Prince Alfred Old Collegians vs Athelstone at Prince Alfred College (Back Oval), November 16 & 23 2019

November 12, 2019

In spite of a low turnout, we were in Twenty20 training mode after the usual jog around the oval and target practice, hitting the stump (which I managed to do twice). Trent took the batters to focus on the conventional and reverse sweep while Jack Dent who plays in A grade, took the bowlers to work on variations. To be honest, there were not many bowlers but we (including me obviously), took in every word Denty said to us. He pretty much got us focusing on yorkers as well as both good length and short slower balls. While my slower ball bouncer remains a considerable work in progress, I was able to hit my yorkers and my good length slower balls after some encouragement from Denty to get that front arm.

Denty later became very easy to approach at the end of training when I had questions regarding the in-close fielding drill he conducted. I usually try to incorporate the walk-in and split-step routine in my fielding drills. Whilst Denty agreed that the approach was indeed the right way generally, all he wanted to me to do in the drill was to ‘get on the bike’ so that I can attack the ball. I’ll remember this for next time.

After Denty’s drill, I was with Jack Latchford, the A grade skipper. He guided us to practice “cutting down the angles.” In other words, running at the ball in which the intent is to save runs and perhaps effect a run-out. I remember Steve Waugh in his autobiography “Out of my Comfort Zone,” discussing this as the Aussie’s fielding strategy, which incidentally was a factor that won them the 1987 Cricket World Cup.

He also got us to try to pick it up one hand and throw much like Glenn Maxwell and David Warner were able to in the past. I certainly thought I was able to pick this up very quickly and while it was demanding, I felt good.

November 16, 2019

We won the toss and chose to bat. It was nice to be playing at the school as our home ground, and indeed, it was picturesque. I’d never played on school premises with a turf wicket ever. Thereby making it a fresh experience. Our opponents, Athelstone, haven’t had much game time except in Round 1, so I was hoping we would catch them on the hop. But they started well. Jacob Leak, against was undone by the short ball this time caught at fine-leg. Ben Lobban played some excellent shots until he was caught at short cover for 24. Josh Bean spooned a catch to cover, which much pissed him off as he threw his helmet and gear in anger. For that dummy split alone, he would have qualified for the “Captain Serious” award in C2s. Josh Clarke, having played some eye-catching shots, only lasted seven balls for 15. Rory Husler edged a drive before Angus Lange missed a straight one and was bowled. Both men fell for ducks.

So we were 6 for 72 when I came out to the wicket to join Eddie Thomas, who not for the first time was holding the fort. He was willing me on to at least get to tea. I was relieved to have got off the mark on the 11th delivery and started to relax a bit but knocking the ball around for singles. So I did manage to tea, taking the score to 6 for 82. I asked Max Clarke, our captain, about the game plan telling him that I would be willing to come down the wicket to Karan Sharma every time he flights the ball, but Max said to rein it in for a few overs before going for it.

After tea, I was facing Prakash Budhwar, and I initially struggled playing on the crease against him. Having just got a bat on the ball that was pitched up even though I was on the back foot, I decided to make a conscious effort in getting forward. As a matter of fact, for the rest of the innings against the seamers with the keeper standing back, I decided to bat outside my crease. That at least got me to double figures for the first time in two day cricket since my debut in official Grade/Turf cricket back in February 2016.

For the time being, though, wickets continued to crumble. Eddie, after his hard work, was undone by Karan’s flight and was stumped for 28. Connor Craigie came in, and I encouraged him to be positive, which he was. He drove Prakash and pulled Karan for boundaries. But the pull eventually cost him his wicket slapping it straight to Square Leg.

So we would have by now gone past 100, but we needed to bat on, and I was facing Lovely Mittal, who already had four wickets, and he kept bowling until he got five. I accepted that I would be his “victim,” but I was going to take him on. He hit the pitch hard has a good slower ball and occasionally has a winding arm action like the character Goli from Lagaan, which can be off-putting, but he hardly bowled it much once I had his “number.” I knocked him around for boundaries, although behind square. He also a few times caught me off guard by running into bowl while I was clearly ready. While I managed by being prepared before he started running in, I had a quiet word to some of the guys who umpired like Josh Clarke and Max Clarke about it.

