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Cricket Diary: the Siesta is back.

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Gooseberry Ice Cream. Parents 60th Anniversary. Siestas. Two totally different losses, The Hundred & Bat Refurbishment.

Who needs Spain eh!? A frustrating weekend playing no cricket on what was the best weekend weather wise so far this year, was compensated in part by a great day on Sunday at the IT20 at Headingley with a full crowd. Part of me is uncomfortable being around so many people and time will tell but it feels very much like the brakes have come off just as we have got to the top of a hill and the only way we can go now is downhill fast!

Monday I was back in the nets at Penkridge, but only because my fathers operation was cancelled in the morning. Otherwise I was set to be in a bubble with Sands, and my parents so I could take him to the hospital and stay with mother. Certainly felt good (if not painful) to have a bat in hand again, and some sun on the old bones is always welcome. The old bones have certainly benefitted from the last two weeks in terms of a) more time to stretch and recover and b) less usage. Sad truth is that for the rest of the season I am best to play at weekends, rest and recover until Friday and then have a gentle practice on Saturday morning. Batting felt pretty good to be honest, but a chat with Ross afterwards highlighted that my head is still not straight. This was disappointing but not a total surprise as I still find the ‘rushed’ nature of netting reduces my ability to get set up. In a match I obviously have more time so it seems to be becoming less of an issue. The set up Ross highlighted I should have is actually the one I try and have so that is good that we are on the same page, I just need to keep focussed on making it a habit. Was fun listening to the ‘young ones’ planning a much anticipated night out clubbing (or whatever the correct phrase is) on Saturday. Brought back a few memories but also a sign of the times was how encouraging it was to hear they all pro vaccinations and would have no concerns over Covid Certificates for entry into events. Have to say that over the last 18+ months my day to day experiences have been far removed from the scare mongering reports on the news channels and social media, but the fact remains it only takes a small minority to mess it up for the majority.

Tuesday I was back in the nets at Barlaston, but only because my fathers operation had been cancelled and I didn’t need to spend Tuesday night ‘on call’ for any post anaesthetic issues. Before going to the nets I called in as usual at my parents. On the agenda this week was setting up fathers new printer and plans for the weekend and their 60th wedding Anniversary. Father showed me an old photo he had unearthed (see below) and as far as Sunday went they liked the idea of going to Wedgwood to watch me play cricket for Barlaston (if selected), have a bit of a picnic then a take away in the evening, as nothing had been planned due to his scheduled operation.

Early 70’s in Spain. Me front right opposite my mother. Next to me is a lifelong friend of theirs with her husband opposite (who died shortly after from Brain Cancer). Next to her is my father. The woman next to him and the husband opposite were people they met on the holiday. Don’t recall then at all but father casually mentioned that the man was a lawyer for the Kray Twins!! I don’t recall the meal, but I do recall the holiday as the friends husband (Colin) kicked my football into the sea while we were playing and it drifted off never to be seen again.

The net allowed me to work on what I had discussed with Ross, or more accurately what to do about it, and I tried not grounding/tapping my bat at all but rather starting from a very upright position and bending my knees as the bowler approached. Seemed to work well enough so will keep practising this. Rest of the net involved about 90 minutes bowling which is always a tad ironic given how little I bowl i.e. a few times for Penkridge never for Barlaston. Back home that evening the Barlaston team sheet came through on the WhatsApp group (they don’t use Spond but send a message out Tuesday afternoon asking for availability, hold team selection Tuesday evening, and then send out a photo of the four team sheets for the weekend) confirming that I was selected having made myself available after talking to parents about weekend plans, and rather interestingly was down as Vice Captain.

What’s not to like about a good old fashioned team sheet!? Mat have to frame this one LOL

Wednesday continued hot, sticky and lazy. Hollie is house bound for a couple of weeks while we try and get her paw sorted once and for all. Poor thing is back in a cone as we need to leave the wound open to let the sun at it and she has to be prevented from licking at the new skin. Catch 22 really, is far too hot for her to really be in a cone, but it’s the sunshine and heat which gives her the best chance of it healing. Cricket wise I followed the first game of The Hundred primarily on Twitter but I did catch a few balls whilst I took the opportunity to refurbish a cricket bat which basically included removing a scuff sheet and damaged stickers, sanding the bat down, oiling it and then putting on new stickers. Talking to Gary I commented how simple it had been (following his advice) and he shared the view that a lot of the cricket bat damage he sees could be prevented or indeed fixed by the individual if people had a little more confidence and knowledge. We discussed making a series of videos.

