Par for the course Michelle wasn't particularly happy with me disappearing with the car and leaving her stranded so in order to placate her I helped out with the kids getting their homework done whilst trying to get ready in a discreet manner. I chucked some pasta, cheese and tomatoes down my neck and got away at about 12.20 and raced to the meeting point at Blackshots. There were two teams still hanging around and some swapping going on between the teams and a level of uncertainty about who was going were. That was sorted and I tried to get some idea of where it was we were going but the description 'Erith' was seemingly miles away from where I'd figured out where we were going last night (While under the influence) and I gave up trying to make sense of my mistake and opted to follow 'Swiss' Danny Groves as he had the captain (Neil) in his car and a Satnav.
This strategy went well till we reached the Dartford bridge toll booths and as I was scrambling around trying to find 50p to make up the one pound fifty toll Danny and Neil were disappearing into the depths of Kent at 70mph. I chased after him and couldn't see him anywhere but from last nights un-sober route plotting I knew I was probably going to have to turn right into Dartford and head west and I'd then see if I'd see any signs for Erith.
Twenty five minutes later and getting very close to Blackwall tunnel I thought that perhaps I'd gone too far and now might be a good idea for a phone call. The call was made to Neil and the name of road near the pitch was located on my old 1988 London road map and sure enough I'd over-shot by about 20 miles. 20 minutes later and having stopped to ask some clueless locals I eventually arrived late and flustered. I dashed into the changing room having parked my car directly in the way of any ball hit well towards Long On, got changed and run straight out onto the pitch to be told to get back and wait till the end of the over. Them someone on the batting team sounded as though they'd shouted 'Over' and I marched back out again to be told again to get back. This wasn't looking good. Eventually the over did end and I then took up the wrong fielding position not realising everyone was in the process of changing ends and I'd gone to the position for the previous over.
It then went from bad to worse. The first ball that came my way I went after it and slipped as I tried to accelerate after it and then I reaslised that I was still wearing trainers (Albeit the classic Adidas Samba's) so now I looked like a Decoy player! This happened several times and I began to get the feeling the batsmen were hitting towards me because I was slipping all over the place. Because of the trainers I missed a few gettable balls so that compounded my sense of I'd have been better off having turned round and going home! I asked Neil towards the 20th over whether I should go and get changed into my spikes, he either ignored me or didn't hear me and I waited in anticipation for the drinks break and then it came and I dashed off and got my spikes on at last. Then the transformation occured.......
So after an inauspicious start the drinks came out at the 20th or 22nd over and I was able to run back to the changing room and get my spikes on and the transformation was made from the awkward looking decoy to the Clarrie Grimmett impersonator (I've not yet got myself a formal shirt and cap yet) that I aspire to. As I walked across the pitch puttin my pullover on and doing my laces up Neil said 'You're bowling from that end Dave next over'. I'd already ascertained that there wasn't any wind and you could see that from the fact that the big black ominous cloud over-head was just sitting there threatening but not moving.
Neil went through his first over quickly as he does and then it was my turn. Today was quite different to my normal pre-match build up, as I'd have bowled several times during the week and certainly had a couple of hours on Saturday. Then usually on arrival at the pitch I'd have thrown the ball back and forth as I did last week to one of the bowlers if they're up for it or at least a batsman (Usually Lee). None of this had happened this week and this was the first time I'd bowled the ball in anger since last Sundays match when I'd bowled my best ever spell. Mid - week after throwing the ball with my kids I'd had a small twinge in the arm and had intended on not bowling in this game, but now Neil had asked I couldn't contain myself and said yes under the premise that if the arm did play up I would stop. Unlike last week this week I had it strapped up so there was a bit of support there which might help?
