About Last Chance 100
Project 2017-08-24 16:14:00 +1200
"Better to try and fail than never to try at all."
- William F. O'Brien
"Cricket is a game full of forlorn hopes and sudden dramatic changes of fortune and its rules are so ill-defined that their interpretation is partly an ethical business."
- George Orwell
Last Chance 100
This is a campaign to pay for batting lessons for an aging cricketer who seeks the sport's equivalent of scaling Everest - scoring 100 runs at one turn at bat.
While I could pay for training myself, I wish to share, through the writing up of this experience, the humour, humiliation, and (hopefully the highlights) of attaining a century...with some insights thrown in for good measure.
I'm hoping that never-before-in-my-life coaching lessons will iron out my deficiencies, and add a degree of competence to allow me to advance beyond two previous highest scores in the 80s.
I totally realise that the first component of this campaign will only marginally add to the world's happiness. (It's not as if I'm going to solve world hunger, or bring North Korea to the negotiating table).
So wait...there is more. Any funds over and above the $1500 will go towards gear for a cricket team who otherwise mightn't be able to play. That's right, I want to encourage the development and growth of cricket tragics who are aged 18-24 by providing the kit which would allow them to turn up and look the part - and therefore go a long way to performing the part of cricketers.
Campaign funding outcomes
So, in summary, this is a campaign raising funds to:
1. Pay for cricket batting coaching lessons to help me achieve a maiden score of a century (100 runs) at one turn at bat. And
2. Any campaign funds over and above the $1500 target to be directed at supplying kit for a team for that otherwise wouldn't have the means to play.
By running this as a campaign, where the base reward is, at the very least, a weekly update of progress (towards the 100), as a writer, with an audience, I will be 'forced' (in the best possible sense) to write on progress.
This is a quixotic goal which aims to be a humourous and vicarious experience for pledgers.
It is mostly about fun, with a few insights thrown in, a shared struggle where the only failure would be not to have tried at all.
A note about the rewards
Many of the higher value rewards link back to Punchline (Million Dollar Messages). Punchline specialises in an organisation's first 2-10 words - a heart and soul and value proposition, the first thing read on a website, an answer to "what do you do mate?"
We also carry out other writing and storytelling work, succinctly providing persuasive messages for websites, social media and longer format white papers.
My science and technology writing skills (available as another of one of the rewards) links to Stick (an acronym for science, technology, innovation & technology knowledge). Modesty aside, I know how to explain 'stuff'.
The Wellington Biz Dojo (at the corner of Vivian and Tory Streets), which Punchline operates out of, is a very cool co-working space.
I was 'midwife' to the writing of Harry Mills book, Secret SAUCE - How to pack your messages with persuasive punch. I use these ideas in my own writing, and would be delighted to pass on some of Harry (and my) knowledge around seduction with words.
Finally, the wonderful caricature is by Larissa Banks. Any of you wish to hook into her talents (cricket players will get the pun) can contact her on Instagram @lmbyeahyouknowme
Some of you may wish to discuss how my writing skills might best be used in your own particular case. Feel free to contact me directly on 021 0696 040, or email@example.com
I'd love the opportunity to help you better tell your own particular story.
The People Behind Last Chance 100
Since becoming a relatively late in life cricketer (didn't have much of an opportunity to play when growing up on a Southland sheep farm), I've never managed to score 100 runs at one turn at bat.
As a writer, having both an audience, and a reason and obligation to tell a story is a great privilege.
By combining these two themes, I hope to entertain and inform, obtain and give some insights in the pursuit of an unfulfilled goal.
Wouldof, couldof, shouldof - realising you’re making a mistake as you’re doing it
08:49AM Mon 20/11/17 on Last Chance 100
The opposition won the toss - they called the tossed coin right; so they get the choice of whether they bat or bowl first.
Normally, mostly, a team will elect to bat in their first innings (the turn your team has at batting, which I’ll be pleased to also explain to a particular German when we go to a game together! ).
But no, Taita Yodas elected to bowl first. Great, we, Eastern Shepherds, got to do what I wanted us to do, bat first.
An old mate, Eugene, whom I and three others shared a combi van trip around Europe in the early 80s, Messengered me after the game.
In that caring, sharing way that males have an an artform, he enquired?
Did you make your century, or was it an egg?
“Did you make your century, or was it an egg?”
“24” I replied.
“(Grimace-faced emoji), above your career average though”
“Quite probably” I replied.
