All week not a sniff of a game and a heap of things needing to be done with the house and car, and I'm thinking on one hand I need to do these jobs, so if I get a call now at this late point e.g. the morning of the game I'm going to say no. On the other hand the weathers fine and I've been at work all week and I've only played in a handful of games this season. 11.00hrs and I get a text from Neil - 'Do I want a game at the Rec with the 3rds - 1pm start'? The car and house will be getting done tomorrow now......
I arrived late 13.05 and the game had started, fortunately we were batting and if the game was to pan out normally I wasn't going to be needed for a good few hours yet. I looked around, there were very few people that I'd played with before, only G-Man. Neil was there, I've known him for some years now as he's involved with the youth cricket and he deals with all the photo's for the club website. There were others I knew by face and others like Frank McLeod who I know because his son is the captain of the U13's. But there were several I knew nothing of.
The context of the game was that the last time Basildon and Pitsea had played this lot - (Southend on Sea) they won the game easily bowling us out for some miserly figure like 40 odd. For us it was an important game as far as I could make out, as we needed x amount of points over the next two games to secure a place in the current league. If we lost the final two games this one included we were relagated I think and the points that were needed in order to secure a place for next year was 6.
The whole of the game was played under the threat of rain and early in the game (13.30hrs) play was stopped to shelter from a heavy downpour. The rain stopped after about 10 or 15 minutes as the clouds moved through and the sun came out. All week though there's been rain and the already soaked pitch was being scrutinised as to whether it was playable on. There was an agreement as the sun had come out that they'd all look at it again at about 14.15 hrs and see how well it had dried off and see whether play could resume.
Phil (With bat) discusses the pitch conditions with some of the players.
G-Man (Umpire) Inspects the application of sawdust at the Eastern end of the wicket.
Frank McLeod, 'Legs' and Gary Ayres inspect the crease at the Western end.
Sawdust was put down and with bright sunshine and a bit of wind the wicket dried out sufficiently for the game to resume. On the horizon though coming in from the South West were more rain clouds. But each set of rain clouds looked to be interspersed with sections of clear blue sky and over the afternoon, other than a short spell of rain spitting a little, the game was un-affected and we were able to play through to the end with no more interuptions.
Thankfully the batting this time was a lot better and only one wicket fell on the way to setting a total of 221. One of the batsmen - Phil Murdoch scored 109 not out.
R.Davies batting went on to score 46 before being bowled by M.Barnes.
A. Hayton the No.3 scored a 38 not out and the rest of the score was made up of extras of which there were 28. At one point one of their batsmen came off the pitch and spoke to me for a short while moaning about the fact that he felt that the rest of the team were putting in a lack lustre performance. Some of our blokes were saying that Southend were safe with regards being relegated, but well short of coming anywhere in the league and therefore weren't bothered whether they lost or won as it wouldn't affect their overall standing within the league.
Ominous clouds threatened the proceedings all afternoon.
When I turned up, one of the questions I asked was who won the toss and I think the answer was that it was the opposition and they put us in to bat first. Now, this team has no doubt played here before and you would think that having done so or maybe you would even think that perhaps this was common knowledge amongst teams that play at Langdon Hills Rec, but to bat second out of choice is an odd strategic choice.
Our bowling went well from the outset helped by the fact that led by G-Man we were far more vocal in the field when it was our turn. The opposition seemingly after the rain interlude lost all enthusiasm for the game, many standing around with their hands in their pockets and sitting down at every opportunity. In stark contrast we were busy in the field, backing each other up, getting round quick, encouraging the bowling and doing all the things you'd expect in league cricket. There was a fair amount of diving around and sliding to stop balls which was good to see, I always feel that this should be the forte of the younger players, but to be honest I rarely see it, but today there were a few examples. Overall the fielding was good. I did alright, I was put in a number of positions, Gully, Short fine leg, Square Leg and point being directed by Frank McLeod as when it was required.
