Last Chance 100 By Peter Kerr

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About Last Chance 100

Project 2017-08-24 04:14:00 UTC

 

"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).

Wait...there's more

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 protected]

 

I'd love the opportunity to help you better tell your own particular story.

 

 

 

Comments

The People Behind Last Chance 100

Close up  cricket shot Peter Kerr Project admin

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.

Updates

    One is not the loneliest number - at least in batting

    08:12PM Sun 18/02/18 on Last Chance 100

     

    ‘One is the loneliest number’ is an old-ish song by Three Dog Night.

    But they’re wrong. At least when it comes to batting. However, I doubt they had cricket in mind when they were penning their lyrics.

    The loneliest number is zero. There’s nothing heroic attached to its nothingness - even if last season in one particular game, I spent 19 balls getting to zero...though strictly speaking I guess you actually stay put to achieve nought.

    Today it only took five balls. A couple of stoutly defended balls, one play and miss, one left to pass outside the off-stump.

    Then there was the fifth ball in opening the batting against Taita Yodha’s, at Taita #2, on a grass wicket (mostly we play on artificial, green ‘grass’, laid over concrete).

    There had been a touch of rain before we arrived, and the pitch was damp. Probably for this reason, the Taita captain on winning the toss, put us in to bat on what, with dampness in the top layer, can be a tricky pitch to play on.

    So, he bowls the fifth ball, short, on the leg side - to my left hand side as I’m looking at it. If I was Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson or any member of the Black Caps, I would’ve deposited it to the boundary.

    But no, the ball sticks a wee  bit on the surface, comes through slightly slower than anticipated. Instead of whacking it anywhere from 7 o’clock to 10 o’clock, I mostly miss. Mostly. But just enough to gently propel it to the wicketkeeper who takes an easy catch.

    F..k. I immediately walk, not bothering to give our umpire (your own team members umpire the game at our grade) the problem of figuring whether I did hit it or not.

    Ignominy hovering like a swarm of midges

    It was a long walk back to fellow team members, ignominy (had to double-check its meaning ‘public shame or disgrace’) hovering over me like a swarm of midges.

    A zero, as many non-cricketers even will know, is almost invariably referred to as a ‘duck’. As previously written about in Last Chance 100 (though this is my first non-score of the season) it is so-called because it looks like a duck’s egg - if a duck egg was stood on its end presumably.

    Now, the first recorded use was on 17 July 1866, when the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) was noted in a contemporary newspaper as retiring “to the royal pavillion on a duck’s egg”. (As an aside, the tennis term “love” is derived from French l’ouef (“the egg”).

    But, you can bet your bottom dollar the reporter who used a euphemism to describe the Prince’s score, heard it somewhere, probably while playing himself, and stored it away as a term to be used one day.

    I’ll speculate that the term came about because of cricket’s nature; that of waiting.

    Cricketer’s (being the thinkers that we are!) have time while fielding, time while waiting to bat, time to contemplate.

    Contemplating on a summer's day

    Somewhere in England upon a summer’s day, someone would’ve came that notion that a zero looks like a hen’s egg.

    Initially this guy (and without being sexist about it, in those days it would’ve been a guy) would’ve figured that that analogy is simply not funny enough. But riffing on a theme, Mr Unknown kept playing with the term.

    “It also looks like a duck’s egg,” he thought. Immediately it is more funny. (See here why use of the term duck in a joke is considered to be naturally more amusing). The take home is that words with a ‘k’ in them are inherently considered more funny than others.

    Which brings me back to my own downfall - the right shot, played badly! And the rest of the game to stew on it.

    Our team, ‘The Shepherds’ went on to only score 132, which is not nearly enough to defend in our grade. The pitch, and its vagaries could have had some bearing on our low score - but you play what is in front of you.

    Certainly, by the time the Yodha’s (a team of mostly south Indian players...all but one of them employed in the IT industry) came out to bat, any misbehaviour from the pitch had died down.

    They only lost three wickets in achieving the required target in 18.2 overs (out of a possible 40).

    But; we got to play on what was another (this summer  anyway) lovely Wellington summer’s day.

    We originally started out with 10 players. Dan Lyttle a former Shepherd’s player, but now a dad of 18 month old Max, had popped along to watch. He got press-ganged into playing - and four years away from the batting crease hasn’t diminished his skills too much. Dan’s 17 included two 6’s, the only ones scored by our team!

    Our team also included Robert Shanks, who bravely, or foolishly depending on your point of view, played with a broken right thumb. Naturally, this meant that no matter where he was positioned on the field, the ball followed him. He’s learned to throw pretty well with his left hand as a result it must be said!

    So, a loss, and the Last Chance 100 quixotic goal hasn’t even accumulated 100 (92 to be precise in 10 innings, which the mathematicians out there will instantly calculate as meaning an average in single figures) for the season.

    Ignominy indeed.

    Comment on this update:

    Cricket’s a funny old game

    08:01PM Sun 11/02/18 on Last Chance 100

     

    It’s a funny old game; cricket.

    You can do something wrong, make a mistake, and the next moment-ish, you’ve done something that completely balances the ledger in your own mind (if not that of your team...though that’s always a given!)

