Hope Valley vs Prince Alfred Old Collegians at St Paul’s College (West Oval), February 22 & 29 2020

February 19, 2020

Tonight, I was heading to the Red Center to have another batting session with Trent. My mandate is simply to continue the late hinge and swing, which helped me to eke out two match-winning lower-order partnerships against Golden Grove that catapulted us into the third spot; about 4 points ahead of Fulham and about 7 points ahead of our next opponents in C1s, Hope Valley. It makes the last two matches very critical to our semi-final hopes. The upcoming game against Hope Valley is probably like a knockout match since both clubs are pushing towards qualification.

It was surprising for Trent when he heard about my mandate, given that I have been hitting the ball well in previous sessions. However, facing the bowling machine is different from facing actual bowlers. Nevertheless, I continued to play powerful drives aided with positive feet movement. Before my session, I was fortunate that Dan Mosey offered to bowl his left-arm seamers that allowed me to carry out my mandate successfully. Any ball he threw wide, I usually left alone, and whenever he dropped short, I was there cracking the pull shot (even though the angle does make a shot a bit risky). More importantly, I looked very comfortable facing Mose since he hardly beat the bat even though the surface within the indoor center we’re training in was straightforward to bat on. I also noticed this when bowling to Connor Craigie (since I hardly beat his edge), although I managed to extract a few false shots off my bowling through my late out-swing.

 

February 21, 2020

I am grateful that I was retained in C1s for our clash against Hope Valley when I was added to our team’s Facebook Messenger group despite being wicketless since resumption. I am hoping for another bowl to try to open my wicket tally for the second half of the season, given that our line-up is batting heavy. I would imagine Gavin Jones, Tom Welsby/Richard Hockney, Ed Thomas, Ben Lobban and, Harry Hockney occupy the top five batting slots. Then Lincoln Halton and Jacob Leak would follow at six and seven, respectively, followed by the remaining four who might form our primary attack: Max, Brabs, Brendon Francesca, and myself.

I am hoping to step up with the ball in hand again, given that we have neither Gary Branford nor Brad Coles this game, and my retention follows Maxy’s comments regarding my value to his side when they were made following our win against Fulham last month. When the teams were released on Facebook in the afternoon, Gary had been demoted to C2s while Brad was promoted to B1s. Indeed, my opportunity for the taking to be the guy that stands up as Luke told me last week.

Thankfully, I found some confidence with the ball at yesterday’s training when I ball to move appreciably both ways, which didn’t go amiss by Patty Sadlier, our D grade co-captain. I realized that I only got the ball to move when my bowling hand reaches my opposite hip. For me, it’s instant feedback and an immediate checkpoint whenever I’m unable to move the ball off the straight. 

And so, I worked on it in the nets for half-an-hour trying to ensure the bowling hand reaches the opposite hip. I experimented with two different bowling actions: the action I bowled at training this week as well as the action I had bowled with in the last match. Both actions are different through their pre-delivery jump. The first action has less exaggerated pre-delivery jump than the second, which actually allowed me to consistently finish with the bowling hand on the opposite hip, thereby also giving me more control and more momentum through the crease. Coincidentally it’s a similar action to what helped me get wickets in the first half of the season before I greedily chased for pace to no avail. Given that no hard I try to bowl fast, keepers will always want to stand up to the stumps like they would for medium pacers or spinners.

 

February 22, 2020

It’s game time, and I’m thinking of what Maxy should do when we win the toss. Given our heavy batting line-up, the easiest decision would be to bat first. Given that when we have a total on the board, we can defend it as we did against Athelstone and Golden Grove, last game. When we don’t post a total on the board as we did against Golden Grove (in Rd 2), Fulham (in Rd 3), and Goodwood, we obviously lose the match. 

In contrast, we are yet to lose bowling first where we have bowled Brighton out for 92 and Fulham for 110 on either side of the Christmas/New Year break and could have beaten Marion after bowling them out for 146 if the rain had not intervened. There might be some argument for bowling first, given our past performances. 

The critical factor though is the pitch. According to my work colleague Brendan Sims who plays for Hope Valley (our next opponents) in the higher grades, the pitch in the St Paul’s College is pretty slow with hardly any lateral movement on offer. Thereby, the easiest thing to do is to bat first and hope that our batting heavy line up bats out 72 overs and puts on another defendable total (hopefully 200+). 

When I rocked up to the ground, I learned that we were bowling, having lost the toss. The first ball of the match bowled by Maxy resulted in a leading-edge off Juneja’s bat but just short of Gavin Jones at mid-on. Next over bowled by Brabs resulted in boundaries off two long-hops: one four and one six. Thereafter, Maxy and Brabs kept it very tight which helped Maxy struck in the ninth over getting Juneja to play a delivery onto his stumps. We nearly had a wicket next over had Harry clung on to a low offering off Brabs’ bowling to dismiss Dani Llewellyn. Little did we know that prove costly throughout the day.

