Fulham vs Prince Alfred Old Collegians at Collins Reserve (Oval #2), January 11 & 18 2020

January 7, 2020

Given that PAOC were involved in the Twenty20s, I had thought about attending training with West Torrens to bowl to their players again on a helpful turf wicket. But it never materialized as I had to ease myself back into bowling having caught a cold during the Christmas/New year break. So I instead settled with a solo net session bowling about 6 overs of zippy pace despite carrying all body soreness from a weights session last night. I was trying to bowl with a newish ball, having slightly sprayed the ball around the place against Brighton when trying the in-swinger. Quite frankly, it is a lot easier to naturally swing the ball away from the right-handers, but it was worth the practice trying to move the ball back in.   

January 9, 2020

The news had come in yesterday that all of our five Twenty20 sides have proceeded to the finals. So it seems that all the Twenty20 focused training seemed to have paid off. If it works out to some trophies, even better. Let’s see. For now, that was indeed a great effort, but now it was back to two-day cricket today at training. Given it’s the school holidays until late January to early February, we are in the Back Oval until then.

It was hot, which made me skeptical, given that the weekend conditions are going to be much cooler than today. Having worked on my run-up extensively and given my history of cramp, I wondered how I would get along and whether I should be even going at full effort.

As a matter of fact, I got along pretty well in spite of the heat. I just ran in, jumped, and whipped my arms through. My out-swinger was indeed in perfect order that allowed me to beat Patty Sadlier’s bat and hit the top of off-stump as well as clipping Eddie Thomas’ edge to the keeper. While I couldn’t quite get the ball to move the other way since the ball is still reasonably new, I managed to develop another out-swinger from the snap of the wrist, which generates more bounce and movement. That ball later was a handful since the batters I was bowling to, couldn’t entirely lay bat on it at all.  I think I have found my own trusted variation that I can employ until the ball is scuffed up enough to bowl the in-swinger. Even if it doesn’t swing and hold it’s line, it should still be a lethal ball, especially if the batters are going to play for the non-existent swing and get themselves out.

Towards the end of the session, Andrew Bennett, our nets supervisor, threw me over to the far net against the A and B grade bowlers. I was facing James Risby, who bowled at half pace. Jack Dent, who bowled bouncy out-swingers and Will Van Diesel, continued to run in at full tilt. Even though they couldn’t get me out since I was protecting my stumps and leaving the wide ones alone, neither bowled me a bad ball. The only bowler that did so was Sam Vivian, who gave me opportunities to come down the wicket or wait for the half trackers for me to work them on their way behind square on the leg-side. Anyways, I seemed to have done enough to earn appreciation from Denty and VD.

As I learned today at the end of training, I was retained in C1s as part of a four-man pace attack featuring Maxy Clarke, Antony Brabham, and Yogesh Thakur, which got Maxy excited. Maxy was pumping my tires a bit, calling me the best “into the wind bowler” with the best economy rate in the club. I am hoping though to break through with the ball this season with a four-wicket bag at least, but I suppose I wouldn’t mind settling for a tidy spell as long as it leads to wickets against the more pacy wiles of Maxy and Yogi. Hopefully, we can reduce Fulham to no more than 150 this match, but anyways, the top-order needs to finally fire to give ourselves any chance.

January 11, 2020

Yesterday it rained from morning until lunchtime before it cleared off for the rest of the day. In spite of the rain, I was hopeful that we will still have a two-day match like in Round 2 against Golden Grove when it rained the previous day, but we still had a full game. Thankfully, when I arrived at Collins Reserve at 12.20pm, the pitch looked a terrific wicket and, more importantly, not damp. At the back of my mind, even though we had our best bowling attack in C1s to date, we were underdogs against Fulham, who not only are ahead of us in the ladder but had also comprehensively defeated us back in Round 3.

Fulham had won the toss and chose to bat, and the openers Ninnes and Ritchie proceeded to bat out the first hour and accumulate 31 runs as neither Yogi, Brabs, Maxy nor myself could not get a breakthrough. I had come on after Brabs bowled a testing spell against Ritchie, the left-handed opener, and started with a maiden. Typical of someone who had proved to be a run miser so far. But my next four overs ensured that I bowled my most expensive spell ever in C1s this season. My second over was mostly short and wide, and then Ritchie sliced a lofted drive but safe from the fielders.

