I was really looking forward to playing this weekend as I really enjoyed the progress in both my bowling and batting during the week at club training.
Firstly the batting. For quite a while, I’ve been batting outside my crease to negate the swing and avoid being LBW. However, at training, there were times that I was caught out for pace as the ball was, therefore, coming quicker. I remember Chris Lynn in one of his YouTube videos was explaining that batting outside your crease is a great way to speed up your reflexes, particularly against pace bowling. However, given that the ball doesn’t come on well to the bat on turf wickets, I’d decided to go back to basics and bat with my feet either side of the crease. The result was remarkable as I was able to let the ball come on to my bat with good timing. The shot I really liked was the back-foot punch through the off-side of Joe Laria’s bowling, which earned his approval as I was able to get back and across instinctively to get on top of the bounce and play the shot. Similarly, I was able to drive on the up against the medium pace of Dominic Ross and Jess Howard by getting my head towards the ball.
Then, more importantly, bowling. I continued the ‘Early not late’ mantra from before and combined that with a focus towards an acceleration in my run-up before delivery, I had decided to try to let it rip and see how my body can cope. On Tuesday, I had a sore right hamstring and a sore left foot. But on Thursday, I didn’t feel any pain. I was quite happy with how my stock delivery was coming out of the hand at times. Although the odd delivery maybe of powder puff variety, I felt that the ball coming out of my hand had a bit more energy than before, which was evident every time I beat the right-handers at training with the ball occasionally getting a ‘kick’ off a right length. People like Tom Carmody and Sean Burgess were wondering if I wasn’t copying Hilfy’s (Ben Hilfenhaus) action anymore, and I confirmed that by explaining that I had gotten stronger over time and decided to emulate Brett Lee’s action. It didn’t quite come out like Brett Lee, but I was copying his method of loading up before delivery, which helped him bowl fast and swing the ball. During this week, though, it felt that I had my own action, which was based on the action honed at Southern Cricket.
So I was ready for the weekend with my game in order having found extra pace through my run-up and action. I will never be a tearaway, but I’m confident that I had enough pace and movement to trouble any batsmen as long as I hit my areas very well. Nevertheless, I will have a big part to play, given that we don’t have much frontline options as before, although Adam O’Connor, Joe, and Caleb Stevens were playing. It’s pretty much up to me and those three to strike or to keep a leash on the ANU batters. While we don’t have the Patels, Umesh and Vasu alongside Sammy Gautam who all went up to 4ths this weekend, we still have a decent batting line up with Sandeep Kumar, Joe, Govind, Vishal Suresh, Andrew Loveday, Chris ‘Archie’ Arcella, Blake Nitschke and Sam Anavatti.
It’s really nice that people appreciate it when people go up the grades and sent their best wishes. That was the case when Matthew Hogan went up from 2nds to play 1sts and when Jess went from 5ths to 3rds. This is what the club is all about appreciation for other people’s achievements, which implies the strong chemistry we all have. Hopefully, these people won’t be overawed by a slightly more robust experience, but they can come back better cricketers.
As I was coming by car, raindrops were falling, so I thought although Adam was to go for the 2nd innings only, is it worth taking a gamble in bowling first so we could extract any moisture that might be left courtesy of the rain. When I arrived to play, Joe had indeed decided to bowl first. Not for the same reasons I had, though. He thought the current overcast conditions might help us in prising out some early wickets. Caleb, as it turned out, got shifted to 4ths and later took 5 wickets. So we got Duncan Gammage, which is a bonus given he took 5 wickets in his last game for us.
Both of us were to opening the bowling, so Duncan took me to the pitch after warm-ups (where he suggested that banging the ball into the grass is the best way to warm-up before bowling). The pitch had one side with 2 almost adjacent grass patches that Duncan would like to take advantage of. It then left me with the other side, which is full of cracks that Duncan believes I would be okay with as I would pitch the ball up more. As it turned out, the side with the green patches made the ball swing too much, which made it very hard to control it at times. Nevertheless, Duncan’s first spell was a beaut. He beat both openers Josh Butson and Sandeep Gangal and had Sandeep squared up at times. Sandeep was dropped in the slips in Duncan’s 2nd over. He later finished with 2 for 15 off his 9 overs.
