Irvine 215-9. West of Scotland 193. Irvine win by 22 runs.
Despite a good overall performance, West were outbowled to lose the first competitive game of 2016.
Winning the toss, West chose to bowl on what looked like a seamer's paradise: uneven, green and soft. It looked like another low scorer, especially when an early wicket fell. However, due to a short boundary on one side, there were a lot of boundaries scored.
Additionally, several Irvine batsmen played the situation well. An opener dug in to make a fifty at a strike rate of 50 and SB% of 34%. Others attacked around him at faster rates including a 19 ball 28, 49 ball 43 and 10 ball 15.
Despite this, The overall Irvine control was just over 71%. West wrestled control back several times by bowling tight lines, beating the bat between the boundaries and good fielding. This made me confident. In the first game we won with better overall control of the match. I felt with the different conditions, 215 was a challenge but possible to get. Irvine could have got 240 if control was better.
Fielding stats showed us on +3 for runs saved vs. runs lost to misfields. They pinched 10 runs with good running. We dropped four catches. One is too many, but four was costly. We also took four catches and executed another direct hit run out.
The chat at half time was confidence. One player was vocally determined to win it for us because he had never got a fifty. There was a general determination in the ranks. The talk was about how we could win rather than what we did wrong.
We lost the openers cheaply. This caused a wobble in confidence on the balcony, especially as both shots were poorly executed. However, number three and four settled the ranks with a stand of 64 in 84 balls. At 25 overs West were 92-2, compared to 104-3 from Irvine. 4.9 per over needed and we had been going at 4.6. Additionally, control was 79%. Looking good, and the atmosphere was still of determined confidence.
However instead of maintaining this, the next 12 overs saw 45-4 runs. 3.7 per over is understandable with wickets falling, but this phase made the challenge much greater. Overall control also dropped. One of our attacking batsman was tied down by the Irvine bowlers bowling at the stumps. Other middle order guys were bowled and LBW, telling a story of how straight the bowling was (and Irvine bowled half the wides of West).
From this point it was going to need something special from the two at the crease. It was possible with those two batsman - who can both go big - but the chance of winning felt like it had ticked over to Irvine. As it turned out the lower order had a go with some big hits but with 85 needed from 78 balls, it needed magic we didn't find. Most teams would struggle to do that with numbers eight to jack at the crease. Overall control was 78%.
West pinched 29 runs through good running and misfields (compared to Irvine's 19). Irvine saved nine runs through good stops or poor running from West, meaning the overall fielding difference was +1. That means for the match, West were +4. That's not enough to make a difference to the result, but good to know.
So we fielded slightly better and were in control for more of the match. We lost out on the bowling side, with Irvine's tactic of tying down batsman and taking wickets through errors working well.
In review, we could have won the game playing exactly the same way (either bowling them out for 170 or maintaining control between overs 25-35). I feel the tactics were basically sound, it simply needs better execution by bowling more straight balls and keeping control with the bat.
That said, we could further tighten our fielding to save another 10-20 runs, especially the catching. The batsman can start to consider how they will play under the pressure of a chase and tight bowling. The bowlers can reduce that wides number.
Scottish Cup: Stoneywood Dyce 161. West of Scotland 162-7. West of Scotland win by 3 wickets.
On Sunday, there was a three hour drive to play the first round proper of the knockout cup. The game was won by a superb, controlled 87 not out from West's number three.
I was playing so didn't do a full analysis. The ball swung early on a good wicket with a short boundary and we quickly had them 29-4 after 10. We were a bowler short so looked to find 10 overs and this gave a recovery to Stoneywood, digging in to get to 117-4 from 27. Partially, this was a gap in bowling, partially it was some fielding that was a little loose and partially it was some good batting from a Stoneywood overseas player.
However, the next 13 overs saw 44-6, which was a collapse in any language. Stoneywood seemed to not have a lot of depth, and after the middle overs slowness in the field West tight end up, bowled good lines and let the batsman get themselves out.
The batting again wobbled up top. There was some poor calling and a run out. An opener and the number four were tied down by excellent seam bowling for a long time. Number three also looked to survive for the first 30 balls he was on, scoring just 11, while the score crept to 23-2 from 12.
When the second string came on, the rate improved, getting to 75-3 from 23 (4.7 an over during this phase). Number three was looking more comfortable all the time, and he had good support from both five and eight. There was a phase where two wickets fell quickly, and an end was open (98-6 from 32). It could have been scary, but the generally feeling from the sideline was nervous excitement. We felt it was close but we had the game if we stayed strong, and with the anchor role being played to perfection, all was required was for the guy at the other end to nip a single and watch.
The game was essentially won when West hit the returning opening bowler for 15 in 12 balls, taking the score on to 147-6 in 39 overs. The game was finished in the 42nd.
It was a very similar situation to the previous day, even down to the short boundary. However this time the plan worked much better in the field and the batting had an anchor role that went the distance.
Yet again, my main area for improvement is the fielding. Standards are high, so players can be harder on themselves over diving to stop the ball or putting a body behind it. We also could bowl fewer wides (9 bowled costing 25 runs). However, I think we should continue to set high standards and be able to "switch back on" when we make a mistake. We did that very well in this game.
Naturally, I would also look to the top order to tighten up the basics. We had two run outs, both unforced errors rather than excellent fielding. There is a batsman with a technical issue that has crept in. However, the example set from such a well paced innings is something we can continue.
Overall a positive weekend, with the seconds smashing another opponent too. (putting up over 300 before bowling them out). Despite the league loss, we have shown we can bounce back and are keen to learn from it. And we even played well in that game! Nine wins from 10 and still full of positive vibes.