    Equally,  you can do something really good - and an over later you’re a villain in your own drama.

    There’s many other options too, including being middling the whole game.

    It’s all part of it being a funny old game.

    An edge to gully

    So it was on Saturday, playing Karori Tulsi at Ben Burn Park in Karori. If you couldn’t guess, it is a Wellington-restaurant team of Indians (mostly Gurajati, the province to the north of Mumbai. They make up about 33% of India’s worldwide diaspora according to Wikipedia).

    They won the toss and decided to bat.

    Initially I was fielding in gully, about eight metres from the bat, around 4.30 on a mythical clock. An edged ball came to me, and I saw it, but not quick enough. I didn’t get my hands up quickly enough, and it hit me in the wrists. Bloody-well, or bloody-badly dropped.

    Still slightly dwelling on letting both myself and the team down, I was semi-surprised when Cullum our captain said I’d be bowling next from one of the ends. Now, it’s not that I don’t like bowling, but given that I have the opportunity to open the batting, and one of Cullum’s major roles in our amateur cricket is to try and make sure everyone gets to do something - it was  slightly unexpected. As he said though, we didn’t have many bowlers in this particular team.

    My first ball got hit for a four - which, given you have  five more balls to bowl in an over is never, ever a good way to start.

    I managed to not get hit for the next three  balls. The fifth ball left my hand quite nicely, with the intended slight bit of outswing applying its physics-forces as it moved towards  the batsman (the ball moves right to left as it travels away from me, the opposite, obviously, from the batsman’s point of view).

    Perhaps because it wasn’t travelling at express pace (gentle medium-pace is probably a kind description), perhaps thinking he could larrap the ball anywhere he wanted, perhaps because it was my day and not his,  he missed and I hit. Bowled, with the stumps flying.

    Over-joyous celebration

    It was my first wicket of this season - a cause for over-joyous celebration on my part. Just as  you’re always pleased to get your first kiss, having a first wicket next to your name is equally as rewarding (besides, it stops your teammates from having you on that you haven’t yet taken a wicket). Back in the day when I really could bowl, I took 62 wickets in my first season in Wellington - so the memory of success shines bright, even if the actuality has now has dulled over time.

    I bowled three more overs, mostly pretty tight, often with the batsman not able to lay a bat on it. Except that is for the last two balls, which were smitten away for successive fours. Those four overs ended  up costing 24 runs, which is okay. Without those eight runs the overs would’ve cost 16 runs, which is much better.

    But cricket’s a funny old game.

    Tulsi went on to make 259 in their 40 overs, which also included four runouts. Three of them were a result of Captain clever Cullum, who possesses a powerful throw. One of those runouts in particular was a gem, a act of athletic beauty. He picked the ball up on the run, and while still bent over, flung the ball. The stumps shattered, the batsman, much to his surprise was out, and The Shepherds, one and all did our own little victory dances.

    I opened, faced the first ball (nope managed to keep that out). But, unsurprising in hindsight because runouts were the order of the day, was runout for eight. The season’s cumulative total painfully crawls its way to 92, the thought of a maiden century this week flattened, again. There was a nicely glanced ball for one (played to about 7 o’clock) in my massive total - the tuck away in memory-recall shot!

    How not to hit a ball

    My own lack of competence also saw me wear a short pitched ball directly on my left bicep - the pix accompanying this story showing it in technicolour brilliance. Compared to an injury described at the end of this story though, the resulting bruise is but a minor wound of war.


    Our batsman at the other end was Ozzy (real name Blair Nicholson, but don’t ask me why he’s called that). Now, if I’m a cricket tragic , Ozzy’s a cricket tragic’s tragic. This is a guy who, by often playing Sundays, and one or two times during the week, regularly manages to knock up 50 or more outdoor games during a season.

    What’s more, Ozzy’s only got one functioning eye - he has monocular vision, and has had since birth. Quite how he’s managed to adjust his sight to make up for what is quite a disadvantage, who knows.

    Whatever; Ozzy went on to make 74, and almost carried his bat (when you open the batting, and are the not out batsman at the finish). His efforts weren’t quite enough though, as pretty accurate bowling kept us mostly under the required run rate, as we only managed 200.

    At one stage though we were in with a gambler’s chance, even if it meant scoring at about 10 runs an over for 10 overs or so.

    Then Tulsi’s opening bowler was back on, having not used up all his eight allowable overs. He’d bowled seven of them, without luck (= wickets) having conceded 32 runs. While he’d been effective, he hadn’t been rewarded.

    With the second ball of that over, our player’s caught. Our next batsman’s up...bowled. Two wickets in a row, he’s on a potential hat trick, or three wickets in three balls. Now, a hat trick’s a pretty rare beast (I suspect it’ll remain on my work in progress list). But, he steams in, bowls. Our batsman misses, he hits. He gets a third in a row. What had been a mediocre day for the bowler turns into one for which he’ll forever have bragging rights...and will no doubt bore non-cricket-aficionados with the tale.

    By the way, it is called a hat trick because back in the 1800s it allegedly entitled the successful bowler to receive a new hat from his club. A bowler to receive a bowler perhaps?

