Pembroke OS vs Prince Alfred Old Collegians at Park 17, October 31, 2020

October 4, 2020

The season is fast approaching with the Twenty20s going to kick off the season next Saturday. Twenty20s are a format I’m happy to miss as the opportunities to contribute are pretty less. These days, I fancy playing both 1- and 2-day cricket as opportunities to contribute are more.

Speaking of 2-dayers, the opportunities to play are becoming unlikely with a raft of quality imports coming through the club. Having been a permanent member of both Cs and Ds last season, I face the prospect of fighting to keep my spot despite positive backing from both Maxy and Patty.

I don’t really fancy competition (especially if performance is a strong consideration) as it takes the enjoyment component out of it. As far as I concerned, I want decent game time having left behind family and family matters behind to spend 5-6 hours playing the sport I love. The competition for selections, is threatening to kill the enjoyment factor.

I’ve only learned all about this when I asked Latchy, our captain cum coach. Given all the above together with the uncertainty surrounding my guaranteed availability for 2-day cricket, I had requested him to only consider me for Limited Over matches only.

It will work in many ways. The new guys will get an opportunity to show their wares in the higher grades while I can enjoy prospering in the lowest grades with both bat and ball. Irrespective of who fields in the slip cordon, I see it as a good opportunity to focus on meeting my goal of conceding no more than 3.5 runs per over this season by trying to hit the hard length with late bounce and movement to make it difficult for batters to hit over the top.

Aside of all that, there may be a prospect of my work colleague and friend, Vivek Devarajan going to join me at the Reds and if he plays in the LO6s, I would prefer to play with him to help him settle into our environment. Mind you, he’s still needing to make friends and is generally lonely. When you put all this into perspective, you would understand why my decision should not be considered a cop-out. After all, I will still work on my fielding and will where possible try to face some decent batters and bowlers in the nets which can help my quest for domination.

October 6, 2020

Today is the first day of outdoor training and I am excited and raring to go. At least to use my 4-piece white cricket balls. With potentially four sessions before my first game of the season, my focus is to work on a few technical specifics. Specifically, making sure that the thumb of my left hand touches my nose during the pre-delivery jump that will enable me to bowl wicket to wicket to make the batsmen play while preventing them with any width to free the arms. Then, there is also my bottom hand grip where it’s only the thumb and first finger that takes responsibility in hinging the bat thereby allowing for better execution in both the shot and footwork.

Having arrived half-an-hour late to practice, I was going to go do some fielding thinking that there’s enough bowlers across the four nets until Patty Sadlier called me on to bowl. I took some time to settle down with gentle outswingers to Don Kieu. But by the time, Jacob Leak came into the bat, I was settled as the late bounce and movement that I gained last week started to trouble him. I even overheard him telling Chris Spencer, who plays in B grade that he was finding it difficult to get those deliveries away. That gave me strength that I can be a handful. I just need to get the line right which was what I did briefly to Maxy Clarke before I was called upon to bat. There, I got the ball to zip away from the right hander with some bounce as well.

After bowling to Maxy, I got my pads on and went to bat. The focus was on the bottom hand which was why I had mixed success as I forgot about my grip and hinge. I didn’t hit the ball well as I would have liked, and I even edged a couple of deliveries of left-armer Brendon Francesca to where gully would have been. But I managed to cut him thrice in front of point and did not get bowled. More work needs to be done, but progress at least.

Towards the end of the session, we did some fielding which was I wanted to do every session. It wasn’t too bad given that I put in some accurate throws to Harry Hockney over the stumps and even scored a direct hit with an underarm throw.

Sadly, the session had come to an end shortly after 7 but I decided to hang around a bit more to practice bowling until it got dark. I managed to get the late movement and bounce, but I started to feel sore in the upper back which then caused me to bowl short. It is an indication that I would need to start wearing my posture band which has helped me previously during pre-season.

October 8, 2020

After shadow bowling with an action similar to that of Jofra Archer’s, I wondered if I should resume my pursuit for pace especially after getting through my action reasonably quickly. But then I realised not only that my previous pursuits weren’t that successful, I would end up throwing away both the good work and my recently acquired weapon of late bounce and movement and starting again from scratch. After all, it was Luke who reminded me some time ago that pace isn’t going to get batters into trouble, it is bounce.

