The Comeback Match a.k.a Ginninderra vs Queanbeyan at Brad Haddin Oval (Queanbeyan Town Park), January 21 2017

January 10

I had felt quite rusty throughout the training session today, but these kinds of feelings have occurred frequently during the season. Today was a hot day. It was 34 when I arrived at training and when training finished around 7.30, it was slightly cooler, but it was 32 degrees. My bowling was a bit of struggle when I failed to hit a consistent line and length, but that’s typical given the differences between the practice synthetic wickets and the actual turf wickets. I later had realized, though, that I found it hard to replicate my current bowling action that is based on Ben Hilfenhaus as I had noticeably got stronger during the holiday period. I would need to make a tweak in my bowling action and focus on generating bounce and swing and use my shoulder to generate pace, much like Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stonis, or Hilton Cartwright.

With that, I will need to develop some change-ups that may be in pace or length but will require constant practice before I take it out to the games. It’s essential; otherwise, I’ll be predictable to good opposition batsmen. In other words, I need to outsmart the batsmen like Dennis Lillee, and Glenn McGrath used to do. While listening to the commentary during a Big Bash League game, I heard Ricky Ponting saying that variation should come in the middle of the over rather than at the start or in the end. What he implies was that it’s essential to start and finish an over well, and we should try to keep it simple at those times. At the moment, I have variations, but I need to suss out when and what to use. It’s essential to check the intentions of the opposition and bowl accordingly.

That was one of the lessons I had learned today. Earlier, I got a useful tip from Lochlan Christian (In my view, Ginninderra’s pin-up boy of nearly 2m who’s built like a big unit) while we were going through some batting drills.  He says that I have a chance to push at the ball with the low back-lift or hit the cover of the ball with a high back-lift. He found that I was trying to load up and hit the ball in one motion, which threw out my timing. Pushing at the ball isn’t my style, and it was discouraged by the coaching squad at Southern Cricket. Hence, I went for the latter approach, which outlines my desire to hit the ball and be positive in defense and attack. I might be suspectable to the occasional yorker, but I’m up for the challenge. I don’t think I couldn’t be attacking as my Gray-Nicolls Kaboom became very light. Still, I was able to play some attacking shots against the spin of Sam Anavatiti and the seam of Jess Howard (who bowled with an ankle that was bombarded courtesy of a Joe Laria yorker).   

That was lesson number two. In between the batting and bowling, I did some slips catching with Matty Andrews, the 3rd-grade captain. The catching had improved since I started working with Matty a couple of months ago. He noticed how well I was able to move either side to catch balls around my stomach, but he felt I’m missing the low-down catches due to the weight being back and not forward and had given me a couple of useful pointers on how I can overcome that issue. I hadn’t been tested much on the catches above shoulder height, but it’s all about watching the ball right through to the hands. Hopefully, it’s something I can translate into the outfield catches that could happen on Thursday. When I told Joe about my fielding work, he said that the catching is all in the mind and suggested that I adopt the attitude of wanting to take the catch rather than thinking, “Oh crap, it’s coming to me” before dropping it. Nevertheless, as indicated before, I’m ready to adopt a positive attitude to my fielding.

Thankfully during training, I was able to keep a low profile regarding Diary of a Grade cricketer. Mick Delaney, our coach, warned me to stay grounded, although I’ve gained a lot of attention through the massive increase of likes. When I arrived at training, I found out that Chris ‘Griffo’ Griffin had promoted my diary through the club’s public Facebook page. Basically, the word continues to go out, and it remains to be seen how popular this diary can get overtime. On to training for Thursday, although I am quite concerned about the weather leading up to match on Saturday. I certainly wouldn’t want to see another match washed out.