    And finally, the game will live in the memory of one of Tulsi’s fielders. In attempting to stop a wide (a ball too far away from a batsman for him to hit, automatically scores a single) going over the boundary for four wides, the fielder fell awkwardly. Very awkwardly. He couldn’t get to his feet unassisted and was in obvious pain as the game continued to its conclusion.

    That night my partner, a nurse at Wellington Hospital’s Emergency Department treated a player who had really really badly injured his knee. It was the same player at our game. Not sure this is a tale he’ll wish to retell however.

    Funny old game cricket.




    Comment on this update:

    A cricketer always dreams big...when not playing!

    08:11PM Sun 04/02/18 on Last Chance 100

     

     

    Is there anything worse than being a cricket-playing-tragic, and your Saturday game’s rained off?

    Yes...when its a perfectly fine day and you have the bloody bye.

    You wistfully look out the window, sun streaming in, and think, ‘today could’ve been the day.’

    It’s the misguided thought that this afternoon of all afternoons would be the time all the opposition bowlers were only bowling pies - an inferior bowler, one who bowls like a clown throwing a pie.

    It’s the notion that this was the day you’d see the cricket ball as the unmissable size of a beach ball.

    It’s the belief - which is alway easier in imagination than in reality - that today, no matter what they bowled at you, you’d safely and easily smite it to the boundary.

    And...then you wake up from your little reverie and remember that any sensible betting person would regards the odd of you getting a ton or 100 runs to be as likely as Wellington enjoying an endless summer - hang on, we are having one!

    A game of the imagination (if unreal)

    Which where in fact is one  of the differences about cricket.

    Yep, its a team game. But at any one time it is an individual doing an individual action.

    To that end, you can picture and adjust that action. It could be you imagining a particular batting shot, a drive hit back with a vertical bat to between 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock, a cut as a horizontal bat shot to between 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock, a pull to between 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock, and a range of alternative shots in-between.

    Of course you don’t imagine the edge that carries to slips (the fielders beside the wicketkeeper), the mistimed hook that smashes into your helmet (thank goodness for these relatively modern safety devices) nor the complete miss where the ball knocks your wicket out of the ground.

    No, in your dreams you always bat like Bradman.

    Sometimes too the fantasy bowlyou make to a phantom batsman is unplayable - a jaffa as it is known.

    Of course, it is never the batsman that mucks up their shot in these dreams; it’s your control of line (direction), length (how close to the batsman the ball lands) and movement of the bowled ball that causes the batsman to surrender to the magnificence of your delivery.

    Never  mind that in real life at a real game you might be lucky to get half of a six-game over even approximating what you’d like it to do. Equally, in a real game you’ll quite gladly accept the wicket that appears beside your name, even if it was entirely because the batsman stuffed up and you lucked  in.

     

    The surprising results of a bad ball

     

    (On that note,  you’d be surprised how many wickets are a result of a bad ball. There’s an almost uncontrollable excitement that overtakes you as a batsman when you immediately see that the bowler’s bowled a bad one. Your eyes light up, the inescapable thought comes to mind that you can hit this bad ball anywhere. But what do you do...you mistime it and pull it onto your wicket, you hit it well, but not well enough to miss the fielder lurking out there at deep midwicket (10 o’clock) or you don’t properly keep your eye on the ball and give an easy catch to point at 3 o’clock. Of course, you might also smash it out of the park...and grin to yourself as the captain gives a dagger stare to the bowler).

    However, residing in the memory of any cricketer are the moments that were magic for them. It might have been a particular batting shot that was as sweet as a summer’s day. It might have been one of those rare occasions where the ball you bowled was the intended delivery, and the batsman was deceived and was on his way back to the pavillion.

    Then again, it could’ve been a catch...or four catches in my case three  years ago. The captain told me to field in the gully - about 4 o’clock, about eight metres from the batsman. As mostly luck would have it, the batsmen gave edges that day, which all flew towards me. Again, luck, a modicum of skill, and four catches. Of course, forever and a day in this team when we go out to field, I’m directed to gully!

    Now, in the context of magic memory moments, this is the very reason a non-cricket-tragic should be very wary of asking a cricketer about a time and place where they “done good”.

    You see, we cricket tragics are always quite ready to pounce with a story.

    We’re more than happy to spend five minutes describing an event that took 0.5 seconds. We delight on delivering a monologue describing in painfully exquisite detail a moment when time stood still for s.

    A moment when briefly, we shared the rare air of success enjoyed frequently by those stars you see on TV.

    A moment all cricket tragics, in their own particular day and way, will take to their grave.

    However, just because it’s a searing memory for a cricketer, shouldn’t mean that a non-cricketer needs to turn a casual conversation into a desperate attempt to escape it.

    You’ve been warned.

    Comment on this update:

    The bowler’s equivalent of a century

    08:34PM Sun 28/01/18 on Last Chance 100

    For a batsman, a three figure score, 100, is a recognised feat.

    The equivalent for a bowler is five wickets, out of the opposition’s total of 10 wickets.