I managed to arrive at training just before 6pm having left home late and after doing a couple of rounds of the schpol trying to find parking for me to enter the Red Center, our training base as the morning rains prevented the opportunity to train outdoors. I managed to find a parking near the Back Oval and had to walk a bit with a heavy kitbag in tow.

When I arrived, I deduced that there were enough bowlers and immediately joined in the short catching exercise where surprisingly, I saw Josh Bean hitting the catches. I was just surprised to see him back given that I was thinking he was done after his patchy form with the bat last season. Anyways, good to see him back. Hopefully he can have better luck with the bat this season.

Beany was hitting those catches hard which made the session a hit and miss for me. I caught some and dropped some as I had no time to react with whatever’s coming my way. This is definitely why I don’t field in the slip cordon due to my poor reactions. It got to a point where enough is enough, time to bowl because my hands were wringing in pain.

Unfortunately, the late bounce and movement from an action similar to Shaun Pollock’s didn’t work for me as I got carted around by Jacob Leak and Will Linke. Hence, as a last resort, I started to bowl with the Archer like action which lead to better outcomes especially against our newly appointed co-captain for D-grade Twenty20, Harry Hockney. I had got a ball to lift when he tried to work me to the legside before continuously hitting the length which Harry could only offer the forward defence. There was progress.

Sadly, I didn’t get to bat with Latchy telling me the bad news given that it’s almost fielding time. I was hoping to rectify my batting technique tonight, but unfortunately it would have to wait till Tuesday, as promised by Latchy. Given that I wasn’t going to play Twenty20s, I thought it would have been pointless to go and field but, in the end, I went with the flow.

I quite liked the fielding exercises we did in the end because I was able to field everything that came my way with some reasonable throws. I even caught a catch as well which was much easier than the short catches earlier in the session. Towards the end, Chris Drew called me aside to try on the Twenty20 strip as a guide for him to know what size I would need for my personal shirt once sponsors are finalised.

Having finished fielding, I returned to bowling seeing Alex Marantos and a young tearaway quick practising in the nets. After bowling one ball, Antony Brabham went up to me and suggested I relax and get loose. He also suggested to sprint through the crease as opposed to running with high knees. He’s simply telling me to just go and bowl and not worry about technique. Next ball, I bowled an outswinger at good length that quickly travelled to the back of the net after pitching. Brabs also noticed that I was following through quite close to the end of the net as a result of the momentum from both the sprint and a low pre-delivery jump. So far, this is a different side of Brabs to the one who told me to pitch the ball up last season. It will remain to be seen when he will eventually ask me to do that.

With everyone disappearing to Schitty Night at the Seven Stars, I ventured out the back to continue bowling for a little longer until my upper back continued to give way. I actually didn’t get around to wearing my posture band simply because I forgot to put it on before leaving from training. Maybe wearing that band isn’t going to be enough. Anyways, I should remember to start using it.

October 11, 2020

As I am unlikely to train as family and friends come first, I had to find some means to practice so that I do not go in cold come Saturday. I had informed Latchy of my absence from training and trying my luck, I requested some one-on-one time with him outside of club training. Either an hour before regular practice or potentially on Wednesday or Friday evening.

Having assumed that the particular session may not materialize, I head out to Campbelltown Oval nets to do some bowling. Thankfully one net was free with the other one taken up by a pair of players from the East Torrens District Cricket club. I started the session using the posture band having forgotten to wear it on Thursday and started to bowl with my Archer like action. While I was able to follow through well and get the ball to move, I wasn’t quote snapping through my action like I did on Thursday.

So, I returned to my Pollock like action briefly without success and then back to the Archer like action again with no luck after removing the posture band. I was discouraged with no meaningful success behind me. Thereby, as a last resort, I replicated the action of Ashes Pantomime Villain Stuart Broad, known for his refusal to walk back in the 1st Test of the 2013 Ashes.

His action was rhythmic with the front arm pushing up to allow him to swing the ball. I tasted better success immediately. Not only I swing the ball, I found better control in terms of line and length courtesy of my front arm. The further the arm is from me, the more pitched up the ball is. Then if I move the front arm across horizontally left and right, I can dictate the line of the ball.

Sometime ago, I watched a bowling masterclass video conducted by Damien Fleming, now known as the bowologist and paid attention to how to bowl the inswinger. The biggest tip was that my bowling hand should finish inside of my front knee as opposed to the outswinger where the hand finishes at my left hip. That tip helped me to bowl the inswinger as long as rotated my shoulder inwards during my pre-delivery jump. This is a tremendous finding just before the start of the season.

