West of Scotland 176 (48.1 o). Stirling County 141 (47 o). West of Scotland win by 35 runs.
It was a satisfying performance for the first game of the league season, as West overcame Stirling despite a game that ebbed and flowed. Last year we would have lost this match, but this year we held firm and stayed confident in our skills.
The batting was typical for early season rustiness. The pitch was good and the bowling was below par. 27 wides tells the story there. The batting saw good starts that didn't quite turn into match winning innings: 23, 14, 17, 13, 17 and 36 on the card sum it up.
Our control percentage was 75.24%
One batsman was ill but played and aimed to occupy the crease. His 91 ball 23 was crucial to us posting a decent total and his next aim will be to improve his scoring ball percentage when back to full strength. A couple of guys got out to "early season" shots (mistimed shots to ring fielders) and clearly need more time on outdoor pitches.
The stand out innings was a well-paced 36 from number eight who was happy combining strike rotation with lusty blows. It was his game plan, and he knows it well. In this match it paid off, and generally it will because it's a well furrowed plan.
i was pleased with the strike rotation as well, stealing 24 runs in the innings brought by either good running or opposition misfields. We only missed three runs in our innings and only conceded four runs through misfields when we fielded. A +17 finish.
The only criticism laid at anyone was a lower order batsman who also likes to play his shots. He came in, hit some nice shots to get going and mis timed a pull shot to expose the tail with his partner going well at the other end. When this happened we were bowled out in short time. A couple of people mentioned this was a poor choice as he should have focused on rotating the strike and staying in. In my mind, this was not an error. The batsman in question is a powerful striker of the ball and could have scored a lot of runs in the last couple of overs. He had a plan to hit the ball hard and he went for it. On this day it failed. But who's to say thing to pinch a single would have worked either? It's also not like 10 and 11 were rabbits. Both could hang around and score from the friendly bowling. You have to play the game as you see it. If this happens again, I would encourage the batsman to do what his best plan suggests, not what others think is his best plan.
At the break a few were overly critical of the score. It's easy to let emotion get in the way and get disappointed about "not getting enough" because we feel we could have scored more. However, to win you don't need to get as many runs as are in the pitch, you simply need more than the opposition. We went out with a plan, adapted when it didn't go perfectly and kept driving towards a total. Fortunately, our captain has a level head and said to me calmly at the break "if we concede fewer wides and bowl dots we win this game".
He he was right.
In in the field we looked very strong. Here are some stats:
- Seven good stops (against four misfields)
- Four catches (Three drops).
- Two direct hits on the stumps from five attempts (one run out)
- Stirling's control percentage was just 66.17% (compared to 74% for West)
- Stirling had 67 scoring shots (23.8% SB%) compared to West 76 (26.3%)
- Stirling scored 39 singles to West 39
- Stirling scored nine boundaries to West 15
- 16 wides (compared to 27)
Even when the score was 29-0 from six, I felt like we were on top. The control was around 50% at one point and it felt like a wicket was going to fall for a long time, despite boundaries being hit.
We slowly squeezed with good fielding and accurate bowling, reducing the scoring rate to 84-3 from 25 (West were on 80-3 at the same stage). The two spinners turned the screw in the second half with combined figures of 18-3-39-3 and an SB% of 17%. This was combined with focused fielding including a fine over the shoulder catch and direct hit run out. We should continue this trend.
On the improvement side, we could do even better by cutting down on the couple of mistakes we made with ground fielding. Two drops would have been stunning catches but I believe we can take those with focused work. One drop was a regulation slip catch. I put it down to cold and illness, but we should practice slip work even more too.
16 wides is also still a few too many. The main issue is knowing what a wide is, as different umpires interpret the local rules differently. The solution is to bowl tighter lines, staying on or just outside the stumps. We can use PitchVision at outdoor practice to assist with this. We must also be careful to remember length is more important than line. I would rather see a bowler hit length more often and bowl more wides than bowl no wides but keep missing length. A wide is one, a half volley or long hop could well be four or six.
Looking forward, there will be times were a very skilled player takes the game away. In this game, the opposition batting was not deep and lacked a superstar. In other games, we need to be sure we can handle someone who is capable of winning the game with fast, free scoring. Good fielding and tight lines is a great strategy, but when you are being smashed you must be able to keep your cool.
After the game, the changing room review was brief. The captain had a few words, as did a senior player. I tried to drop on my "stop, start, continue" mantra but heads were already turning to the bar. Fortunately, I could chat to guys over a drink to stress my point: We should enjoy every moment of the win, but never assume we are doing it all right because we won (same as never spend too long in the post mortem when we lose). There is always stuff to improve and always strengths to maintain.
But that talk was for Tuesday. For now, let's enjoy the win, sing the club song and recover sore muscles. West of Scotland 2016 has positive signs.
- Stop: Throwing away a good start. Bowling wides.
- Start: Preparing for strong opposition. Slip catching, reaction catching. Ground fielding. Better SB%.
- Continue: Catches and direct hits. Bowling tight line and length.