Still it was 20 more runs than the opening game, and included an on-drive (to about 10.30 on the clock), which has been a shot I haven’t played for years...the second week in a row I’ve achieved what is often considered one of the more difficult cricket hits to achieve.
And this week too, I was much more concentrateful (which isn’t a word but probably deserves to be) on watching the bloody ball. Not just pretending to watch it, but looking intently at the ball in the bowler’s hand as he ran in to deliver it.
It meant I faced 40 balls (40 times a bowler bowled to me) for those 24, but generally felt pretty comfortable facing them. Some balls I let pass outside the off-stump (the on the right-hand side of the set of three when looking from behind), deciding that discretion is the better part of valour.
(Looking up that expression, used by Shakespeare, though not invented by him, I see it means “better to be prudent than merely courageous”.)
So perhaps it was feeling comfortable that was my undoing.
A relatively innocuous bowler (though no bowler ever owns up to that description) came in for his third or fourth over.
It was a full toss - that is, looking to reach me on the full with no bounce at all, rather than about two thirds of the way down the pitch.
Often it’s a type of ball you can really have a go at.
Instead I semi-softly drove at the full toss, and indeed hit it on the full. Even as I was playing it though I knew I wasn’t properly in control of the shot. My shot had no power, and was a doddle of a catch for the short cover fieldsman, about 15m from the bat, at about a 2 o’clock position on that clock face.
Even as I was playing it I realised (too late) I should of been playing it with soft hands, not following through with my bottom right hand wrist and arm, letting it fall even more softly, and safely.
Wouldof, couldof, shouldof - oh how great hindsight is. So, this week almost a quarter of a century...way better than 1/25th of a century, but…
Our team went on to make 213 runs in 40 overs, for the loss of six wickets. It would have been good to get more, but can be a defendable target.
We began our stint in the fied. Yours truly dropped a catch...damn it. Fielding at gully, at about 4.30 (o’clock, but that is syntactically incorrect). Ball came straight to me, slipped out of my hands. That feeling of letting your team mates down is so much worse than that of letting yourself down.
The opposition had one really good batsman - who, poor guy we got out when he was on 98. You’d almost let him get his century if he’d promise to go out straight after he’s got it...but that’s not the way cricket works.
Our captain Cullum also asked me to bowl. He’s figuring out what resources he has to skillfully deploy, and I bowled five over of inswing. This is something (inswing I mean) I only learned to do about seven years ago - yet another casualty of never having had coaching. It means the ball, from a right hand batsman’s perspective (all bowling types are described from the batsman’s POV) moves from right to left as it comes towards you.
It can be difficult to play - if you as the bowler get it right. So, for many of my bowls meant they didn’t score too heavily. The five overs cost 32 runs (not too bad in context of the game). Those bowling figures would’ve been much better if the last two balls weren’t hit for a six and a four consecutively mind you.
If we’d got that almost-century maker out earlier, we may’ve had a good chance of running through the rest of the Taita line-up. But we didn’t - and they scored the required 214 to win with about three overs left and six wickets lost.
So, a good day’s cricket, again we didn’t disgrace ourselves.
Personally, remembering to do many batting things all at once (watch the ball, cock your wrists, move your feet, play within yourself) was gratifying.
But going out the way I did...wouldof, couldof, shouldof.
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The 'death rattle' - never a good sound when you're batting
08:39AM Mon 13/11/17 on Last Chance 100
So, good news first, or bad news, bad news or good news?
OK, the bad news.
Out, bowled for four, having faced four balls. More on the reasons (the post factor rationalisation) in a minute.
The good news - given that nobody dies, nobody is traumatised, nobody goes hungry just because your don’t do so well in a game of cricket.
The good news. Well, the four itself was the first time in forever...or at least a bloody long time, that I’ve hit a boundary utilising an on drive.
That’s a hit, straight along the ground, that goes to the right hand side of a bowler. If the bowler’s at 12 o’clock, you as the batsman are at 6 o’clock, well the shot itself goes to 11 o’clock on that imaginary timepiece.
What’s so good about that?
For the past few years, my closed stance has effectively meant I couldn’t do an on drive.
I’d sort of be falling over myself, not able to get my feet and shoulders and hands into the right position to sort of play across and through your body, opening up your hips enough to allow that shot to be played. It is rated as one of the more technically difficult shots to play in batting...so as a small, miniscule victory, it is one I’ll have to take. Some credit to my batting coach, Taylor Wenlock for that adjustment to my game
Why out so readily?