After drinks, Maxy broke through by knocking Ninnes’ off-stump out of the ground, and we couldn’t get a breakthrough for a short while after that. I overpitched against Kerin, their no. 3 and another left-hander, but I had him missed twice by Josh Bean, who dropped an edge and missed a stumping down the leg side. So I finished with five wicketless overs for 16 runs. As I said, to date, my most expensive spell in C1s.

After that, we managed to dominate as we went into tea with our tails up. Ritchie tried to hoick Yogi over cow-corner but lost his off-stump. In came Paterson, their captain who made runs when we last faced Fulham back in Round 3. Yogi took care of him too with an off-stump yorker. At the other end, Tom Phillips, our finger spinner, induced an edge from Long, which deflected off Josh Bean’s thigh to Will Farminer at first slip before just at the stroke of tea, Yogi bowled Kerin with an ‘accidental’ slower ball courtesy of a misstep in his run-up. Fulham called for tea at that moment, 5/83.

After tea, it was a stalemate. We kept it tight, but Fulham was resolute. It had been almost eight overs without a breakthrough when Maxy motioned for me to warm up. I suppose that would have motivated Brabs to bowl a slower ball for Kenelly to slap it straight into Jacob Leak’s hands, which thereby dashing my hopes of a second spell. Anyways, this set the stage for Maxy to clean up the tail, which he did magnificently thus calling him ‘The Mop’ precisely the same moniker that Nathan Lyon called Mitchell Starc for precisely the same ability. Yeatman, Doraisamy-Caffasso, and Dignan (who claimed that he wasn’t ready) were all bowled with Davoli edging into Brabs’ hands at gully. From 5/95 to 110 all out. A lot better than the 150 I was hoping and even better than the 115 that Maxy wanted for at the most.

In what was a must-win game, we started well with the ball, now we just had to survive 17 overs with minimal damage. Suffice to say that we failed this task. Eddie Thomas missed a ball that hit the top of off-stump before Leaky edged his first ball to the keeper. Both wickets fell to Scambiterra on the last ball of his second over and the first ball of his third, respectively. Thereby Josh Bean was walking in to face the hat-trick ball. But he diffused that brilliantly with a deflection through vacant square leg for two. He initially looked busy, stable, and secure at the crease, but he then tried an expansive drive off Paterson and was caught at cover. 3/22 became 4/34 when Pat Singleton fell to Davoli as he tried to prioritize survival over run making.

Lincoln Halton came in to join Tom Phillips, who was looking good at the crease and ensured that we got through without further loss. I was aware that Tommy (who finished with 24) was going to be away next week, so it was interesting to know what happens next week. As I then learned, his replacement Charlie Keeves (who sadly busted a finger keeping up to me last game but should be fine nevertheless) will have to go out and bat immediately upon resumption. I was padded up to go in next if we had lost another wicket ahead of Will Farminer, who battled a runny tummy courtesy of an unfamiliar spicy curry from the Golden Boy Thai restaurant.  But I wasn’t required. I don’t know if I will still be the next man in or Will is next week, but I hope Will’s stomach gets cured in a good time.

As far as I know, I need to be batting at training next week, making sure that I was in a reasonable frame of mind. There is still an opportunity for me to be the leading run-scorer in our C1s side due to the ongoing poor performances of our top-order, which no doubt has become one source of frustration for Maxy. For that, I need a score of 11 or more to overtake Ed (but I obviously want more).

January 14, 2020

Today was critical in terms of getting some net practice ahead of the weekend. Quite critically, even though I survived the session without nicking off or having my stumps rattled for the second consecutive session, I was far from satisfied with how I batted today. This was because I couldn’t quite generate the fluency with the hands consistently enough, which was the cause of my fortunes against short-pitched bowling. Even though I pulled Connor Craigie away behind square, I was pinged right on the badge of the helmet by Yogi when trying to pull. Conscious of what just happened, I only managed to duck underneath another short ball from Connor. I was rattled, which left me with a slight headache. Yogi to his credit checked if I was okay and tried to cheer me up that he too got hit on the helmet. Clearly, there’s something wrong with my hands, but I’m hopeful of rectifying the fault come Thursday’s session, which will be crucial if I was to be confident ahead of Saturday.