I am not a fan of scuff sheets. I get they are useful but I prefer to look and feel of the natural wood. I was a little apprehensive that I would damage the bat but Gary at Williamson Boucher said to heat the scuff sheet before pealing across the grain NOT up the grain. Worked a treat and was actually really easy.

Thursday yet another hot and lazy day, so continued life very much in Spanish Mode, which means getting up early to do anything energetic like walking the dogs, cleaning the house, exercise, with breakfast around 11am, then try and stay cool my moving as little as possible, a light lunch, a siesta – which is really a nap on the sofa so not as glamorous as they make it sound – then any chores, work etc followed by a couple of cold ones in the garden followed by a late dinner (9pm). We have never moved away from Spanish time regards eating so not a huge change to our usual daily routine. Early evening got the message confirming selection for Saturday and celebrated with some home made Gooseberry Ice Cream! What can I say? I don’t even like Gooseberries but we have a couple of bushes which generate a couple of bowls before the caterpillars eat the leaves and it was hot so I ate it. It would be more accurate to say it was a sorbet, and that the Victoria Sponge Cake Sands also made for my Parents 60th was much nicer.

Friday Sands and I popped down to Penkridge to try and sell the last two bundles. We did pretty well but both have some teams left on the cards so they remain at the club and hopefully they will be sold during the week. Will be the last ones for the season although will have a few things to raffle if the NHS Charity goes ahead.

Saturday was another loss, but a much closer game. We benefitted from three 3s players opening the batting for us, and with both Jay and Kenny contributing career and season bests we posted a healthy 246. Both benefitted from a more solid start that we usually get, and from batting with an experienced batter at the other end. Personally I was pleased with 35 not out off 35 balls, made up of a six, 6 fours and 5 singles well slow ambles really as it was a small pitch so if the ball didn’t go for 4 it was a pretty relaxing single. Can’t say I had my best day in the field, largely because I had little to do and stiffened up so failed to get to do my self justice really. Fordhouses got off to a good start, all batted well and knocked them off in the 40th over so no complaints. Factor in not the best start from the bowlers, our customary 27 extras and far from perfect fielding from amongst others me, and we may well have pushed them harder but it was a good performance.

Sunday Barlaston lost to their local rivals Wedgwood who posted 170 off their 540 overs. My poor form in the field continued. No dropped catches all weekend but I was just off the pace, although my feet at least didn’t hurt on the Sunday as dumped the spikes as the hard ground was doing me no favours. It was a steady performance overall. 34 extras did us no favours, but with one exception we only bowled the youngsters who once again did a tremendous job, reinforcing how things have developed since my day and reminding me why I wanted to play in the development team. Batting wise I got my first Golden since returning although guess what? LBW going down legside honest. Put it this way, 4 of his remaining 5 bowls in the over went down the legside. Add in an umpire standing at least 10 yards back from the stumps, a leg stump guard it was hard to see how it was out. Still the book says it was. Unfortunately I was not alone with my fellow ‘old boys’ contributing a somewhat pathetic 18 runs (a 14, a 4 and 3 0’s). Couple of the youngsters brought us up to 110 before an unfortunate run out without facing a ball pretty much summed up the weekend.

Two losses then. One good innings one disaster. No bowling and far from impressive in the field but I enjoyed the weekend. It was hot, painful (finger took a few and hips/groin did not like the hard ground on the Saturday in particular). I preferred the Sunday in many ways: revisiting an old ground, some familiar faces in the crowd – my parents enjoyed their day – and good banter with some team mates of a similar age and ability.

Finished the weekend off with a takeaway with Sands and my parents at their house. 60 happy years together, what better way to end the weekend.

As I say down to type this a photo popped up on social media which made me realise I should have a few years left to enjoy this wonderful game.

Impressive and inspirational.

Thank You

Gray-Nicolls are generously supporting this diary and my return to cricket for the 2021 Season.

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