Gepps Cross vs Prince Alfred Old Collegians at Duncan Fraser Reserve, March 7 & 14 2020

March 5, 2020

On Tuesday, PAOC won a trophy in Division 3 Twenty20 competition with a team full of players from the PAOC football club. I supposed though all the work Trent English enforced with Twenty20 dedicated training on Tuesdays has paid off in spades. Not only it resulted in a trophy, but it resulted in an all PAOCCC showdown in the semi-final, which was unfortunate. Personally, I would have had the showdown in the final so that cricket would have been a winner for the whole club. It doesn’t matter now as the club has a trophy this year. Hopefully, more to come this season with both As and Bs likely for semis while Cs are still in touching distance but honestly up against it as they’re behind Hope Valley (4th) by 5 points and Goodwood (5th) by 4 points. LO1s are also likely for semis with 2 games remaining. Thereby the last two weeks are now critical regarding preparation. As the coach and senior club figures had stressed, the more people attend, the better it is.

Assuming that I retain my C1 position, we have to beat Gepps Cross and pray that both Hope Valley and Goodwood lose their final match. So all three factors need to go in our favor. Stranger things have happened in cricket. I just hope this is also another instance. 

Today was a bit of a struggle as my left shoulder was paining, having had a pre-travel vaccination injected there. But I still managed to play some good shots, got some balls to swing away from the right-handers, as well as throw straight while fielding. For once, I spent a bit of extra time fielding since we had a lot of bowlers in every net. Most of my fielding time was spent trying to throw straight, having botched two run-outs in our defeat to Hope Valley. Along the way, Maxy Clarke was there to assist by rolling balls to me as I threw ball after ball. I just realized during practice that while there’s always a rush in getting the ball into the right end ASAP, I really need to slow it down to give myself the best chance of an accurate throw. I need to trust myself in this regard, moving forward.

March 7, 2020

No matter how hard I try to stay upbeat, this game is likely to be a dead rubber for us unless the Cricket Gods decide to intervene. However, another critical moment perhaps could have re-motivated ourselves to win this game. Yesterday, I learned that Ben Lobban, the club secretary who helped me transfer from Adelaide University, is about to play his 200th match for PAOCCC, which is itself a massive moment considering it will also be his birthday weekend as well.  What better way to celebrate this milestone with a win. 

I also managed to smoothen out my bowling action last night, which had allowed me to swing the ball away from the right-handers when I wanted to. Besides, the balls that I didn’t want to swing also behaved to my command. To be honest, after trying some actions that I have used to this point, I only got a slight subtle seam movement. When I changed to my past bowling action that was inspired by Ben Hilfenhaus, that was when the ball started to behave in the manner I wanted it to (as described before). Moreover, as long as my eyes are focused on the knee roll of the batsman’s pads, I’ll be able to hit the full length that Antony Brabham has been encouraging me to target since the game against Hope Valley.

It was always a good thing to have fixed, and it helped that the left shoulder pain has reduced significantly, which meant I should be able to use my front arm to pull towards my target more frequently.   

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind bowling first if we win the toss as I have rediscovered my rhythm. Moreover, if Maxy firmly wants to chase an outright victory, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to send Gepps Cross in to try to bowl them out cheaply and hopefully get ahead of their total or at least get close by stumps. On the same token, I wouldn’t mind having a bat either even though given our line-up, I’m likely to come in at 8 or 9. Let’s see.

As it turned out, we lost the toss and had to bowl, which pretty much Maxy wanted to do anyways as he was going to chase after an outright victory. Maxy and Brabs did not start very well as they drifted down the leg side, which meant a lot of chasing for me at Backward square leg. By the third over, I was immediately fed up despite my best efforts, which included more accurate throws (as I was giving myself a bit more time before throwing the ball). I was now literally praying for some respite, knowing that I might have a bit of bowling to do as we only had three specialist bowlers.