January 12

It was a really really hot day today, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s throughout the day. As a matter of fact, it was in the mid-30s between the time I finished work and when I went to training after 5pm. Unfortunately, I was ruled out of selection for this week as Dad asked me to attend house inspections on Saturday afternoons, which was clashing with the game against the unbeaten Weston Creek Molonglo. It is tough to say no to Dad, especially with house hunting, as more important than a match as I need to find an excellent place to rent for at least 12 months. I figured though given that I was going to miss a game around the Australia Day long weekend this month, it was ok to miss this weekend, and the next besides, I hope a place gets found before the end of this month.

Bowling continues to be in progress as I have been able to extract swing regardless of the pace I was bowling at (I was occasionally trying to bowl with a fast whippy action). With that, I was able to hit the edges of the batters and beat their bats in the nets, but the length wasn’t that consistent. I was looking through my previous footage from what I did with Southern cricket so I can keep a note of the components that will help generate consistent bounce and movement.  My batting was somewhat ok. It didn’t start well when I realized that I was playing away from my body, but once my elbow was right on my stomach, it allowed me to play closer to my body, which brought more fluid shots, particularly while facing spin.

I had decided, though, that given there’s a likelihood of me not playing any grade games this month, I can continue to still attend training to continually hone my bowling action and batting technique so that I’ll be up and running to play for the rest of the season. Although it would have been nice to play every game, especially against the best, it allows me to build confidence in my own bowling action.

January 15

Yesterday, it was such fantastic news for the 5th grade to upset the previously undefeated Weston Creek Molonglo at Reid Oval. Last time we faced off, they defeated us by 7 wickets chasing down our 4/166 in Aranda. The scores were very similar. Weston Creek was bowled out for 163 in over 25 overs, and we tracked it down by about 15 overs to spare despite having only 10 men for the game. When I saw that Weston Creek was 6/104 after 13 overs, I was wondering whether they were playing a Twenty20 game or a standard 45 over one. But it was a reasonable effort from the team to dismiss the best batting team in the 5th game. It was good we sent them in as they were a perfect chasing side. So I suppose asking them to set the pace may have worked in our favor when Joe Laria, our captain, took 5 wickets, making him the 3rd player in our side to take a haul in 5th grade. Not to mention being our leading wicket-taker and perhaps within the top 5 for the grade (displacing me). Although not having me around was a bit of a bummer, Joe’s performance shows that we have great bowling options in Joe, myself, Adam (who took 3 wickets in that game), and Will not to mention Dom Ross who took a five-for last season. Having such a bowling depth will be useful if any of us has a bad day with the ball. Ironically, I’m writing this because Joe was telling me that he never had such a seam-bowling depth at the same time last season.

We managed to chase the runs down courtesy of Farhan Qureshi (a.k.a Faz), who usually plays in the higher grades as a fast-bowling all-rounder. He was playing as a batsman due to an injury that prevents him from bowling. He finished unbeaten on 60, and he got assistance from Umesh Patel, who batted through the innings to make 49 not out (deserved a fifty). It was heartening to hear Umesh make runs after a tough start for the season. He’s proven to be very adhesive and hard to get out at the crease from the moment he joined us from the 3rd game in 5ths. Thereby It was good that his hard work has finally paid off in a significant way. It’s all about trusting your processes and technique and believe that a substantial contribution was around the corner. That feeling happened for me this season until I got my five-for, and it’s happening for Umesh. Hearing Umesh getting runs will be a big confidence booster for us, with the season winding down. Having Umesh and Sammy Gautam (continued his consistency with 17) making runs at the top hopefully can provide us with good starts at the top of the order, and already, both these batters have developed a good friendship on and off the field which will significantly help.

Today to get some match practice, I accepted an invitation from Umair Yousaf to play in a Public Service League game in Kaleen against the Australian Bureau of Statistics in a 40 over match. It turned out to be a very close low scoring contest in which we lost by 2 wickets defending just 92 with 10 players. I made 2 not out batting last by ensuring I kept my elbow close to my body so that I don’t chase deliveries wide of me unless I move my feet. I would have made more if my partner Khurram Shehzad had responded quickly to my call for a gettable single to a deepish point in which he was run out.