I caught the ball and had a look at it, one side was still shiny despite there not being any obvious attempts at anyone shining the ball and Lovejoy had mentioned this earlier in the game. I gave it a quick rub and looked at it - it appeared to be one of those smaller Mickey Mouse balls - not one of the reall big jobs that I call real cricket balls. these smaller balls I actually prefer so it was a good start. My first over was horrendous, too long, too short, wide, down the legside all over the shop. Mason who's only ever seem me bowl in the nets said something to Neil along the lines of 'Neil shall I go down there and stand in that housing estate'? Neil put him out somewhere in the deep. Some of the offside balls were hit over or past cover with ease going to 4's. The legside ball that was not only legside but slow was hit right out of the middle of the bat with full force to Lovejoy down at backward square leg. The ball came off the bat so fast the best he could manage being so close was to get his hands in the way to stop it from hitting him in the ribs, neck or face, I turned away it was too horrible to watch because the bloke and really got onto it and when I looked again he's stopped it and was returning it but it looked as though he hurt himself. I was glad to see the back of that over. The last ball had been okay and I felt that perhaps I'd got my length and line right, but I was still pondering whether because of my arm I should quit now rather than go on and bowl a spell of pies and have Neil take me off after 3 or 4 overs or sooner.
The first over had gone for 12........1; 4;4;1,2 and a dot ball to finish off with. Neils next over went for 3 and the ball came back to me I could sense that everyone was thinking this is the game potentially slipping away from us here now that I had the ball again. Most of the people playing hadn't seen me bowl the week before and even if they did they probably thought it was a fluke or that the team last week were a weak batting side. This weeks team were doing okay at this point and I was bowling against Crickmore who was moving towards his 50 and one of the earlier players D.Thomas had reached 53 before being caught by Lee our wicket keeper so as a batting set up they were looking a lot stronger than last weeks mob who I wasn't able to penetrate so it was looking a bit grim.
My second over was a big improvement on the previous 0;2;Wide;1;1;1;0. The leg breaks despite concerns about my arm were turning a bit and just enough to beat the bat. At one point there was one big bloke that looked to be getting the better of me, it appeared that he was standing forward then as I bowled he was stepping back and watching where the ball was going, so realizing this I decided to change tactics and adopt a new strategy and bowl Top Spinners that hopefully would appear to be full tosses which then would drop at his feet. I didn’t get a chance as he was dismissed by Neil in his over. But it does show that I’m thinking about what I’m doing and reacting to the situation which is essential and shows that I’m learning bit by bit. It appeared the ball that was causing the most concern was the Leg Breaks as after the first over I got them pretty accurate and was getting them in areas that the batsmen were having problems with. I was probably the most accurate that I’ve ever been and this went on to get results and I could see that it was causing the batsmen real concern.
Neils next over went for 4 x dots a four and a single with me stopping an awkward ball at square leg that landed in front of my dive then turned with the spin forcing me to change direction with my hands and catch it one handed. Neil took the mick saying that I'd over dramatised the catch! My 3rd over came - It was at this point that my achilles heel came into action - asking the the umpire 'How's that'! I bowled a lovely Warnesque 2 finger Flipper which skidded through so much faster and hit the bloke plumb LBW and I turned to the umpire and quietly asked - 'Isn't that out'? He shook his head and Neil was just pissing himself laughing with Lee 'Dave you have to ask the umpire - you don't do it like that'! The over went on........ dot ball, no ball which was given for height yet I was only bowling at 30 mph and it was head height, the bowling umpire told the square leg umpire that it wasn't a no ball but it was too late it went as a no ball. The next ball was given as a dot ball and again was another plumb LBW off another faster skiddy Flipper and this time I shouted 'How's that'! somewhat louder but this time looking at Neil! 'Oh Dave - the umpire not me! What am I going to do tell him he's out - tell the Umpire'! Again pissing himself laughing. It's obviously something I need to work on but that aside everyone was now realising I did have some potential and were getting behind me telling me to pitch it up and get it into the rough. The next ball went to Crickmore - he came down the wicket for it and hit it for a big four out to the long boundary over Chirpy at extra cover. Seeing what he was doing and the fact that he was now giving it 'The biggun' and looking for his 50 I thought I'd throw up a Top-Spinner which would drop shorter and rush on and maybe cause a mis-hit. Sure enough he went for a big swing and the ball came off the edge of the bat going up and behind him in a big arc to land in Lees gloves caught behind. So that was my first wicket of the season. Neil had another good tight over with his bowling which is so much more different than mine, he's a lot faster so the difference between the two types must be pretty unsettling? (Grimmett and O'reilly)?
