Thursday, April 10, 2014

What the hell!

What the hell? It was only yesterday, last night in fact I was saying that I was going to give up on my search for drift, because it seems because of my high arm action it just doesn't happen for me. Then today I go out and have a bowl over at the paddock and lo and behold 80% of the balls I bowl drift like crazy! What the hell is that all about?

In fact I think I know, it kind of makes sense, but again it's down to one of those situations where it just takes me an age to learn, because I'm so intent on doing it my way rather than take on board everything I know and tell other people to do! Here's the explanation...

I think this is one of the Old dogs and new tricks scenarios. I bowl in a way that kind of feels right and feels comfortable and for the most part it works for me. Every season I try out different things and generally small aspects of my bowling improve. At the end of last season I was doing okay I'd worked out a run-up that I was happy with and I'd changed my grip to a ridiculously loose one and things were coming together, but one of the things that wasn't happening was drift.

At the end of the season and only yesterday a bloke on the bigcricket spin threads said that I shouldn't be too fussed on the drift thing and just play to my strengths and work with what I've got, and that was how I was going to approach the new season. But already in the last two days I've been thinking about my run up and the approach to the crease because I've got two kind of versions...

1. The faster longer more explosive version which at the moment works well when I combine Flippers with Top-Spinners.

2. A shorter version that works well with leg breaks and top spinners, but so far hasn't felt right, I know I'm not getting side-on and I know I don't get up on the toes and trying to do so feels like a complete mess.

So today I'm having a bowl in the paddock with my 12 year old son (Joe) and it's not going too well.

"Dad, your bowling action through the crease is crap, you're not getting side on, you're not getting up on your toes and you're bowling front on... and your bound is crap". So I say
"Okay I'll try and get side on and up on the toes then and see how it goes"? I do a few run-ins without a ball and it feels weird and wrong. I persevere and it still feels wrong, but what's supposed to be happening is happening. I get a ball and try with a ball. The ball is released and lo and behold it looks like it drifts. Joe's at the other end...
"Did that drift"?
"Yeah loads" And it turned off the crease loads. Next ball up - same thing and again and again. For the next 40 or so balls 80% of them drifted with masses of turn off the wicket!
I can only think that it's the side on and getting up on the toes aspect and the fact that someone was there watching and telling me that I was doing it wrong - even though he is only 12 years old!!!
Can't say that I believe it'll happen again tomorrow, but in theory if it's the side on and up on the toes that makes the difference, then I'm going to have to work with it - although it feels awkward and difficult. I guess if I go out every day and just keep bowling in that way - getting side on and up on the toes it may start to feel natural? I think in the past I've tried this and have given up simply because it feels wrong and I've lost my accuracy.
Paddock maintenance
The council cut all the grass today in the paddock and I had a word with the bloke cutting the grass asking him if he'd try and avoid the bits we've seeded and sure enough he did. That then meant I've been able to get on there this morning and cut the back end of the strip at the bowlers end...

(Above looking from the bowlers end).
 (Above) My trusty Ransome Ajax mower circa 1970's

 (Above) From the batting end with the area that's being seeded and repaired.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

First session in the paddock

Before the bowling sessions described below, Joe and I had a bit of practice with some throw downs. I was getting Joe to hit the ball on the off-side hitting cover-drives. It went quite well - in fact he was a lot better than I was!
The wicket in the paddock at the minute is still fairly wet, not wet enough to roll that well, but fairly okay. For the moment we're leaving the grass quite long when we cut it and I'm trying to allow for the repairs to grow on the wicket and in an area behind the stumps.

Gibbs reflective practice in sport (cricket) it worked!

A couple of hours later after writing up my Gibbs reflective practice thing I went out with my action plan and bowled again, putting some of the action plan points into action.

1. I used the big heavy duty rubber mat at the bowling end to have a good solid base to bowl off meaning I felt secure under-foot.

2. I introduced a longish run up for me, probably 9 or 10 steps and came in off a fairly quick run in.

3. Tried to get side on as much as possible out of an energetic bound.

4. Used a very loose grip and bowled with my top-spinner action.

5. Tried a mixture of flippers, leg breaks and Top-Spinners.

Massive improvement, hit the stumps loads, got swing with the flippers and was able to vary the leg breaks by moving the wrist position giving me 3 leg-break variations...