Gradually Maxy and Brabs kept it tight, and the latter struck with the first blow trapping Grantham LBW, which was down to Charles Aust (promoted up from C2s) keeping up to him to keep the batters within the crease. Courtesy of that wicket, Brabs was able to settle into a good ten over spell. During his spell, the wicket started to misbehave as some deliveries rose sharply and some kept low. It reminded me of the track in the Neil Bulger Oval as well as the Aranda tracks of old in 2016. For this particular reason, Maxy switched ends once Brabs completed his spell and promptly had Hynes caught at gully by Tom Welsby. 

After dropping a tough chance during Brabs’ spell that would have sent Hynes back to the pavilion before drinks, I got my chance a few overs afterward replacing Tom Welsby. While I got the ball to move both ways, I could not reproduce the same length that I have begun to produce with more regularity. While I wasn’t bowling loose deliveries, I was instead just hitting a length. While I was keeping it tight when I requested quick feedback from Ben, our milestone man, the consensus was such that wickets were in the order of the day. Thereby I had to risk going for runs in the hope wickets will come.

I completed a five-over spell, which only went for just two runs and featured four maidens. The accuracy that had helped me be one of the most economical bowlers in our C1 side at the start of the season. Those two runs came off a sliced heave by Dhruv Gajjar as he just cleared Matt Dickson at Mid-off. Like earlier in the season, my thriftiness accounted for two more wickets to Maxy before the tea break. Bhutak was clean bowled, and Gajjar was beautifully caught by Charles diving to his left. Gepps Cross was 4 for 70 at the break.

Having bowled that five-over spell, Maxy took me off to give Brabs another spell hoping to go for the kill. But he did tell me that another spell will be required of me after the tea break. 

First of all, we have to enjoy the afternoon tea that Gepps Cross put across. There was Watermelon, Oranges, Pizza, Spring Rolls together with an assortment of sandwiches. A far cry of the variety offered by Hope Valley last game. In that game, we were looking forward to Gepps Cross, putting out a better afternoon tea. Well, they didn’t disappoint today.

Upon resumption, Maxy and Brabs continued to bowl for about ten overs, which allowed us to move into complete ascendency. Brabs claimed another LBW shout to dismiss Clark while Maxy found himself on a hat-trick when he castled both Loader and Patel on consecutive deliveries. While he was unable to produce the killer blow, we were on top at 7 for 94, with a substantial opportunity to push our case for finals.

How wrong could we be? As it turned out, the tables completely turned against us for the rest of the day. Forbes started to tee off against both bowlers, and soon enough, the eighth wicket stand between him and Jensen had past fifty. My opportunity for a second spell finally came but precisely in hindsight at the wrong time. Not for the first time this season, I was unable to reproduce the efforts of my first spell. When Forbes launched me for six over cow corner, I had to take pace off to slow him down. It worked for some time until he launched me for two sixes in my ninth over.  It wasn’t all that bad for me since I was able to attempt to swing the ball and keep it reasonably tight against Jensen. Unfortunately, not for the first time, I failed to get a wicket. An overall analysis of nine wicketless overs for 24 runs could have been a lot better, but it seems that all the luck I had in the first half of the season has indeed deserted me upon resumption.

Meanwhile, Maxy began to look desperate as he resorted to very defensive fields (against Forbes in particular) and giving bowling opportunities to Rory Husler, Ed Thomas, and Lincoln Halton to break this partnership that certainly had taken the game away from us. Eventually, it needed Maxy himself to end the stand that was worth 130. He did so by yorking Forbes for 94. But the damage had already been done. On the other hand, Jensen did well to stay unbeaten to the end and getting his fifty. Towards the end, we managed a late run-out through Ed Thomas. Having spilled a high ball, the batsmen were running for two, which prompted Ed to throw the ball to Maxy, who knocked the bails off to have Barratt run-out. But it was yet another long day in the field for us as they finished on 9 for 247 from their 72 overs.  

