Ginninderra vs ANU at O’Connor, November 26 2016.

November 20, 2016

Yesterday I wondered whether I should bother with training because it was going to rain. As it turned out, the forecast was for showers late at night, so it would be worth turning up to practice after all. When I left the office at around 3:30pm, it was 33 degrees, and it was going to be a warm afternoon at practice. It did slightly cool down a little, but it was still warm.

During the nets session, we were all pulled aside by our president Chris “Griffo” Griffin asking us to keep the playing grounds and facilities tidy after each match. This was all contributing towards changing the outside views of our club, which included wearing the club polos to games. Griffo has a fair point, I thought because since we’re using the facilities of each of the turf grounds weekly, we should be looking after it too. I remember that in City & Suburban, individual clubs were fined by ACT Sportgrounds for not keeping the hard wicket grounds tidy after each match.

Back to training, we were still adopting the “if you’re out, you’re out” mentality at practice. It made sense, given that the 2-day matches were starting this weekend. Hence, everyone must try to bat as long as they can. For the bowlers, including myself, it’s about training to bowl aggressive maidens, which make the batsmen play but also make it hard for them to score off you.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t bowl like Allan Donald and ended up back to bowling like Ben Hilfenhaus, which was fine because I would like to continue swinging the ball and generate bounce to complement my much-improved run-up. I felt I bowled well. I bowled testing lines and lengths and got the ball to swing away from the right-handers at times without bowling a single half-tracker.

Then it was my turn to bat. I didn’t start well when I failed to stop a vicious in-swinger from Tariq Khan from hitting my pad despite batting outside my crease. Given, the LBWs cannot be given out in the nets, I continued to bat on; otherwise, it would have been an absolute shocker to be dismissed first ball in the nets. Thankfully, I made slight technical adjustments with my stance and continued my game plan from last week. Maybe I could have tried to advance to the spinners a bit more when they flighted the ball slightly, but this wasn’t the situation to try new things. It was a bit of distraction, though, while batting when flies were buzzing around you while being warm, but I managed to get through. I didn’t bat on the right towards the end or so because Matty Andrews, the 3rd-grade captain, needed bowlers to bowl too.

Sensing that the bowlers in my net were heading to Matty’s net, I decided to ‘retire’ and stop batting. It was also because I love to bowl a lot more than batting due to the stronger mental side. With the bat, it takes one mistake, and your innings is over. With the bowl, if you mess up your bowling a little, then there’s that likelihood of regrouping and finishing well. I wanted to bowl at Vishnu Chari so I can practice my lines against left-handed batsmen. I couldn’t quite bend the ball back into him, but I managed to bowl around the off-stump line to him most of the time and almost had him caught in two minds where he was close to edging a ball as he was trying to leave. I wasn’t actually bowling at full pace as the grass that I was running on was quite wet, but I still managed to keep it tight.

Once Kris Oliver got out, all the 1st-grade bowlers came to our net with the possibility of trying to get Vishnu out before sunset.  But Vishnu seemed immovable much like Dominic Ross was until he played an uncharacteristic shot to get out. Vishnu, in particular, looked comfortable against the spinners when leaving or playing shots. Finally, Vishnu chased a wide ball of mine and edged to where a second slip would have been. Nothing ball, nothing shot, remarkable result.

It was past 7.30 when Vishnu got out, and many people had gone home except for a few of us. My shirt was drenched with sweat all around, but I still managed a lap around the oval to finish up. It was a great session because I was indeed the last man standing (but it would have been a different matter had I not retired to bowl at the end). I had indicated before training that I will be available for 2-day cricket if they’re experiencing a bowler shortage, but I will have to wait and see.

November 22, 2016

I would really like to play 2-day cricket because it suits my natural defensive game where I could bat for hours and hours if given a chance. I had previous 2-day cricket experience not just on my Ginninderra debut last season but also having played 2-day cricket in Perth, albeit on synthetic wickets. I remember really well that for two weeks in a row in 2013-14, I was at least able to bat till tea time (and a little bit beyond it) having come into bat within the first 10 overs of the innings on those occasions.

Yesterday Chakra, the 4th-grade captain, casually asked me how I was doing. I told him that I haven’t been getting the results, but I’m at least keeping the runs down. The stats can back me up. I’ve played 6 games, taken 5 wickets at an average of 28.60 (strike rate of 57.6 balls per wicket), and have conceded at 2.98 runs per over. I further added that I’ve also been unlucky, given that the chances had fallen short or been dropped by fielders. Even though I still had an attacking field in matches, I had been short of luck. But I further mentioned to him that I’ll keep going what I’ve been doing and the results will come.