  • Hardly any turn with more dip.
  • Normal stock delivery
  • Bigger leg break
Add to that a flipper that I vary in speed with the faster version swinging into the stumps from outside of off.

So all in all a very good follow up session after the poor one earlier on.

New season bowling progress using Gibbs reflective practice model

What Happened?

In the nets in the last couple of sessions I've been doing okay, but today I had a 48 ball session over at the paddock and that didn't go so well. Joe and me had a bowl off and Joe hit the stumps more times than I did and a lot of my balls were very wide down the legside. Again I've got that situation with how do I bowl, what should I work on and should I look to correct thing that people observe?

My own observations, coupled with Joe's, lead me to believe that I'm doing a few things wrong. Joe's observation was that my approach and bound isn't at all dynamic and he recommends I get more of a bound going. I'm inclined to agree with him to some extent so will work on that.


It's kind of depressing that I feel that I've found myself having seemingly gone several steps backwards. Again I'm in that situation where I feel that I need to learn something that I could already do or is it just the case that I'm unfit and a year older and I've got that sense that at some point things will go permanently wrong with no chance of ever recovering. So I don't feel particularly optimistic or positive at this point. I'm hoping that if I bowl regularly this week things will come together if I manage to keep the right frame of mind and work on some aspect of my action that I know should in theory cause improvements.


The good thing is the weather is fine and I should be able to get out every day now for the next 2 weeks and bowl regularly and I'll also be doing generally fitness activities with my younger son Joe. That latter end of the 2 weeks I'll also get the chance to bowl against people I don't know and I'll be able to judge whether there's any improvements.

Bad - todays bowling was poor, but a part of me thinks that might be down to the fact that the ground I'm bowling off is very uneven and distracts me somewhat.


Last year someone made the valid point that I bowl with very upright action as opposed to most wrist spinners who bowl with a low action. They also said that this might be one of the factors that makes it very difficult to get the ball to drift. They added that, this shouldn't necessarily be seen as an issue, but, rather than bowl looking to get loads of turn off the wicket, make use of the action and bowl with a good stock ball action and a smaller leg break with more over-spin and dip. Add to this a Top-Spinner with the propensity to be a wrong-un and I've potentially got a half decent armoury.

I know that getting side on is going to make a significant difference and getting up on the toes at the top of the delivery, so these are obvious things to work on, a more dynamic bound might be an option too, maybe also a longer run up.

My grip I'm okay with... ridiculously loose and I know this works because the ball comes out of the hand and rips off the finger causing abrasion to the spinning finger.

I think the use of a big rubber mat at the bowling end will work as it'll make me feel more secure in the bowling action.


More general fitness and safer more level area at the bowling end will improve most aspects.

Action Plan

Work with the more dynamic run-up, get side on out of the bound, make the bound more dynamic and work with the leg break, top-spinner and flipper and get them all working well.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

El Capitano's diary 003

Concerned about the inevitable scoring situation this season, I've been watching IPL matches on Youtube and trying to score as they play. Bit by bit I'm getting it, but tonight even though I thought I'd done quite well, I was still 8 out (short) when I tallied up the bowling and the extras with the accumulative score. Which is of some concern to me. Maths and numbers isn't a strong point with me, so getting it wrong just makes me feel pressurised and sets up a scenario where it could become very wrong. More practice me thinks, but how many IPL matches can I watch!!!

El Capitano's diary No. 002

Some good news around one of the things I was concerned about... First aid. I've just been invited to do a first aid course on April 22nd between 7pm and 10pm, so I'll go along to that and get myself a certificate. At least I'll be able to get an opportunity to ask questions around the subject and get some clarification as to the do's and don'ts.

Monday, April 07, 2014

El Capitano's diary No. 001

Over the winter at our club it seems that we've lost somewhere in the region of 20 players. Some have bailed out because of age/fitness related reasons I guess and others because of work related issues. The outcome initially, was that they'd not have a 4th XI, but there was a bit of an outcry seemingly from those that were 4th XI players, a lot of whom were U15's and U16's and their parents. The reaction seems to have surprised the "inner circle"  within the club, who may have been unaware of the strength of support from the lower echelons of the club?

