North Canberra Gungahlin vs Ginninderra at Keith Tournier Oval, February 25 2017

February 21

Today appeared a little different from usual. All the 1st/2nd graders were out practicing on the center wicket while everyone else was in the nets. Pretty much three batsmen get padded up together and switch between nets, so all bowlers bowl at everyone. As usual, like last week, I had been able to find my rhythm and hurry the batsmen with my bouncy out-swingers. I had the likes of Chris Griffin and Matthew Hogan (both who play 2nd grade) playing and missing at times. I managed to clean up Kris Oliver by getting the ball to come back into him as he tried to defend.

Furthermore, I even knocked over our tall, lean, mean 1st grade quick Jak Wilcox. The first in-swinger I bowled to him (as he’s a left-handed bat), he left it, but luckily, it was bouncing over the stumps. So he tried to leave my next delivery, which crashed into the stumps (some people think it hit middle while I had felt it hit off stump) much to the delight of onlookers behind me. Tom Carmody called it a Glenn Maxwell moment named after the batsman who left a Ryan Duffield in-swinger two years ago that crashed into his middle stump.

That’s probably how good it got because I was taken to the attack soon after. I suppose I could be rattled in the nets or possibly a game if a batter plays shots against my decent bowling, but I’ll continue to run in and try to get the batsmen out. I wanted to possess the determination that the great Dennis Lillee had.

February 22

It was extremely unusual for me to wake up with a sore left leg this morning. Maybe it couldn’t tolerate the stress I was putting it under while bowling (perhaps I was trying to run-in quickly through my delivery stride). Thankfully I could focus more on core strength at the gym this evening, but it looks like I need to take the foam roller out and use it over the legs before attending training tomorrow. Not only will I need to continue to bowl at the nets, but I will also need to be sharp for fielding practice.

This afternoon was spent at the Southern Cross Cricket Shop in Fyshwick as I had learned of an end of season sale of cricket bats, including my beloved Gray-Nicolls. So initially, I had shortlisted four bats that I wanted to consider.  I managed to pick one, the Oblivion e41, that’s about a 2 pound 9 oz bat with some advice from the owner Vinesh Bennett (Australian Indoor cricketer and a former allrounder with Queanbeyan and Wests-UC). I quite liked the Obvilion e41 and wanted to purchase it immediately. But Vinesh was trying to lead me towards other bats and immediately took me to the Southern Cross Cricket range. He showed me one of the bats from the Tyrant range, which I found as good a pick up as the other bat. I remember picking up a similar bat during the preseason, and the power on the bat was immense. It was Lukey Ryan’s bat, the SCC Assassin, but Vinesh candidly confessed that Lukey’s bat was a Tyrant, but he wanted the Assassin bat stickers. The Tyrant actually had a good weight, although it may feel a little heavier compared to the other bats that Vinesh referred to as those with a ‘concave’ face. So I decided to part with the Gray-Nicolls and purchased the Tyrant, which would have saved me $20 had I bought the other bat. All is required is for Vinesh to prepare the bat for use (including adding a toe shield, extracted and tape to protect the edges), which I expect will be ready by Friday. It may not be used for the rest of the season, but I do intend to bring it out in practice and also whenever I go out with a hit with friends. I suppose best to get a new bat at a discount sooner rather than later.

February 23

There wasn’t going to be any training today at the club as it is the junior/senior day. This is where members from the senior club mingle with their junior counterparts so knowledge can be passed on for future generations (especially those who graduate in the senior ranks). It was why the club stresses this so much every year and was imploring all of us senior cricketers to get on board. Those days have reminded me of the times I used to coach junior cricketers back in Perth when I wasn’t actually playing. Maybe I should have gone, helped out, and pass on some advice.

On the other hand, though, I was keen for some more bowling as I wanted to keep up the good work despite the ongoing soreness of my left leg. So I went to the nets at Reid Oval, where I caught up with a few others who have a semi-final for PM&C/Finance against Treasury on a turf pitch at Deakin Oval on Sunday. I thought I bowled all right like I had been doing recently despite the unevenness of the run-ups, which made it hard to get my rhythm right. Nevertheless, I managed to surprise the captain Gurjiv Singh Khehra amongst a few others with my out-swingers. I managed to beat every single batsman I bowled to, but I suppose Shahnawaz Rasheed probably hated it the most since he was consistently beaten.