To add further to my joy, Latchy agreed with a one-on-one session with me on Wednesday afternoon at the back oval. I have a good opportunity to test my bowling theory with a high-grade cricketer in the captain cum coach while also getting an opportunity to work on my batting grip. I am looking forward to getting some private time with him with an potential chance to discuss tactics.

October 13, 2020

Actually, Wednesday’s session may not be required after all since the initial Tuesday evening plan had been postponed by a week which would then allow me to attend training tonight ahead of my first game of the season. I now have an opportunity to hone my skills against a variety of batters and bowlers on the turf wickets at the front of the college instead of bowling to just Latchy on the synthetic wickets at the back.

As it turned out it was a productive session even though I was still coming to grips with my batting grip where the thumb and ring finger of the top hand grips the bat with two fingers and thumb on the bottom hand pinching the bat. Instead of pinching, I was gripping which produced inconsistent results together with the starting point of the hinge. Despite this outcome, I am hopeful of my chances come Saturday because I knew what I did wrong and what I need to do.

Batting aside, my bowling and fielding practice went very well. I was able to replicate my Broad like action and hardly bowled a loose short ball. Instead I erred on the full of a length side, but I got the ball to move mostly inswing, thereby continuing the progress from Sunday.  Critically, I continued to follow through after bowling every single delivery which itself is a massive improvement from before. Not only, I can prevent injury from this, I now open the opportunity to pounce on any half-chance for a caught and bowled dismissal should there be a leading edge.

The good thing about coming to training instead of training with Latchy tomorrow is that I also did some fielding. In the presence of both A and B graders, I didn’t disgrace myself at all. Yes, I misfielded a couple of balls, but I caught every high ball catch except the last one which was due to poor communication which had Shayan Najeeb Ghuman and myself trying to go for it at the same time. The success in the high ball catching was down to getting in steady positions at the earliest possible opportunity, a tip I received last season. Top it off, I even managed a direct hit at the solitary stump. That aspect still needs some work because I continue to rush through my throws instead of giving me a chance to set up where my target is.

October 17, 2020

Looks like that I have come full circle. I am going to play where I started with the Reds, Park 15. Last season, I took a wicket with my first ball albeit with a long hop that didn’t rise. Furthermore, I will be starting off where I ended last season in C1s under the captaincy of Maxy Clarke. Looking at the line-up, I hope to be one of the change bowlers behind Maxy and Brabs but may need to step up with the bat. I am hopeful that all the tinkering and tweaking of my batting technique can pay off today given that I know what I need to do and what actually had worked not only in the nets but also in the final innings of last season.

It is good that Vivek will be making his debut for the Reds as he was named in the same side as me. I had told Latchy and Lexi (Alex Marantos) that it is my wish to play with Vivek the whole season irrespective of which grade I play in. He is also a bowler but sadly isn’t guaranteed a bowl as it depends on how the match pans out.

Speaking of the match, it probably remains to be seen whether we would get on after two days of rain. When it rained on Thursday, I drove past Park 15 on the way home from IKEA and found out from a distance that there were no covers put in place, a fact confirmed by Maxy when I told him yesterday. From past experience, rain from the previous days can force matches that are played on turf to be at best reduced overs matches or at worst abandoned even without a bowl balled. The fact that no rain is forecasted today, should give us hope that we can have a full game on our hands.

However, yesterday’s consistent rain was enough to force an abandonment without having to rock up at all which was disappointing as I’m unlikely to play until the end of the month. Bs also had their game abandoned too which saw some of their players fill in for the one-day sides. One of those sides had Andrew Heitmann playing his 300th game for the Reds in LO1s against Flinders University, the reigning premiers. While that match didn’t go to plan, it was nevertheless a fantastic achievement for Heito to achieve the landmark as he joined a small yet privileged lot to play this many game. One of those was Andrew Olsson who played a vital hand in LO6s to guide a small yet tricky chase on a sticky wicket by carrying his bat.

October 20, 2020

Vivek came to training today at my behest to get himself comfortable within the club setup. Crucially I ensured I had introduced him to several key personnel. Namely Latchy, Benno, Clev and the club chairman. Given that he hadn’t played cricket for a while, he was initially very rusty. He had sprayed the ball all over and had dropped a high ball which clipped his left eyebrow.  However, with some help from me with the bowling and the likes of Leaky with the catching, he got better. He started catching almost everything that came his way while bowling a bit straighter to make the batters play with the ball.