Over the last few years it does seem to me that the current batch of kids in the 14-16 age group are a relatively committed to the club and if you list these people on their own they constitute a potential 4th XI on their own in terms of numbers. Last year there were loads of kids that wanted a chance to play in the U15's and 4th XI that didn't get that chance and now their time has come. The club chairman has written an email that in essence says that no-one can afford to be precious about what team they play in this year and if they're asked to play in a team that normally they'd be reluctant to, they must comply to the request for the good of the club.... It's not what the club can do for you... it's what you can do for the club, kind of thing.

Earlier in the year one of the good younger players James Bunce was voted in as the 4th XI captain, but he's had to step down due to work commitments leaving the position empty. This and the loss of the 20 or so players led to the situation where they considered not having a 4th XI and one of the key issues was that of the captaincy. I was then petitioned by a few senior people within the club to take up the role in order to ensure the team was fielded this year, primarily to keep all the youth players on board. So kind of reluctantly, because I am totally clueless, but wanting to keep all the kids on board I've said yes. I've got loads of concerns and have voiced some of these and so far the support I've had would suggest that the majority of my concerns will be met at the time with viable solutions. So, fingers crossed when the games are played everything will come together.

They have said though that they're still not 100% certain that things will pan out in the right way and that if after 3 or 4 matches things are not coming together they'll then consider pulling the 4th XI.


The first game is still a month away and will be an easy start with an inter-club match with the 3rd XI. Hopefully that'll go better than last year where only about 14 of us turned up. If that gets off to a better start this year I'll kind of feel like I have got the support of the club and team. My main concerns at this point is that I'll always have enough adults in the side that can do things such as score and umpire. As I'm relatively new to cricket these are still things that I'm not 100% up to-date on and I'm researching and working on between now and the first proper game with Billericay on the 10th May. But again I've been re-assured that the committee will always ensure I've got a couple of good adults in the team to ensure there are no mishaps with this aspect.

More to come no doubt as the day gets ever nearer and I get more concerned...

Paddock Update
Paddock news

On our estate we've now got an active body of people that are campaigning to improve the estate and the facilities and they're aware of my activities in the paddock and may even be looking in on the blog for all I know. I know that during one of the preparation sessions over there in either Feb or May one of the local residents who is a part of the group asked me what I was up to and then said that she'd heard of me via the committee. There is talk that the Paddock is on there agenda and there may be money to improve the space. One of the things that they wanted to hear was the fact that the boys that are introduced to cricket in the paddock go on to then play cricket at school and at our local club. On that same theme, I've noticed this year at nets, that two more kids had joined the club via being introduced to cricket through the paddock and our cricketing activities in our street... 'Bob' Dylan Robinson and his little brother Keagan Robinson. Hopefully they'll be around for a long time and will become regular players and go on to play adult cricket!

In the meantime Joe and I definitely plan to have a knock about on the paddock and I would imagine that Ben will join us every now and then and therefore we need to get the strip in shape.

At the end of the season in late October the batting end was a mess, all the grass was worn away with very little in the way of any chance of new grass growing that well because of the shade from the trees and one particular wild rose bush that grew over and through the fence. I tried to flatten the surface and sewed a lot of seed, putting feed down as well and it did take quite well. Very early this year at the end of Feb I've sewn more seed and this has taken too.

Over winter we had a lot of rain in the UK and this was accompanied by wind and the big tree that you can see in the images above at the batting end lost some big branches. You can see in some of the images the branches at the end of the pitch.

This first set of image was shot on Feb 22nd after some seed was put down as I recall as well as some more nutrients.

The next series of images below were shot on March 8th and this is the first day that we'd got the roller out and given it a going over while it was still wet and soggy. You can see in the image below we'd moved the fallen branches, I'd also removed all the brambles and bushes that had started to grow up the fence on the left in the image below - as you can see these branches cast a long shadow across the grass.
 You can see here in this images the new growth of grass at the batting end, it's greener due to the nutrients that have been put down, without the nutrients the grass gets off to a good start and the goes yellow and much of it dies. The extra expense of the nutrients is well worth it and the growth is much thicker and doesn't die back.

 Me and Joe putting our backs into rolling the wicket.