While he was no doubt disappointed in how the day eventually panned out, Maxy was gracious in acknowledging that everyone tried their very best, which seemed to matter to him the most. More importantly, while it might seem a tall order, the boys remained upbeat, citing that both the wicket and the outfield have given them hope in chasing this target down (together with the inclusion of Gary Branford, who some people hope that he could tonk a ton). 

For me, the writing was on the wall. Unless we pull a rabbit out of the hat, our season might as well be coming to an end. The day itself wasn’t really that bad for us since both the C2s and the LO5s endured much worse days. C2s conceded 4/403 from their 72 overs while LO5s were trounced by 10 wickets after only posting 102 all out. Perth awaits me for a week where I hope a session with Luke can set me up moving forward, especially next weekend, as I may need to bat depending on how we go.


March 13, 2020

I managed to get a session with Luke today before lunch. I took away some invaluable lessons for the season ahead (assuming that the season is likely to finish tomorrow for me). I had told Luke what Richard Hockney had been trying to do with me as I had a tendency to get my bat stuck before I hit the ball, which is a real problem against bowlers who bowl at least 100 km/h. Luke, to his credit, understood why I was told to hinge the bat as late as possible as it was the same advice the professionals would have given. He then suggested that I refocus on hinging the bat early but at least slow that process down to ensure a smooth swing of the bat afterward. Something that Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith have been doing very well of late. My memo to Richard (as well as Jack Latchford who also helped me out), “I really appreciate the efforts you both have put in to help my batting, but having been with my coach for a much longer time, I’ve just been accustomed to his methods for a while now. So it’s all more natural. Please don’t feel bad.”

The good thing was that soon after that adjustment, I was making more concise decisions regarding shot selection as I have more time due to the hinge. I just need to pay attention moving forward so that I time this to perfection while maintaining a high front elbow as possible. If all this particular work paid off tomorrow out in the middle, then it’s great. Otherwise, there’s always a case of the off-season to be firmly accustomed to it.

Luke made minor changes to my bowling by raising my arms at the level of my pectoral muscles to allow for the early shoulder rotation. As an exercise, he suggested that both of my hands should finish at my left hip to ensure maximum trunk rotation even though he had been impressed with my improvement in this regard. 

Nevertheless, the biggest takeaway I got from today was the exercises that will help strengthen the back of the shoulders that will help me either when hinging the bat or loading the ball before bowling or throwing it. Moreover, it is supposed to also improve my overall posture. This was all something I have heard before. Now I’ve got something to play with during the off-season to keep me occupied before I restart my BowlFit workouts. 


March 14, 2020

In light of the current CoronaVirus outbreak, all clubs were advised to at least not use sweat or saliva to shine the ball, shake hands and maintain at least 1-meter distance between players to prevent any potential spread of the virus. As a result, the likelihood of the ball not being shined might give us a chance to chase down the runs we need to at least keep our finals’ hopes alive. However, we realized during our chase that Hope Valley had an excellent week last week by bowling Athelstone for 74 before being 1/17 in reply. It is likely though that they’ll win and solidify their top-four spot.

At the start of the day, Maxy announced the batting order with Gary Branford and Tom Welsby to open. However, I suppose neither of us knew that Gary wasn’t going to be available from the start. In the end, it needed Charlie Aust to go and fetch him, and the two of them arrived just before tea. Gary’s absence meant that Ed had to open instead of going at number three. Maxy also had advised that the batting trophy was on the cards if they can surpass Charlie Keeves’ aggregate of 126 runs. At this stage, Ed, Maxy, Lincoln Halton, and I had a possible chance of getting a bat. As it turned out, neither of us succeeded in dethroning Keevesy. 

Gepps Cross opened up with their batting heroes in Jensen and Forbes. They did an excellent job of ensuring that we ended the first hour on 3/47. Ed was caught and bowled by Jensen as he tried to hit leg-side only to close on the face of his bat early. Charles Aust having whacked a hat-trick of boundaries was clean bowled by Forbes. Then Ben Lobban, in his 200th match sadly, got bounced out by Jensen as the ball was held by one of the members in the slip cordon who slipped but caught the ball in his left hand. That was a surprise, but it wasn’t so given that he had struggled to pick the ball up from Jensen’s hand.