We managed to lose by just two wickets was courtesy of a very late burst from Shahnawaz Rasheed, who took 4 quick wickets after drinks, but that doesn’t cover from the fact we didn’t make enough runs. Had we batted the full 40 overs, we could have won. I opened the bowling as I expected because Umair had previously given me the new ball twice last season. I didn’t bowl too badly, but I felt at times I couldn’t generate swing and length consistently as I occasionally bowled a little short. I wasn’t helped with sore triceps, which make it hard to consistently bowl the ideal delivery.

Nevertheless, I am happy with 5 straight overs for 11 runs with a wicket that I described as an unplanned slower ball as I was trying to find my rhythm in my 2nd over. That ‘slower ball’ dipped on the batsman that played across it and missed when the ball took out middle stump. I was stunned because it wasn’t an excellent delivery, but it pleased my teammates. I suppose rubbish takes wickets some times, especially after you bowled well most of the time. Now I have something to work one leading into the coming week at training while there’s continued uncertainty whether I will be playing next weekend.

During the game, I told Umair if he knew that several of the people he knew, like Shalan Ahmed, Tim Pigot, Gurjiv Singh Khera, and Paul Moger, had left North Canberra Gungahlin to play for Woden Wanderers. He mentioned that there weren’t going to be multiple 5th-grade sides this season, unlike last season. So there was a massive surplus of players with 5th grade having one side per club which disadvantages clubs like North Canberra Gungahlin. I guess it’s a shame that 5th grade this season will not cater to multiple teams for some clubs, but that’s how it is, and we must respect the rules and regulations set by the Cricket ACT. It also implies that I’m incredibly fortunate to play grade cricket in Australia, let alone in ACT for Ginninderra. It means I took my opportunity at the right time with a club that had made me welcome as a guest last season. Look at me. I had prospered so far this season. However, I really feel for these guys that won’t get the chance because I would have been in their situation if I joined that club as it was close to home for me.

January 17

Today was an absolute scorcher of a day. When I reached training after 5.30, the temperature was in the mid to high 30s, and two hours later, my car’s radar was showing 41 degrees, although it then dropped to 32 upon reaching home. I’d certainly felt that I got a lot from training on a hot day. Focusing on the mechanics of my bowling action, including the steady acceleration of the run-up to the co-ordination of my body parts, helped me to gain considerable out-swing away from the right-hander and in-swing to the left-hander. As a result, I was able to stand my ground against the higher-grade batters when I induced plays and misses and the occasional edge. I quite enjoyed bowling to them, mainly our PNG imports Kipling Doriga and Hiri Hiri Patana, who appreciated the amount of out-swing I was getting. On that subject, it’s always good on a personal note to watch them from a close distance regarding their training routines, and I marveled upon their fitness standards at times whenever they do sprints or bodyweight exercises. From that, you can always think there’s something you can take away from these guys and incorporate that into your own methods.

Going back to the bowling, I felt that my bowling against left-handers was also a considerable improvement when I use variations of movement, which gave me delight whenever the left-hander plays for the swing and gets beaten all ends up.  If I could work on my accuracy a bit more while delivering those change-ups to the right-handers, then I would become a more potent bowler over time.

Fielding towards the end was a good learning experience, although I cramped up and saw the strap of my watch fall off while I took a catch. I don’t know what happened, but it was the second time the strap fell off in cricket during fielding. I should have put it away after the first time, but I didn’t. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be an issue getting it fixed up when I go to India in May. What I learned though from Sam Gaskin, who was running training, was to get really low to assist with a good pick up and throw if you need to effect a run-out. Furthermore, he and Mick Delaney advised us to be ready to back up the bowler or keeper regardless of where the ball eventually goes. It makes you be switched on every ball, which in turn prevents avoidable overthrows, which are free runs.