 The first rolling completed.
The following weekend (Below) we had more good weather and more work was down - Joe and me again. The work was done over the weekend and we made a start on cutting back some of the bushes that grow through and over the fences. With the new growth grass going well we decided that we'd have the stumps right back against the fence this year meaning that the new growth grass would be in front of the popping crease zone and therefore not stood on this summer giving it a real chance to recover.

The grass got it's first cut and I raked out a lot of the remaining autumn leaves. More seed was put down in any patches left bare by the leaves and the area revealed as bare by the raking.

 The seed was mixed in with sieved clay and some of the nutrient stuff (Bone meal and fish of some sort). This was then put in the patches and rolled lightly.

The following weekend we didn't do any more work on the grass and instead focused on getting more light onto the grass and cut back the last of the brambles on the south facing fence along the rode-side. The area of concern now was the fence behind Joe in this image above (Batting end). We'd already decided that the popping crease was going to be right up against the fence which is an area of grass that gets no light on at all for much of the day due to the over-hanging tree and bush to the left of Joe in this image. So the first week of April we cut that back taking the opportunity to maximise on the additional light provided by the loss of the big branches blown down over the winter.
This weekend and today 7th April - below... We've had rain and the prediction over the Easter break is for intermittent rain - ideal grass growing weather. So today, the really rough bit which we were going to designate as the popping crease area I decided we'd go for it and level it off and even get some seed down and see if we can get some growth going this summer because of the light that now gets on it.
So Saturday we mowed the grass extending the length of the wicket bit by bit and today we've rolled it again. In the rain we introduced some more clay and then seeded it using the same mix of clay and nutrients. So at the moment it looks like this...

So that's where we're at for the moment and it's coming together okay and looking quite promising. What we'll probably do is use a big rubber mat of the type used in play grounds to bat on so that the new grass is allowed to get growing. We'll have to see how it goes, but with the current weather hopefully by May we'll have a good new growth of grass where grass has never been able to grow before!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Net session No.2 - Gibbs Reflective Practice
A couple of nights ago we had the 2nd net session of the season at Woodlands school and it went okay, not a massive turnout with regards the adults, but a new bloke turned up who looked a bit handy.

 What happened? Considering some of the things I discussed in the last Gibbs reflection, I didn’t really look to change much this week. One of the obvious things that needed work was my general fitness, and over the last few days I’ve been out running and done some cardio work and upper-body work as well. Last week I didn’t recover till Monday morning, but this week I’ve recovered much faster and didn’t feel anywhere near as knackered. As I recall the other thing I said I’d be doing is just bowl and feel right bowling rather than do a macro focus on one or more aspects. There are issues, but at the moment I’m still not looking to address them and get too hung up on them.

 I changed nets frequently and bowled at people who generally deal with my bowling easily and didn’t really gain anything from the experience other than reinforcing the notion that (1). I need to be accurate with regards length and (2). I need to spin it hard and vary the angle of the seam to create leg break sub-variations (Big Leg Breaks and little leg breaks).

 Feelings: (What were you thinking and feeling)? Again relatively happy as I’m recognising that I’m able to increase the amount of spin and the angle the ball spins at and this looks very promising in the longer term and it looks as though I’m progressively recovering my Top-Spinner which has been defunct for some time now.

 Evaluation (What was good and bad)? Good things were the fact that I went across to the 1st and 2nd team nets and bowled at the new bloke and got him with the first ball – edged it to slips for an easy take. I also bowled out my older son Ben 3 times in a row (hit the stumps all three times), although I don’t want to gloat about that too much as he was feeling good about his batting last week.

 Bad stuff, others… Sonny Downes and Tom Hardy both dealt with me fairly easily, although the slightly more top-spun version of my leg break (Straighter ball) had Tom in trouble a bit as his main tactic is to come down the wicket and the extra dip for him caused him problems.

 Analysis (What can you make of the situation)? Keep things going as they are, keep going with the fitness and bring on this Top-Spinner and maybe gradually look to mix with a loopy Flipper. The top-spinner which I’m working with using a windball looks pretty good and I think it’s converting okay to the real cricket ball with very little problems so far. I’m also noticing that with very little effort now I’m producing a ball that turns more and so it looks as though I’ll have a leg break with two other variations.

 Conclusion (What else could I have done)? Not sure really – I’m quite happy with what I’m doing, maybe start to think a little more about getting side on out of the bound, I am doing it a little, but as I said I don’t really want to be getting too bogged down with it. Maybe I’ll give it some though this coming week?