January 16, 2020

Yesterday I managed to read through Seeing the Sunrise by Justin Langer, former Australian opener now coach. What I understood from reading the book is not to be distracted by the past (e.g., the blow to the helmet) or by the future (e.g., needing 11 runs to be C1s leading run-scorer or the 71 runs required for victory). Instead, your focus should be the present (the ball that is coming at you). More importantly, it is encouraging us not to be influenced by results (especially if going through a rough trot with the bat). Instead, our focus should be on the processes so that the good times will come sooner often than not. Even though I didn’t make much on my last innings, I at least withstood 10 overs of tight bowling under overcast conditions. Similarly, I should also take heart that I didn’t nick off or getting bowled or trapped LBW in my last two net sessions. Anyways, I should continue to play shots and leave balls, hoping that I hit balls away from fielders without even getting caught.

Which was pretty much I was able to do except I had to play at every delivery bowled to me today. I felt confident as I was able to get forward and back and play some attacking strokes while still defending my stumps. I did struggle against a tall bowler whose last name is Coles because I went back to every ball he bowled as I found it hard to get forward to him since he generated good bounce through his frame. Otherwise, I felt my attacking game was in order, which will at least allow me to attack when given a chance on Saturday. The word from Maxy is that we will just go and bat until we lose the last wicket as he is in no mood to chase outright if we go past Fulham’s 110. As Brabs mentioned twice this week, we just need two 30 run partnerships to get us home. I am in the best frame of mind for Saturday, given my latest practice hit as well as the freedom to bat all day from the captain. As long as I don’t get caught on the crease and be decisive in my shot making and movements, I think I’ll be in control regardless of the runs I score. It is also vital that I close my ears as Fulham will likely try to distract me if we need to complete the chase.

January 18, 2020

Despite all that mental and technical preparation, I was never required to bat as we enjoyed a rare dominating day with the bat. Fulham started with Paterson and Scambiterra, who were their best bowlers from last week, but after ten overs or so, they slowly began to give up when we were on the brink of a victory, which we achieved without losing a wicket. Lincoln soon realized that he forgot his ‘box’ (groin protector) and simply ran off the field to retrieve it. We were like “What?”. At that point, he was on 23, which was a great effort. It wasn’t so surprising that he fell not long afterward for 29, having guided the score to 125.

At that point, Charlie Keeves ensured that he was the second batsman to make fifty this season after me, and he simply kept going in what later became an unbeaten stand of 81 with Will Farminer. Not only he raised the highest individual score in our C1 side (beating my 67* against Athelstone), he also overtook Ed Thomas as our leading run-scorer as well when he reached 85 at the tea break. We were 5/178 with the partnership at 53 and Will on 18, having lost the fitness to run between the wickets. He simply ate a banana and nothing else while we stacked into variety offered by Fulham during the break.

Given our dominant position, Maxy announced that once Charlie got his hundred, we were declaring. So, it pretty much went to script when we declared on 5/206 with Charlie unbeaten on 102 and Will on 29. I was denied an opportunity to get some runs against a dispirited opposition, as Maxy believed that there might be time for a win.

As it turned out, we failed hopelessly as Fulham erased the deficit with only five wickets down as the game was called off early once Yeatman completed his fifty having taken Yogi, Maxy, and Brabs for boundaries. Initially, though, the door to victory was slightly ajar when Yogi dismissed the openers Ritchie and Ninnes early. Ritchie LBW even though Yogi was bowling around the wicket and Ninnes with a slower ball that was hit straight back to Yogi. Paterson and Kerin held out for a while, but they had their poles knocked out by Maxy. For Kerin, it was the off-stump, and for Paterson, it was middle. After that, we ran out of time to force the win.

I still managed a chance to roll my arm over, but once again, my consistency deserted me despite getting appreciable movement. Having been taken out of the attack after four wicketless overs for 11, it became the first game in over 12 months that I went wicketless. As I was guzzling down a can of Lemon-Lime Sprite after the match, Maxy approached from behind and started to massage my shoulders. While he acknowledged that I had very little to do, he encouraged me not to be disheartened, telling me that not only was I still an essential member of the side, my time to shine will come. Moreover, an enforced break due to the Australia Day Long weekend will undoubtedly provide an opportunity to reset and recharge with potentially 6-7 weeks of home, and away cricket remaining.

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