The 4th over continued in the same vein as the earlier - each over was now improving and this one took me to my best match performance ever with dot ball, wicket, 3 singles and a dot ball. Taking me to 2 for 24. Neil then superceded my bowling by taking a wicket maiden, all the boys were getting excited we'd cleaned up 3 wickets in 5 overs and now everyone was on side - people were shouting 'Show em your variety' and 'Pitch it up there in the dirt'. The next over was a Wicket Maiden and I was now blasting my own personal best into history with my newly acquired Leg breaks and this was with a bad arm which was still not showing any signs of pain. Neil had another good over only going to 2 and then I stepped up noticing now that these blokes were under pressure, my next over was another wicket maiden with everyone cheering and congratulating me. Neils next went for 5 and mine went for 5 dot balls and a three. In amongst all that there was another couple of chances off the Leg Breaks which were turning a little bit (and this is my 3rd finger Leg Break which is the the one that turns the least), the other varieties The Cocked wrist type and the The big Flick Leg Break I wasn't bowling because of the arm injury. But nevertheless these little Leg Breaks bowled at the off stump turned well and one of the bats poked at it with a defensive drive and that found the edge, Lee made a valiant effort with a big dive trying to get across to it and almost got his gloves round it but it just spun out of the top of the glove. Another leg break was mis-hit and ballooned up to extra cover but slightly too far and Chirpy made a massive effort to get to it leaping and just getting to it and almost catching it for it to go down. So all in all with the stupid situation with the LBW's and the few chances that went amiss I did pretty well. Well - very well I suppose posting my best ever performance by a mile!
The bowling fun didn't stop there. Neil had lost count of my overs and after the 4th wicket in the 6th over he was egging me on to get a fivefor which traditionally at the club means you have to buy a Jug or something and drink ghastly concotions (See pic's from last week). There was some banter about me being a clubman rather than a peripheral member, but at nearly 50 years old they've missed my days of doing that kind of stuff, so I was trying to make it clear that I wouldn't be getting involved in such malarky no matter how much cajoling and piss taking might go on. For the last overs Love Joy was brought back to chuck some of his fast stuff down. Mason was champing at the bit to get an over in - that would have been interesting because he bowls at very fast speeds but Neil wasn't having any of it. Don't know why that decision was made -maybe it's because he's a 1st team player and it wouldn't have been cricket to let him loose on a couple of young tail-ender kids at that speed? So Danny Groves was brought on amidst cheering and piss taking to finish the game off. Danny isn't a regular bowler but bowls okay in the nets, he bowls straight at the stumps at a medium pace kind of speed. Danny's first ball was a wicket - bowled and caught. The 2nd ball was a dot ball and the 3rd was caught by Buckers (Chris) off a top edge that went up in the air in slow motion.
Neil let me lead the team off the pitch at the end the innings with everyone clapping me and saying well done mate good spell.
Another thing that was worth a mention was some argy bargy going on between Super Dave and Neil. Super Dave as far as I was aware hadn't been playing very much if at all recently after smashing his ankle in a match ( think he stuck his foot out to stop a ball off his bowling)? So this match may have been one of his first back and there seemed to be some friction between the 2 of them. It looked like there was digs going back and forth between the two of them and this spilled over onto the pitch. Dave was put right out on the boundary at Deep Square Leg and Deep backward point whereas he's usually in the thick of the action sharing normally friendly banter with Neil. During one of Neils over one of the bats hit a ball that went straight out to Dave requiring if anything a few steps back or a bit of a jump but instead he stretched up and palmed it off behind him and it nearly ran off for a four and then Dave casually sauntered after the ball. Later he said in the bar.....
'Do you think I was going to get him a wicket? No I just palmed it over my head and let him take get some runs, I just took it easy I wanted the bats to run four'.
As we all walked off the pitch Neil was scheming his revenge 'Right Mason - you're opening with Dave and whatever you do make sure you run him out'.
We all made our way into the bar for teas and a bit of cricket on the tele and more congratulations for me. So I wondert - is this an indication of stuff yet to come or is it a fluke? I'm being cautious and not saying anything and erring to the side of caution and saying I was lucky. But there's a few things to keep in mind here.