 Action Plan (Next week – what will I do)? Flipper, Top Spinner and stock ball – get sideways out of the bound with the stock leg break. Or is that too much? Yeah… too much. I’ll focus on the Top-Spinner mixing with the stock ball I reckon and see how that goes?
General Stuff

 Tonight in the earlier part of the session (u13’s) we were joined by a group of lads from the school. Reason being is that one of the 1st/2nd team players is a PE teacher over there as far as I can make out and he’s obviously been doing a bit of cricket with them and had invited them along. The lads that turned up were in Joe’s age group U13’s. The intention I believe is that these lads attend the rest of the sessions and then join the team at the start of the season and become members?

 There was also talk around the idea that John (PE teacher) would also encourage the U15’s to get involved too, so maybe next week we’ll see an influx of boys from that age group? All of which puts pressure on the current established boys with regards their positions within the teams! Looking at that situation last week, it did look as though that situation was already looking a little competitive already between the lads already in the team. Whilst it’s obviously good for the club – new players, more income, potentially better vibe, possible improved overall team performance – the selectors have more choice, etc. The individuals who are then displaced – perhaps at important points in the season (Ben in the final at Benfleet against Orsett a couple of years ago can leave some people aggrieved)? I know there are already people who feel that their kids were over-looked last year, but the fact that is how it’s going to be, there’s never any easy way round it and the situation is universal throughout cricket. It virtually comes down to the fact that if you want a regular game, you have two options…

  •  You clearly (Statistically) need to be one of the top 4 Batsmen.
  • You clearly need to be one of the top 4 bowlers.
    Next best thing is be a good wicket keeper or all-rounder. Other important aspects seem to be – you can use nets as an opportunity to show your prowess, some people don’t show up at nets, but the coaches, selectors and team captains do and they’re forever watching and making mental notes about each individual’s performance (You’d hope)? So, if you can, put the effort in, turn up at nets, show you’re willing to learn and look to show some improvement in some aspect of your game, you’re only going to increase the chances of being selected?

 In that respect, both Ben and Kieran did okay last night and I’m sure Frank Farrington did the same in his net, although I didn’t see a lot of his bowling. Kieran, in particular looked very promising albeit needing a little more tweaking, his bowling looked fast… deceptively fast and with virtually no bounce even though he was bowling ridiculously short, if he could get some more practice in and bowl a lot fuller outside of the off-stump a little or right on the toes – kind of Yorker length balls I reckon he’d do well. I didn’t see him swing it, but in recent years he’s got the ball to swing as well, so if he gets that back and practices enough to control it, I reckon he could be really good like he was a couple of seasons back.

 Ben did well too and they moved him over into the adults nets to see how he’d get on with the better batsmen, so that’s a good start for him, he came back and said he’d done okay. It would be good to see him try and swing the ball as well rather than just bowling it so that it did something off the seam, although he does have a pretty good off-cutter.

 I’m not even sure Ben or Kieran think about the game in the same way, and I’m obvious this is a parent perspective more than an issue that affects the kids that much. I know from Ben’s perspective, he’d be far more inclined to play 4th XI adult cricket, so I’m not sure whether he’d be that bothered to be honest? I suppose, we’ll have to see how it goes and see if he perceives the influx of potential new lads as a threat to him playing in every available game?
One person who turned up this week from the U15's who wasn't there last week was Tim and he had a good night taking some scalps with his bowling, he'd bowled well in the 4th XI last year and tonight 'Boom Messi in a pack'! He bowls Sonny Downes out with one of his very own 'Tadpole balls'!!! Go Tim!!!

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Spin Bowling Workshop (Essex).

One of the people that has helped me a lot over the years has been Liz Ward, and she’s contacted me recently with regards the potential of spin workshop…

Hi Dave,

I have been speaking to a coach [ex-Zimbabwe International] who would like to put on a spin workshop.  Are you still interested, if so what would you like covered? Would you know of anybody else interested to attend?

It would be great if you could ask whether anybody else would be interested and if so, what they would like.

 As far as costs, I guess it would have to cover venue so the more, the cheaper!

The soonest this can happen would be late spring.  It will be in Essex but open to where; obviously, the further you have to travel, the less the cost as you would not have to pay for the coaches travel.