I think I also batted quite well, although I still have a bit of work to do against the short ball at times as it is a delivery that I hardly expect because most of the time, the bowlers will be pitching it up. But it shouldn’t be much of a worry as the short ball is of powder puff variety on turf as it sits up for the batsmen to cut or pull. Anyways, at least I didn’t get out and felt my footwork against Gurjiv’s spin was good when it was decisive. I also was happy the way I played on the front foot, particularly my drives and glances against Khurram Shehzad and Shah while keeping out their good balls and leaving most of the wide deliveries alone.

I felt my preparation is pretty good for the upcoming weekend. I thought of being available for the Public Service League semi-final for them on Sunday should they need players. After all, I have this feeling that I’ll never play with these guys again after this season as my marriage is ever approaching closer.

February 24

That left leg soreness never seems to go away, but I wonder now if it’s a strained muscle. If I was to play back to back matches this weekend, I would need to give the leg as much rest as I can in between games, which means my usual pre/post-match gym sessions will need to be put aside.

Tonight most of us 5th graders along with Umesh and Vishnu (who are going to play in 4ths) caught up at Adam’s place for a BBQ as well as watching Australia vs. India test match. I was initially going to skip the catch up since I was going to Vishnu’s to watch the cricket and eat pizza. However, it was a smart suggestion from the others to bring Vishnu along and come since Adam also had Foxtel at his place.

I was grateful for the food since I had hardly eaten since lunch. I managed to stuff plenty of garlic bread and sausages (with medium chili sauce that I brought) as well as two pieces of Caramel Mud Cake that Jess brought. All part of what experts called carb-loading but probably not what they would expect. Overall it was a good night a lot of banter between players, which pretty much was targeted more towards Dominic Ross and Jess. I also had hinted to Chris Arcella (‘Archie’) that I will be willing to open if we bat first. But I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t. We will just have to wait and see. Archie had been right earlier that we would be watching Australia bat tonight, although I had rebuked him earlier in the day, thinking India might grind the Aussies to dust. However, I was astonished that India did collapse against Stephen O’Keefe’s bowling, losing 7 for 11 in the process of being bowled out for just 105.

February 25

Thankfully today, when I checked the weather forecast that it wasn’t going to rain. It is good because not only will we finally be able to play today, we also have to win to keep our semi-final hopes alive (that is provided ANU, who’s currently ahead of us loses to Queanbeyan). It was going to be cloudy all day, so I was hopeful that it would be a good day for bowling regardless of how the pitch at Keith Tournier Oval was going to be like. In the past two games, we played on this season, the teams who batted first have comprehensively won games. We were on the receiving end the first time against North Canberra Gungahlin after we barely reached their 224. Then we were on the favorable side against our cross-town rivals Wests-UC after posting 212 in our 45 overs before bowling them out for 132 courtesy of my maiden five-for (which I’ve on occasions kept on talking about).

Basically, get plenty of runs on the board and apply pressure is pretty much the go on this ground provided the bowling and fielding are in top order. Before I left for the ground, I learned that I wasn’t in the playing 12 for the Public Service League semi-final. It was ok, no big deal because I can at least chill on Sunday. I got to the ground, and the pitch looked really green, which meant that we were considering bowling first if we win the toss. According to what others had said, batting first on this deck means that the likes of David Hohnke would be licking his lips upon the sight of this wicket, hoping he would tear us apart.

This what we did. Archie was the toss and decided to field first. Although Adam and I were able to extract some movement off the pitch, the North’s openers, captain Coughlan and John Hohnke raced away to 125 at drinks. It wasn’t so pretty, and Archie reminded us about it in a hard manner, saying that we were flat, and we needed to tell everyone in the competition that we were here to play regardless of win, loss, or draw. To make matters worse, Vasu Patel pulled up with a hamstring strain and was ruled out for the rest of the match.

We did well to bounce back in the second half of the innings. Dom Ross had John Hohnke caught behind by Archie in his second over after drinks. Then Jason Cooper clean bowled Sam Holland by hitting the top of off stump. He then run out Coughlan, and then Dom Tran took a good catch on the boundary off Jess’s bowling to dismiss David Hohnke. To finish up, Adam clean bowled both Riazuddin and Harendra Kumar as Norths finished on 6 for 241 from there 45 overs. Once again, on Keith Tournier Oval against Norths, I couldn’t quite get on the scorebook and finished with 9 wicketless overs for 33. Same story as last time. Economical considering the overall run-rate of under five and a half runs per over.