    I’d always assumed our Captain, Cullum Jones, must’ve had five wicket hauls in his past cricket. A five-for as it is also called.

    With his deceptive, slingy/shoulder action, and a natural outswinger (balls moves right to left through the air) he’s a handful when onsong.

    But no, across a playing across years and countries he’d never achieved the milestone.

    Till now. His hard earned five for was instrumental in Eastern Shepherds defending 197 against Brooklyn Mighty Ducks on a grass wicket at McAlister Park in what was yet another gorgeous Wellington day.

    Cullum’s first wicket was a bowled, the batsman playing the ball - onto his stumps. Next, a mis-timed shot was high but close, anyone of three could have easily taken it. But Cullum called himself and never looked like dropping it. AJ then took a catch at midwicket at about 10 o’clock.

    He was bending the ball from left to right through the air from a right hand batsman’s point of view . Often they’d play at a ball, but miss as it swung past the edge of the bat and where they expected the ball to be.

    A couple of times, Cullum pinned the batsman with the ball on the pad, with no bat involved, in front of their wicket. Two Leg Before Wicket, LBW.

    He can tick the '5' box

    So Cullum joins the 5 club, he can tick that box.

    I’m a member of the five-for club, and have a six-for and even a couple of seven-for.

    Those two seven-fors were in late 1986. I hadn’t played that much cricket as a young man, and now late 20’s back  from overseas, matured, I was now reasonably quick. I could bowl a natural outswinger (ball moves right to left at it left my hand).

    One game (and the Spick n Span scorebooks of the period are not to be found) when I was on song, along with the then captain Tim Main at first slip (beside the wicketkeeper), I got seven wickets both times as we bowled a team out - twice.

    Talking with cricket team mate from the 1980s, Peter Aagaard about not getting a ton, and how he had his 100 badge, he said, “yeah, but you’ve taken five wickets,” with a touch of whistfulness in his voice. Yes, he’s right...but it’s the pursuit of what we haven’t achieved that creates the narrative.

    So back to Last Chance 100’s pursuit of maiden ton.

    My contribution to the Shepherd’s 197 was 15 off 26 balls, part of a healthy opening stand of more than 50 in 12 overs - your maths will allow you to deduce that my batting partner Greg Scobie made about 35.

    This week I was more resolute in ‘playing in the V’ - concentrating on defensive-ish shots  played back to a 11 - 1 o’clock spectrum. Sometimes it is also called playing straight. I was pleased that a number of times I was able to turn a defensive shot into one by turning the ball to an unpatrolled short mid-wicket at 10 o’clock.

    The Brooklyn change bowler (after the opening two), Carl, went on to bowl seven overs, for six runs, taking three wickets. One of them was mine.

    He bowled accurately, outswingers moving from left to right from my right hand batsman perspective.

    Carl pinned me down, not allowing me to drive, nothing was too short. It was , thoughtful, accurate, dangerous bowling.

    He bowled the next one just short of a length, about three metres from where I was batting. I was committed to defending it, but it moved a bats-width to the right from where I was expecting it to be. It took the outside edge of my bat, and was caught by the keeper. Beautiful bowling. Ben Leary, the umpire reckoned it was the sort of ball that would’ve bowled anyone.

    But I was pleased with the strategy. The good balls were kept out until the one I didn’t, I learned more about placement. Firstly, dropping it short for a safe single, hitting to where there’s no close fielder. And second, guiding the ball rather than trying to smack it.

    Average sneaks into double figures

    The 15 runs also takes my average up (cringe, whew) to double figures. (84 / 8).

    Shepherds’ win was a team effort. Greg Scobie made 69, (as such not out because he hit the ball in an LBW decision) and Alex Hann a well-hit and needed 50.

    Brooklyn ultimately got to 33 runs of our total, a seemingly easy win.

    But at one stage we still needed three wickets, while they only needed 48 runs from 12 overs (quite do-able).

    The game had been balanced, swaying in who had dominance until then.

    AJ bowled one with his off-spin (ball spins clockwise through the air).

    Cullum got an LBW - his 5th wicket of the day.

    Rob bowled the last guy.

    The Shepherds hooked Brooklyn in - victory in warm sunlight at 6.45pm

    The pleasant taste of victory followed us off the park, flavoured our dinner that night and followed us into next week.






    Comment on this update:

    Cricket can be a fickle mistress

    07:11PM Sun 21/01/18 on Last Chance 100

     

    Cricket can be a fickle mistress, and a hungry insect

     

    Many of us have had relationships with someone who is both generous and selfish, cruel and kind in equal measures.

    You keep on going back to them - knowing you’ll experience highs and lows in equal measure, understanding that the blackness of despair and defeat can just as quickly transform into the brightness of delight and victory.

    So it is with cricket. It is a game that can be a schizophrenic mistress; beautiful, poetic, dramatic - AND frustrating, wearying and melodramatic. To misquote Charles Dickens, cricket can be both the best of times and the worst of times.

    In the Eastern Shepherds case on Saturday, it was the worst(ish) of times, and displaying the fickle mistressness outlined above, the best of times (indeed, one of the reasons we play as a bunch of mediocre amateurs).

