As previously reported, I was with the seconds this week. What a difference in atmosphere, confidence and execution I saw.
Batting first we scored 198-8, then bowled our opposition out for 89. Clearly from this result we were much stronger, but there were moments in the game that reflected a fighting spirit.
First, we lost wickets regularly through the the innings and at key moments. We were 98-5 at one point and aiming for 160. Yet the lower order rallied and took us to the unassailable target. I admit this was as much down to poor bowling as good batting (32 wides tells the story) but we stayed sensible throughout the innings.
The top order will be unhappy with missing out. We had good stands of 20+ all the way down, but we also got out to some terrible balls: At least three full tosses hit to fielders for example. With better execution we could have scored 50 more runs.
It's here I really noticed how confident and relaxed atmosphere in the side. Winning is a key part of this, but it's not just winning. The conversation flowed, players watched the game but chatted over and around each other. Some were laughing and joking, others talking tactics and others serious about making sure the scorebook added up with coloured pens. Batsmen waiting to go in seemed calm and ready, those who got out sat back down and rejoined the conversation after a brief period of mourning. It was a perfect balance of serious and whimsical.
Second, in the field we were outstanding. The captain said the first few overs were the most enjoyable 20 overs he ever had in a West shirt. We stopped everything, threw hard and accurately (including a direct hit run out) and caught all but one tough chance. It was a 9/10 effort. Things tailed a little bit in the last few overs as legs got tired and we were clearly going to win. I can handle that.
Lastly, the bowling was good. Our opener from one end was his usual accurate medium pace away swing, dropping in to cross seam wicket-to-wicket with the keeper up when the shine was off. This bowling will win you a lot of games. The rest of the bowling was somewhat rusty and less accurate, but good enough to deal with a weak batting line up. However, it's an area to improve when we come up against stronger batting sides.
For me the role of the 2nd XI is to be the squad 1st XI, that means playing to a standard that is close to the firsts. We did this as well as we could given the weak opposition; with one minor exception of bowling more bad balls.
As I keep saying, this game is about getting the process right and the outcomes take care of themselves. The win was great, but the process was what really pleased me.