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By Chris Marshall
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Cricket Diary: Come Hail Or Shine

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Growing up I don’t ever recall thinking “oh good it’s April, the cricket season is starting” and as I donned bobble cap, base layers, snood and winter coat and headed off to the nets I wasn’t exactly thinking it either, only I was of course because I have been fixated on playing again all winter.

Countdown week then, before the first game, a inter club friendly, on Sunday ……

Monday: plan was to have a really good week of nets and training, but the weather soon made that look less than likely although to be fair the week started out OK, cold, but OK. Walked the dogs who all expressed a preference for the climate in Spain at this time of year, then after had thawed out did my now daily exercises followed by an hour on the bike. Early evening I was down at the nets batting for half an hour and bowling for half an hour, then back home to thaw out again and try and explain to Sands why this was so much fun!!

Tuesday: day off for the dogs but not for me, although it has to be said that the cold wind combined with the snow sort of limited what I was able (or inclined to do). It was the first nets of the season at Barlaston Cricket Club, but they were cancelled because of snow.

Wednesday: cold, but no snow (it’s amazing how quickly re redefine what is a good day) so walked the dogs then thawed out, had the joy of visiting Autoglass for a new windscreen which is actually about as exciting as it gets these days then in the evening endured the cold for 90 minutes batting and 30 minutes bowling. Did not thaw out!

Thursday: used the cold weather, and my age as an excuse to do nothing much all day, but did waddle down to training in the evening dressed in so much winter clothing I could hardly move. Was the first ‘full’ practise session of the season but was content enough with some light fielding drills and chat about how cold it was!

Friday: picked up my new Penkridge Cricket Club Cap and Polo shirt from the excellent and extremely helpful who also embroidered the club badge onto my Kookaburra clothing. Memories of getting new school uniform knocked on some long forgotten part of the brain, and it did all start to feel even more real, and once again even colder as I did thirty minutes batting and thirty minutes bowling before heading home for what felt like my 10th bath of the week and yet another evening thawing out!

Very happy with the job done by

Saturday: groundhog day, yep it was cold, yep I was back in the nets for an hours batting before the First team game v Stafford. It was snowing as I finished off, so the afternoon was spent ……. thawing out!!! All in all though another extremely enjoyable week: four and a half hours batting, an hour and a half bowling and not a lot of time fielding or catching.

Sunday: Game Day! 33 years after I last donned whites I was a tad apprehensive how it would go to be honest. Started on a downer when I realised my two bag strategy would have to be a three bag strategy as I hadn’t factored in the food bag – how remiss and naive of me. A rookie error without question.

The two teams consisted basically of 3rd team bowlers and 4th team batter, playing 4th team bowlers and 3rd team batters so each side had even match ups. No huge surprise I fielded like an old man! Used the left foot a couple of times to stop the ball, was as slow and stiff as the proverbial cart horse when running, but didn’t have a catch to worry about. All in all a pretty cold but pleasant time wandering between mid on and third man. Was a tad surprised to be told I was bowling, and even more surprised that my 3 overs only went for 8 runs, which included an excellent four from young Luis! The surprised continued when asked to open and my partner Kenny kindly put age before beauty and let me take the first ball. A moment I had been playing over and over in my mind for many an hour I was very happy to get outside off and pad it away – OK I missed it! It was totally different from batting in the nets: with the keeper standing up I was batting in my crease not outside, there was no pace or bounce compared to the nets, and the fielders kept getting in the way. I had 6 runs to my name after 6 overs but my focus was to hang around as long as possible and not get out to a rash shot. Got a little more comfortable and ended up retiring on 32 not out (being a friendly you had to retire at 30). Not the most attractive innings: dropped on the boundary, a couple on the pads I thought would have been worth a shout, and played and missed a little outside off stump, but the inner chid in me was more than happy with the performance, which ended up being the highest score on the day – I also managed to use all my clothes (base layers and two sweaters included) on the first day, in fact the only thing not required were the sunglasses and sun hat!

It felt very natural to be back on the pitch in general, but a little surreal at the same time. Fair to say we were a mixed bunch talent wise, but with a shared enthusiasm and desire to have fun and support each other. I was impressed as ever with the friendliness of the club and really enjoyed watching the younger players: Fin, Lucy, Katie, Rehan, George, Adam and Luis play. I even enjoyed batting in the snow and hail that decided to make an appearance as I walked out to bat!

Up and running on Play Cricket which was a nice surprise given this was a friendly game.

Was not expecting to bowl, and certainly not so economically.

At one point I was 6 after 6 overs so a slow start to say the least!

As I write this I am using pretty much the only part of my body that does not ache, my fingers! In reality I think I had over prepared in some ways as my legs were extremely stiff and my knee hurt, fortunately not the bad one. I am pretty sure this is all down to the exercise and will subside but I do need to have a think about how much I can do during a week. I will obviously have to work on the running and fielding, but I think the best course of action is to bribe the skipper to let me field at slip!

I am a little concerned about training for the 3rds and 4ths being on a Monday night though, especially if I have played two games over the weekend as think the old body will struggle – still is an incentive to get fitter! I would like to schedule at least one longer net session a week, either on the Friday night before the children take over, or Saturday morning before a match if anyone is interested.

Finally a tip ….. you would do well to buy shares in Radox and Whisky as I think both will be required in large quantities after each game!

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