Meanwhile, I was struggling for rhythm when I couldn’t land the ball on the 4th stump line and swing it out. It took me 2 overs to realize that my run-up was stuffed, so I remarked it again and had better rhythm as my spell went on. I managed to get an edge of Butson’s bat that just didn’t carry to Joe at gully then a leading-edge off Sandeep’s bat just fell short of our debutant, Brandon Edgerton at square leg. I was able to regain my out-swing soon after making a slight adjustment in my angle when I went slightly wider of the crease
I finally had a wicket in the 7th over. I had beaten Butson with two out-swingers, and I was attempting another out-swinger, and Butson would have thought that too. So he left it except the ball hit the top of off-stump. TIMBERRRRRR!!!!!!
I was extremely overjoyed when I finally broke through, and after a few hi-5s, I celebrated with another dab. Archie thinks I set him up beautifully with two-outswingers and a cutter. But I told him that it happened by accident as I was trying another out-swinger. The ball was probably angled in from wide of the crease, so that’s probably done for Butson. I suppose I was due some luck, which I managed to get. I would have had a second wicket having trapped Kalyan Chakravarthy in front of the stumps in which he got the benefit of the doubt. So I finished up with 9 consecutive overs, 2 maidens, 1 for 19. Once again, keeping the bowling tight like I did in my last match 2 weeks ago.
Joe (who finished with 3 for 27 off his 9 overs) trapped his opposite number Sandeep LBW before a terrible mix up between Kalyan and his young partner led the latter to be runout by Sandeep with help from Govind (to knock the bails) after I shouted ‘Bowler.’ John Piechowski was out handling the ball, and ANU was 4/86 after 30 overs when we took drinks. ANU managed somehow to get to 157 in the end despite an excellent low catch by Sam in short mid-wicket of Joe’s bowling. I was filthy in myself when I fluffed a tough chance at short mid-wicket while trying to catch a pull shot off Brandon’s bowling. I was filthy because not only I denied Brandon a maiden wicket, but I was a regulation catch having worked on my catching at training in the past. I managed though to redeem myself with a run-out by taking the bails off from a throw from Archie to run-out Vedant Gupta, who made 29.
That was going to be my last contribution for the day as I decided not to bat. It would have been hard to bat given that Brandon was to have a crack at opening in addition to our talented batting line-up that I’ve mentioned before. To be honest, my preferred position would be to bat in the top 7, given that I’m more of a batsman who’s more capable of staying around than scoring quickly. So, I would not bat and probably wait until an opportunity came by. At the moment, I’m happy to just bowl at least my 6 overs for the game and help out umpiring and scoring where necessary. I believe Joe told me he’ll give me an opportunity later in the season, but I’ll have to wait and see about that and continue to bat well in the nets for now.
Even I had to bat, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with another top-order collapse we had when we were 5 for 58 at drinks with Brandon, Andrew, Adam, Blake, and Sam all in the pavilion. Nevertheless, we had a remote chance once Vishal and Govind were at the crease constructing a crucial partnership of 33, but both batsmen were out for 25 and 17, respectively. There was faint hope that Sandeep, Archie, and Joe could guide us home, but ultimately, the task was too high for us. We were bowled out for 124, and we lost by 33 runs.
We now lost 3 in a row and now have to win almost all our games to qualify for the semi-finals. Thankfully we still have a favorable draw with Wests-UC and Tuggerangong in our next two games while ANU has it tough against Weston Creek, Norths, and Queanbeyan. Unless we improve even Wests and Tuggerangong can still beat us. It was good that Joe and Archie had a serious talk about our current situation and what we need to do from here. Joe was encouraging us to attend training more so we can work on our fielding on Tuesday and then running between wickets on Thursday, which was the areas that are failing us time and time again. Archie spoke a lot about mateship and the importance of playing as a team every weekend by being supportive of our teammates, especially when one makes a mistake out on the field. The idea is to send a message across to the opposition that although they won, they can say that they were beaten by an energetic close-knit team rather than a bunch of youngsters with some seniors.
So we know where we stand and what we need to do to get better for the rest of the season. On a personal note, Joe appreciated my work in our honest chat that despite me bowling 9 overs, I was putting in the effort in the field in stopping runs, nearly taking a tough chance and being involved in a run-out. So I am getting into Joe’s good books for reasons other than my bowling.
My new mate Jeet Patel was continuing to bat for time. He might have made 6 runs and batted for about 8 overs, but the right thing was that he was starting to enjoy batting again and being positive. Having made ducks and the start of the season, he’s slowly getting better. After all, he’s going to be 20 soon, and if he continues to work hard, he can be an outstanding batsman (as long he buys a new bat).