1. I've not bowled all week.
2. I'm keeping it very basic, primarily the 3rd finger Leg Breaks. I bowled some Flippers which all came out fairly well with the exception of one that was short, the Flippers were the balls that got the LBW's so I reckon I should keep them in mind and they're a lot faster too. The Top-Spinners I'm still having a bit of trouble with because of the arm and I bowled 3 of those. But I could see that there was real potential for a good Wrong Un but again because of the arm I only bowled one which went very wide but then turned in a bit which the umpire who was a spinner as well commended because of it's turn, I thought it was crap!
3. Once the arm is better and I can get the big turning Leg Break - how much difference will that make I wonder?
4. My accuracy was very good after that first over.
The weird thing is the fact that I'm not practicing - so maybe there's something in the fact that I may be practicing too much? At the moment I've still got the arm in one of those tight bandage things and I'll continue to rest it for the rest of the week and see how I get on next week without any practice in between. If the arm holds up in the game I may look at trying the 'Cocked wrist leg break' which before the arm got knackered was a very promising looking delivery with loads of turn and dip.
During Teas Neil had written up a batting order and sure enough Super Dave was on their to open with Mason but he refused to open and Mason was joined with Lee Downes. Lee went cheaply to a push out to (Mid Wicket)? Super Daves position was moved further and further up the order as Neil requested with each fall of wicket that he get padded up he just sat behind us all in a Graveyard area on a memorial bench with his head in his hands. Initially we kept a run rate that was just ticking along behind there's they'd started with a flurry in their first 4 or 5 overs but by the 5th over our bats had settled down and were turning over a run rate of about 5 an over. By the time we reached our 100 we were 10 or so runs behind the figure that they had posted and then they brought on thier lone spinner. Their bowling at this point had been quite good it seemed - quicks and all of them were fairly accurate. There'd been some digs it seems between Mason and their mouthy wicket keeper with Mason leaving the pitch calling the bloke all sorts of names under his breath. The spinner seemed to get the better of the bats for a while and our run rate diminished
The batting I'll have to skim over because I always get sent out to umpire and besides I'm a bowler. But the star of the match has to be Monkey AKA Andrew Hills who I always thought was a batsman rather than a bowler - maybe he's an all-rounder but his score in this match was an impressive 81 which apparently blasted his previous best score by a long way. This 81 took him the best part of 3 hours during which time he had partnerships with Mason who scored 40 and Buckers who scored a good 24.
We were helped by Mr Wide and Mr Noball and few extras adding 24 to our 176 scored off the bat. I did well with wides and no-balls with only one wide and the no-ball that shouldn't have been. Fortunately and Neil pointed this out in the match the Umpire was a spinner too and he probably let me off the hook with my one attempt at a Wrong Un that was pitched massively wide but then turned in well. He commented from behind me 'That turned big' but I still thought it was a wide and it really was as it went no-where near where it was intended, so I reckon he was generous with that one. Neil also said that in the match next he may have someone stand behind me for the main umpires job and see if I'm up to it. But it's situations like that wide - if the bat swings at it, do you then give it as a wide still? Because in that instance the bat did have a go at it and hit it?
So there you go - my best performance to date. Neil had said during the match - 'You know Dave people don't know what to make of your bowling and when you bowled that first over I was looking around and people had their heads in their hands not knowing what was going on but then you got your line and length and you were away - good bowling mate, I'm just gutted that I screwed up your overs as you had one left I wanted to see you get a fivefor, as you had it in you to a fivefor - but I thought you'd had your allocation - sorry mate'.
I just hope that I can do the same next week or better. Also I want to have a bowl before the game and get all my line and length sorted so that I go straight into the bowling keeping my figures down. Interestingly in the other match one of the Colts was playing Callum White (I think that's his name) and he bowled something ridiculous like 5 for 4 runs! I think one of the key things that helps with this lark is the confidence that you can do it and that's only going to come with practice, but I've now got this contradictory aspect of the fact that I'm bowling my best ever off the back of not practicing? elsewhere though I've said before that it does seem that you can do something so often you get into a rut and don't progress and then if you come away from it for a short while you do so with a freshness that seemingly gets thwarted by continuous practice.