I didn’t really bowl much since we had a lot of bowlers which meant I spent most of my time fielding. As usual, I got the ball to wobble both ways late but when I tried a change of pace, I was clobbered almost over the fence. Understandably, it’s Twenty20 week which probably was why I was dealt this treatment. Fielding wise, I felt my throwing was a lot better since I gave myself time to size up my target before throwing. It was accurate but strong as the ball hit the baseball glove with force. I continued my good work with the high ball catching from last week and even tightened up my ground fielding. The difficult drill was the turn around and catch but I managed to catch one.

Finally, towards the end I got a bat which gave me an opportunity to perfect my technique. While I played a few good leg-side clips and a few pull shots, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the pinch grip of the bottom hand. Instead, it was a loose bottom hand which lead to another hit and miss session. Later I realised that I had to pinch the handle with the two fingers and thumb on the bottom hand while shadow batting. Having struggled for fluency with the heavy Kronus bat, I probably would need to experiment again with the Kaboom next week.

October 27, 2020

I am itching to train again having had Thursday off as I am keen to get some morale boosting batting practice this week ahead of my first game of the season while trying to perfect the bottom hand pinch grip. My initial thoughts were wrong as the two fingers and thumb simply slide in which later tightens if we want to apply the bottom hand into the shot. I would need to practice with both the Kaboom and the Kronus to feel comfortable with the grip.

I had just now discovered that I could whip my front arm across to my left hip as long as I could externally rotate my shoulder. I had honestly forgotten about this bio-mechanical tidbit even since Luke initially thought me how to bowl his way. This discovery simply happened by chance. Now it is time to put it into practice. Perhaps more so on my own preferably before going to bowl against batters.

Sadly, it rained during the journey to practice which meant that we spent the whole night fielding. Nevertheless, it was a good opportunity to practice the pulling motion which resulted in some decent throws to whoever was hitting the balls to me, as long as I take my time to set myself up. The wet outfield was a challenge for the ground fielding initially, but I got accustomed to it overtime. Catching was a bit of a hit and miss. While I dropped what seemed to be the easiest of the skiers, I managed to take the skiers over my head, the same technique that got me into trouble almost fatally two years ago. Taking those catches, was a confidence booster especially when they were very difficult chances.

October 29, 2020

Having not had a bat on Tuesday, I really needed to have a hit for that morale boosting batting net and thankfully I got it at the very end. I decided to use the Kaboom reasoning that a lighter bat will help my technique with a sore body, mainly the chest after doing those punishing push-ups from dropping sharp close-in catches. The session was worth it. While I was made to play at every ball that came my way, I was solid in defence and attack on the front foot especially my offside drives off Jack Emmett and Antony Brabham. I also played a few square cuts against the part-time spin of Johnny Coop but was rushed on a pull shot off Jemmett’s bowling. Basing my stance and backlift of the great Sachin Tendulkar together with the grip really helped me today.

From a bowling perspective, I felt progress with the pulling motion had been made despite the sore chest, resulting in late swing and movement and that is without needing to telegraph the wrist position. Sometimes, I also get the ball to reverse but it is merely accidental rather than deliberate. The only concern was that I am bowling a bit too straight which meant that if it doesn’t swing then I am easily pickings. It would probably make sense to err of bowling a bit wide but not too wide. As long as the soreness goes away come Saturday, I should be good to go.  

A few hours later, I see that I am playing in LO6s which will be my first time at the club. I am part of what seems to be a reasonably strong side with Ed Thomas and Jacob Leak having played Cs last season leading the batting while the bowling attack which is mainly seam comprises of myself, Ben Allen who will captain, Brabs, Jemmett and Hugh McDonald who made his debut in Ds last match. It will be a different experience bowling with a two piece on a turf wicket as long as I get a bowl.

October 31, 2020

Today was going to be different as I start to play under COVID-19 affected conditions which included BYO afternoon tea and water. I don’t quite feel affected by this since I had been doing these BYOs back in Canberra. It would have been a shock for those who expect communal food and drinks, hence it will require adjustment. Prior to the match, I had a close look at our line-up and come to a conclusion through MyCricket stats that our line-up is purely bowling heavy. Based on these conclusions, I would need to put my hand up to open which is what I did and when Leaky was going to arrive late, I got my chance, opening with Ed Thomas when BA chose to bat. I was hoping he was going to field and then put me up to bat since I had to leave early at about 5-5.30 to go for dinner at a family friend’s house, but this wasn’t the case.