    “What shall we do,” asked Captain Cullum before he went to toss the coin against Petone Strikers (another of the Indian teams in our competition).

    “Bat,” said I straightaway, to the laughter of fellow team members. Cullum won, we went out to bat.

    Scamper back for two runs

    Yours truly faced the first ball bowled; and I successfully kept out the first five balls (including a dab to point, at 3 o’clock relative to my position, which was misfielded and allowed me to scamper back for two runs).

    Now, the previous day at practice underneath the Westpac Stadium with coach Taylor Wenlock, I’d had a pretty good hour. That included a couple of nice leg-side shots - turning a straight ball to about 9 o’clock.

    So... in theory you’re not meant to premeditate the shot you’re going to play to any ball. You’re meant to play each ball bowled to you on its merit. Note the MEANT TO.

    The Petone Striker’s bowler, not express pace but accurate and bowling right arm inswingers (ball moves from right to left through the air as I see it as a right hand batsman) bowled his 6th ball.

    Without realising it, not fully concentrating, unconsciously premeditating, I tried one of those forementioned leg-side shots. But missed. I may’ve slightly edged it - but edged it onto my off-strump. Bowled for two bloody runs.

    The next five or so batsman scarcely did any better than me, and we went to drinks after 20 of 40 overs, on about 60, with six wickets lost.

    But Rob and Chris came somewhat to our rescue. Rob got a nice 50...and more face-saving than necessarily game-winning, we ended up all out for 155 runs.

    Normally that wouldn’t be enough runs to defend - especially for such a big shot, boundary-seeking side such as the Strikers.

    The gods of cricket, a temperamental deity

    But the gods of crickets, that temperamental deity, had other ideas.

    Ben Leary, our usual wicketkeeper handed the keeping gloves to an ever-improving Andrew. Early on during the Striker’s innings, the batsman played a ball close to ‘square leg’ where Ben was fielding. In a flash (and pretty impressive for another guy past the first flush of youth) he picked the ball up, and took aim for the wickets at the end where the batsman was racing for.

    It had to hit on the full to get him out - and it did. Woohoo, nothing like a run out to lift a team.

    The Strikers continued to attempt to live up to their name. Whack, whack, 6, 4, 4, miss. We had a 15 year old left-arm (step son of a former Shepherds player) player bowling.

    A healthy fine edge flew past keeper Andrew, and looked like it would head to the boundary. But Greg Scobie at first slip stuck up his left hand (I was fielding only a few metres away from him, and thought he was merely waving at the ball). Low-and-behold, the ball sticks in his hand. Out.

    Momentum - one of those attributes dealt out positively and negatively by cricket’s mistress - felt on our side.

    We kept on chipping away - the Strikers doing themselves no favours as they offered up six catches, most of them in the outfield.

    To cut a long story short, they were all out for 117, just after the 20th over.

    And just to show when you’re hot you’re hot, Ben Leary also achieved another runout, as well as taking two catches. It’s not often that inspirational-fielding alone will bestow the informal man-of-the-match award (especially considering Rob’s 50), but in this context, Mr Leary deserved the gong.

    We recorded only our second win in seven games - reminding us that the taste of victory is much sweeter than the sourness of defeat.

    A win, even while personally experiencing a Last Chance 100 letdown, is why we play. At its heart, cricket is a game of individual actions, deeds, successes and failures - across 11 people.

    At a private level, my contribution (and non-attainment of a maiden 100) is disappointing.

    But collectively, we won. The primary (if meaningless) objective was achieved.

    And that, at its essence, is why we play.

    Comment on this update:

    Damn, it's not the background thought I need going into the holidays

    07:54PM Sun 17/12/17 on Last Chance 100

     

    I woke up on Sunday morning, and had to figure out the emotion that was knocking around my noggin.

    It took me a moment, with some surprise, to figure it was anger; a pissed-offed-ness.

    But first let me back up the Last Chance 100 explanation train.

    I’d gone along OK to get five runs the day before. A couple of pleasing-feeling gentle turn of the ball to leg (9 o’clock), a slightly mis-hit but okay square cut (to 3 o’clock) for two, and another shot that I can’t remember.

    Bowler comes in, bowls short, it’s bouncing at about head level. In a pure instant reaction I have a swipe at it, attempting to smite it to the boundary at 9 o’clock with a hook shot. Get through the shot too early, but not so early that the ball doesn’t hit me on the back of the glove. The wicketkeeper makes a good dive and catches it.

    Bug…..ger.

    What had percolated in my subconscious that Saturday night was:

    1. That I missed such a shot

    2. That I should’ve simply ignored that ball, ducked or got out of the way. It was too early in my innings to attempt to play such a shot

    3. (The gods of cricket could’ve allowed the keeper to miss that catch)

    Our next game is not until January 20, 2018.

    Now I appreciate that attempting to score a maiden century is week-after-week, setting myself up for failure. Mostly I can live with this.

    'I should've done this instead'

    But I’m not looking forward to that nagging, damning thought that will fill that cricket batting part of my mind for the next month. That pissed-off-ness will keep grinding away I can just tell. A whole four weeks of inability to either redeem or replace that ‘I should’ve done this instead’ thought.

