I had previously thought that I would never consider grade cricket a try due to the costs. Still, the 2015/16 season was a disappointment in the Canberra City & Suburban competition on synthetic wickets. It just baffles me that your good deliveries on these wickets get smashed to the boundary, especially across the line. I also came to realize that the bowling coaching I’ve been through looks more suitable for the Turf pitches. Furthermore, in the last few years, I suffered weight gain despite starting off in good shape. Hence I hope I could maintain the discipline in fitness since I had perceived grade cricket to be a challenge. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to play turf from the 2016/17 season.
But something strange had happened…
February 26, 2016
I was coming back from lunch from the Canberra Centre shopping center when I received a Facebook message from John Prior (a.k.a JP whom I met at the preseason training in September) asking me if I would be interested in playing a grade game for Ginninderra. Having said yes, JP asked if I had spikes, and I also said yes. I also mentioned to him that I was free for the next two Saturdays, and hence I was to play in 4th grade and make my debut for Ginninderra and in ACT Premier Cricket. As it turns out, I was asked to play as the juniors who filled in for the senior matches were busy with their own finals.
I had in a matter of fact played on Turf on two occasions albeit in the Public Service League on two Sundays. I bowled 8 wicketless overs for 24 runs at Freebody Oval 1 and got the 4-piece ball to swing both ways. At the same time, I scored 33 with four fours at Kingston Oval in the other (only for the adrenalin to cost my wicket when I went for a fourth consecutive four and therefore was bowled).
However, this will be a different challenge altogether, but I was treating this as a learning experience for the future.
February 27, 2016
It would be expected that I wouldn’t know whom I would be playing with. However, I happened to know captain Jason Cooper whom I bowled to back in September one time. Apart from that, I was meeting the rest of the team for the first time. We were playing on the 2nd Freebody Oval ground (also known as the Neil Bulger Oval), which was different from the other Freebody Oval I had played on in the Public Service League. The wicket ‘looked’ good for batting, but it had some grassy patches.
Nevertheless, we won the toss and chose the bat. Yet we were bowled out for 76 in 45.1 overs. Queanbeyan captain Peter Jensen took 6/7 off 11.1 overs, including me for just three runs (but I managed to hang around for 26 balls). Only Jason Cooper, Amit Pardeshi, and Ben Healy managed to reach double figures.
When we bowled, I was given the new ball (the previous meeting with Jason helped perhaps). While I bowled all right and got the ball to swing both ways, I couldn’t control my lines, which lead me to concede four wides in a four-over wicketless spell than went for 16 runs (although not helped by misfields). I managed to at least redeem myself with a catch for which Queanbeyan immediately declared at 5/119 off 26 overs. They had a 43 run lead and were hoping to sneak at least a wicket before stumps.
Unfortunately, we were 4 for 7 at stumps as Sandeep Kumar, Mark Wilson, Jason Cooper, and Ben Healy had the dubious honor of being dismissed twice in a day courtesy of Michael Gilshenan who took all four wickets (he finished with 4/2 off 4 overs). We were in deep strife, and next week, we need a miracle to survive and make a game of this.
February 28, 2016
There were 18 wickets taken last weekend with the grassy patches on the pitch, proving to be quite fatal in terms of the bounce. Some balls kept low, and others were climbing up. As I was fielding, I’ve noticed that some of the Queanbeyan batsmen were batting out of their crease. Hence I thought if I could perhaps adopt a similar strategy if I ever had to bat.
On another note, despite the precarious position, I was hopeful of a stronger showing with the bat. Today, I was on cloud nine, having guided my Sunday Social team into the final. I made my first ever half-century in cricket, which made up for the near misses in my last game in Perth, where I made 48 and also in the same ground in Deakin, where I made 45 having shepherded the tail to a defendable total. To cap it off, I smoked my first ever a couple of sixes of the spinner and ended up with 60 not out off 92 balls. I had kept in mind the overconfidence that cost me my wicket at Kingston, which helped me tremendously.
Luke was happy that I was able to come of age with my batting and appreciated that I was able to keep in mind the principles that he had instilled in me with the bat from the moment I met him. Quite expectedly, my parents were proud of me too.
March 4, 2016
We were against it when we had to start at 4 for 7 with needing another 36 runs to take the game into the fourth innings. To make matters worse, Vasu Patel, the overnight batsman, was absent, and Amit Pardeshi was immediately dismissed by Hollyhead, which meant we were effectively 6 for 7 when I came in. Although I found run-scoring quite hard to come by, I felt I was in control. I at least kept out the good balls while pushing balls into gaps and taking ones and twos. It helped that I batted outside my crease against the quicks and went forward to every ball bowled by Peter Jensen. Despite my efforts, we were soon 9 for 12, and I was joined by the only female in our team, Jess Howard.
This was the first time I was playing with a female in cricket, but throughout the match, I knew she could hang around, bowl some sufficient medium pace, and can field reasonably well. She bowled well last weekend and took an incredible one-handed catch, and today, she kept me company for almost an hour as we tried to delay the inevitable. It obviously started to annoy the wicketkeeper who goaded us into teeing off, which nearly costed my wicket when I tried an ungainly hoick across the line against their young leg-spinner, Siddarth Girish which luckily missed my stumps. I simply said to him, “That’s it. I’ll never listen to you ever again!”. Not long after, I top-edged a block off the bowling of Girish into my eye. Both the square-leg umpire and Jess were wondering if I was ok and I was. I was wearing safety glasses (which I started last week as I’ve heard about Craig Kieswetter’s serious eye injury that triggered his early retirement despite wearing a helmet), which prevented me from severe damage.
Not long after, Girish took the final wicket after drinks when Jess misjudged the length and tried to pull only to be bowled. We were bowled out for 26 within 26.2 overs, and I was left unbeaten with 10, which was the top score. I earned praise from the two Cricket ACT umpires who admired my fight as well as Luke. I told Luke about the wicketkeeper’s yarn, and he would have told him to get stuffed if he was in my position.
While it was disappointing to lose by an innings and 17 runs, we at least didn’t suffer the embarrassment of being bowled out twice on the first day. Weston Creek, also in 4th grade were bowled out for 52 and 21 within the first day against Western Districts & University who declared on 3/163.
I enjoyed the experience of playing grade, and I am already looking forward to playing grade from now on.