Saturday, 2 July 2022

Letting my Bat do the Talking

 Away trip today with the third team to take on Kirby Portland 3s, out in the wilds of Bassetlaw country near Kings Mill Reservoir.

We were playing at the evocatively named "Larwood Park", which despite harking back to great fast bowlers of days of yore, is actually a recently constructed rugby ground in the middle of a new build housing estate, onto which a rather erratic wicket has been rolled amidst the long, bumpy rugby grass.

It was a huge open and rather windy field, requiring an overnight stop en route from the dressing room to the pitch. We arrived only just in time, to be met by the always friendly Kirby captain directig us to changing room 3, which confusingly appeared to actually be a toilet until you went through a door at he back.

They do things differently out here. 

I was in the action quite quickly as our very young side - apart from me - took to the field to bowl first, with a catch being smacked my way in the first over, which I didn't see until very late and could only bump it off the heel of my hand. 

I think the captain was surprised I had even gone for it, to be honest. 

Kirby got off to a fast start against our young opening bowlers, but after racking up 50 in 10 overs, the underlying weird bounce of the wicket became more apparent for the tallers bowlers, and our captain and off spinner both bowled excellent spells as I watched mainly from the deep square boundary, exhanging chirpy chat with Kirby's captain and fielding the ball. We were taking wickets regularly, fielding well with th youngest player on the team taking a good catch.

I even bowled a couple of overs myself, with nothing either good or bad happening as I struggled to find a really full length bowling into the wind, before taken off for weather reasons to allow a bowler with a shorter run up to spped things up after we got caught in a sharp shower. Typically he then torpedoed two of the Kirby batters, I say batters as like us they were a mixed side. 

hey closed on 121-8 off their 32 overs, before everyone tucked into unhealthy supermarket bought food and massively sugary drinks.

We then had a nice family start to our batting, with a grandfather and grandson opening our batting, although the grandfather insisted I cut his brown Karrimor walking shoes from the family shot I took. He was also wearing my batting gloves, and using my bat. 

I was umpring, with the proviso that the grandfather, an extremely high quality bat and keeper back in the day, would take over from me later on. I was treated by an exhibition of extremely proper cricket, with textbook leaves, proper calling and straight bat shots. 

It was a slow start, but a solid one, although after ten or so overs the grandfather was starting to feel the pace and began to take a few more risks, especially after the grandson was bowled. In the process, he played some cracking big shots, making more runs with my bat in one innings than I have done all this year and last combined. Sadly, he hurt his knee taking a quick single and was run out for 29.

It was now over to our young wicket keeper, who batted with terrific maturity while losing a couple of partners to a slightly poor shot, and a terribly unlucky LBW I had to give off another torpedo bouncer.

Their then followed an excellent partnership with our captain, who put a big 6 over the flags at cow corner and some other good shots, while getting us back with the run rate. Me, I had umpired all this time, 29 overs or so, but with about 25 runs needed for victory, the skipper tunnelled out by another low bouncer, and I had to leave the field to get padded up. 

I wasn't needed to bat however, as despite their best efforts the slight lack of power and experience from our younger bats told against us and we ran out of time and lost by about 13  runs. Still, it had been a good day for our younger players, espeically the keeper who made a great 31 not out on that horrid pitch.

Always a good game with Kirby Portland 3s, and we enjoyed it despite the loss. 

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 02.07.22







Thursday, 30 June 2022

Something Else Growing in the Garden

 In recent days, i'd noticed that the local blackbird pair, nesting somewhere over my back wall, had been getting very agitated again.

There was a constant stream of scolding "chakks" coming from the trees, with the resident house sparrows on the receiving end of aggression from the male, which didn't seem to bother them one iota.

Another blackbird with the temerity to enter the territory was brutally chased off by both male and female.

It didn't take an Einstein to work out that they'd raised a second brood, and sure enough the other morning, I went out into my little garden to find another fledgling sat there in the usual dumbfounded state when it noticed I was there, it's gape in the beak giving it a puzzled expression. 

The male parent dropped in to give it a bit of snail, but mummy bird with a worm was put off by my presence, and took it away to feed the other juveniles. 

It didn't have the flying strength to get out of the tangle of clematis on my back wall, so I decided to try and get my bike sorted and off to work as soon as possible. 

It wasn't there when I got home, so happily it found its way out at some point. 