And so, we (specifically Maxy, Brabs, Brendon, and myself) continue to toil away for another breakthrough. I came to bowl at the start of the 16th over and proceeded to justify Maxy’s faith in me by producing another tidy spell. I bowled a seven-over spell for just nine runs and did not concede a single boundary. More importantly, I found appreciable away movement from the right-handers and was able to hit the splice. As a result, I induced two leading edges against Llewellyn, which fell short. One just in front of me which in hindsight I could have dived for having made a decent follow-through and the other over my head. Moreover, I induced an edge that just evaded Jacob Leak at gully. 

However, I wouldn’t be denied as I made the breakthrough at the start of my sixth over when Vandervlag clipped an attempted out-swinger straight to Brendan at a backward square leg. I finally broke through not just for the beginning of a new calendar year but also for the new decade as well. My first spell was down to Brabs’ who told me that I had to hit a fuller length. The captain, Murray strode out at the fall of that wicket wearing a sunhat. As per the new rules, all batsmen, close-in fielders and, wicketkeepers standing close to the stumps HAVE to wear a helmet. On the same token, the fielding team has the right to refuse if an opposition batsman doesn’t abide by these rules. So when Murray came out, we immediately told him to come out with a helmet. Well, his excuse for the first sunhat use was that he thought I was a spinner. I found that disrespectful. 

But he eventually came out with a helmet after much grumbling. After that, he became problematic for us since he looks like picking a fight. He asked Brendan whether he was ready to bowl even though he clearly was ready. Then as Brendan was about to bowl, Murray pulled away. He also got personal with Ed Thomas that fired up a few blokes, including Ed himself.

We kept him quiet for a while until he pulled one ball from Brabs for four before tea to leave them 2 for 66 after 36 overs. The offerings at tea comparatively weren’t up to the standards provided by Golden Grove and Fulham, according to the boys since they were mostly cupcakes, lamingtons and, brownies. Sweet tasty snacks but probably not appropriate for cricket. 

Upon resumption, I couldn’t quite get down low quickly enough to a chance offered by Murray before he smashed two boundaries off Brabs’ bowling. He appeared to get away much to our annoyance, but soon enough, Brabs got one to swing late past Murray’s bat and into the stumps. That started off a run of wickets for the former as he had Bradley Llewellyn caught behind by Harry and then had Weinhengst caught in close by Tom Welsby. 

We appeared to be on top at about 5 for 80 odd. Dani and Manraj Singh had a couple of mix-ups between the wickets, which I had on both occasions opportunities to run Manraj out at the non-striker’s end but failed. I failed because having seen the chance, I tried to throw the ball quickly, but instead, I sprayed it away from the stumps. 

They really made us (especially me) pay with an 80 odd stand for the sixth wicket. Manraj chanced his arm with some agricultural shots through the leg-side. I came on to bowl just before the next drinks and proceeded to bowl just another five overs. During this time, I induced leading edges off Manraj’s bat when he tried to hoick towards cow corner. However each time, they fell way short and wide of Maxy at mid-off.

Moreover, I beat Dani’s bat with an out-swinger,-swinger and he overbalanced to provide an opportunity for Harry to knock the bails off for a potential stumping that never materialized. Hence I finished with 12 overs, 1 for 29. Not a bad return to tidy bowling form.

Brendon eventually broke through the partnership with a pinpoint yorker that accounted for Manraj. But Dani and Christian Wishart ensured that Hope Valley batted out their 72 overs, which was the first time this season we fielded a whole day. They finished with 6/199 with Dani just six short of a hundred. As it transpired, he rode his luck, including an LBW shout that wasn’t rewarded after it hit him flush on the toe when he was on 15.

 

February 25, 2020

While it was disappointing to have to spend a whole day in the field and gave Hope Valley a defendable score, confidence was high as we thought that an exact target of 200 was achievable given our long batting line-up. All we need is several partnerships with at least one of our top-order going big. If we could conserve our wickets and be about 2 an over at tea, we will be on track. What we will need to do is to repeat the positivity that helped turn a potentially tricky chase against Fulham into a comprehensive position that allowed Maxy to gamble for an outright win. 