From there, it was going to be a struggle when Dan Millane had Sandeep Kumar caught and bowled and Andrew (a.k.a Ginninderra Mouthpiece, according to Stephen ‘Clarrie’ Grimmett) lbw in his second over. Sammy Gautam shone briefly until he was bowled by Harendra as he tried an ugly hock across the line for 18. Apparently, Harendra had accidentally beaten him through a change of pace only because his thumb got stuck into his pocket.

I was soon in once Jason was bowled by Hohnke for 14, and Sam Anavatti was caught attempting a hoick of Clarrie. I went out to bat with my newly acquired SCC Tyrant despite not having practiced with it. It did help me to defy David Hohnke initially, and on the fifth delivery off his over, I managed to clip his natural in-swing into a leg-side gap and thought I could quickly get off the mark, which is why I called yes. But I didn’t foresee the disastrous result when Adam set off pretty late and was run-out. Dom Tran chipped a full toss into the hands of Riazuddin at a short mid-wicket. We were soon 7 for 55, but Jess and I managed to settle down to the drinks break (for me only just since I nearly chopped on a John Hohnke googly that I didn’t pick from the hand).

I managed to get away a beamer from Riazuddin over the keeper’s head via a top edge to get my first boundary for my innings. But I had unfortunately soon after called for a quick single after a misfield by the close-in fielder at short-midwicket only for Jess to be run-our having set off late. I was feeling crap having run-out two of our batters (although I would maintain my innocence in saying that they should have said no immediately if they didn’t think they could have made the run).

Archie came out to bat with a sore left shoulder from keeping in the first innings where he was hit from a vicious delivery from Adam and tried to get me to relax by forgetting about the run-outs. He said we should enjoy batting as it is the first time we’ve batted together in grade. The sore left shoulder only limited him to three shots he could hit with his bottom hand. He managed to smoke Riazuddin over a vacant mid-off to get off the mark with a boundary, but he was soon out bowled behind his legs in the next over. Dom Ross came out and told me he was going to try and swing, given his stuffed ankle from bowling. He slogged a boundary on the leg side to get off the mark, but he was out in the next over to Riazuddin (who changed from spin to medium pace to try to finish the game off) caught by Harendra at short mid-off. We were bowled out for 88, our worst batting performance for the season. I finished on 11 not out, but I wasn’t too happy not only because I run-out two batters, but we were also out of semi-finals contention.

Archie spoke again at the end of the game to all of us. He admitted that there wasn’t much seam movement as he would have thought. But given the wicket flattened out at the end of their innings, it would have seemed a good toss to win. It would have been harsh to make it one of the worse calls since Nasser Hussain sent the Aussies into bat in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba in 2002-03, who then proceeded to smash 2 for 364 at the end of the day. The thing is that Archie had backed his judgment, but it just didn’t work out for us.

I was back to my gloomy self until Archie told me to move on and not dwell on those mistakes for long. He started talking about some issues like his ideal team should he captain next season, and immediately, I was recognized as one of his core players in his side. It shows that both of us have mutual respect for each other, which is good. Given the opportunity next season, I would like to play under Archie’s captaincy, but he hinted to me that if I need to go up the grades, I go up the grades. It is something I could flag with the selectors next season, but I’m happy to play anywhere as long it’s for my strong bowling and my useful batting. Archie had highlighted that we would bring in some new blokes to play for our club next season, and we (including myself) can guide any upcoming talent that comes through our sides through some issues like how to face cunning older bowlers or bowling to a plan and field against particular batsmen.

Driving home, I had wondered if I could have batted a lot differently from what I did. Maybe I could have warned my partners a bit more regarding my desire for quick singles every over. Given that I was facing spin for the most of my innings, I could have used my feet to get to the pitch of the ball and hit it into the gaps, or I could have employed the sweep on balls that were drifting on the leg-side. So many theories, but I wanted to bat time unless I was told to get a move on. Only then could I have shown the work I was doing in the nets against spin, but I wasn’t that confident of trying it as I was using a new bat of mine for the very first time.

Some food for thought moving forward, perhaps I should bring out the new bat at practice next week just to get used to it.

I was amazed to see the Aussies win for the first time in India for 4502 days (their last win was in 2004 in Nagpur) on a pitch that was supposed to hurt them and help the Indians. Steve O’Keefe bowled himself to the best test match figures by an Australian (and the second-best overall) with 12 for 70. Miracles do happen, but the work the Australian team did in Dubai (as well as the lessons learned in Sri Lanka) leading up to this test match seems to be paying off. Australia is 1-0 up in the series. If they can win in Bangalore, then they have the Border Gavaskar Trophy in their grasp.

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