Let me know what you think and come up with.

Kindest regards,

 If you’re interested go to this link here, register and contact me either through the forum or PM me via the forum. If you know me to speak to – obviously contact me direct.

Paddock update

Over the last week since putting the 2nd batch of seed down in the paddock and feeding it with nutrients, the weather has been relatively fine. Trees are coming out in blossom, crocuses are out and here and there a few Daffodils are appearing, so spring is on its way. I had a quick look at the paddock on Friday afternoon and it is still very damp and muddy. There’s no sign of any of the seeds germinating yet and I expect it’ll be another week or so yet before any of the shoots appear.

 I think last week I may have mentioned that when I’ve put seed down in the past it always looks as though it hasn’t taken that well and without any additional nutrients being put down, it starts to struggle after an initial promising burst into life. The council have put seed down in the goal-mouths in the paddock and their grass looked a lot better than mine (The stuff put down in October). But on Friday when I had a look my grass has burst back into life again and the council grass is now suffering. My grass got some feed last week and it’s kicked into action already and the October grass is starting to look healthy.

 I’ve not put down any additional seed this week, but next weekend I’ll probably get some put down and I’ll also consider rolling it if it’s not soaked.

Gibbs Reflective Practice in Cricket (Net Session)

Gibbs Reflective Practice in cricket (Net Session)

 What Happened –

 The evening was divided into 2 periods - Under 13’s from 7pm – 8.15. U16’s and Adults in the later session 8.30 – 10.00. Joe, my younger son who’s 13 was in the first session with Harry and I went along to help out watch and get involved as much as possible.

 “G-Man” AKA Graham Davies was on hand to run the session and as usual did a very good job of it again. They were a kid short so I joined in and was put through the same drills along with the kids, in this session the kids are all around 10-13 year olds. We did a few warm up drills which were cricket specific and then moved on to drills that were about agility, catching and making quick decisions. By the end of that phase, what with doing low ‘Slip catches’ my thigh muscles were beginning to feel the burn. We then had a game of “Lords cricket”, which looked like “Kwik Cricket” to me. That was fun and then that took us to the end of the session.

 I then had to take Joe and Harry home and collect my older son (15) Ben and bring him back in the car for the adults session. At this point I was already feeling knackered and I still had another hour to go and all this at the end of a long week! I’d got home early today and if it hadn’t been for my neighbour accosting me I’d have had a nap – I was that exhausted!

 Once back, the 4 nets were divided up into 2 groups – adults in 2, U16’s in the others. I was chucked into the deep end with Mike Blerkom putting me into bat first in the secondary net (Non 1st team players). I had Mike bowling at me, a new bloke and Frank Farringtons Dad Mark. What with it being the first net of the session it went okay.

 Ben was in the U16’s net and I didn’t really get to see how he did.

 Feelings – (What were you thinking or feeling)

 The session was at the new facility at Woodlands school which had been sold as state of art facilities and somewhere along the way I’d somehow heard that the nets were electric and I think I may have been hoping that the floor was going to be like the floor at the Essex County ground which is sprung and cushioned with a soft surface. It wasn’t. Yes, the floor was sprung, but the surface was shiny wood. The bowling surface was your usual ‘Nets’ matting, so it was a pretty basic and only ran half way down the wicket length, but more than adequate. So, it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I was hoping for, but at the same time I kind of was expecting it to be over-sold as is everything these days, what with embracing of that cultural aspect of America ‘Bigging things up’. I’d much prefer the more honest British approach of ‘Yeah – it’s alright… it’s indoors and dry’. One good thing is that, the light is good, there are venues in the area that in some respects are really good (Fitzwymarc), but the lighting is awful and the whole space is dark. So, it is swings and roundabouts.

 Being asked to bat first, my initial thought were – Jesus, they’re going to be fresh and fast, I didn’t think that they’d also been resting for 5 months or so and were no where near match ready, son in fact once I’d faced a few balls it was okay. But the initial thoughts had been erring towards being apprehensive.

 Bowling – By the time I’d got to bowl, I’d already been with Joe running around for over an hour and then in the nets I’d been swinging the bat around in very hot conditions (Oh yeah – the venue is very well heated as well, and a note to self – wear shorts next week). So by the time I’d finished my net which was well in excess of 20 minutes, I was dripping with sweat and exhausted! With adrenalin being pumped around my body and my heart rate up and feeling exhausted it was increasing unlikely that I’d bowl that well.

