Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kiama Academy v Kiama Blue - Derby I

Well... I suppose someone has to write something about this game, though 20 hours after the completion of the game my left knee has locked up and the result still lays heavy in the heart.

The game could not be faulted, as I suppose the result shows. The fact that the game was won off the second last ball with nine wickets down should show how tight and tense it became.

I thought winning the toss and batting was a big bonus for us. The outfield was dead slow, however, and we just couldn't get away to a target that was formidable enough to defend comfortably.

I thought the Blues bowling was superb. Mark and Hooky bowled great line and length, giving nothing away, and especially with the slow outfield the batsmen were lucky if they could find a single. Steve Hudson and Matt Clapham batted well, and in the long run lost their wickets more out of frustration than anything else.
Chris Park and Frank Weir were also terrific, changing their pace well which made it even more difficult to score under the conditions. It is still an underrated ability to bowl good medium pace with a bit of swing or seam, and both these two guys did it perfectly. With our young blokes looking for quick runs in the final ten overs, no better example could be made for the success of bowling straight and full in those final overs than Chris' bowling figures of 7/30. He bowled perfectly for the situation and fully deserved his success.
Special mention too to the other two bowlers for the Blues. It was the first time I had faced both Vaughan Thistlethwaite and Adam Czulowski, and both bowled well. Vaughan was quicker than I expected, and he bowled good line and length. He has something. Adzy also bowled a good spell when i was required in the middle of the innings.

For our guys, Jani played the most responsible innings I have seen from him. He picked the right ball to hit on most occasions, and didn't allow any frustration at the slow outfield to discourage his batting. It was only when we reached the final ten overs, and required a kick along that he took some risks, and was eventually dismissed. His 26 was worth at least 50 to our team in those conditions.
The ever reliable Jason Wills top scored with 31, and played his usual hand, scoring quickly at a time when the team needed a lift.
With Jani and Jason getting the team to the 41st over before being dismissed, the kids batting lower had no chance to play themselves in, and as a result their scores bear no reflection on their ability. They all took on the role without any thoughts of their own 'stats' which was gratifying.

112 mightn't look like many, but conditions were the same for both sides, and the message to our guys was that singles would be difficult, and that if we kept the pressure on we could get our opponents to make the mistakes.

This was also the first time I had seen Mitch Nevins bowl, and he was pretty impressive. He bowled full and straight, and gave nothing away. Given that, as with all our kids, they can only bowl short spells, it was unfortunate for our side when he had to be relieved after his 5 overs cost just 5 runs.
Maxy Fitzsimmons replaced him, and saw two of his first three balls go for four to the deep fine boundary. Next ball, he plucked out Chris park's off stump. Smiling all the way, Maxy could only say "I can't believe he took those two balls from off stump for four!!" Maxy bowled well until he had some no ball trouble in his fifth over that then seemed to take his concentration.

The next two wickets were identical. The Blues had already had a couple of flirtations with run outs on the slow outfield, where direct hits would have seen them out. Their luck couldn't hold (we told ourselves in the field) and sure enough, Tim Delaney hit a ball toward cover and straight away. Matt Clapham dived superbly at cover, stopped the ball and fom his knees threw the ball to keeper Jan Haubruck to complete a brilliant run out of Ernie Church. Two overs later, and new batsman Vaughan Thistlethwaite played the exact same shot... for the exact same result, this time Tim being the victim. Terrific stuff. Matt has proven himself to be one of the best fieldsmen inthis Academy team, and thes two run outs were as good as I have seen in a number of years.

At 3/21 we had our noses in front, but a great partnership of 65 for the fourth wicket changed all that. Brad Church summed up after about an over that hitting the ball along the ground was going to result in no runs, and correctly began to go the aerial route instead. Moving around his crease, picking the right ball to hit, and also seizing upon gaps inthe field to pick up easy singles, he changed the course of the match. He was well supported by Vaughan, who was keeping the ball along the ground, but keeping out the good balls and turning over the singles when he could.

Jake Ashley had replaced Maxy at the Kendall's end, and took a bit of tap in two overs from Churchy. However, he continued to bowl straight and full and gave nothing easy away, and he came back from this really well. He could easily have let it slip away, but he fought back well and continued to ask questions of the batsmen. Very impressive.

With the last throw of the dice we brought Gavin Hartley back into the attack, and he got Chruchy to tickle one down legside that was well caught by keeper Haubruck. Jani was going to be one of our bowling weapons, but with the late defection of our regular keeper (and is it true he ditched us to go on a camping trip? If so, he may struggle to come straight back into a side where everyone else is keen every week... anyway... I digress...) he filled in more than admirably with the gloves. In particular his keeping to myself and jason was excellent.
Next ball Hooky lost his middle stump, and suddenly our guys knew we were back in with a sniff of victory, and they lit up again.

The guy who now had the most pressure on him was Jake Lee. I had left him late, more through necessity, but now he was going to have to bowl his off spin at the death. And he did so absolutely superbly. He showed no fear, he tossed the ball up to the bat, and asked questions of al the batsmen. Given the situation of the game, his spell was the one that impressed me the most all day. he may not have taken a wicket in his 6 overs, but bowling in tandem with the veteran Wills at the other end, he kept the pressure on and wasn't afraid to give the ball air. Great stuff.

At Jase's end, wickets were tumbling, but we were never able to convincingly stop the flow of runs as well. Vaughan was terrific and solid, though I felt we were a chance to get him through inexperience... until his father came in to bat, pulled him aside and gave him some encouragement. I didn't hear what was said, but I can guess that it was "don't throw your wicket away, we can get this in singles" or something along those lines.

Anyway... into the last over, just Vaughan and the almost immortal Frank Weir at the crease, and we had tied them down until the second last ball, when Vaughan calmly took a step down the wicket and hit the ball straight down the ground to the unprotected bounday for four, and the game was lost (or won, depending on your colour allegiance).

It had been a terrific game. I was, and am, tremendouly proud of the effort our guys put in. We were pretty much behind all day, but were never out of the contest. Apart from maybe four or five overs during the Church/Thistlethwaite partnership, our guys were up and and the ball, keen and sharp. Steve, Jason and Gavin were terrific, unflappable under the difficulty of the chase, and were constantly upbeat and helping the young guys stay focused. Jake Ashley and Matt Clapham in particular were great in the field, and Jani terrific with the gloves on. More than anything, we had taken on a side that made the semi-finals last season in Third Grade, and fought them to the wire. For our young blokes, they did themselves proud.

To Brendan and his boys go my congratulations. It was a competitive game with neither side giving any quarter - but without the nastiness you get when playing certain other teams. With so many kids on both sides playing well, our Club's future would appear bright.

And just in case you are wondering... despite all this glowing optimism and back slapping - yes, losing did hurt. Moreso when I got to the Club, as the only 3rd Grader, and the skipper of the losing team, and everyone asking "What happened in 3rds?" i got sick of that after about 65 seconds. Once I had gotten home and kicked the dog and smashed the washing machine with my bat I guess a little bit of the frustration leaked out... smile.gif

I'm already ensuring I am available for the rematch in March. We may have lost this one, Blue Team, but we'll get you next time! *shakes fist defiantly*