I don't know if I have brought the weather for good, but we have had amazing run the last few weeks. Who says Scotland is wet?
Riding our good fortune, we finally convinced the groundsman to let us on the square. He even marked a wicket for us. With about 15 down to attend, it was time for my favourite - and most frustrating - training method: Middle practice.
I love middle practice because it's the closest you get to an actual game. It frustrates me because I never seem to get the batsmen enough time in the middle. Nevertheless, this was a golden opportunity.
After a very quick warm up, I set up the practice as a match. The batsmen set their target for the four overs they were batting and we bowled in overs with a full set of fielders. A third batsman acted as umpire and replacement for when a wicket fell. New batsmen rotated in after four overs.
We managed a credible 16 overs in two hours, including warm up time, field changes and changing around between sets of batsmen. During that time I wandered around talking to fielders and batsmen about tactics. I focused especially on the idea of rotating the strike (and preventing it).
Players stayed focused throughout, even towards then end where concentration starts to flag. Admittedly, four overs per pair is not enough, but even with that limitation we only got through 12 batsman, with quite a few missing out.
The additional problem here was that we had well over 20 guys turn up, a few for the first time. I would estimate about half didn't get to bat at all. We set up a fielding drill area that some senior guys took upon themselves to run while I was with the middle practice. This must have been a less than perfect experience. I managed to also give these guys 10 minutes of target practice at the end of the session, so at least they got a bowl.
Despite that, the exercise was super-useful purely because we were finally on grass with some real cricket rhythms. No matter how many nets you have, you just can't recreate a match feeling any other way.
I noticed a couple of things as the game progressed that we can take into further sessions.
- Generally, players are better at strike rotation than I have so far given credit. Most people hit their score and single targets.
- Bowlers get frustrated when singles are stolen. That's a good thing to note for bowler's reactions, batter's plans and fielder's sharpness.
- There is a tendency to play forward, even to back of a length bowling.
- It would be good to find a way to get pairs waiting to bat a way of knocking up, as they tended to just wait for 15 minutes doing nothing.
- I totally forgot we could use the indoor nets as well. In hindsight, some of the more social players who wanted a hit could have done so. Even though I detest mindless netting, it would have been better than two hours of fielding.
- The bowling was understandably rusty in places, and this would be a good time to reiterate the mental process element of bowling that we previously discussed.