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.07.22



Monday, 27 June 2022

My Golden Run Continues

 So, Sunday saw our friendly side in a match against Bottesford from just over the Leicester border, a side I've never played before, but seemed to be on arrival a very nice bunch of lads, solid players mixed with a crop of very young juniors some of whom were playing their first senior match.

Against that, we had a strong side with a few first team players, and had been wondering how best as a team we could make the game "fair". Oh what fools we were. 

As ever, the Sunday skipper lost the toss and this meant we were soon out in the field on a bright but windy day that would later turn into a glorious evening as the wind dropped at our really rather attractive ground. 

Grown up bats came out for Bottesford to start with, and scored at a reasonable rate against our opening bowlers without ever really blasting the ball around. As ever, I was fielding at square leg, and although energetic and alert as ever (!) I struggled to actually field the ball with my hands, having it continually bash into my knees or ankles. 

Feeling rather stiff, I also found out I was less flexible than I thought I was, and a fair few times bent time to field the ball, only to watch it go under my hand, in one case to the boundary for four. 

It was down to our leg spinner-cum-wicket-keeper to make the early breakthroughs, with an LBW that was, and a caught behind that wasn't. 

We had a brinks break after 18 overs, with the score for Bottesford on about 85 for 2 and what seemed to be their two gun bats at the crease. With a left hander at the crease and our new bowler, the leg spinner's brother who has never bowled in a match before about to bowl around the wicket, this led to the sight screen needing to be moved.

A usually very simple operation then turned into utter farce, as a combination of high winds making communication difficult, contributed to a situation where the two sight screen movers ended up attempting to move a fixed bench instead of the sightscreen.

"NO!!! NOT THE BENCH! THE BLOODY SIGHTSCREEN! THE SIGHTSCREEN!"

Despite this very loud assistance, the message still wasn't getting across and one of them came running back to the centre for further instructions, while the other attempted to lift the bench, and presumably its foundations, out of the ground to no avail. 

Meanwhile our opening bowler, after a fine opening spell, had decided to field from the pavilion rather than his designated position of deep sqaure leg. This may have been related to operating a barbecue, but we aren't sure. 

After drinks, as ever I was brought on to bowl as usual to the two gun bats of the Bottesford side, and didn't do too badly really, determined as I was to try and bowl with a bit more physicality and intent, which only half worked pace wise as the wicket keeper was still stood up to the stumps. 

Meanwhile, a wicket had been taken, and this brought a very young man to the crease. The senior bat, a powerful left hander who slammed me through cow corner a couple of times but didn't do too much damage to my figures, proceeded then to bat with him for the best part of 15 overs, manipulating the strike while still giving him a chance to bat.

He certainly kept me out no problem, and indeed he batted right the way through to the end after the captain's son knocked over the left hander, but more young kids were on hand to score some runs too.

In the end they finished on 174 off their 35 overs, offering our batters a decent test without killing the game. It's the ideal sort of score for a friendly game of this nature to be honest, although we felt we were good enough to get it. 

I went out to umpire as our brother openers went out to take on the young Bottesford bowlers, and so had the box seat view for some excellent batting. Indeed, they went on to make an opening stand of over 100, right up with the run rate, and so we felt confident enough to retire them both on 50 as we had some good young and older batters to come in. 

Of course, this is when the wheels fell of, as it so often does for our Sunday side. Grown up bowlers came on, wickets fell, the scoring rate slowed up. 

I still thought we'd win, until a couple more wickets fell leaving me standing at the side of the ground waiting to come in at number ten, a sight that filled no-one watching with any confidence. 

"Headband man is here, the pressure's on!" the wicket keeper helpfully pointed out to me when I went in. Indeed it was, we needed about 20 off 9 balls, with me facing a rampaging left hand bowler.

It took me one ball to see, or rather not see, why he was rampaging, as he bowled the ball from over the top of the sightscreen and I never saw the ball until it was about a yard in front of me, a full toss that I flailed at and missed by miles as it clattered into the stumps. 

The last 6 battters all scored 0 each. five of them to the left hander who got 5-13 in addition to his 50 earlier on.

Still, it had beena good game of cricket, and we are sure to play them again. 

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 27.06.22










Friday, 24 June 2022

Bonus Cricket Blog

 Do you know, my head got so addled after the remembrance for my mother's birthday - it would have been on June 21st - and also my sister getting C19 from which she is now thankfully recovered, I completely forgot to write about a match I played in.