Why did I go out so readily?
Hindsight, it being such a perfect way to recollect is, I wasn’t concentrating enough. I wasn’t concentrating as intently as required on the bowled ball. I can’t blame anyone but myself for that lapse.
This was confirmed by the umpire (we have to umpire our own games, and it is your own teammates who have to decide sometimes contentious issues). I played in the right line of the ball - but by the time I’d got my bat to where the ball was (or in this case wasn’t) it had already passed and hit the wickets.
Which is sound familiar to most cricketers. A hard leather ball, knocking these cylinders of wood stuck in the ground. There’s a percussiveness, a dull echo knock - a bit like a xylophone key being rapped by the mallets (thank you well-known search engine), and then immediately silenced so they don’t reverberate.
It is sometimes called the ‘death rattle’ (which is a term associated with actual death, as described by Wikipedia here). Cricket is the game that has probably generated the most metaphors to describe things that are going on and ‘the symbolic sound of a batsman’s wicket being broken when he is bowled’ is yet another perfect description.
It’s a slightly sickening sound if you’re batting because without even looking, you know you’re out. It is only rarely that you do look back either.
You’re picking up your heart that has immediately sunk into the depths of your stomach.
Chasing a really big score
My going out as our first casualty wasn’t a very good start for our team, The Shepherds, chasing Karori Tulsi’s 338 score in 40 overs. It’s a long day in the field when you’re playing fetch for so many boundaries, sixes and fours. It was a fine, but cool day as the gentle southerly kept temperatures down at about 14 degrees.
One of those sixes cleared the road beside Ben Burn Park in Karori, cleared the garden, and hit a window of a house about 120 metres away from where the batter himself smote the ball. It broke the window, and the ball was retrieved from inside!
I was fill-in captain for the day, which is a tricky enough assignment at the best of times. As well as attempting to be tactically astute, you’re also trying to ensure everyone gets to participate as much as possible. But, seeing as this is a newly formed team, I had no idea of the skills, or lack of, of two thirds of our players.
So, it was a case of figuring capabilities out as we went along. At one stage, in semi-desperation, I bowled myself for an over. One was enough, the same batsman who broke the window slogged (which is a bit unfair as a description, because they were pretty good cricket shots) me for a couple of sixes.
Said batsman went on to make 114, so I was in good company within our own team for getting taken to the cleaners..
On a personal note, I did take a catch, fielding at point, about 15 metres away from the batsman. That’s at 3 o’clock in the previously described clockface. Conversing with a team mate (of a few seasons) I commented how it is always good to get your first catch ‘out of the way’. You sort of wonder if you’ve remembered how to catch a ball in the off season...so taking a catch gets rid of that wee doubt in the back of your mind.
And how did we go in our run chase?
Well, we managed 258 off our (almost) 40 overs. In many if not most games, this would be a winning total. Not so today.
We didn’t embarrass ourselves. It wasn’t a walloping. We simply didn’t win.
And I only managed 1/25th of a century!
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All dressed up ready to go to the ball...and your date calls in sick
08:45AM Mon 06/11/17 on Last Chance 100
It was the first ‘game’ of the season on Saturday.
(A 'before' batting coaching stance, and the 'after' stance)
Except that our team ,The Shepherds, had the bye. Which means you’re all ready to play, and then you find out that because there’s an odd number of teams in the grade we’re in; we’re out this week.
So, it will once again be reflections on the two practice sessions I had this week to improve, eliminate and concentrate my efforts when it, eventually, comes to an actual game.
My practice sessions had to shift from the Basin Reserve, to under the Westpac Stadium (the Cake Tin). When the Wellington representative team is playing at home, they get first use of their own facilities - which is pretty selfish of them, but I guess its their home turf.
It means a bit of a hike to the other side of Wellington from the Biz Dojo, instead of just a wander down the road.
Given that The Firebirds (the marketing/brand name of the rep team) have won both their games outright in their two games at The Basin, you’d wonder if they need much more practice!
An outright win is in the longer form of the game (up to four days in these cases), where your team only bats once, but that is still more runs than the other team scores in total in two turns at bat.
You could also call it a hiding, but cricket being a gentleman’s game, someone invented a more polite term.
However, a bye does give me more opportunity to explain some of the ‘back to the drawing board’ coaching advice I’ve been getting on the Last Chance 100 quest.