I had been thinking about 2-day cricket selections and would have been nice if I played alongside my friend Vishnu Chari one day. Given that several people aren’t likely to be available both weeks, I might be a chance. Still, Vishnu told me not to consume my mental energy about such things because selections are a tough job and should focus on enjoying the game and having fun. He was right about the fun and enjoyment aspect, and I should appreciate the fact that I’ve been given the opportunities to open the bowling in each of the six games so far and have successfully offered control.

Selections are indeed a tough activity. I’ve been there myself when I was previously a captain in my old clubs, so I should appreciate what I’ve got. As long as I keeping building pressure and taking wickets when it comes while maintaining my diet and fitness, I’m sure I’ll get opportunities as a bowler in 2-day cricket this season. For now, it’s training time.

Training worked out, ok. The bowling certainly was left to be desired against the right-handed batsmen since they were able to leave balls quite comfortably. But I felt I got better as the session went on. I had swing and bounce, but the accuracy was something I had to focus on at match time. I bowled better to the left-handers, though. I couldn’t quite swing the ball as I could against the right-handers, but I managed to land the ball around the 4th stump line a bit more, which became much more natural line to leave the ball.

Nevertheless, the biggest gain of the session was my batting. As suggested by Sam Gaskin from last week, I reverted to the process that helped me score runs last season in City & Suburban, where I was even hooking the ball in front of square off the pace bowlers. I may have got a bit carried away at times with the bat, but I felt a bit more decisive with more intent. My footwork against spin was more forceful than previously, which allowed me to either go back or forward. It was the same against the pace bowlers, and I really liked the lofted pull shot I played off my captain Joe Laria. I thought to myself, pretty good for someone who bats last in 5th grade. Nevertheless, I will back myself when my batting chance eventually comes. Even if I’m playing two-day cricket, I should play like I did today because I can put pressure on the opposition through my power while keeping to my basic plan, which I was doing today.

Tomorrow afternoon is when the selections will be emailed out, so I will only know then whether I’ll play 2-day cricket sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, I’m currently happy with my role in 5ths despite my lack of batting opportunity.

November 26, 2016

I initially wasn’t going to play due to a family emergency that happened at lunchtime yesterday while I was out eating at Papparich. At that time, Cricket took a backward step, and hence I’d immediately withdrew my availability. So I wasn’t picked to play any of the games. It was pretty full-on with all sides having 12 players.

As the afternoon had turned into night, the family emergency had subsided, and I would be available to play. Still, there’s a possibility of me going a weekend without cricket, and I felt disappointed. Then I realized that Archie couldn’t play, and JP asked me to play for 5ths. It felt good to be back.

However, it will remain to be seen whether I’ll be opening the bowling. I learned that Will Thomson is making a comeback into 5ths, and when I began with him in the first game of the season, he bowled tidily and took wickets while I went for a few runs despite taking a wicket. It didn’t work out because we are similar bowlers, and hence we want to bowl from the same end. To me, either of us will have to open the bowling, and I was okay with coming on first change when I spoke with Joe later that night. Joe said he will coordinate a discussion with him, me, Will, Adam, and Dominic Ross on who should open the bowling.

I didn’t realize I forgot my usual fruit and carbs that I usually consume every Saturday until I was close to the ground. I felt I could just get by with a big feast in the morning, but it would remain to be seen. The wicket seemed good for batting, but ANU sent us into bat. Sammy Gautam continued where he left off last weekend. One shot that got all of us wonderstruck was his lofted off side slash, which was certainly reminiscent of his idol Virender Sehwag. Sadly, he perished for 17, which helped us to give our best opening partnership of the season. Umesh Patel did his bit to provide us with a platform while making his highest score for the season, 16. Umesh later told us that the pitch was tough to bat on being an up and down wicket, and the pre-existing cracks were widening up. Their performances allowed Sandeep Kumar, Vishal Suresh, and Vasu Patel to cash in and help us to 8 for 180 in our 45 overs. Sandeep made 37 off 63 balls, Vishal made 32 off 43, and Vasu made 21 off 19.

During training on Thursday, Dominic Tran was talking up Vishal being a junior Virat Kohli. To me, the comparison seems legit. Same helmet and bat as well as the mannerisms and the batting approach and routine. He was a little shaky at the start but looked fluid. It would have been nice to see him make more runs, but he did his bit.