    Damn!

    It also means that I didn’t even manage to accumulate 100 runs in the six games we played before Christmas (69 runs, at an average of 11.5 if you must know).

    However,  I guess it will mean watching even more intently games on TV, (or if I happen to get along to one). (That said, may be in touch with some of my PledgeMe pledgers to see if they’d be keen on attending a game which I’ll be happy to explain what’s going on).

    Having had a good bit of batting coaching under the belt from Taylor Wenlock, it means I’m watching these first class and international batsmen with both a new appreciation of their skills, and a more discerning eye on what they’re technically doing when they bat.

    Aspects such as where are they positioning their head, where are their feet and how much do they move them, how are they holding the bat and how much wrist-cocking do they do when (or rather just before) they play a shot.

    Unfortunately, I can’t get into the minds of such players, nor have their superior reactions transplanted  into my body. But, just as a painter may study the techniques of the great artists, so can an aging lower league club cricketer study the techniques of master batsmen. Study...but not necessarily emulate!

    As for the game itself against a mostly middle-aged team called Indian Thumbs-Up, well, let’s call ‘getting second’ as a lesser and slightly more polite description of other terms you could come up with.

    They put us into bat, and my 5 runs was unfortunately the fourth highest score as we were all out for 91 - extras contributing more than a seventh of our total!

    Opposition smashes their way to victory

    They came out, seemingly intent to quickly smash their way to victory.

    Their first batman to go out nicked the ball (hit it on the edge of the bat) and it flew to first slip Rob beside the wicketkeeper, who took a good catch.

    As has we walking off I made the observation that, given the name  on the back of his Thumbs-Up team shirt, his manner of dismissal was very apt. His name….’Nick’.

    At one stage we had Thumbs-Up three wickets down for 20 runs, including having their first person out with zero runs on the board. But they continued to smack the leather around, and didn’t lose any more wickets in quickly getting another 70 or so runs for victory.

    It was good that they didn’t muck around - it meant we finished relatively early at just after 4pm. It was also an extremely hot day (and driving home the beaches from Lyall Bay to Island Bay were packed with people), so not having to be out in the middle of a dry-grass oval for too long was lucky for us.

    So, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you win well, and sometimes you’re badly beaten.

    In the end though, nobody dies.

    But as I was saying to Dave Greenburg author of ‘Emergency Response’ at the Biz Dojo the other day...

    “Yeh, nobody dies in cricket...but everytime I go out to bat and score very little, a tiny bit of me dies inside.”



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    Up against Miandad

    07:53PM Sun 10/12/17 on Last Chance 100

     

    Our 5th game of the season was against Stokes Valley Miandad.

    Now Javed Miandad was a great Pakistani cricketers of the 70s, 80s and 90s. He was a star of the game, especially in his own home country. So much so that not ever was he given out LBW (Leg Before Wicket) when playing at home. This was before test cricket introduced neutral umpires...so you draw the conclusion.

    Our expectation was that this would be a Pakistani expat inspired team.

    But no, this was a cleverly named team made up of dads and sons and other young people - like adolescents of (I’m guessing here) 13-16 years of age. Get it, me and dad!

    In total there were five adults playing, which leaves six young fellas.

    Well, SVM batted first, and one of the adults made a few runs, and other adults and a few of the boys all chipped in. They got to 205 in their 40 overs, played at Stokes Valley in a lovely heat but with a nice breeze to make it most pleasant.

    And that’s a good time to introduce the picture accompanying this blog/story.

    The dream team, no matter what age

    When I was given a copy of this pix at the end of the last millennium, the man who was the boy in this picture was still alive. Some wit, pre WWI went to a lot of trouble to neatly create a dream team no matter what age of the player (let alone boys!)

    Which is a backhand commendation of the Stokes Valley fathers who formed this mixed team and encourage youngsters from the tucked-away suburb in the Hutt Valley to have a go at cricket against adults.

    How did they do. Well, at one stage our team, The Shepherds, were in danger of being bowled out for less than 100.

    Eventually we got to 148, but that was 58 runs short of victory. Some of those young guys bowled very well. If not fast, at least accurately. Sometimes they didn’t bowl well either -  but ironically, those were often the balls we went out to.

     

    The bad ball's so often your undoing

     

    So often it is the bad ball that gets you out. You can cope (often) with a well-bowled ball. The surprise of a poor ball, the lighting up of your eyes with that “right, now I can have a real wallop at this” is your undoing.

    So it was with me. Had nurdled my way to 16, wore a couple of bowls on the body, a sweep (horizontal bat shot to 9 o’clock) and a nicely turned ball around the corner to 7 o’clock that I was particularly proud of.

    A 15/16 year old left arm bowler had just bowled a wide outside off stump short ball that I’d managed to cut away (to 3 o’clock) for a four. The new Laver & Wood bat helped...I didn’t hit it that particularly hard, but the shot raced away to the boundary.

    Keeping to my routine of walking to the side of the wicket, taking a deep breath, and refocusing as I resumed my batting stance, the youngster bowled his next ball.

