Life as a village cricketer

Consistency is the key to any good season. It’s what makes Virat Kohli so valuable in one day cricket; it’s what made Steve Smith so valuable in Test cricket. But it’s what is hampering me in 2018. I need a spike. I need an injection of runs from somewhere.

A bit of expert coaching will do my quest for runs no harm (that’s not me btw, it’s Nick Compton)

My scores this season have been remarkably consistent: 4, 3, 3, 5. You can hang your hat on me to add almost nothing to your middle order right now.

In my first game since the previous blog, I was frustratingly run out for 3. Thames Ditton 4th XI were playing a Saturday friendly against Tooting United, who arrived and promptly racked up 325 in 40 overs. It was something of a mismatch. I did manage to get a bowl though, collecting 3-0-23-1. I’d like to say the wicket was a result of some great bowling, but as they looked to wind up their innings, a full toss on middle was tamely hit to square leg. Still, I’ll take it.

In response I was sent in at first drop. I didn’t have to wait long, either, to get into the action. Unsurprisingly, Tooting’s bowling was a cut above ours as well. A scratchy start saw me get off the mark with an edged cut shot down to third man. I picked up a further two with an uppish cover drive. Not pretty, but so far so good.

I then pushed another one, this time along the ground, to deep cover and set off for the single. I was just over halfway down by the time I realised my partner was still stood on his bat, watching the ball. Maybe I didn’t scream loud enough. I turned to try and make it back but was beaten by a direct hit from deep cover. When it’s not your day… We were bowled out for 83.

Before my next game I was invited to Lord’s for a cricket coaching session. A bit of coaching wouldn’t go amiss amid my torrid start to the season, so I was more than happy to accept. MCC coach, James Fielding put me through my paces, rolling out spin bowling machine Merlin to test my mettle. It was nice to get bat on ball and rediscover the middle of my Black Cat Shadow, a bat with a dark red comet stripe now adorning its outside edge.

James sent down a mixture of off spin and leg spin. The off spin was much easier to deal with than the leg spin. To my mind’s eye I was moving around like Hashim Amla in his pomp; trigger movement back and right across off stump, front foot drawn back towards the crease, playing the ball straight down into the ground from right under the eyes. Whilst vision and reality were surely divorced on this occasion, the method was working.

Now, I don’t understand how anyone has ever scored a run against Shane Warne. The ball drifts into you and the eyes light up; a nudge to mid-on or a clip through square leg appear to be there for the taking, only for the ball to rip away from you at the last moment. It’s just as well I won’t be facing anyone bowling 55mph leggies this year, because I’m struggling to deal with 55mph seam up stuff!

Still, it was great fun and it was an interesting insight into what the professionals are facing. James left me with a few thoughts about approaching batting and instilled a bit of confidence for the rest of the reason.

Sadly, in my next game, I was unable to put any of it to practice. Thames Ditton Sunday XI were chasing 204 in 40 overs and I came out at number six with us needing to stamp on the accelerator. It’s not really my game, but a couple of hits out to the deep saw me collect five runs – my new top score for the club, which is a damning indictment of how things have been going!

On a more positive note, I was tossed the ball again and collected 5-1-33-2. The two wickets came in a double wicket maiden, with the first of them ending Clapham In CC’s 139-run sixth wicket partnership. Pace off the ball did the trick, with a missed sweep winning me an lbw and a belligerent swipe across the line going straight up in the air to midwicket. It’s nice to be at least contributing something to the cause…

Still, there is plenty of time left and things feel like they might be clicking with my batting. If I can bat well at Lord’s, surely I can bat well on a village green at some point? I’m now averaging 3.75 for the season and have some way to go to reach the target average of 10, but one good knock I’ll be right back in it…

By Miles Reucroft

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