'Hold, hold, hold'
I could’ve named this blog ‘Hold, hold, hold’, but that wouldn’t make sense on its own. However, it becomes the outcome of the added component to my batting that Taylor Wenlock added this week.
Because what you’re wanting to do when you’re batting in cricket is to play the ball as late as possible. That is, you don’t want to commit to a particular shot too early, because you may not have judged the ball’s trajectory, pace, or line as well as you might have from the moment it leaves the bowler’s hand.
So, the trick, or technique, is, to cock your wrists as you hold the bat behind you. The bat effectively pivots through the wrist position.
Just as a golfer pivots their wrists at the top of their golf swing, and unpivots the wrist just before they hit the ball - which in turn provides more clubhead speed and power - so it is with a cricket shot.
By cocking the wrists, you can adjust the shot to the actual ball that ends up down your end of the pitch.
This cocking of the wrists gives what is known as ‘lag’. It means that rather than being forced to play a particular (semi-predetermined) shot, you give yourself ever-slightly more time to play a shot that actually suits that ball.
This lag (produced by cocking the wrists) allows you to adjust the shot on the fly.
The irony is, you’re both conscious and unconscious you’re doing it. It is an adjustment of only a few hundredths of a second - but without even realising it, you’re timing the hit on the ball much better than if you have firm wrists.
The tiny adjustment to your hands, wrist and bat position produces more of this ‘hold, hold, hold’ mentality required to play the best possible shot for wherever the ball happens to land in relation to you.
Cocking of the wrists gives more control, more options, more safety and less risk. That on-the-move tweak to the actual shot you play, can save your bacon (or at least stop you going out). It allows you to change-ish your shot.
If you want to see a wonderful exponent of this ‘hold, hold, hold’ mentality, watch NZ cricket captain Kane Williamson sometimes when he is batting. He can play the ball awfully (as in beautifully) late. You’ll think the bowler has beaten him and then, at the very last and late moment, he plays a shot where the ball runs away for a four.
Of course, what I’m talking about is semi-theoretical, and only in a practice mode.
Whether it translates in actual game conditions - well, that’s a bit like turning up fully dressed to the ball, and only then finding out whether those dancing lessons behind closed doors unravels (or not) during the Waltz itself.
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A stance in cricket is a bit like a stance in life
12:12PM Mon 30/10/17 on Last Chance 100
Oxford Concise Dictionary.
stance n. 1) the manner and position in which a person or animal stands. 2) Sport. The posture assumed when about to play the ball, as in golf, cricket etc. 3) emotional or intellectual attitude. a leftist stance
The first Last Chance 100 batting practice was on Friday 27 October 2017 at the Basin Reserve.
I felt like a 17 year old going for his first test drive in a car, nervous and expectant all at once.
Actually, strictly speaking, practice took place under the grandstand of the Basin Reserve - I’ve still to play on what is rated as one of the nicest grounds in the world to do so.
Taylor Wenlock, the young man who has taken on the assignment to help me score a maiden century, is a Cricket Wellington affiliated coach. He’s only 22 but has amassed a fair bit of experience already.
He left school at 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a coach. There was no half measures by this guy. Taylor went straight to India, now arguably the home of cricket - at least from a financial impact point of view - to begin his learning about teaching about playing the game there.
I got padded up and put on my helmet (something I wouldn’t play without these days), and went down the end of the indoor batting nets. A double set has been set up, tensioned and separated from each other so there’s no danger of mishit or purposely hit for that matter, balls accidentally getting into the ‘other’ side.
Taylor threw 25 or so balls at me to get a feel for where I’m at, what I can (and more importantly) and what I can’t do.
Modify my stance
His first suggestion was to modify my batting stance.
For the last few years I’ve had my feet more or less in parallel shoulder-width apart, my left foot slightly behind my right foot, the big toe of my right foot roughly in line with the middle stump (or wicket), about 1.2m out from the wickets themselves. It has meant me attempting to look over my left shoulder, straining to keep my eyes level and on the incoming bowler. The bat rests behind my right foot, and I’m batting right handed.
Taylor suggested what is known as opening the stance up.
My right foot position stays the same (big toe on the middle wicket line), but now my left foot is much more pointed down the pitch, towards where the bowler is coming from.
It felt a little bit funny, but it certainly freed up my ability to get to the pitch of the ball. This is the recommended (at least when you’re not slogging) approach to get your foot in line with the ball whether that is on the offside (RHS as you look from behind the wicket) inline (bowl is on the wickets) or onside (LHS as you look from behind the wicket).
