Golden Grove vs. Prince Alfred Old Collegians at Harpers Field, February 8 & 15 2020

January 21, 2020

With all five PAOC sides engaged in the Twenty20 knockouts, there was no club training. I initially thought that it might present an excellent opportunity to go and bowl at the West Torrens boys. However, I decided against it as I was hoping to regain my confidence and rhythm having gone wicketless with the ball for the first time in over 12 months, having failed to find a consistent line and length to trouble Fulham. Instead, I settled for a solo net session, trying to rediscover the lost rhythm as well as regaining my ability to swing the ball.

Even though I was battling my usual muscle soreness post weight training (for the record I was sore in my posterior deltoids/back shoulders, chest, glutes and hamstrings), I was still able to run in from my normal run-up and bowl the equivalent of nine overs trying to hit a fuller length and swinging the ball. In the process, I rediscovered the whippy nature of both my arms that allowed me to swing the ball without telegraphing the intent. Pretty much the same biomechanical breakdown of my bowling action that allowed me to take three wickets in a six-over spell against Golden Grove back in Round 2 of the C1 grade. My accuracy, movement, and confidence pretty much regained.

January 22, 2020

Earlier in the week, Maxy Clarke assured me that my place in C1s is secure, and that family comes first. His attitude to cricket is reminiscent of Chris Arcella from Ginninderra, which I’m very grateful for. I wished both Archie and Maxy have met each other as they would definitely have some common ground.

It was very selfless of Maxy for him to encourage me to go and play LO5s citing that I would benefit playing a full match where I (hopefully) bat higher up in the order and (more importantly) bowl rather than playing as a second-week substitute ahead of our crucial fixture against the top of the table Marion. Me personally, I’m okay with it because that’s what I wanted as well.  He said that he’ll have a chat with the LO5s skipper Raj Gopal about it.

Today was going to be another batting session run by Trent. Given that I’ll be away on the upcoming long weekend as well as the slight chance of rain tomorrow, I figured that I’d be better off working on my batting with Trent. I knew that I had an instinctive habit of playing the leg-glance for every delivery down the leg-side, which I don’t always make contact. I’m hoping though to instead practicing hitting straight through the leg-side, which I used to do with Nick in the off-season, but I’m yet to replicate the efforts in practice at least. It turned out to be a productive session as not only was I able to hit through the leg-side with a straight vertical bat, I was able to drive straight down the wicket as well through the off-side. It was good that the balls I was facing were of a variable line, which prevented me from premeditating the on-drive. Now, this excellent work needs to be brought into practice and then into matches.

In between the session with Trent, I managed to bowl another 54 deliveries with the emphasis of the whippy arms to generate the swing. I was happy with how they were coming out against the likes of Patty Sadlier, Steve Ottanelli, and Ed Thomas since the swing allowed me to either beat the bat or induce the edge. Moreover, I also tried my slower balls, namely both the back of the hand and the knuckleball with reasonable success. I only started to thoughtfully incorporate these skills, given that I’ll be playing a one day match. Honestly, I was more active before having a bat as opposed to after since I was cramping again in the left leg as it was indeed a bit humid inside the Red Centre. Overall, the two days have been significant progress, which left me upbeat. I hope to use the long weekend off to at least recover from the ongoing muscle soreness.

January 28, 2020

Today at training, our enthusiastic club chairman, Richard Hockney, observed that I was hinging the bat very high (with the toe at less than 90 degrees) and that I was not moving the front foot all that well. That observation was made after I struggled against the likes of Steve Ottanelli and Josh Greber as I missed a short ball, a yorker, and edged two good length deliveries. Having thought about it for a minute, he was spot on, and what he told me was the same issue Luke had observed back in December. My justification for the early hinge was to be prepared for any delivery (including the short ball), but the fact the toe of the bat not perpendicular from the ground was the reason the bat gets stuck when I try to bring it down.