It was against our friends from Travellers CC, an ebullient bunch of extremely nice expat lads who play together for fun, and know only one way to play which we found out very quickly when they won the toss and batted. 

We had a guest player that day, a very nice chap from Clowne CC over the border in Derbyshire, who turned out to be an excellent bowler. Opening up he didn't concede a run for 5 overs, which was just as well as the bowling from the other end was getting thrashed somewhat.

The only way Travellers know how to play is to swing very hard at the ball and watch it disappear into the bushes, amidst which we spent a very long time looking for lost cricket balls. So despite the five maiden overs from our guest, they were racking up the runs quickly.

This accelerated even further when our ace bowling guest found himself being thwacked into the distant greenery a few times. So after he bowled his 8 overs, I was called into the bowling attack.

It wasn't much of an "attack" for my first two overs; rusty as anything I had completely lost my run up and was bowling half trackers that were crashed to the boundary with utter disdain. 

A number of piteous looks were cast in my direction during this period. I've seen the "Simon, you are totally shit" look on all too many occasions. 

However, once I got my run up right, and the two openers had retired on reaching 50 and a couple of wickets had fallen at the other end. things tightened up considerably. Although my bowling felt hopelessly slow, it was at least accurate, and a decent looking left hander got so bored at being unable to hit me out of the park, he had a massive wipe across the line at one and was bowled in my seventh over. 

A new batsman came in, a left hander...

First up, he got about the best ball I've bowled in three years, an in swinger that tailed in on him before jagging back event further off the seam. It got him on the pad, I appealed like a banshee having a fit, and the umpire, one of Traveller's own lads, actually gave out. 

"Wax on Miyagi" called the watching fans, referring to my habitual headband wearing. 

Hat trick ball! The field closed in. Sadly, it was an average ball that was blocked quietly into the covers. Oh well. Maybe next time. 

That was my last ball, as a talented youngster was then brought on. I wasn't done yet though, as off him a low full toss was spooned into the gully and running round like a maniac I managed to catch the damn thing. Two catches in a weekend! 

In typical Travellers fashion, the unrestrained, er, swinging, went on right down the order, and they ended up getting 230. Not ungettable if we batted well.

Sadly we didn't, and we made their bowling look a little bit better than it was. Wickets were taken by rank full tosses. There was some bad luck. I had a good view of all this as I umpired continuously for 25 overs, hence the lack of photos. Good job umpring was fun with this bunch of guys. 

I did get to bat, down at number 10, and decided to go out trying to murder the ball rather than surrender tamely. I hit a few straight to fielders then nicked off to the keeper, and that was that. 

It had been an eventful cricket weekend.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 24.06.22




Wednesday, 15 June 2022

The Meadows of our Cricket Ground

 I have another match report to write up, but my brain just isn't up to it, so I will show you photos of the non-cricketing things I found during Saturday's match.

We are fortunate to have large areas of long grass and wildflowers that are acting as a home for various species of butterfly, bees and other insects. There are meadow browns, small coppers and small tortoiseshells always fluttering about among the buttercups, the meadow browns tucked right down amid the base of the stems. 

Ladybirds drift by like winged  spotty Volkswagen Beetles. 

Most players and spectators think I'm mad, but one guy did get it on Saturday. "Looking for nature mate?"

I would have been happy if he hadn't later stopped my nearly winning shot.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 15.06.22












Saturday, 11 June 2022

So Near the Hero

 Found myself, after last weekends cricket-less experience, in our second team today to take on Beeston and Toton Sycamore.

Always known as BaTS, they are a side I've played at all levels, first team, second and third, and they are usually a generally ok bunch, with the odd curmudgeon present. They've had a lot of trouble and re-organisation lately, and today they were a slightly younger bunch than normal.

I say "younger", many of them seemed to be about my age or older, but I've played BaTS teams in the past that looked like they had been re-animated from the dead with voudun rituals the night before the game.

Anyway, we went out to field first in a forty over game - no forty-five over grind today thank you skipper! and I took up my customary position at square leg where the crappest fielder goes, determined to field with energy along with my usual hopeless clumsiness.

While our opening bowlers set too with an accurate opening barrage, I didn't really have a lot to do but urge the team on with inane cricket-isms that I kept fluffing anyway, leaving me sounding loudly confused. I did make sure I backed up, supported and ran around hard and took the plaudits for when I did something right, like touching the ball without breaking my leg or some such thing. 