The bowling overall was pretty impressive with Southend not being able to get going with any conviction. One of the older blokes (Southend) was bowled clean and walked off with the hump moaning about the pitch and the fact that the ball skidded through low to the ground and yet the ball hit the off-stump about 3/4 of the way up and one of our blokes had just scored 109 on the same wicket when it was far wetter. Highlights of the fielding were a nice catch divng forwards by G.Ayres off of Hassans bowling to take L.Nugents wicket for 0. Another event was - the field set by McLeod for S.Ejaz looked to capitalise on the fact that he seemed to only have a leg-side shot which he preferred off his legs and the bowling was pretty much all down the off-side. So the field was split 8-2 on the with an off-side bias trying to encourage him (I think) to use his weaker off-drive or get him to try and play the flick to the leg-side which would have created potential for mistakes. Seeing what McLeod was attempting another one of our blokes seemingly without any prompting (Alastair Hayton) moved into Silly Mid-Off and within two of three shots had a ball smacked straight at him, but unlike Ian Bell and the likes who jump up and try and turn their back on the ball he just stood there like a wall and wore it on the chest. 'I'm just pissed off that I dropped it' was his response!
I was having a good day in the field, I seemed to be reading the batsmen and sussing where it looked as though they were trying to hit the ball and only 1 or two got past me that perhaps I should have stopped. What with this being the 3rd XI and no-one knowing who I am, I didn't expect to be thrown the ball, but towards the end of the game with there being no chance of them matching our score and the overs running out I was thrown the ball to my surprise. So, this week I've not practiced that much other than with Frank, Mark and Jack so I wasn't that sure how it would work out. As usual I was pretty nervous, but having seen G.Ayres opening over and his second one as well, I was fairly optimistic that I might be able to better his and came up to the crease in a fairly confident state of mind. The first ball was a shocker - wide almost Pinno-esque and off the cut strip, but there after I included the use of the bound albeit slightly flat footed and it came together okay. My field set with some help from Frank was along these lines...........
For once I managed to get the line right and generally the length was okay too, although there were several full tosses where I was trying to make best use of the facilities G-Man's description of exploiting the fact that as mentioned earlier the wicket at Langdon Hills runs East to West. Therefore if you bat second there's an inevitability that later in the day the sun is going to be low in the sky behind the bowler, so there's some logic in bringing on the slow-bowler and getting him to toss the ball up high. For the most part my bowling went okay, the balls that were hit were intercepted and stopped by the fielders and later in the spell a couple of balls that were hit legside were almost caught at Deep Square Leg and Mid Wicket. 'Legs' was out at Deep Square Leg but he was carrying an injury and wasn't able to hobble in to take the catch and it dropped short. Frank then swapped him for Neil Da Silva, putting Legs in at Mid Wicket, no sooner had he done that then the batsman hit the ball straight through mid-wicket at a catchable height above his head, but again because of his injury he wasn't able to catch it.
Towards the end of my spell I could sense that the last batsman to come out M.Barnes fancied his chances against my bowling and was looking to score some runs in the last over, so I varied the speed of my bowling a bit and went faster looking to possibly introduce some of the aspects of my bowling that I've been practicing with (Dip). But in the last over one of the faster ones came out and ended up down the leg-side pitching quite full and he attempted to just guide it through fine leg, but the ball alluded him and broke and hit middle and leg - another bowled round the legs bowling over the wickets which was quite satisfying. So I ended up with 6-0-25-1 which I was quite happy with only going for one wide and that was the first ball.
G-Man seemed well pleased for me and congratulated me on my bowling, he's seen enough of it on the bad days to know that was one of my better spells since being at B&PCC. So a good day overall. There had been another grumble from the opposition and that was over the issue of the East west wicket layout, one of the umpires had said that it was out of order and that if it was reported we could be fined or something, but as Frank McLeod said 'I've been playing here for 10 years and no-ones said anything about it before'.