All of these problems are from the fact that I’m hinging the bat far too early, another problem picked up by Luke (at the time of our catch up). I recall from my past indoor sessions that when I hinge the bat as Keegan or Trent feed the ball into the bowling machine, Not only I time the ball better, I also exhibit better footwork. Precisely the same advice Luke gave me when he suggested starting the hinge phase as the bowler is about to commence their ‘load’ phase before delivering the ball. Thereby, I need to imagine each bowler as a feeder to a bowling machine so that I can hinge my bat with the toe perpendicular to the ground. Obviously, this will be a massive habitual change but a necessary one if I was to fulfil my batting potential. Moving forward, I see no harm in getting a second pair of eyes to monitor my hinge regardless of whether it’s Trent, Richard, or someone else. Having seen me with batting potential, Richard’s keen to help. That’s a start.

Batting issues aside, my bowling continues to progress from the moment the very first ball I bowled resulted in an edge off Richard’s bat to where a second slip would have been. After that, I continued to beat the bat and clip edges with my outswing against the likes of Richard, Ed, Lincoln Halton, and Tom Welsby. Nothing else needs to be said except that with the regained pace, swing, and accuracy, hot only I hope to be back to my bowling best. I also hope that I can prosper without a keeper standing up to the stumps.

February 1, 2020

No cricket today because of the heavy overnight rain and with showers scheduled throughout the day. For once, I was happy with this outcome because yesterday, I hobbled around at work as my left Achilles was giving me grief. If the rains had cleared, I would have to forfeit my place to Venkat Lingampally in the LO5s clash against Gepps Cross. Thankfully, the injury improved, but the rains washed away any hopes of play, which meant shared points for all grades. I am grateful that now I have a week to recover ahead of a crucial 6 weeks for C1s.

The washout meant that in C1s, we managed to get shared points against the top of the table, Marion. They did pretty well though having bowled out Marion for 146 and needed just 100 runs to win with our in form batsman Lincoln Halton at the crease and with centurion Charlie Keeves to come. Maxy wasn’t pissed off with the washout that deprived them of a chance of victory. He’s even more pissed off that Fulham, whom we defeated last game, orchestrated a victory against Goodwood on 1st innings last weekend. That meant that our finals qualification continues to hang by a thread. As we exchanged messages yesterday, Maxy reckons we need to win at least two of our final three two-day clashes. Golden Grove awaits, and going by our earlier encounter against them, that will be a challenge to get points. Seemingly, our best chances are against Hope Valley and Gepps Cross, even though both clubs had underwhelming seasons themselves.

February 4, 2020

On the assumption that there was no training today as two of our Twenty20 sides progressed to the next stage of finals, I organized a training session with a friend of mine, Jeet Patel, to focus on grooving my hinge so that it starts as the bowler loads. Little I realize that PAOC was arranging club training, but having already arranged this session of my own, I decided to keep going with it.

Given that Jeet and his two other mates were to rock up at 6.30pm, I had a terrific opportunity to warm up and do some bowling of my own. I was trying to reduce my over-striding of my run-up, which would improve my rhythm and accuracy. It worked out pretty well before I fooled around by bowling leg-spin as I had naturally been developing the back of the hand slower ball. I was getting overspin, sidespin, topspin, and even managed to bowl a front of the hand slider.

Only when Jeet and his ex-Hectorville club mates, Reece and Paurush rocked up, I eventually returned to pace. I reckon I had been able to give both Jeet and Paurush the hurry-up with my pace and outswing, which resulted in a couple of ‘death rattles’ and edges. But they provided a similar contest as they were able to punish the loose deliveries when they arrived. Bowling continues to be progressing in the right direction. Now I have to see how I go on turf on Thursday.

For now, it was now a case of how I would go with the bat. As I mentioned earlier, the purpose was to groove the hinge. I was facing spin in the form of Reece and Jeet while Paurush was giving me throwdowns with the ‘dog thrower,’ which was as good as facing Josh Greber, Yogesh Thakur, or Steve Ottanelli. Over time, because I made a conscious effort not to hinge the bat too early, I hit some powerful shots and hardly missed the ball. I managed to hit the ball far against the spin while managing to hit some scoring shots against the ‘dog thrower’ in the form of defense, cuts, pulls, and drives. I felt that with a better hinge, I was able to move to the ball a lot better. But what probably worried me a little was my grip/stance as I was unable to consistently stick to a particular method. Moreover, my biggest enemy is overconfidence and indiscipline. Instead, I need self-control if I need to bat long periods.

