My first Saturday league game as coach only also saw our first league win of the season. It was a solid win, albeit with a significant batting wobble.
Pre-game prep was focused and efficient. I always wonder how much difference the drills make, but at least they put you in a mindset for the first few overs. We bowled first.
We had a new opener, with the usual new ball man switching to first change as he has been more effective in the middle overs. This was not a complete success as his first three overs went for 16 and he didn't take a wicket until his seventh over. However the score was 37-1 from 10.
Generally, we seem to do better in the middle than in the first 10. We have not taken many wickets with the new ball this year. This was the case today, as at the other end our nasty fast bowler was dropping a lot of balls short. He also pitched them up, but as you can see from his bowling wagon wheel, 51% of his runs went square, meaning he was off a consistent length:
This rate continued through the middle overs with the opposition opener doing all the running in a 65 ball 48, while the number three held things up by scoring seven in 28 balls. When this partnership was broken the game was balanced at 59-2 off 14 (4.2 an over).
When the opener fell, the game quickly changed. Our change bowlers, who are strongest in the middle overs, combined with tight fielding to slow the rate. They scored 20-2 in the next 10 overs. Then, a collapse came and five wickets fell for 20 runs in 10 overs. They were bowled out for 100 in 34 overs.
I noticed a couple of weaker areas in the field, notably in the ring on the leg side, and some inconsistencies behind the wicket, so will focus on those in upcoming training. Overall, the standard was as high as ever.
So, with 101 needed, a confident side would have knocked it off 2 down in 20 overs. It took us 6 wickets and 30 overs. The run rate was good enough consider previous effort and we batted with real intention to score, even when wickets fell.
The middle order wobbled again with some silly dismissals and some very good bowling on a pitch that had livened up in light drizzle. I am increasingly thinking that we are a side who can build totals with all the top eight or nine chipping in a few, rather than sharing out big scores. And it turned out to be the case here as the lower order put together a sensible 30 run partnership that saw us over the line with comfort.
I feel this is part a confidence thing, and part a technical thing. Our batsmen are not stars but they are talented and capable of each averaging 20-30 over a season. If we can factor in three to four match setting up partnerships per season per pair we will turn more games into wins. That's where the confidence factor comes in. We need to believe we can do it, then develop a technical method to achieve it. This is exactly what I have been pushing for in practice with things like the strike rotation and range hitting drills.
I also am filming games for analysis now, and can start to build a database of confidence-building video for players to remember how good they can be in the right situation.
On the other hand, the challenge for the twos is to maintain standards against terrible opposition. They batted first, scored well over 300 and bowled the opposition out for under 100.
At least we have players in form and biting at the heels of the first team batsmen for a place.