My focus today will be to get some batting before the light starts to fade. But instead, I batted right towards the end, and it wasn’t too bad. Leading up to today, I was going through the Batting Basics program I purchased from Cricket Mentoring which helped shape my grip and bat pick up in terms of where I should be bringing the bat down from (i.e. from first slip). As a result, I was able to hit around the ground, on both front and back foot. My best shots were the slog sweep off Josh Greber’s spin and the straight drive off Andrew Heitmann, not to mention getting a couple of pull shots away off Ed Thomas. More importantly, I was instinctively defending balls that required respect and punished the loose ones. I was again looking fluent, which didn’t go unnoticed by the likes of Ed and Jack Dent. 

 

February 27, 2020

Today’s training was different from Tuesday’s session. Most of the people who were present, myself included were distracted with the Twenty20 match close to our training quarters involving the Prince Alfred College students. It was just incredible to see one of the students go and ramp a quick bowler for four. Just imagine that they could be serious players when they’re older. Either for PAOC or within district cricket say for Kensington (the nearest club to PAC). 

Batting was more challenging today. I was facing a variety of Raj Gopal’s hand grenades a.k.a his slower balls to Brad Coles’ jarring length from his tall frame. It wasn’t pretty at times, but at least my stumps weren’t rattled. Towards the end of my batting session, I launched Colesy’s slower ball back over his head towards the sightscreen as payback for jarring my splice from time to time.

Throughout the week, I was bowling with the pink ball most of the time and finally got it to swing to my tunes. I indeed troubled several batsmen, including Josh Greber, Tom Taylor, Rory Husler and, Jacob Leak. Having hated bowling with the pink ball previously, I slowly began to love bowling with it.

As the running between the wickets drill, after my batting session took the wind out of my sails, I opted to bowl wrist spin to Brabs. When I landed them, I got a few to turn. My first ball hit the splice to probably where Point would have been, and then on my final delivery of the night, I bowled a slower, loopy leg break that Brabs tried to swing across the line and hit the top of off stump.

February 29, 2020

Our chase almost started disastrously when Gavin Jones edged Sam Llewellyn on the first ball of the match but it fell short of the wicket-keeper. Not long after that, Richard Hockney suffered one of those moments where everyone thinks it’s funny but it’s not if you’re the batsman getting hit. He got hit in the groin and there was a mark to show it on his pants.

But they both got over the initial setbacks to post a 35 run stand before Gavin shoveled a pull shot straight to mid-wicket for 20.  Richard kept going though with Ed Thomas for company. While it was slow going with Ed unable at times to beat the infield, they added 37 runs before Ed was tun out for 8 having been called through for a single by Richard.

That brought Harry Hockney to the crease to join his dad. Thankfully they got through to tea and were enjoying a solid partnership that saw Richard past his fifty. The third batsman to do so this season in C1s after myself and Charlie. They added 30 before Harry edged Vandervlag to the keeper. At 3 for 102, we should be at least set to hopefully complete the chase.

But we soon lost our way, Richard got out having run out of puff. Held out for 65. His wicket and that of Ben Lobban’s on either side of drinks stalled our momentum as the asking rate crept up to about a run-a-ball. That prompted Maxy to promote himself up the order when Brandon Francesca held out trying to catch up with the asking rate. When Jacob Leak fell trying to do the same, we needed about 50 in about 9 overs or so.

However, Lincoln Halton who previously showed his ability to smash the ball at the start of the season brought out that similar class in a critical partnership with Maxy that brought us right back into contention. At one point we needed just 17 from the last three overs. Lincoln then got out and I was in. I should in hindsight been out the first ball for a golden duck. Not so much for the LBW shout having missed the ball, but having batted out of my crease to hopefully reduce the likelihood of LBW, I was thrown out by the man fielding at Point having failed to return back to the crease. The only problem was Gavin was not looking and so didn’t get me out.

I understand that there were pissed off but honestly, there were like this throughout the day. It was of no surprise that they probably didn’t shake our hands or at least pop into our dressing rooms for a chat after the match, having later won it by 12 runs. Having got off the mark on the second delivery, I edged behind off Rio to the keeper trying to hit out. Brabs having not faced a ball in C1s so far this season got off the mark. After that, it was all over when Maxy was caught at cover.

We were all gutted knowing given how tight the ladder was in C1s. We needed to win this game to get some more breathing space from Hope Valley and Fulham. Instead, we plummeted from third to fifth. Eleven points behind Fulham and just under five points shy of Hope Valley who just beat us to move to fourth. There’s never a good time to lose a match especially with finals on the line. It really does hurt particularly having our four-match unbeaten broken as well.

Our only hope now is to for us to beat Gepps Cross and pray that Hope Valley loses to Athelstone. Maxy did say during the season that his motivation for taking up the C1 captaincy was to play finals. If we do enough (to hopefully sneak in via the finest of margins), then that dream of Maxy’s could well be materialized.

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