West of Scotland 85. Weirs 55. West of Scotland win by 30 runs.
What a strange, interesting and exciting season this has been so far. And this game, West's fifth win a row, was the strangest so far. The scores say most of it: Winning by 30 runs after scoring 85!
It was an away game at a ground notorious for low scores. No one was expecting great things. However, the warm up was focused. A few guys did seem a little off their game despite lots of enthusiasm. There were more dropped catches and misfields in the warm up than I have seen all year. I don't think we managed a single direct hit when warming up throws at the stumps.
After losing the toss and being inserted, we were confident. The opposition looked weak. They had not warmed up at all and there were a few guys who looked pretty unfit. Yet the openers bowled accurately with seam movement and there were precious few chances to score runs. We ran well, making several singles. One opener decided to use his feet and make things happen, playing well a couple of times to score singles from length balls he had turned to half volley length. Despite some poor fielding, It was still slow going: 18-1 from nine overs. It looked like if they were going to get wickets it was more likely LBW and bowled than caught or run out.
After 20 it was 55-4. This is low for West, but still only slightly behind the average of 62-3, and ahead of the slowest start (48-2). The best 20 is 77-2.
We thought there would be more bad balls and bad fielding to exploit. When that wasn't forthcoming, we lost focus and got out. Two mistimed shots to safe hands, one playing into the leg side and bowled off stump, two going back to full balls and trapped LBW, another LBW playing no shot. None of the top six were got out by magic balls.
The real failure was from overs 21-23, where we lost four wickets for five runs. Two were top six batsmen. This exposed the lower order early and two guys playing for the team for the first time this season went in quick succession to defensive shots.
Number seven knuckled down to bat with the last two. He scored 22 in 55 balls and farmed the strike away from the number 11 so well he only faced one ball in a stand lasting 19 runs. You might argue the 11 was not poor enough to be protected, but considering how well everyone else did, it was not a crazy decision from the better player to face as many balls as he could. He did turn down a few runs in the process, but that stand of 19 proved crucial.
As as you would expect, control was the lowest of the year at 74.22%. Remember, the trend is to lose when control drops below 77.5%.
However, at the break, the talk was not as depressing as you might imagine. 85 is a terrible score, but we have bowled out teams for less and knew they did not have much batting. We knew there was a chance, even with one bowler missing due to injury.
The scoring intially followed the same pattern: 20-2 after nine over but with Weirs having less control than West (71.31%). The game was in the balance already. Then, in the last over before tea, a spinner came on and took a wicket to take Weirs into the break three down. West were back in the hunt.
After the tea break, only three bowlers were used. There were a few tense overs as Weirs moved to 37-3 in 12 overs. Then a wicket from the opening bowler was followed by a wicket maiden from our main spinner. It was 38-5 in 14 and the danger batsman was out.
Nevertheless, 47 runs needed is very tight indeed, even with poor batsmen. The fifth wicket pair moved to 46-5 and every run seemed like a tiny cut that would eventually kill us. In fact, two wicket in two balls finished Weirs chances. 46-5 became 46-7. The last three got to 55-7 before collapsing. Five wickets had fallen for eight runs, with one run scored for three wickets in the last 15 balls.
Clearly, it was terrible batting, but the types of dismissal also tell a story: four catches behind the wicket (and two dropped at slip), three LBW and two bowled. Coupled with three wides bowled (two by a stand in seamer) you can see what a good bowling performance it was as well.
So what are the lessons?
First we can take confidence that we can win tight games. Yes, the opposition were very weak, but we gave them a chance to beat us with a weak batting performance yet still won with ease. This is a marked difference from the Greenock game were we posted a defendable score and bowled poorly to lose.
Finally, when we get in a pickle, we need to learn how to manage the risks we take. The openers were right to look to rotate and increase the scoring rate. When it failed, two or three of middle order needed to dig in and be sure they were around to post a total. 160 was probably the upper end of what could have been scored, with 120 closer to the par. That requires top order guys to get 30 or more runs at a slow rate. The aim is still to bat with intent to score and thrive under the pressure of dot balls, but not to worry if you don't score for a few balls. The bad one will come. Patience.
This was an ugly win but a show of great character. I count it as progress from earlier in the year, but certainly not anywhere near the finished product. With two big ties to come, we have to lock our minds onto being at our best.