Nevertheless, tonight was a great confidence booster. I hope to continue the excellent work on Thursday. The good thing is that Richard Hockney is available and eager to help.

February 6, 2020

Richard was indeed around to supervise my batting, and while I have made an effort to delay my hinge, I’m still hinging too much, which continues to be problematic. I edged a Dan Mosey in-swinger onto my stumps as well as nick off three consecutive deliveries off Antony Brabham. Otherwise, I manage to keep out Maxy and Yogi while playing the odd glance or drive. After my batting session, Richard suggested that I loosen the bottom hand so that at least the thumb and forefinger were still gripping the bat. If I need to tighten the bottom hand a fraction, I have the index finger as extra support. Moreover, Richard showed me how I should be using the wrists to swing the bat and thereby control my footwork better.

What these sessions with Richard to date have shown to expose my thought processes, especially against the short ball, which gave me these problems. I have simply forgotten about the good length delivery that is likely to get me out. I’ve started to practice what I was shown, and it felt good so far.

Speaking of the short ball, Harry Hockney bowled one which Cameron Pritchard, our B grade captain, top-edged onto the area below his right eye. Ouch, the same injury that ended Craig Kieswetter’s career. It looked nasty, but let’s hope for the best.

For bowling, while I hardly bowled a short ball, there were times I didn’t challenge the batters enough since I landed the ball at a fourth-fifth stump line for my stock out-swinger. However, I still remained a threat when I bowled tighter at the stumps and swung it both ways. My only victim for the day was club veteran Andy Olsson who edged my perfectly executed out-swinger on the first ball he faced off me to where the keeper would have been. I can certainly put my inconsistency down to my muscle soreness from the gym this week. However, I need a better mechanism to control this ahead of a crucial period for the club and me. Saying that I have hopes of an improved effort on game day since by then, the soreness would have significantly reduced.

The good thing was that, regardless of how I went, Maxy told me that I will be playing in C1s at Golden Grove as part of a four bowler attack with him, Brabs, and a new guy Gary. It seems that Yogi may be promoted to Bs based on his impressive form with the ball in hand. It seems to me as promised, I will be getting a decent amount of overs. I hope we bowl first on the weekend, but even then, I’m hopeful of a quick batting turn around as long as I get some throwdowns before my stint at the crease.

February 8, 2020

In the lead-up into today’s first day, without giving it much thought, I wanted Maxy to bowl first if we win the toss based on our last three matches where we were competitive after bowling sides out for less than 150 in the first innings. In hindsight, I didn’t take into account the fact that Charlie Keeves was only available today before he flies out to New Zealand for university.

When Maxy did win the toss, he did decide to bat. His assessment of the pitch was that it wasn’t a bowling wicket that prompted his decision. The new opening pairing of Gavin Jones and Tom Welsby, who both incidentally were returning to two-day cricket after recovering from finger injuries, helped justify Max’s decision. They batted out the first hour with Gavin showing the balance between attack and defense while Tom wasn’t fluent, but he fought it out. Their partnership eclipsed the score we made last time on this ground, 58. Then Gavin was bowled, trying to drive on the score on 61. His contribution was 43.

By then, I was out in the middle, umpiring each over at square leg. Now, umpiring is not really my cup of tea. If I have to help out while we’re batting, my strong preference is to score. I ended up umpiring only because Maxy asked me too. I wished he didn’t. There was a strong appeal for a run-out opportunity against Charlie Keeves, which I didn’t give out even though the fielding side was very adamant that he was OUT. My reasoning was since it all happened so fast, and I wasn’t too sure if Charlie was in. But Golden Grove were spewing and they let me have it. They started to accuse me of not doing my job correctly. At that point, I really wanted to say the same thing as Steve Waugh said to Curtly Ambrose in Trinidad in 1995. I wanted to go and tell them to get on with it with unsavoury language. However, I didn’t because I didn’t want to get into trouble with the ATCA and two; it would be better to get on with the game. Nevertheless, I was hurt by their attitude, and I was grateful that it was all over for me at tea.