 Evaluation – What was good and bad about the situation?

 The good stuff first. My batting was okay for me, I think with each year even though I’m 53 and don’t get that many chances to bat (I bat at No. 10 or 11)  I did okay. I don’t know how much Mike Blerkom bowls, but I’ve faced him before and not fared anywhere near as well as I did today, but then I have to temper that with the fact that this may have been the first time he’s picked a ball up since September? The other bloke was new, but big and young, he was accurate and for the most part I kept him out, but he got me a couple of times. Mark Farrington bowls slow off-spin, so I tried to take the opportunity to try a few things out against him and came a cropper a few times as well. But overall I felt okay and relatively confident.

 Bowling – There wasn’t a lot of good, other than it was a chance to see how fit I was and whether there’d be any issues with my shoulder. I think with the pre-season fitness work that I have been doing, I came through that okay and was quite pleased from that perspective.

 Bad stuff – Much too full 75% of the time and a lot of balls to Mark (Left handed) far too wide. I’m not convinced that my action was that good and I’m going to have to practice some more in order to groove that aspect of my bowling, but I think that’ll come. So, considering that a little more, there were more ‘Good’ aspects… The approach to the crease was pretty energetic as was the movement through the crease, I was getting up on my toes, but I think the arm coming through and past the hips was weak as was getting side on out of the bound. Most of the balls were standard stock leg breaks and the surface wasn’t assisting with spin, but I did notice over in the kids nets that Tom Hardy was spinning the ball really hard and getting a lot of turn off the wicket. One obvious thing I need to do is spin the ball harder! On one of the balls that I got Mark with – hitting the off-stump, was from bringing the wrist round to put more side spin on it and it pitched way outside of his off-stump and came back in.

 Analysis – what sense can you make of the situation?

 Writing this, 24 hours later I’m still suffering from the 3 hour onslaught that my obviously ill-prepared body went through, but that’s what this is about partly. Usually, it doesn’t come together for me till late June and that I reckon is just the fact that I simply do not do enough exercise earlier in the year to enable me to hit the ground running at the start of the season. So, these kind of scenarios where I do put my body through it, highlight the fact that I need to be far more physically active, but like most people these days, the opportunities are few and far between. Today for instance it’s been quite nice – sunny and dry, but it’s only March the 1st and in the UK that means it’s on 9 degree centigrade – hardly conducive with cricket training. But, as it does get warmer and the nights get longer I will be putting in the effort to be in a better position at the start of the season this year.

 The technical aspects, I’m not going to get too hung up about as that’s what I normally do and I then focus on very small specific things and tend to obsess on that specific thing at the expense of my general overall bowling. Last year, I didn’t practice as much as previous years and adopted a strategy of following my instincts and the feel of my body rather than go with things I’d been advised to do. I also looked to be on target straight away and realised that was all about being relaxed. I also limited my bowling to just using 36 balls (6 overs worth) and all of these adjustments to my training worked.

 So, it feels as though this year I should focus on fitness and tie this in with last years bowling approach and see how it pans out.

 Conclusion – What else could have been done?

 Nothing while I was there, I made full use of the session, the most obvious thing I could have done was not have taken my foot off the gas at home with regards the fitness and stamina training, but after a day at work I come in knackered and just want to sit down with a game of BF3! I’ll try and get on with it again but writing the 2nd half of this now nearly 2 days later I still feel like I’ve been in the middle of a big Pamplona Bull run and been a victim! So I can’t see that I’ll be getting on it in the next 24 hours!

 Action Plan – If the situation arose again what might you do?

 I might try and go forwards with my batting and try and develop a shot or two. Generally I feel quite confident, but as yet I’ve not had to face any nasty fast bowling. I would like to be able to do something with off-spin, I hate off-spin as it causes me all sorts of problems and off-spinners to tend to bowl relatively flat, but with loads of speed variation. I might have a look around the internet and see what people say with regards playing it.

 With my bowling as mentioned – general fitness and keep in mind not to focus on specific problems to the point they become a massive issue. Remember – if I’m relaxed it works, if I worry and over-think things, it becomes more of a problem. If it starts getting like that – walk away and come back to it later with a different frame of mind.



