With great relief I can report a First XI competitive victory in the Twenty20.
We are off and running, and while I always try to keep my response to results as even as possible, the length of time it took to achieve this win leaves me feeling more satisfied than usual.
Playing away, we took a strong, aggressive-minded team across the city. I was there as coach not player. As is often the case with evening matches, the preparation was rushed. The captain and opener was stuck in traffic and arrived five minutes before the start. Lucky for us a senior player was sensible enough to toss, win and elect to bat first.
Once we were all arrived the game and settled we could relax and watch the top three make a solid start. 32-1 after six is about par batting first on a dusty track with a slow outfield.
The good batting continued against some frankly poor bowling and after 11 we were on a healthy 59-3. Our "pinch hitter" was going well. From here I was hoping we could kick up a notch and score another 60 or so runs to take the game away. My guess was anything over 100 was a winning score.
What happened next was some very clever bowling, mixed with some luck, that saw a brilliant triple wicket maiden from their old-stager skipper. He bowled off spin with a run up that started at short mid on because he was starting his run from behind the setting sun. He took one over (10th) to get into this weird run up that went for 12. Then he bowled three overs for three runs and five wickets!
This collapse was not entirely self-inflicted. The bowling was slow and straight and clever and hard to pick up. It set us back to 67-8 in after 16. That five over period went for 8-5 and cost us a par score. Nevertheless, the tail are sensible and know how to rotate and pick the balls to hit. They took us 88, mainly thanks to a "block or hit" run a ball 13 from our young leggie. Kudos also goes to our agressive number three who held the middle of the innings together during the collapse and scored a useful 30 at 75 SR and 45 SB%.
We faced 73 dots, scored 59 singles and six boundaries.
We knew we had to bowl well to have a chance, despite their weaker batting line up.
So, we came out straight away, hit up some catches, took some ground balls to get the feel of the bumpy outfield and got ready to bowl at the stumps with a tight ring. And we did exactly that, after five over they were 15-2. After eight they were on 24-2.
This was a crucial moment. They had wickets in hand and with 68 needed in 12, the game was on. Especially as two poor overs from change bowlers took them to 40-3 after 10. However, the bowlers settled down, the fielding was spot on and a double wicket over changed the momentum back to us.
It was always going to be tough to score 45 runs in eight overs with the long shadows, no sightscreens and with our attack, but it was still on even if we had the advantage. We had to go well, and we did. We stuck to our plan and as the dots kept building the risk taking went up and wickets fell. 57-5 off 14 seems like they are still in the race but when you are behind the rate (they scored 9-2 in the four over period before that) you find it hard to get back on track. They lost the last 5 wickets for 15 runs and finished in the 19th.
They faced 75 dots, scored just 26 singles and four boundaries.
Admittedly, they were poor. We could have beaten them by at least another 20 runs, but It was an overall excellent performance where we were only behind the game for one bowling spell of three overs.
I filmed the game for further analysis later, and may write up how I do this efficiently another time.
- Stop: Being vulnerable to unusual approaches. One bowler kept them in the game. Picking poor boundary options when going for sixes.
- Start: Raising fielding standards higher to turn more half-chances into real chances. With pinpoint throwing we could have had another run out.
- Continue: Playing with a free spirit with the bat, rotating the strike, looking for boundaries. Staying calm under pressure. Excellent ground fielding and catching.