At least until a slight misfield cost us a run, at which the bowler looked at me very angrily for spoiling a maiden over.

However, after a second wicket fell, the next over I found myself still at square leg presented with what looked like BaTS' best bat mis-timing a pull shot that looped reasonably quickly towards me as I ran in.

Presented with the choice of catching the ball or having my teeth knocked out, I got my hands up in front of my face and somehow caught the ball despite the fact that as usual I blinked in reflex to the ball hitting my hands. 

Laughter and cheers greeted this rare occurence of me holding a catch. It's the first I've taken for about three years. 

The rest of the innings proceeded turgidly slowly as our good fielding and bowling restricted BaTS to 122 for 8 in 40 overs. I kept my energy levels high, at least until a tweak in the buttock region slowed me down a little. However, I did drop another catch, which was disappointing. Nothing ever goes entirely right.

Our batting reply, after an early wicket, started steadily, and I roamed the wild pastures of buttercups at the edge of the field butterfly hunting and hoping that I wouldn't be required to bat, or indeed do anything more at all. Our numbers 1 and 3 acquired runs at the required rate with little trouble against bowlers who were accurate if nothing else. 

However, after we'd got to about 75 for 1, things started to go run when our opener spooned a catch to gully. Knowing we were a bit thin on batting today, I began to have bad feelings that my part in the match was not yet done. 

This worsened after our skipper was caught off an above waist high full toss which our umpire at square leg called a no-ball, but was over-ruled by the umpire they had brought with him. There then followed a bizarre discussion where their umpire said it wasn't a no ball because the skipper was leaning backwards so his waist was lower. 

In terms of anatomical geometry, unless the skipper had somehow adopted a limbo position like the girl from "The Exorcist" did when she scuttled down the stairs, this seems very unlikely and it led to an unpleasant post-script to the game.

From this point, we just struggled to score runs at even the fairly low required rate, and wickets just fell around our number 3 as he stood powerless at the other end. We needed 24 off the last 6, then 10 off the last two, but this second last over was a disaster as three wickets fell and only two runs were scored.

Our keeper then fell at the start of the last over, and I had to go out there required to hit 8 off 4 balls to win the game.

First ball, of admittedly a less than deadly bowler despite what their wicket keeper was calling him in between gently telling me what pressure I was under, I managed to whip behind square for 4, just past a fielder's despairing dive.

Next ball I missed.

Third ball, I absolutely hammered out of the middle towards the distant boundary at long off, and I trotted up the wicket fully expecting the ball to go for 4. Unfortunately, as I watched their bat I had caught out earlier on sprinted around the boundary like a mad man and dived like a porpoise to get a hand on the ball. Even then, I thought he'd knocked it over the rope, but no, it didn't. Guilty of ball watching rather than running, me and the number 3 ran two when we should have run three.

Still, one more ball. I could still do it.

It was a slow short ball, and I thrashed it straight into the bowler's stomach. It knocked him to his knees, but he still held on to take the catch, and we had lost by one run. 

Gutting. It still smarts now as I type this. 

Some awkward scenes post-game, as accusations flew about the limbo-ing no ball, but I was sat in the dressing room with my head in my hands. 

Feels like my fault. But I'll live and try again tomorrow.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 11.06.22











Thursday, 9 June 2022

Greening the Garden

 So, let's have a look and see what progress I've made in turning my garden area, tiny and comprising nothing but flint chips, into some sort of mini-haven for nature. 

This has all been done with pots and containers, but mother nature has added her own splashes of life. 

My alliums attract pollinators, but not as much as the herb robert and ragwort that has erupted through the ground beneath the stones. Tree bumblebees and especially early bumblebees have come down to feed. 

The sparrows use the big sprawling clematis at the back for cover as they dart in and out of the window feeder on the flat upstairs, and my washing line feeder when I can remember to fill it. 

Life has happened in all my containers and pots now, they have all had things sprouting. The lemon and orange and autumn sunflowers are strong, the poppies have sprouted as have the convovulvus and alysium. 

The cornflowers didn't make it though, they grew tall then withered. I think I should have thinned them. Consequently I decided to thin the convovulvus tonight to see if that might help it flourish.

I did it with scissors, and I have no idea if I've done it right! 

We shall see.

Si

All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 09.06.22