It was a bit of a different bowling approach than in any of the earlier games. Will, Adam, and I all wanted the same end. Which meant Dominic Ross opened the bowling with Will. The ANU openers got off to a steady start adding 30 odd within 12 overs. There were plays and misses and edges through the slips. Not to mention, we screwed up two easy run-out opportunities, particularly one where both batsmen were stranded, but Sammy tried to throw to the keeper quickly, but he was way off target. This infuriated Joe, and he said that accuracy over speed should prevail in run-out opportunities. The start left Will frustrated particularly with Josh Butson during an impressive 7 over spell. It took another mix up to give us the first wicket to dismiss Butson.

Adam soon after dismissed the dangerous Zahid Mumtaz caught by Vishal as he tried to hit over the top. We were told he’s a six-hitter, but he failed. We were right in it at drinks when they were 2 for 57, but we were sloppy in the field afterwards. Ground fielding and catching were unsatisfactory, and I contributed to the effort by dropping a chance of Tom Harrison. I was disgusted not only because the catch was coming straight to me, but it was also the third chance in a row I spilled off Adam O’Connor.

I was feeling down, as usual, having dropped a catch, and I was immediately was replacing Adam in the 29th over where they were 2 for about 90 odd. This situation was very different as I had been opening the bowling every game so far. However, I’ve been practicing generating swing and bounce with an older ball at training for some time. So I was confident that I will be able to perform in a different role later in the season. My first over went only for one run. Then the first ball of my next over, I took an edge of the Luke Magyar only to fall short of Umesh at first slip.

Nevertheless, I knocked him over with a ball that came into him and knocked his middle stump. I told Masud Rahman, my former cricket coach, who officiated this match that the ball has started to reverse, given that I was trying to bowl my stock out-swinger. However, Masud thought that the ball hit the crack. Anyways, I let out a big roar having claimed the wicket because I wanted to release my stress from last night’s family emergency.

I claimed Oliver Reynolds, who came down from 4th grade by bowling him with a full in-swinger. Apparently, I had broken the middle stump, and it was later thoughtfully replaced by one of the ANU players. However, I bowled without luck after that as chances from the left-handed opening bat were shelled, particularly in the slips, which took a decent dent on my overall figures. I finished with 2 for 36 off 7 straight overs, but it could have been better. I went off the field as I was tired and felt that fresh legs in Dominic Ross, who replaced me in the field will help us in the last few overs.

Just before I went off, Joe gave Dominic Tran the ball with the equation, 43 in the last 6 overs. It didn’t finish well having been hit for two fours, but he got the wicket of the captain Sandeep Gangal LBW (which was the only LBW decision in the game). When I finished my spell and went off, the equation was a run a ball in the last 4 overs, but they had 5 wickets in hand. It was going to go down to the wire. However, we had both Will and Adam up their sleeves, with both of them having 2 remaining overs each.

Adam claimed a wicket of John Piechowski in the 42nd over courtesy of a good catch by Vasu Patel in the deep. It was 6/161. Will claim two wickets in the next over, the 43rd. The first was a skier which was well held by Joe to dismiss Daynon O’Rourke before Lachlan Robertson was clean bowled. It was 8/163. 18 needed off 12. It was tense, but Tom Harrison was still there. But sadly, there was no fairytale for him when Adam clean bowled him for 79 and the no 11, David Lyons on the next ball, the final ball of the penultimate over, the 44th. ANU all out for 167, and we won by 13 runs. Will finished with 2/15 off 8 overs and Adam, 4 for 26 in his full 9 overs. Adam certainly deserved his wickets after a tough last three games for him without no reward.

We just won our second game in a row, and we are now within the top four with December approaching. It will be nice to continue our winning ways, but fielding continues to be an area of improvement for us. We sang the club song again, and I was presented with the broken stump as a reward. I was certainly pleased that I posted on Instagram about it. One comment till now from the 3rd-grade captain Matty Andrews which read “Pace. Real Pace”. I was undoubtedly grinning about that, but actually, I wasn’t that quick because I was just trying to swing the ball and generate bounce than pace. It was quite funny that our keeper for the match, Andrew Loveday, was trying to scare the captain Sandeep Gangal because I broke a stump. The stump is now in my room and perhaps going to be a piece for keeping sake for a long while.

Thankfully, not having the fruit and carbs did not affect my performance, but I had enough energy to go for a run around the entire O’Connor oval before heading home. The stats look a little better now after today. 7 games, 7 wickets at an average of 25.58 per wicket, a strike rate of 47.1 balls per wicket, and an economy rate of 3.25 runs per over. Bowling with an older ball helped my luck, although I needed to control my accuracy a little, particularly against the left-handers. It’s a role I may have to do for some time. So far, encouraging start with room for improvement.

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