First round of league games: The first XI lost, the second XI won.
I played for the firsts away, so have a better view of what happened. Let's start with that.
The strength of the side was good. We have no superstars, which means everyone needs to chip in as much as possible. We also don't really have a weak area. We bat down to 10, have solid seamers and a wildcard spinner.
We batted first on a difficult, slow wicket. After making an excellent start, there was a monumental collapse in the last 20 overs. When collapses happen there is often a team psyche that "it's all going wrong" and the batsmen feel the pressure. In this case, perhaps there was some. There was good bowling, especially from the spinners. This built some pressure and there were individual errors. This was mainly tactical shot selection, but also a couple of issues with execution that could have come from the match pressure.
The bottom line was, we didn't get enough runs with 109 on the board. We could have gone past 200 in the right circumstances, and 160 was really the minimum to make a game of it.
That said, we may have had enough if we had bowled well. Pressure is everything in this game. The pitch conditions required stump to stump bowling, hitting the wickets and squeeze fielding with a touch of brilliance or luck. Early wickets always cause squeaky bums.
We used all five bowlers and all but one got the line right consistently. We set the right fields and fielded well. However, we didn't take wickets. So, as the batsmen got set they stayed patient and we gave enough bad balls to let them wait, knowing they could knock it off as slowly as they wanted.
There was only one tough catch missed, a run out chance we should have taken, and - as is usual in these lost games - all shots in the air never quite found a fielder.
In short, we were competent, determined and enthusiastic but didn't bowl with the discipline or luck needed to defend a low score.
In hindsight, perhaps we could have been more aggressive with field placings in front of the wicket where the ball was popping up occasionally. Perhaps we could also have done with a "Plan B" when the stump to stump tactic wasn't panning out. However these are minor thoughts with some 20/20 hindsight and certainly not clanging errors. What we really needed in the second half was the rub of the green or a flash of genius. Solid as these guys are, we can't play for the latter, but we can give ourselves the best chance of the former.
After the game I told the guys to look at their individual performances and pick up on both the weaker areas and what went well. They need to bring this review to the next training session with a clear idea of what to work on.
From a team point of view:
- The good: Determined effort, great start with the bat, tactically sound.
- Needs work: Dealing with the pressure of wickets falling, shot selection, bowling tighter lengths. Relax a bit more!
I plan to bring in some of this at the next couple of sessions, based around handling pressure and enjoying the challenge of getting knocked down and getting up again stronger. It's as much fun getting out of trouble as it is sailing through games easily.
The seconds were a little weak but had enough good players to do well. I got my notes second hand, but the general view was positive.
The pitch was not good for batting and it sounds like the opposition tried to smash it early on, lost wickets and shut up shop to get through the overs. However, this failed too and they were bowled out for considerably under a hundred.
This meant that our batsmen could do what their firsts did: Play the bad bad and be patient. The fact we did it three down tells you the top order did the job well.
I'm going to try and eke out the overall team areas to improve from the seconds skipper at training this week, but when you win that well, the trick is to keep training hard and look to keep yourself on that roll for when things don't go quite go according to plan.