During my stint, Tom was caught at mid-on, trying to heave one onto the leg-side and Charlie after my reprieve, smashed a six, which prompted a lengthy search for it, albeit in a lost cause. As it was taking a long time for no result, the Golden Grove captain took out another ball. During this search, Charlie casually told me that he thought he was short of his ground for that run-out appeal. In hindsight, I got it badly wrong, but at the moment, I wasn’t sure, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.

At tea time, I was trying to deliberately ignore the opposition, but one thing is clear. Under no circumstance I will not go out to umpire. Resuming at 2/91 at tea, Charlie was beautifully caught at point for 17. His reprieve was only worth 13 runs. In the context of the match, it didn’t matter much. Thereby, it was very piss poor for me to be unnecessarily provoked for what seemed to be a mistake.

Eleven overs later, Lincoln got cramped up trying to pull and skied a catch that was taken by the wicketkeeper. Then we lost three wickets in about ten overs. Harry Hockney was bowled behind his legs by Jomartz for 25; Jacob Leak was adjudged LBW against the captain’s 15-year-old son. Then Connor Cragie also fell the same way. When I walked past him on the way to the wicket to go and bat at number 9, Connor was pissed. He said along the lines of “If you get hit on the pads, you’ll be given out.”

I didn’t give much thought to what he said as my heart was racing. At that moment, I felt I was enemy number one. However, I managed to get forward and play out the last four deliveries out. That helped. The 15 year old was replaced by the leggie. He bowled me a short wide delivery, and while I didn’t get it in the middle, I was able to hit it in the gap and get off the mark. Next over against Jomartz, I hit a quick single before Gary Branford swung a four-over to the leg-side boundary. A game plan was then formed, I would look to get a single to get Gary on strike to attack the bowling. It worked as we added 30 for the eighth wicket before Gary was bowled trying to hit over cow-corner, having made 20. Maxy came in with four a bit overs remaining. Knowing that he is also an attacking bat, I was going to stick with the same strategy. That worked as well since we added 27 unbeaten runs. However, I was utterly spent since Maxy wasn’t able to hit balls for boundaries. Instead, we ran so hard as we had to take advantage of the diminishing energy levels of the fielders. It was indeed some effort to survive to the last over, the 72nd. We finished with 8/188, which enabled us to bat out our overs for the first time this season. Incidentally, it was also our joint highest first innings total having made the same score, albeit all out in 67.1 overs against Athelstone.

The reason for my exhaustive state couldn’t probably come down to my heavy legs from cycling on the spin bike. Anyways, Maxy felt that it was good to run hard with somebody who hasn’t had a decent run out in the middle. He was also right with the fact that if we had to bat a bit longer, I would have been completely gone. Nevertheless, it was a great effort to be unbeaten on 12 and share two good partnerships in the lower order. All the discussions I had with Richard were paying off. More importantly, I at least finished the day on a positive note.

February 9, 2020

After thinking further about what happened yesterday, I wanted to file a report against Golden Grove. I was thinking of doing it straight to ATCA but thankfully instead decided to do it through the right channel, the club.

As it turned out, I learned from Matt Kildea, our ATCA representative, that Golden Grove has a history of displaying such, behavior and he will report this incident on my behalf. I have also told Maxy never to ask me to do square leg umpiring, which he had no problem with. Now, the best revenge, as Matt mentioned, was to beat these sore losers.

The truth is the sensitive man in me has to strike back. I should just run in and give 100% effort to my bowling hoping that the ball comes out quicker and if I get them out, I’ll just bring out the pent-up celebrations but short of the kind that Merv Hughes used to do in his day which involves celebrating right in the faces of the dismissed batsmen. To be honest, I felt like doing that but considering that these celebrations are now frowned upon and could lead to punishment. I can’t really afford to get out of line at all, especially with finals at stake.

