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By Chris Marshall
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Cricket Diary: Down To Earth With A Bump

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Not quite as promising a week as last week to be fair, but more of that later.

Week started off trying to train the dogs that if they needed to go out during the night they would have to give me 4 mins and 27 seconds notice as that is the extra amount of time it took me to get downstairs and to the patio door following my first game in 33 years. By the end of the week I had got it down to 1 min 57 seconds, proof of a kind that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.

First full net session of the season at Penkridge Cricket Club for the 3’s and 4’s was well attended by those that hadn’t been tempted by the fact it coincided with Pub Gardens opening! As predicted, bit tough on the old legs having played on the Sunday but had a bat, and as there was no fielding practise, after a few overs of lobbying hand grenades I contented myself with comparing aches and pains with a few others who were of a closer age to me.

Managed to call into Barlaston Cricket Club and talk about their plans for the new Development Team they are establishing which sound impressive and I think will be possible to get involved in as they work well with the times I visit my parents each week.

Had a good net on Wednesday evening, and again on Friday evening before the first Junior Training Session of the year which was extremely impressive and yet another reminder of how much has changed since I last played. Of course the real highlight of Friday was the fact the bar opened for the first time this year, for outdoor, socially distanced use, which was a bit of a pain as once the sun had gone to bed it was cold and if ever a group hug was required it was then.

Saturday started well as most of the soreness had gone from my legs, carried out nicely in the nets until I got my wish to face a left hander (thanks Will) and probably got my come uppence with a blow to the thumb. Being a generally positive chap a) the gloves worked well and b) I was fending off a full toss. Fair to say the day got worse after that. The pitch at Stafford lived up to the description I had been given, but somehow nobody had thought to mention just how remote a pitch it was. I guess the clue was in “top field” – a more than apt description. The outfield had been cut apparently, but when and what with was unclear. The pitch was soft to say the least, but as a team we didn’t really get to test it out for long. I batted for 31 balls for a less than impressive 6, finding it hard to score, but not feeling that my wicket (or is it an out) was really under treat. I need to find a way to get a few singles going early on: being able to run may help (training required), not hitting it so hard (better timing) would help as well, but possibly the quickest fix will be to go to Stafford earlier and cut a couple of sections of the outfield shorter.

Back at Penkridge for 5pm it time to see the 2’s turn a promising position, into a slightly concerning one, before securing a well fought victory. A few beers later I was asked if I would play for a visiting team in a friendly on the Sunday. One game into the season and I was already being put out on loan. Having checked it wouldn’t involve a two week quarantine post match I agreed.

Sunday was no better than Saturday either for the team I played for, or me personally! Can’t blame the pitch though this time. I need to find a way to replicate the way I feel in the nets onto the square. No excuses I am not good enough at the moment, but I am finding it hard to adjust from the faster pace of the nets to the grass, and whilst I feel pretty confident on my ability to not get out, I have little confidence in my ability to score. I am seeing it OK, but my timing is off and I am not committing to attacking strokes.

On a positive note I am enjoying it. Despite the two bruised toes, bruised thumb, sore knees, tight hamstring and sore thighs it does all feel more natural, and after only 3 games in 33 years it could be a lot worse. Whilst I am happy to turn my arm over whenever needed I have no aspirations to be a bowler. I think I know what I need to do with my batting, and fitness and mobility is the issue with the fielding – along with a skipper who will not put me in the slips!!!!

I have learnt a lot this weekend which is encouraging and if all else fails I can get some use out of all my cricket bats by setting fire to them and at least being warm when I next have a post game beer!

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