On a green tinge surface with a two-piece ball, chaos ensured. Ed edged Agness to gully; Clement Ting bottom edged a pull shot off Blight onto his stumps; Campbell Porter chased a wide one from Bourke and shovelled a skier to mid-off; Rajasekhar Kesavan wandered out of his crease despite me saying No twice and made no effort to retreat back; Leaky left a straight one from Burford and was bowled; Then I edged Ambiss to the keeper trying to cut one that was too close. It was 6 for 57.

There was some relief through a 7th wicket stand of 29 from BA and Brabs which later proved to be the highest partnership of the innings as we then had another mini collapse. Brabs missed an inswinger from the left-arm of Blight; Jemmett was brilliantly caught on the deep mid-wicket by Tristan Colmer who stuck out his right hand in hope which left the batter gobsmacked for a while; BA slapped Blight to short fine-leg and then Hugh drilled a drive to mid-off to give Blight his fourth wicket. As a result, we were all out for 103 in 30.4 over. Could we win it? I had my doubts.

But we started very well. Jemmett performed the 3-card trick (2 outswingers then an inswinger) to open our account. Next over, Brabs claimed an LBW. BA came on replacing Brabs in the 10th over and got a nick first ball straight to Coopy. Raj came on replacing Jemmett and despite being hit for a boundary, induced a top edge, resulting in a swirling skier that was well caught by Hugh. Raj then bowled the perfect delivery, pitched middle hit off for our fifth wicket. Even though we couldn’t get an immediate breakthrough, we were on top at drinks at 5 for 44.

I would have been in chance of an opportunity to come onto bowl at this point, but BA decided to try to close out the match with Jemmett and Brabs. I would have done the same thing as well if I was in his position. It worked. Brabs attempted a yorker which resulted in a full toss that rapped the pads. After consultation with square leg for height, he was given LBW. The fact that the batter was out of his crease, worked into our hands since in the normal position, the ball would have landed around the shins. It was a very good decision.

Brabs nearly had a third had Coopy clung on to a tough sharp chance, but Brabs was not to be denied. The slow ball, quick ball trick outdid the batter who inside edged onto his stumps. Jemmett got an LBW having rapped the pads and then I helped Brabs take his fourth by clinging onto a dolly with a juggle having moved a bit from short cover. For me it was good reward having prowled around during the innings in close and out on the boundary. It was 9 for about 60 odd with Brabs on the verge of a five-wicket haul. He was later to be denied.

That allowed me to finally get a trundle with an opportunity to seal the match. I didn’t bowl too badly but the last pair managed a few swipes much to my frustration. After two overs, of which I conceded a run-a-ball, I was taken off for Raj. Raj started badly by being hit for six as the final pair inched towards the target such that only a shot over the ropes was enough to win. Even though Raj had an appeal turned down which he thought was out, he later got a plumb LBW decision his way. I immediately ran to Raj to embrace him as we were full of glee. We just managed to successfully defend a total of just over three figures by 5 runs.

A curious glance at the scorebook that showed that four batters reaching double figures but no-one topping 16 was indeed brilliant news for me. Not only I had top scored in our dismal innings and in the low scoring match that was played in overcast conditions throughout, I made the only score past 30. I had earlier compiled 33 off 54 balls opening the innings and had been sixth out for 57. That was 57.89% of the runs scored at that point. I had a nervy start initially by playing a very late forward defence to Blight and only in the last minute withdrew my bat to the one that slid across me which could have resulted in a faint edge to the keeper or onto my stumps.

However, when I got off the mark with a cover drive for two, it felt like the shackles had lifted which then enabled me to relax. Next ball, I pulled the first of my four boundaries. Interesting enough, all of my boundaries were from pull shots. Two in front of square leg, two behind square. The other runs were made from checked drives and nudges (with an edge for three) in the gaps with a few drop-and-runs for singles.

As I was feeling comfortable at the crease, it was thereby disappointing for me to get out to a loose shot (described earlier). Not only I got out when the team was in strife with drinks only two overs away, I threw away a great chance to score my second official fifty which could have made the result a bit more comfortable for us. As it turned out, making the only score past 30 in a bowler dominated match was satisfying enough. The key moving forward is to back up this performance by remembering how I batted in this match. I then need to replicate this in training. I also hope that my bowling doesn’t get overlooked and it is up to me to remind my captains of this fact.

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