These boundaries took me past 30, which meant a mention on social media and in the emails for my efforts, this time with the bat after my three-wicket bag against Golden Grove last month. However, I started to cramp up in my right calf at drinks. Not even a drink could stem it and first ball after drinks; it got so bad after running a single that I couldn’t run. While our boys believed that I was allowed a runner, it was denied by Athelstone and so Max came out and survived long enough for me to stretch and eat an orange or two before he flipped a catch to deep square leg.

With only one wicket in hand, I decided to chance my arm knowing that I head off at 5pm so that I can get to Chris and Akrati’s engagement on time at 6pm so that I can then attend a Gala Dinner at 7pm. I nearly got out off Tyson Lorenz’s bowling on 40, but I was badly dropped a square leg having tried to play an uppish flick.  Another edge off Karan brought me two, and then a short ball which I pulled behind square for four got me to 47, my current highest score in official Grade/Turf cricket that I first made back in 2017-18, albeit in 6th Grade.

Prakash came back on and a clipped another ball behind square which I was hoping it would go for four but instead it stopped before the boundary and completed just two. On 49 not out, I had to stay calm which I did.

From the moment I clipped another ball behind square, I had my milestone and celebrated it was I completed my first run, but it went for four. I did, first fifty in official Grade/Turf. It was a vital knock not so much for the precarious situation I entered, but it was in a higher grade too. Up to now, I struggled with the bat, but know I had the belief that I can bat against better bowlers. The celebrations were indeed over the top, considering I celebrated as if I made a hundred. Still, this milestone was something I badly wanted to achieve before I quit cricket for good.

I didn’t just settle on fifty; I kept going trying to at least bat till 5pm so that we didn’t have to bowl with ten men. After pulling Prakash for four through vacant square leg, they brought on a part-time spinner Amir Mufti. They were desperate and wanted this to end. Leaky told me that it was already past 5pm and suggested that I play some shots. Good idea. I proceed to launch Amir for six over cow corner for my first six in my official Grade/Turf career before celebrating this with a cut for four.

In amongst all the talk about my fifty, Dan Mosey almost played a crucial role too. He kept me company but also played some delightful off-side drives and pull shots, and on either side of me retiring hurt with cramp, we added over fifty runs. Unfortunately, our fun had to come to an end when Prakash returned and trapped Mose LBW. He made 27, and we managed 188. While I was at the crease, I was counting my score, and I finished with 67 not out with 10 fours and a six. It was a beautiful day, and Trent, our club coach, was there to witness it. It was very gracious of the Athelstone players to shake my hand and congratulate me after rubbing them into the dirt and denying an opportunity to dominate. I had some sympathy for Lovely, who bowled well, but not only he couldn’t quite get to that five-wicket bag, his bowling figures look a little bad because of me.

The last thing I can do was thanking my private coaches. Luke Wimbridge from Perth, Masud Rahman in Canberra and Nick. Luke had helped me with my batting fundamentals. Masud helped me with technical work, and Nick helped me grooved my technique to allow me to play all around the wicket. It is vital for me now that I ensure this innings isn’t a fluke by going on a prolonged run drought that I just ended. In saying so, I need to take the good bits from this innings and apply them to every future occurrence with the bat.

Anyways, we at least got a more than defendable total on the board, and Max wants us to crush the opposition like ants next week.

November 18, 2019

I only just realized this, but without any intentions to brag about it to anyone, I am indeed the first person in our C1 grade to make a half-century with the bat this season. Which obviously makes it the highest individual score in the grade as well beating Mitch Larsson’s unbeaten 46 against Golden Grove. Within two innings as well, I shot myself up to second in the run charts behind Eddie Thomas, who leads me by four runs and has batted an extra two times. I am hoping that my latest feat will at least inspire others to make at least a fifty in C1s, and definitely, I hope somebody makes more than my 67 this season. Moreover, it was remarkable to have resisted for precisely 113 deliveries, which probably has been the longest I’ve batted in Grade/Turf cricket.