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Had a bowl - Top-Spinner

What with the rain having stopped now for more than 4 days, and the weather being mild, Joe and I went out and had a bowl and a bat in the street using Readers Wind Balls.
Last year I was hoping to get my Top-Spinner going and struggled with it all season opting to bowl it with a fingery action rather than my basic Leg-Spinner action. The only thing useful about it last season was that quite often it came out as a wrong-un rather than a top-spinner, but my accuracy with it was useless. Towards the end of the season my bowling was pretty good on occasions and in one match I bowled so well I was able to bowl with varying degrees of side spin with less and more amounts of spin and it was probably one of my better bowling spells with loads of opportunities put down and got to bowl 8 or more overs, which is unheard of!

So keeping that in mind, I had a go at bowling a Top-Spinner with the conventional grip and it went quite well – accurate, fast-ish with Joe saying that it did dip sometimes quite well, but mixed in with the stock ball leg-breaks it looks promising and it’s something I’ll work on I reckon. It still had a little bit of “Leg” about it some of the time, but probably 60% of the time it was dead straight on the middle stump, when Joe was looking to play a spinning ball and most of the time he’d have been out stumped (Possibly due to the late dip)?

With the possibility of a small wrong-un being there with a slightly more twisted wrist I did give that a go, but to no avail. I’m not that interested in the wrong-un at the moment and I’m happy to have the option of the Top-Spinner if I can convert the same performance today into bowling with a real cricket ball. Hopefully I’ll go into the season with a variable Leg Break, a top spinner and a Flipper?

One thing I did notice was that my run up was lacking getting side on, so I need to work with that as well running up to the new season.

Paddock 2014

Here in the UK we've had a drop of rain of late. One year we have droughts, then we have record breaking snow and this year it's been rain. Fortunately for us we're up on a big hill so the rain hasn't been an issue. There's been benefits in fact as it's been mild so our heating bills been low!

The Paddock across the road though has suffered a bit, in the wind and rain and some of the big trees have had branches snapped off, but I reckon if anything it's a good thing as there may be more light in there and the grass will grow better? On the subject of grass, at the end of last year, the batting end of the wicket in the Paddock was in a bit of a mess with the grass being worn away completely. So in late September I bought some seed and planted that to try and repair it. The seeds have taken to some extent, but without any food the grass that has grown is looking a little weedy and pathetic, which is what I expected and the plan was to sow more seeds in Spring.

I was uncertain about when to sew the seeds in spring and was aware that if I was to sew then too early the frosts would possibly kill the new shoots off? What with it being mild I've made a start and put some down last weekend and today I've sewn a bit more. I bought some bone meal and fish nutrients and put that down to encourage a good growth of new grass ready for May and what I'll probably do is sew a little more every week or every fortnight looking to get a really good thick lush growth going? I've top-dressed it all as well with a mixture of clay and compost and all I've got to do is wait and see how it all goes. The weather today was really mild with the temp getting up to 11 degrees so good weather to get out there and do some remedial work.

Last year we also got rid of a load of brambles and trees that were growing up against the fence casting a shadow across the wicket. This afternoon I've finished that off and now 95% of the problem that was there last spring has now gone, so the prospects are good for the whole wicket at the moment. The wicket in general looks as though it's got a half decent growth of grass on it and most of the patchy areas look to have recovered to some extent although I will need to have a look and maybe repair other parts of the wicket. Usually the council don't cut it till almost Easter, but if this mild weather continues they may come round earlier. What I will need to do is get a roller on it at some point and make it flat while it's still wet, but at the moment the grass is far to long to do that, so I'm not sure what I'll do, but as I recall we do normally roll it either very early in March or late Feb.
 The view from the bowlers end, with the fence on the left that I've cleared today.
 The view from the batting end with remnants of a blown down branch and the fence on the rights with some shadow still being cast across the grass and the wicket.

The batting end with the area that I'm working on with the seeding and re-establishing some growth.

 The fence from outside looking into the paddock with some of the big branches still evident at the base of the fence.
 The bowling end with a lot of grass, this looks as though a little work will need to be done repairing it, but generally looks okay.
 Another view of the batting end.
Close up of the batting end and the patches I'm trying to repair.