January 19

Today was, fortunately, a much better day for cricket as it was a lot cooler than Tuesday and so I was looking forward to bowling today. Although I would have the opportunity to bowl immediately upon arrival, I decided to work on my catching with Daniel Leggett. Keeping in mind the tips Matty Andrews suggested to me last time, I was able to catch deliveries below my knees as I was able to have my weight on the balls of my feet rather than the toes. After warming up, I went straight to bowling, and I felt that my whole left arm was failing me throughout the afternoon, although I was able to beat the batsmen with my outswinger at times. People have asked me if I’m bowling leg cutters, which weren’t the case. The ball was simply hitting the seam and just going away from the right-handers. As it appeared, the left-arm pain came from a sore left rear deltoid, for which I cannot recall how it happened.

Batting was a bit of a positive, although I got out twice to spin bowled off an inside edge. I was following Lochlan Christian’s advice he gave me some time ago, which would help my timing. It worked well whenever I hit the ball legside, although I was later hampered when my old and trusted bat, the Gray-Nicolls e41 that I purchased after the 2012-13 season, had a big crack on one of the edges. It had only come to my attention when Prasad Karlapur told me he heard a crack just after I worked his delivery onto the leg side. Now the bat was truly gone as it already had a crack below the toe, so I will have to discard it sooner rather than later.

January 20

I really felt that I made a mistake in sitting out tomorrow’s clash against Queanbeyan when I realize that I wasn’t going to move into a house nor attend any afternoon house inspections tomorrow. I was devastated when playing 12 was named, and I wasn’t on the list. I had given up any hope of a last-minute recall, so I was hoping that the game gets called off as it had rained during the day. However, I was in 5th grade once Joe called me, and John Prior messaged me on Facebook Messenger to tell me I was playing. Joe offered me to play 4ths as both Thomas and Michael Ison withdrew, but I told Joe I wanted to play under his captaincy, which pleased him very much. In saying so, I do not mean to criticize anyone else’s leadership. Still, as I specified before, Joe has played a big part in my strong performances with the ball so far, having backed me and given me responsibility by bowling at least 6 overs a game. With the Isons dropping out, Dom Ross went up a grade that opened up for my comeback for my first game since the 4th-grade one-day semi-final. Joe was happy for my inclusion for another reason: with Vasu Patel also dropping out and Adam O’Connor returning, he had a pretty impressive bowling armory in me, Joe himself, Adam, Jess Howard, and Ben Peel. As we were chatting over the phone, he was hoping with this arsenal, we could bowl them out for a reasonable score and win like we did last week against Weston Creek, which should secure our semi-finals spot and put everyone on notice. Now we got to hope the pitch dries out for us to go and play. There’s a strong likelihood of us playing a shortened match like we did against the same opposition earlier in the competition. Still, it depends whether both the pitch and the outfield being dry enough to start playing. Otherwise, we can walk away with a draw, which will be good for us as we stay in the top four.

January 21

Thankfully the pitch was kind enough to start a full 45 over game as they weren’t any rain since 6pm last night. Upon sighting me, Andrew Loveday and Chris Arcella began calling me ‘Hurricane,’ my nickname that they gave me. Furthermore, they had given Adam O’Connor the nickname of ‘Squirtle,’ after the Pokemon, which Adam clearly hates. Honestly, I don’t understand why Adam’s called Squirtle, but that’s how it is. Joe won the toss and elected to field as he is banking on our strong bowling attack to restrict Queanbeyan. But the Queanbeyan openers got off to a good start much helped by Ben Peel’s inability to control the ball as he bowled some filthy full tosses and a dropped catch off Jess Howard’s bowling by Sandeep Kumar. They put on 43 for the first wicket until Adam struck with a caught and bowled to dismiss Aaron Thorn for 22. Before I came onto bowl, I joined Archie and Andrew in the slips cordon, and I was dumbfounded that they still continue talking about the so-called Italian cricket team that they were going to register for the Olympics especially how they were planning to recruit both Dominic Ross and Jess into their squad. Apparently, they told me that there were going on about this for years, but I think it’s all trash. No offense, but I’ll be happy to actually be proven wrong by these blokes one day.  I came on to bowl second change after Jess completed six overs at the start. I struck on the third ball off my fourth over when Govind Thiagarajan caught a Tony Askins mishit. I celebrated with a dab, which I thought was cool when I saw Carlos Braithwaite celebrated with it every time he took a wicket. Ben soon yorked Graeme Alexander to have him LBW, and Sam Anavatti had the other opener lbw as he played back rather than forward. They were 4 for 85 in the 29th over at the 2nd drinks break due to the warm weather. Queanbeyan fought hard, but we bowled them out for 158 in the 43rd over. Sam took another two wickets after drinks to finish with 3/32 off his 6 overs. Joe chipped in one for himself via a caught and bowled before Adam O’Connor clean bowled the tail like he had been doing all season to finish with 4/16 off 7.4 overs, which were his best figures for the season.