And, almost magically, the new stance made it easier to get to the line of the ball.
That modified stance also made it easier to reach further for the ball. Now, ideally, you’re trying to watch the ball as long as possible - onto your bat (the same way you see tennis shots of the player intently watching the ball onto their racket).
This new stance allowed much improved watching-the-ball-onto-the-bat as well.
That in turn gives more confidence about the shot you’re playing.
We went through a few more throw-down drills (Taylor throwing the ball at me), concentrating on the new stance, getting forward, defending my wickets when I had to, playing more powerfully and following-through (hitting the ball more powerfully, the bat ends up in the air while still being in an upright position).
All this from modifying my stance.
Which is where I bring back the headline about ‘a stance in cricket is a bit like a stance in life’.
At some stages we’ll believe X and be firm in our belief on that.
Not much later, we may change our mind, and now believe Y...just as firmly. You may have read something, had a discussion or had the self-realisation that a change of opinion is a good thing.
Neither stance was wrong - it is simply that you’ve changed how and why you think something because of the circumstances.
So it feels with this new batting stance.
I’m sure it looks a little bit (well a lot) awkward and inelegant.
But elegance (or something that looks like it) doesn’t get you a ton. I don’t care how ugly they are...100 uncultured runs or 10 stylish ones - there’s a clear objective.
The pure physics and mechanics of how I’m now standing, already feel as if I have more control in my shotmaking. And that can’t be a bad thing.
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Last Chance 100 lives - It feels a bit like getting selected for a representative sporting team
09:37AM Tue 17/10/17 on Last Chance 100
It’s a long time since I was ever up for selection for a sports team over and above any club side I played for.
But that memory of relief following hope, plus desire, nervousness and expectation is all coming back from those long ago times.
Those recollections are mixed with the thank you feeling I have of being endorsed through pledges from 36 people enabling me to have a crack at obtaining a century. Last Chance 100 lives thanks to you guys - like being selected for a rep team.
Having achieved the funding target, it is only now that the size of the goal becomes more apparent...semi-daunting, while still being the object(ive) of the exercise.
That is, in the abstract 100 runs is do-able - after all, it is only 10 x 10.
In the concrete - well this is going to be an interesting challenge.
It is not only my own expectation that’s being carried though. The obligation and onus to perform for all you people who out of the goodness of your hearts and wallets have said, “yeah, I’ll back you” is quite a tangible thing.
It is a view that I’ve got a wider audience I’m performing for, supporters wanting you to do well - who I’m also mindful that I could very well disappoint.
But, casting that thought aside, I’ll take on board the Labour Party’s election slogan (which personally I considered underwhelming) “let’s do this”.
While on the subject of being a sporting rep
And speaking of sporting representation, the last time I was (possibly, so it was rumoured) up for selection was back in 1987. I’d started playing cricket in Wellington after doing my O.E., and was suddenly a reasonably quick bowler.
So much so that I was the leading wicket-taker in the Mercantile League grade that our team ‘Spic n Span’ played in.
I almost made the team.
Rumoured...but as they say, close but no cigar.
Which means the last actual ‘rep’ (using the term very very loosely) team I played for was the Central Southland basketball team when I was in my early 20s.
It was a basketball-like and basketball-light competition akin to rugby played indoors.
Mostly I ran around like a headless chook, and passed the ball to the two players who actually knew what they were doing.
It’s an OK memory...but nothing like getting a century in cricket!
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Mark Kerr2017-10-14 10:22:37 +1300
Mark Kerr has pledged on 2 campaigns
the howie2017-10-12 09:15:36 +1300
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Jack2017-10-11 07:18:51 +1300
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“Break that century.”
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“Keep calm and bat on Peter!! Best of luck, R”
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“A worthy cause if ever there was one”
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“All that practice on our back lawn will come to fruition”
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“The Kerr's from Napier”
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“Do The Ton Bro! Patria”
Pattrick Smellie2017-09-29 16:41:54 +1300
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“best shakedown ever! good luck making the ton...”
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“Go on young fellah!! ”
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“Go for it Peter! You're a daily source of inspiration!”
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“Love Kerry Poppa Ruby Maggie Hazza”
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“Win the toss and bat first . Leave , leave , leave , leave , leave , six , for 17 overs . Easy . ”
Paul2017-09-25 16:32:55 +1300
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“Good stuff Pete”
Richard Medlicott2017-09-22 13:28:51 +1200
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“But you're only 60!”
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