    It was a full toss - meaning a ball that lands on the full at about where your feet are. It is a ball that you can really smite if you hit it right. It is a ball you should alternatively play with great circumstance, because often they’re straight, and if you miss, it can easily hit your wickets, (or pads and be liable for an LBW).

    But unfortunately it was a ball I neither smacked away, nor defended cautiously. 

    Instead I dolly hit it softly, having got through my shot without it being under control. It was an on-the-full return hit back to the bowler, who dived forward and took a good catch just above the ground.

    A crap ball met with an equally crap shot. Caught and bowled - continuing the trend of going out in different ways through the Last Chance 100 (though the second game of the season I was caught - a not dissimilar full toss, useless dolly shot back, but this time caught at short cover, about 2 o’clock).

    Mind you, my 16 (from 18 balls) was the second highest score of our innings, behind Ben Leary’s 35 which gave our scoreline some respectability. Though, in actually fact, both of us were eclipsed by ‘extras’. There were 36 of those, mostly bowls deemed too wide (and called wide) for the batsman to hit. 

    Opening the batting, and facing the first ball, I saw five other batsmen come and go while watching at the other end. My advice to “watch these kids; they’re not too bad”, was mis-heard by them, and eventually myself!

    So another loss; but with the slight satisfaction that many of these youngsters will (hopefully) go on and grow up to be cricket tragics like the team they were playing against today.

    So, for me to even accumulate 100 runs before the Christmas break (let alone score a maiden century), I’ll need to score 36 next Saturday.

    I’m always going out with the intent to do so (score 100 like). Going out with the intent to play each ball on its merit. Going out with the intent of not going out.

    But the bowler at the other end, the team we’re playing against is playing with the intent of getting me and nine other players out.

    Throw in that element of lady luck (for whichever side) and what happens at the moment, and across the day - and the best of intents are scattered to the wind.

     

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    A new bat in the kit...perhaps this time

    07:52PM Sun 03/12/17 on Last Chance 100

     

    Setting out from home in Island Bay on a 35km road trip to Stokes Valley, with a new Laver & Wood bat to use in anger for the first time (more on it later), I was feeling good.

     

    Until on the motorway opposite the Interislander ferries terminal. Suddenly my pores opened.

     

    S..t, I was looking after the team’s two big kit bags of gear. They were still in my garage.

     

    There was no option but to divert up Ngauranga Gorge as the first turnaround spot on the motorway and traipse my way back across town to pick the gear up.

     

    Rang the captain to inform him of my senior moment; and 40 minutes later was going back past the same ferries.

     

    Arrive half an hour after the game’s started. Our team, The Shepherds, are batting. We’ve lost one wicket.

     

    Captain Cullum says I can bat at number four if I’m happy to get a wriggle on batting wise (i.e. not muck around defending too much).

     

    OK. Go out to bat after 20 overs (and our small first break).

     

    Feel pretty good from the get-go. Batting coach Taylor Wenlock made Thursday’s net/practice session about concentrating on concentrating. That is, putting the previous shot out of my mind, and then focusing on the next ball as it was bowled. Going through a little routine to put me back in the batting ‘space’.

     

    Was going along nicely. A couple of sweeps (playing across the ball with a horizontal bat rather than in line with a vertical bat) to balls outside  leg stump (the one on the LHS when looking at the three of them from behind). That brought a couple of fours. A wee one drive for a one, another turned around the corner to about 8 o’clock.

     

    Then a soft-ish defence/shot to 3 o’clock. Wasn’t going to run, when Greg Scobie at the other end says yes.

     

    I should’ve said no.

     

    But too late, too slow out of the blocks I head for the far end.

     

    It’s only 20 metres or so, but seeing that the fielder had picked up the ball quite cleanly and was lining up to throw to the end I was running to, it felt like 200 metres.

     

    Half way down the pitch I realised that if he hit the wickets on the full, or if the bowler managed to cleanly catch the ball and hit the stumps, I was a goner.

     

    The bowler caught cleanly, ran me out a couple of meters out of the crease. Our umpire raised his finger (I presume), and I carried on running back to where the rest of the team was assembled.

     

    I’d made 14 runs from 13 balls - so run rate was good enough. Felt in a good mental space...but cricket’s an unforgiving game, and you only get one chance.

     

    The forenamed Greg Scobie went on to make a century, his fifth, and along with some other handy scores, our total at the end of 40 overs was 296.

     

    The Stokes Valley side tried all day to match our score, but never kept up with a required 7+ runs per over.

     

    After their 40 overs, with their last two batsmen at the crease, they’d scored 211.

     

    Our first win in four games for this season. A nice feeling.

     

    No team ever runs out onto the field with the notion or idea to get second - so it’s great to register victory...at last.

     

    --------------------------------------------------------

    Laver & Wood bat

     

    The new Laver & Wood bat comes from a dedicated team of custom batmakers in Hawkes Bay. L&W have been hand-making their bats since 1999.

     

    They’ve developed a worldwide reputation for the quality of their bats - even to the extent that some professionals remove the L&W stickers and logos from the bat, and replace them with the batmaker’s stickers who are actually sponsoring them!