The wicket was slow and low, which meant changes in pace for the quicks; in addition, the spinners could benefit from it. That’s why Sam got his rewards as did Adam, although his rewards were through aiming at the stumps like he does at the tail end of a bowling innings. With his 4 wickets, he becomes our leading wicket-taker for the season with 17 wickets.

I was happy with my comeback game on this deck. I was able to bowl tidily and occasionally used my changes of pace only when I heard murmurs of the likes of Ben and Joe suggesting to bring the spinners in. Nevertheless, I was happy the way I used my slower balls, off-cutter, and the occasional in-swinger, and I only went for one boundary, and that was in my 2nd over.  The result was 8 overs, 2 maidens, 1 for 18. The Hurricane’s comeback was a success. I wasn’t at my best pace, but I was still able to keep the runs down throughout my spell. I was filthy that I didn’t get a chance to bowl out, but sooner or later, Joe wanted to turn to spin, so I understood where he came from. At least, my figures won’t be spoilt, so the bowling figures look pretty good.

As we had 12 players, I decided that I wasn’t going to bat today. I would be satisfied with just turning up and bowling as I actually had been feeling unwell again over the past few days. Despite my absence from the batting order, unfortunately, our batting fell to pieces. We lost wickets at regular intervals, and once again, the Queanbeyan bowlers squeezed us like a sponge as they bowled us out for 116 after 40.5 overs. Sammy Gautam continued to make double figures again with 13. Andrew Loveday looked like coming good before he was LBW trying to hit to cow corner. Out for 13. When he got out, we had a chance to get close through Ben, Joe, and Adam being capable, quick scorers. They certainly gave us hope of springing a comeback, but it wasn’t for the case when Ben (made 9), Joe (12), and Adam (21) were all bowled. Jason Cooper indeed held the innings together with 30, which I presume was his best innings this season, but the start of our chase just killed us. The father and son team John and Michael Fern played a part in our demise with 6 wickets between them. John got the ball running for them in a straight-through spell of 9 overs, 3 maidens 3 for 14. Then Michael cleaned up the tail with 3/22 off his 3.5 overs. The remarkable thing was that none of our batsmen were out caught as seven of our batsmen were out bowled, and the other 3 being LBW. It’s probably the benefits of bowling wicket to wicket on this pitch and targeting the stumps. It was an approach that worked for them exceptionally well this season; that’s why they’re in the top 2 in the competition. I don’t think we disgraced ourselves in defeat given we were in the contest with bat and ball, but like last time, the first 10 overs of both bat and ball killed us. We do have a chance to go back into winning ways, but the good thing is we could breathe a little easy for a little while as we face Eastlake, ANU, Wests-UC, and Tuggeranong over the next 4 games. They are no means weak opposition, but we have beaten them before this season, which should give us confidence ahead of these clashes. Hopefully, we will be able to seal our semi-final position before March. Unfortunately, I won’t be around next weekend against Eastlake, but it was still lovely to go out there and play.   

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