West of Scotland 200-9. Renfrew 183-9. West of Scotland win by 17 runs.
Another win in the league for the first eleven keeps the momentum going. It was closer than previous matches, but West always had a nose in front.
After a few post game conversations, this game got me thinking about what we define as success. More on that later.
After losing the toss and being put in, we expected it to be tough going. The pitch was not true (some balls popping) and the ball swung early. Thanks to some excellent drop and run tactics and patient batting, the score was 35-1 from 10. I thought this was partially down to the poor fielding of Renfrew but also good strategy to stay patient.
The next 23 overs saw a big stand with few boundaries but continued singles (we scored over 80 in total, our best of the year by some margin). 90 runs were scored, pushing the rate up to just under fours. There was some luck here too. Several dropped catches and a missed run out allowed us to plow on. A couple of batsmen were disappointed to go at a slow rate at this time. It's true a few runs were missed out but I'll take that rate if it means we get some luck!
However, as has been the case this year, none of the top order pushed on. This would have seen 25 or more on the board in the last third of the innings. Wickets fell regularly, and West's batting strength showed as 75 runs were scored in 17 (4.41) with six wickets falling. This was the least impressive phase. I would look for more runs, but it was understandable that the rate could not climb when wickets fall. It could have been much worse had the last four not added 55 while at the crease and got through 10 overs. You can't expect that every week.
In the end, whatever way we got there, 200 would be a challenging score for Renfrew. They have a reputation for playing higher risk cricket. This might mean they easily knock off scores if the "hit out" tactic pays off, but West knew chances would come. I said at half time that if we "win" the fielding (hold catches, save runs) we win the game. It would take something brilliant to do otherwise.
In fact, Renfrew started with extreme caution. West fielded well and bowled a length that the batsmen found tough to get away. Renfrew did a lot of defending and rarely took risks. However, they also were unable to rotate the strike meaning they spent 25 overs getting to 50. The control was over 80% and only two wickets fell in the first 35 overs. We assumed "block or hit" when they mostly blocked.
From here, you know risks have to be taken to get back in the game. This is where to show the difference: You take your chances and stay patient when opposition risks pay off. Again, the difference is about fielding.
The rate increased. The next 50 was scored in 11 overs with only one more wicket falling. Chances were hard to come by. There were two difficult chances dropped, but the tight fielding helped keep the score under control. Despite going at almost five an over, the rate was getting away. There was 101 needed in 14 overs, more than seven an over.
Wickets in hand meant that Renfrew still felt in the hunt. The fact was, no one had yet scored at seven an over in this match. And West were better in the field, meaning Renfew would need to be bang on. It would take an extremely cool head to do it for 14 overs so West were on to win.
Naturally, overconfidence is costly. Yet on the other hand, it's a powerful position knowing that, to win, all you need to do is the basics well; something West had done all game. 12 runs were saved by good fielding and seven were lost to unforced errors. With over 20 runs lost by Renfew, you can see the difference.
This panned out in the death as the rated climbed. Eight an over from 10. Nine an over from five. 23 runs needed from the last 12 balls and 18 needed from the last six balls. There was no stage in the innings where Renfrew were favourites. That said, there was no stage where the game was out of reach. It just became increasingly unlikely.
The result went with the odds. It was a solid victory.
Some other KPIs:
- Both teams had 80% control. However, West scored off 11% more balls and scored both more singles and boundaries.
- West stole 26 singles to Renfrew's six. West saved 12 runs in good stops to Renfrew's six.
- West bowled three fewer wides.
In other words, it was victory in every area.
After the game, there was a lot of talk about how the win should have been more comprehensive. One person even suggested we should (not "could" but "should") have won by 200 runs. Although there were also more tempered opinions. It seems that there is some disagreement about what success looks like. For many, it's outplaying the opposition enough to win. For others only demolishing a weaker side is enough.
The general consensus as to why the win was closer than hoped was that the top order were not scoring fifties and the bowling was too focused on defending rather than taking wickets.
The question I asked in response to this is, "what can be done differently?"
No batsman goes out to hit twenty or thirty and get out. So, any accusations of "not wanting it enough" is vague and lacking a practical element. Similarly, in the field the accusation of "sitting back and not trying to take wickets" has no practical point. I wanted to know what we should actually do.
We didn't come up with much other than to change the bowling.
My thought was as it always is; keep focusing on process. Bat and bowl to your game plan and look to hone it at training as best you can. See it early. Play it late and straight. Pick up singles. Bowl dots. Field like every run is the one that wins you the match. Catch more than you drop. These are basic things but if you do them better than the opposition you will win most games.
There will be times where a flash of brilliance takes a game away, but this is a rare thing. It's far more likely that the team with fewer mistakes is the winner. If you have fewer misfields and drops, if you hit the target more (with bowling and fielding), if you bowl fewer wides, if you are in control of more shots, you win.
It's not glamorous. You don't win many games by 10 wickets or 200 runs. However, it is realistic and you do win more games overall. It's this consistency of performance based on good processes that is what I consider success. So far this season we have been consistently better in all the important metrics. And we are looking to improve further. That's exactly what I want.