     

    Paul Young, who in recent seasons played cricket in our 40 over competition, used to order willow blanks from L&W, and then shape them himself. He and his fellow players at Eastern Taxes used them very successfully when playing against The Shepherds. It wasn’t so much cricket for us as fetch.

     

    Earlier this year, Paul got rung up by L&W and was asked if he’d like to shift from Wellington to Napier to become a professional batmaker.

     

    Paul thought this over for about five seconds before making his decision, and “what used to be my hobby has become my job.”

     

    Now, I appreciate men can sometimes be overly attached to pieces of equipment, tools or clothes that have a special (if minor in the scheme of things) meaning.

     

    Having an implement such as this bat is in that category for me.

     

    Most cricket tragics (and many normal people) will know the feeling - like receiving a Christmas present you really wanted, and that still brings you pleasure.

     

    So it is with me, and a special thanks to Laver & Wood for contributing a bat to Last Chance 100’s quixotic pursuit.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Last week I commented  how I’d achieved, in my first three games three different ways out of the 10 that can get a batsman out.

     

    I wasn’t expecting to necessarily add to that - but the run out is a fourth  way. Being stumped is the next  most common - and after that they’re rare, exotic and strange ways to go out.

     

    That said,  I’d take being stumped...provided it is when I’m on 101.




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    That's 3 of the 10 ways to go out 'ticked off'

    08:05PM Sun 26/11/17 on Last Chance 100

     

    There’s 10 ways you can go out in cricket - some of them rather rare and somewhat strange.

    But now I’ve managed to do three of them already this season in just three game. This week it was a leg before wicket (or LBW) to go with being bowled  in the first week and caught in the second week.

    An LBW is when, in the opinion of the umpire, that for the fact the ball hit your pads (leg protectors) without hitting your bat, it would’ve gone on to hit your wickets.

    Especially as your own teammates umpire you, it can be a contentious call - often they are not given, and sometimes it is that obvious that someone is out (they’re essentially falling over their wickets and get hit in the pads) that it makes for very bad feelings within the game. If the team batting and umpiring first turns down what seems to be genuine LBW decisions, it sure as hell makes it unlikely that your own team, batting and umpiring second will give give an out for the same appeal.

    But after scoring four runs (gulp, again, same as the first week), our umpire Ben raised his finger - the  signal for out.

    I had attempted to sweep the ball, stretching forward and swinging with a horizontal bat across the line of the ball, trying to hit it to about 9 o’clock. I missed, the ball hit my pad, an appeal by the opposition, a decision not  in my favour.

    Hindsight, it being so perfect, I should’ve attempted to on-drive this particular ball, playing it with a vertical bat to about 11 o’clock. But their bowlers has been parsimonious in not giving many bad balls to hit. The pressure got to me.

    We had them three wickets for zero runs at the start

    It didn’t make for the beginning of a good run chase of Naenae Old Boy’s 188. Their’s was a pretty good score considering that at one stage we had them three wickets down for no runs, zero. But one of their guys got (another) ton, and they ended up with a respectable score. It was the first time this season he’s gone out, and he has an average of something like 140!

    I managed a couple of catches at gully (about 4 o’clock to the batsman), which was a relief after dropping one last week.

    Considering that five of our own batsmen scored fewer than me - including a couple of ‘ducks’, or a score of zero - it isn’t surprising to find that we only achieved 149 in reply.

    (It is called a ‘duck’  because the  shape of a zero is the shape of an egg - though you might have thought it would’ve been called a ‘hen’. Duck does have a more disastrous sound about it though)

    We were also a player short for the whole game - which you notice when you’re fielding, not being able to plug the holes as you normally can.

    The Naenae guys were a good bunch to play against and there was some good banter. It was helped by the fact that our captain, Cullum,  plays football in the same team as one of the opposition. The Naenae ground out in the Hutt Valley is also very pleasant - lined with willows, and a small creek that unfortunately the ball has to be retrieved from occasionally.

    But it doesn’t disguise the fact that it is our third loss in a row.

    And your’s truly is still a work in progress from a batting point of view. The maiden century seems just as far away as ever.

    Finally, because many of you will be scratching your  heads at the 10 ways it is possible to go out in cricket, here’s a wee list.

    1. Retired (very infrequent)

    2. Bowled

    3. Caught

    4. Hit ball twice (rare)

    5. Hit wicket (hardly ever)

    6. Leg before wicket

    7. Obstructing the field (hardly ever)

    8. Run out

    9. Stumped

    10. Timed out (rare)



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    Wouldof, couldof, shouldof - realising you’re making a mistake as you’re doing it

    07:49PM Sun 19/11/17 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…

    Defendable target

    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

    07:39PM Sun 12/11/17 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.

    Not the actual out for me...but a similar experience

    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

    07:45PM Sun 05/11/17 on Last Chance 100

     

    It was the first ‘game’ of the season on Saturday.

     

    Batting stance, prior to batting coachingBatting stance, after coaching

    (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

    11:12PM Sun 29/10/17 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

    08:37PM Mon 16/10/17 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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