Saturday's First XI match saw one of our best performances of the year, yet resulted in another defeat. We were unable to chase 187.
Despite the result there were a lot of positive moments. We bowled well and recovered back from a weak start. One of our spinners finally got figures worth talking about. We took wickets and restricted scoring. The fielding was excellent.
The batting had its wobble moment, but the top four all got starts. That's a huge improvement on the collapses we have seen all year. It set us up to be on an unprecedented 57-2 after 20.
From this point, there is no doubt we should have won. The required rate was 4.4 and the opposition were tiring. We had two good, experienced batsmen at the crease.
Instead, the opposition set ring fields (only fine leg and third man outside the circle) with the keeper up and bowled tight medium pace. It's a classic strategy that we should have been able to overcome with no issue. However, we scored 26 runs in 12 overs. One batsman took 45 balls to score 12 runs and when he was out the rate had jumped to 5.5.
Afterwards he told me that he was frustrated with his inability to get the ball away. He was playing good cricket shots, but hitting the ball to the phalanx in the covers (five men in the ring on the off side). He couldn't hit a gap and didn't know what to do other than keep trying. He was out trying to hit over the top and miscueing. Sadly, it was this phase that had the biggest contribution to the loss.
With the rate climbing, the middle order started to try things and all failed. Between overs 31-41 we scored 36 and lost four wickets. The worst of them was a young player who was clearly feeling the stress before going out to bat. He looked incredibly frustrated by the slow scoring, but is really good at working the ball around. When he went in needing to score six an over he should have played his "hit the gap and run hard" game, but he felt the pressure and ran down the wicket to be stumped. It was synonymous of our lack of confidence and experience in a chase.
A confident team could have easily scored five or even six an over for 10-15 overs. We needed 86 runs in 84 balls with six wickets in hand. That's at the top end of our skillset, but possible. Yet with an atmosphere of failure in the dressing room and no experience in knocking off the runs, we found the challenge too great.
In one last gasp we pinned everything on a big hitting lower order batsman who delivered hope in a 21 ball 24. It was fun to watch but the challenge of scoring 64 in 54 balls (the situation when he walked in) was highly unlikely by that point. All out for 154.
It's clear to me that we are as strong as ever in all departments. However, our lack of experience at a chase cost us. We didn't know how to react to the situation and let it slip away. My job with the batsmen at training is to try to build a method they can use to score in this situation.