That aside, I am the first person in C1s to enter the hall of fame for both batting and bowling. The qualifications is at least 2 wickets in an innings for bowling and at least 30 runs for batting. I had already taken a three-wicket haul against Golden Grove, but I achieved the distinction just recently. Raj Gopal also recently made the distinction in the Limited Overs division 5 side he captains.

Well, it gives me an incentive to try and build from this dream innings of mine and fulfill the hidden batting potential that very few people knew that they would expect from me. In a way, I played a similar rescue act to what Sam Curran did a few times against India in 2018. Batting at eight and at least give the team something to bowl at. Now, I need to take wickets like him.

November 19, 2019

For some time, the thought of playing district cricket here in South Australia had been on my mind just recently as I thought about the credentials of the people who coached me during the off-season. I had put in emails to several clubs asking if I could join a few training sessions to evaluate where my game is currently and what more I need to do to get a game in the lower grades as a bowler alone.

By chance, I got in touch with Steve Stubbings, who had coached me once during the off-season, and he invited me to train with him and the East Torrens boys this evening. Considering that we’re likely to be in Twenty20 mode today and with very little chance of playing the format, I decided to embrace the opportunity despite carrying sore inner thighs and triceps.

After a two and half hour session, I learned about resilience, both physically and mentally, in harsh conditions. It was warm, and I bowled about 15 overs, stopping about every three overs for a drink after bowling six overs. The more I bowled, though, I lacked consistency, particularly to left-handers. Aside from that, I bowled reasonably well, testing the batsmen and bringing out the loose shots. I put it down to a change of diet that gave me the required nutrition to supplement the weekly heavy exercise that I got from a program I recently bought.

I also managed a bat, and batting was tough as the ball was coming off the pitch at a quicker pace than what I had accustomed to in the ATCA. But I thought I managed well to deflect a few short balls behind the wicket, play a few drives, leave some deliveries alone, and, more importantly, not getting out.

Basically, district cricket is at a much higher level for me, and I have some way to go before I reckon I’m a good chance of regular selection in the future. For now, I am seeking some feedback from Stubbo.

November 21, 2019

Yesterday by chance, I got in touch with other district clubs asking to train to see how I go like I did with East Torrens on Tuesday. Adelaide said yes only after I clarified that I wasn’t looking for a game at their club. Still, while I was courteous with the person I engaged with via Facebook Messenger, I got the impression that they allowed me to come with reluctance. West Torrens were, in contrast, accommodating. The guy whom I also contacted on Facebook Messenger was Kent Sendy, the club’s president, and he kindly emailed the club’s assistant coach that I was keen to get involved and see whether district cricket was for my liking.

I had emailed Nick Macgraith, my off-season batting coach, who plays for the club. He was stoked to hear that I got runs and got the team out of a big hole. He had also chatted with Kent and commented that I would be fine in the lower grades but wasn’t too sure how mid-season transfers work.

In my mind, I had no intention to move clubs since I know that PAOC was giving me excellent playing opportunities. Still, if West Torrens do want to select me, then I might have to ask Ben Lobban to sign off a Dual Registration form, but that would have to be for the following season.

For now, my focus is on PAOC and, in particular, our defense of 188, and I need to refine my bowling after Tuesday’s effort. Which I managed to do today. Before we went for the team warm-up, I bowled a few deliveries with my right palm at shoulder height, which allowed me to swing the ball and hit the in-between length. I instantly realized that I was trying to bowl the effort ball very often, which landed short of a length, which gradually isn’t that threatening. The slight technical change has lead to improved outcomes. I started to beat the bat and occasionally getting the ball to swing late, which made me a threat. I also hit the edge of Matthew Kildea’s bat twice and also rapped Jacob Leak on the pads. I felt in a better rhythm, and while the conditions were cooler than Tuesday, I wasn’t that tired. I am ready to bowl, and I hope Max Clarke does throw me the ball even though it’s likely I won’t be opening as I reckon Max and Mose would be using the new ball first up.