If we were looking for any respite from the back-up bowlers, we didn’t get any as Barratt and Patel definitely backed up the initial efforts. Lincoln edged Patel in the slip cordon before the same bowler castled Will Farminer’s stumps. Tom Welsby, who only managed to offer significant resistance in the top order, also got bowled but by the left-armer Barratt, who seemingly would have got one to swing back into Tom. Tom was disappointed not to have passed 50, but he played well for his 47 off 100 balls. 

Because Gary hadn’t arrived yet, I had to come in at 6/83 with our innings in shambles. With nothing to lose, I brought out my Gray-Nicolls Kronus, which I haven’t used in a match since Round 2 back in October. I was batting with Matt Dickson, who urged me to get to the tea interval. Even though I played and missed a couple, I was at least decisive in what and what not to play even if I was to go to tea without getting off the mark. Dicko at least finished the first half of the day in style by pulling Barratt to the boundary.

Once again, Gepps Cross’ afternoon tea did not disappoint as the same variety was there. During this time, Tom asked me how I was seeing them. I told him that even though I chased one, I felt I was okay. After all, I’ve got a lot of time remaining to score. It wasn’t the first time he asked me this particular question as I remember him asking me back in our recent game at Golden Grove. 

I immediately felt good upon resumption. I was showing intent to score where possible and managed to get off the mark with the push into the covers for a single. In the next over, another push this time to the left of mid-off give me another run. When I drove again through the covers for a couple and then pinched a quick single. Soon enough, Dicko and I started to accumulate. Dicko was hitting the ball hard, which helped him gain a few boundaries, and all of a sudden, he was feeling good. We batted together for 12 overs and added 37 runs. It was later to be the highest partnership of the innings.

I started to feel confident. Not only was I looking to score, but I also continued to be selected in terms of picking balls to defend. The work Luke did with me is slowly beginning to reap the rewards. I even nailed a few cut shots and managed to hit one behind point to the longest side of the boundary. With our partnership beginning to frustrate them, Forbes returned. I spooned a ball behind square but managed to get it in a gap for a couple before pushing a single to cover who was quite deep.

Even though I continued to confidently hit the ball, I was disappointed to be out LBW having been hit on the toe. I felt that either my head or hands would have fallen to the off-side. It was indeed a good ball, but I thought that I should have done better at least to keep it out with the bat. I don’t know. Anyways, I at least made double figures, 12 to be precise. As a matter of fact, Will told me that one of the byes that were signaled was awarded to me as the call from Tom came far too late. I made 13, the third-highest score of the innings. Moreover, the 42 balls I faced were also the third-highest in the book. Nevertheless, I was very happy with how I batted, and I hope this confidence can be transferred to next season. I was also happy that I at least made some runs with the Kronus, which had a light pick up, which helped me against the seamers, no doubt.

It wasn’t long before the innings finally ended. When I emerged from our allocated dressing room as it was at the back of the building, I saw that Maxy had joined Dicko at the crease. Gary had got out having tried to repeat a shot against Forbes that went for six but instead was bowled. Dicko also fell, having compiled 26. Then Maxy was out LBW to Beames, and we were bowled out for 138. A clear 111 run defeat. A disappointing end to a season that promised a lot more if it wasn’t for the constant chopping and changing Maxy had to deal with every round.

It isn’t confirmed yet, but missing out on finals may not be a bad thing after all. While it wasn’t confirmed, there could be a possibility that the ATCA might scrap the fortnightly finals window with the CoronaVirus threat looming large. I personally would have been disappointed myself if we had qualified for finals but I would feel for the As, Bs and the LO1s if finals were to be indeed scrapped. At least Bs would have the consolation of being minor premiers having not lost a game all year.

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