge Cricket Club with what I felt was a solid batting performance, but the reality is that I have felt OK in the nets pretty much from day one of my return, it’s handling being in the middle that has been the issue, and continues to be so! I have received some much appreciated and useful feedback which is best summed up as need to keep my head level, plant my leg down not across the wicket, play the ball later, wait on the bad ball and be more patient. Easier said than done of course, not least because one adjustment can mean several preparatory adjustments for the old body but I have pretty much got to a point where the stance, guard, head position and balance are probably as good as they will ever be. Need to work on this set up becoming the norm, and also on the patience in the middle, and accepting the slower pace of the wickets compared to the nets.
Tuesday evening I netted at Barlaston Cricket Club with the youngsters (which is a rather stupid statement on reflection as the whole playing squad is younger than me) which generally means a long bowl which I am happy with. I wasn’t thinking of bowling when I decided to play again, but have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with how it has gone, and it’s certainly getting better.
The eagle eyed amongst you, and indeed the half blind, will note that once again neither net session involved any fielding practice which from a personal perspective is something I need to rectify, and dare I say it from a team(s) perspective as well?
Wednesday I was back up the motorway to Yorkshire for Fish and Chips with my parents and godfather and then the T20 for me. At 15 for 4 this rapidly looked like a bad shout, until an amazing 141 off 56 for the 6th Wicket gave Yorkshire enough to secure victory. The members lounge at Yorkshire is currently closed as far as viewing goes so I tend to sit pretty much at pitch level which provides a great perspective of the power and speed involved.
Thursday Sands and I had a rare night out at the T20 at Edgbaston. Fish and Chips again, but this time in the Members Lounge where the seats give a great birds eye view of the whole ground. Two things are demonstrated really clearly: the role angles play in the game in terms of pace of ball and field placings and the non stop motion of the players whilst fielding: back up, walking in, jogging into place between wickets, moving to receive the ball being relayed back to the bowler, adjusting their position based on batters strengths and preferences and generally a non stop reading of the game and anticipation.
Friday and rain prevented any netting and as I had been feeling a tad lethargic and generally ‘yuck’ most of the week an early night was much appreciated.
Saturday the 4s played our home game at Market Drayton Community Amateur Sports Club, and it was great! SO much better than the top field at Stafford Grammer: Sight Screens, a well prepared wicket (albeit slow as they all have been this year), a relatively level and recently mowed outfield, ample parking and changing rooms. Out of use currently we could use the facilities and also pop in quickly to change. As they also have nets I would be more than happy if we played home games here. Yes is a longer drive (and being selfish I can always call in for a Cuppa with my folks on the way), but the fact we could arrive early, net together, do some fielding drills, and change indoors as a team would be more than worth it in my view. As for the game, well you know how it goes by now. Fielded first, got some early wickets but then their middle order took the game away from us. Batted like dominoes again which is frustrating as we do have the talent to post larger totals, but we struggle individually and collectively to build an innings. My day? Caught one at a sort of slip/gully position which was more a case of holding on after it had thumped into my ample bosom, then regretted nearly getting a hand to a drive at short cover which not surprisingly aka Crickets Sod Law caught me on my broken finger again. Going in at not a lot for 5 with the plan of “seeing the team home” long gone I played a few OK shots, then did what I have done all year really – got myself out. Played a drive too early and my head came up, and the bails came off! Did learn something new though. Had always wondered why Richie Birch had a profile picture of McEnroe but had never got round to asking him. Following his much warranted mid innings ‘pep talk’ I now know – still rather tame though mate compared to the stuff that got thrown around ‘back in the day’.
Sunday has always been a family day since we moved back from Spain, so I was never really planning on playing too much. COVID-19 and few other factors mean that I am available more than I thought I would be, but with family coming first making myself available is generally not something I can do until later in the week as I generally don’t know what we will be doing until the Wednesday or Thursday. With Barlaston Cricket Club being less than 10 mins from my parents and one of their oldest friends living right next to the ground it is always an option to combine time with them with playing, but I didn’t expect this to be for their 3s! Bit of a last minute thing (as a rule, a last minute phone call if short is always worth a try given how things are with me these days on Sundays as our plans often change last minute) ie shortage saw me selected again for the 3s this time in a cup game. I have to say that I have enjoyed my games with the 3s. The team tends to have a few from the 1s and 2s, and couple of ‘old boys’ and a couple of the Under 17s so the game is that little bit quicker: bowlers faster, more accurate and can spin it, fielding and throwing faster and stronger (not me of course) and the batting more experienced. I like to think I hold my own, mainly because in the field it’s usually only me and maybe one other that the skipper needs too ‘hide’ so I spend most of the day at short cover or midwicket. My hands and eyes still work pretty well and I caught one at mid wicket this week that was ‘decent’. Batting wise I like the extra pace and accuracy, but once again after a few nice shots all round the wicket, a couple of smart singles and a comfortable 2 I managed to get myself out again. Pulling a short one I was too early on the shot, the ball struck me on the right forearm about 4 inches above my gloves wristband (hence the bruise) and I was given out caught behind by a League Umpire!! I would play that shout 9 times out of 10, short on leg stump, going down leg, but I have to learn to wait on the ball rather than assume where it will be. Another ‘start’ (10 off 13) and it was a shocker of a decision.
Dave Jones recently reminded everyone that we are now mid season which gave me something to think about whilst the radox and whisky did their job.
Would be happy with a 5/10 for my season so far. In total have played 17 times, batted 16 times, scored 222 runs with a top score of 45 (twice) at an average of 14.80. Of interest to me (at least) is that when I bat 3 or 4 I have scored 130 runs at an average of 21.66. I have bowled 19 overs, 2 maidens, taken 3 wickets and conceded 131 runs. Play Cricket has recorded 5 of my 9 catches. I am bordering on being carbon neutral though having taken 8.11% of the teams wickets and contributed 9.45% of the teams runs – all rounder I tell you!!!
Would like to think that in the second half of the season I can double those figures!!??
For now though I am going to take a mini mid season break. I would like to be able to say that I was off to Spain for a few days Radox & Rioja, but I will be staying here. As the nets at Barlaston on Tuesday have already been called off because of Englands last game in the Euros, and I am at Edgbaston on Wednesday and Friday I thought I would give all nets and training a miss this week, take a few longer walks with the dogs, spend Thursday afternoon in the Summer House watching the England ODI and just give the old bones and muscles a well deserved rest. They have stood up well to the first half, but it has been tough as I am using parts of the body I had long forgotten existed and whatever happens for the remainder of the season playing again has been the best thing I could have done for making me realise how important it is to take care of your body.
Oh yes, the second bruise. That’s down to a certain James Schofield’s bowling machine and his bright idea that I could try it out (my first time with a bowling machine) without pads or gloves as the balls were soft!!!!
Gray-Nicolls are generously supporting this diary and my return to cricket for the 2021 Season.