November 23, 2019

I was confident of our chances today. In fact, very confident. I was hoping that Athelstone would be demoralized and so we might be able to win outright, but Leaky pegged me back, saying that we should at least take 10 wickets. Fair call.

As expected, I was to come on either the first or second change after Max and Mose. Rocco Canino and Venkat Subramaniam got off to a steady start, and I come on first change in the 12th over, taking over Mose while Connor come on from Max’s end at the 13th. Inspite of these changes, Rocco and Venkat still were together at drinks after the 18th over. We had kept it tight nevertheless, and Max encouraged us not to lose hope as there’s a likelihood of a collapse in grades like ours.

He couldn’t be far off from the truth as he led from the front. He trapped Venkat LBW, Skiba beautifully caught by Angus at Point, and also had Tyson LBW. And I chipped in with a wicket after nine probing overs (four before drinks and five after drinks). I had been trying to swing the ball both ways and had elicited some loose uppish drives from Rocco, who took on anything wide and hit it for boundaries. After bowling a series of outswingers, I went wider and bowled an inswinger to hopefully keep Rocco honest. I did more than that. Rocco shuffled across to meet the ball, but it darted back sharply to bowl him behind his legs and hit the middle stump. He later couldn’t believe it and complemented the delivery later at tea. Anyways, I got the big fish, and I was pumped.

The bowling partnership of Max and I had bowled us back into the match, and Athelstone was 4 for 83 at tea. I bowled one more over and nearly had a second when an uppish drive from Skinner just evaded Eddie, and I was done after ten consecutive overs for only 18 runs.

I didn’t bowl until 4.15pm. By then, Mose had Prakash neatly stumped by Josh Bean, and then Connor had Amir caught by Rory and mid-on, and Lovely had pumped his first scoring shot for four. He didn’t spare me either. Smashed me over my head for six when I returned for my next over, I tried to do something different. I decided to try to cramp him up for room in attempting to swing the ball in. He then clipped me for four. Not only I had to stop Lovely, who was keen to inflict some payback from last week, I was also battling cramp (again). I had tried to drastically reduce my run-up to counter it. It had some success, next ball, I bowled it slower, and it struck Lovely high on his right leg. I chanced an LBW shout and was given.

Key wicket indeed, and now we were right on top. Now it was Rohit 2, Lovely 0. It was great to dominate over him with bat and ball in the match, and we’re in the driver’s seat at 7/119. In the end, even though I bowled tidily, I couldn’t quite nail another breakthrough although I got close except that Skinner got dropped at midwicket by Lobs, which later resulted in a badly bruised finger. I was disappointed in missing a three-wicket haul, but it was a reasonable effort by Lobs to at least try and catch it.

Meanwhile, Max returned and completed a five-wicket haul (later finished with 5/48 off 23 overs) by clean bowling Karan Sharma and Sunny Singh for ducks. It was 9/128, and it was initially Max and I that tried to finish proceedings. Max nearly had his sixth but Skinner and dropped by Mose at mid-on and then took some tap from Jamie McDonald. They passed 150. I just realized that had they didn’t drop me on 40, they wouldn’t have chased 150 and so would have won the match just now, but they still need to get just under 40.

Eddie was given the ball, and on the third ball of his third over, Jamie cut a ball to the left of Mose at Point and had completed one. However, he tried to come back for two, and Mose chased down and returned a throw to Josh Bean, who collected the throw and knocked the stumps down. We appealed, and Jamie was runout. We won by 34 runs. In the end, my partnership with Mose last weekend had turned to be a massive difference.

Anyways, I was indeed satisfied that I was able to put in an all-round performance that led to victory. Even though I missed out on a third wicket, I would have at least made it to the bowling hall of fame with my analysis of 17 overs, 7 maidens, 2 for 34. Making me the only player in C1s so far to make it to the hall of fame in the same match. While I’m thrilled that my bowling feats, especially my initial 10 over spell, my fitness still sort of has some way to go having cramped up in the second spell. I need a better cramp prevention strategy, especially if I am to be the all-round contributor. Anyways, we have a bye due to the day-night test match here in Adelaide, which gives me time to work on minimizing cramp.

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