February 11, 2020

Last night, former Australian fast bowler and assistant coach Craig McDermott was inducted in the Hall of Fame at the Australian Cricket Awards. In an article that announced this award before the event, it transpired that back in 1985-86 following the innings defeat to New Zealand in the 1st test at the Gabba in Brisbane, that McDermott received some advice from former fast bowler Ray Lindwall. The advice that Lindwall told McDermott to put his fingers on the paint as opposed to close together on the seam. For McDermott, it changed the way he swung the ball since it moved more consistently and later afterward. It is no wonder, it’s the same advice he was preaching himself in a swing bowling masterclass video for Cricket Australia about six summers ago.

For a swing bowler myself, I don’t see any harm why I can’t apply similar advice, having tried my very best to move the ball both ways. Hence, I decided to try this grip out at practice this week. Today at least, I was able to swing the ball and at least clean bowled Matt Kildea and Max Burford, but I was short of rhythm due to a left hip strain that reduced my momentum through the crease. That loss of momentum was noted by Tom Simpson, an A/B grade batsman who faced me when he noticed that I was dropping them short. However, he complimented me on my pace.

I only noticed the strain only in the afternoon when I found it uncomfortable to sit down and get up in the car. My initial thought was that I would pull through it during the session, but it hampered my ability to operate at full speed. I hope it recovers significantly ahead of Thursday’s session.

February 13, 2020

Today was personally much better session since the hip strain had subsided significantly for me to power through my action with the hips. I was generating late swing both ways more often on a fuller length. While I couldn’t get anyone out, I at least beat the bat more often than Tuesday. Moreover, I also had drawn a couple of edges that would have been held by point of which one of them was Lincoln Halton, whose impenetrable defense was the main reason behind our current three-match unbeaten streak. My run-up and action felt similar to a young Jason Gillespie. Comparisons aside, I was back to my best, which I hope to replicate the success come Saturday.

Bowling aside, my complaint about GG come to light in the latest club committee. I happened to know about this through Andrew Bennett, our regular nets manager, who asked me, “Is Golden Grove giving you trouble.” I explained what had happened on Saturday and he said it was all good. Nothing else said. We just have to go and bowl them out, which would be the perfect response.

February 16, 2020

We indeed achieve the win, but it was indeed hard work along the way. Gary started the proceedings by bouncing out Pinder, which resulted in an easy catch for Gavin Jones at first slip. After that, Golden Grove had two solid partnerships to be at 3 for 86 at tea. Hopper and GM Lynch added 40 for the second wicket before Hopper was bowled by an inside edge off an attempted drive of Brad Coles. Then GM Lynch and van Rooyen added 44 before GM Lynch edged behind to Harry off Maxy’s bowling at the stroke of tea.

I had my bowling opportunity in the half-an-hour before tea and couldn’t get the ball to shape away from the batters. Instead, the ball was consistently swinging in which made it easier for them to try and hit across the line. I was ineffective for four overs that cost 18 runs, but I wished a chance went to Brad Coles’ hand in my first over. That spell spoilt my mood, and it improved when I was taken out of the attack.

Gary started the post-tea process by getting van Rooyen to edge behind to Harry, but Jomartz and the GG captain Henderson steadied the ship with a 31 run partnership. Having been denied a few LBW close shouts till now, Brabs finally got a shout to go his way against an absolutely disappointed Henderson who claims he hit the ball. I must add that it wasn’t the first time this match that he showed his displeasure. Nevertheless, the crucial break was obtained on the stroke of drinks, and we simply ran through the tail.

Instead, Brabs and Brad did. Brabs had Jomartz caught by Tom at mid-on before hitting the stumps on the next ball to beat Stamato’s defense. Brabs was all of a sudden on a hat-trick. GA Lynch survived the critical delivery but was bowled in the next over by Brad. Brabs took his fourth wicket through an excellent low catch by Connor at short mid-wicket, and then Brad finished the job by bowling Ward. GG all out for 142, a first innings win by 46 runs.

That was our third win in four unbeaten matches, and we were in good health for finals with two rounds remaining. For me, though, the start of this calendar year has been terrible. Very few overs and no wickets, which certainly tested my confidence and resolve. I really want to bowl again this year, especially in the finals, but I really need overs under my belt to do a required job. Luke told me to keep going and not to lose hope. If there’s any consolation, I think my lower-order partnerships with Gary and Maxy were probably the difference, which I hope to believe that I again won a match with the bat.

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