Well this is a strange report to write, not because of a result but because it’s my last as a junior coach.
And it perhaps wasn’t the first time that I had gone missing as a square leg umpire last night (at least if you believe James Stevenson) as I watched the majority of the team play out their last junior game together.
It was strange to see them play with all the skills they had acquired over the last 9 years or so, placing fields, working over batsmen with their bowling and best and most important of all for me personally, encouraging each and every Fiskerton player throughout the game in such a positive fashion.
As league rules state, Ellerslie went into to bat first, just as happened on our first game of the season when they removed us from the Cup.
A pep talk from another of their U15(?) players was given at the square to 2 imposing batsmen, and the field cleared to allow Harry Napier to send down the first ball.
From that moment it was a joy to watch the Fiskerton team bowl and field.
With Olly Stanley not available Dan Jones reluctantly took the captain’s role, sensibly asking at the pre match team talk for help from his wicket keeper Alex Jan, appointing Jono Meal as his vice but reminding all fielders that they had a duty to keep an eye open for problems.
Harry’s increasing confidence with the ball, to trust those raking lines across a right handed batsman, pay real dividends when mixed with his increasing aggression, waking me up in his first over, when I had to signal ‘one for the over’ to the Ellerslie umpire. You could feel the smile from Harry over at square leg.
He then produced a sublime caught and bowled, taking the catch right handed and at full stretch to remove an incredulous batsman.
James Pritchett had started at my end, and his first ball nipped away from the batsman’s edge and you knew it was not going to be long before a wicket would fall.
The pitch, whilst not the minefield that described the Lenton strip last Saturday for the Senior 1’s, was going to play a part in this game for both sides, and if the ball was put in the right areas then, with swing and seam, the batsman would face a tough challenge.
James grinned and carried on plugging away and soon that edge came to a neat catch behind the stumps by Alex Jan.
However that brought in Ellerslie No3, with shorts rolled up under his pads, and he soon showed that he meant business.
Even so in the next over James saw a very hard edge just stop short of Alex’s gloves, the ball having only got about 6 inches from the deck, having been pitched in the same area as previously.
At 1st change on came Jonathon Meal from the Tennis Court end and Megan Surtees at the other end.
Dan had worked out that his attack seamers needed to bowl from the Tennis Court end to protect a very short cow corner boundary from my end – good thinking and it worked well.
Jono showed what could be done with the ball deceiving the tall and powerful Ellerslie batsman with the length to create an early pull and a deep exhalation of breath as the batsman took the ball smack in the middle of his chest. Game on for Jono and such a shame he is to be away for the Representative games next week as he is a quality bowler.
In the meantime Megan, was asked to replace James and she came in to bowl at a difficult time. What she did was bring her grace and smile to the game, never worrying if the ball was a little less tight than it should have been, and concentrating on the next, rather than the past delivery. But onth e tight delivery, what a ball, producing a gasp from the strong Ellerslie batsmen as it cut him in 2, and causing Alex to wonder how on earth the ball came to him and missed anything on the way.
Her attitude screams for her to join in with the senior 2’s sides on a Saturday or Sunday. What those captains would do for her bowling and fielding, and even more so for her cheery smile and attitude to cricket that accompanies her every time she graces the field.
Throughout the game Dan maintained a relatively aggressive field, sometimes to some finger and eyebrow twitching from Square Leg (I must have looked at some stage as if I had St Vitus’ dance), including the complete absence of a point fielder and loading up a leg side, but in effect this produced false shots from batsmen and certainly tested the mental and physical strength of his fielders.
With Jono continuing to hold up the Tennis Court end, Joe Orgill had replaced Megan.
Joe shone last year with his slow steady right arm bowling, teasing and tantalising the batting to produce the top wicket haul of 2012. This year that same nagging line hasn’t come together, maybe as a result of a different delivery stride that produced a number of back foot no balls. So it was that Joe went for a few, which was unusual from his 2012 form, but form is temporary and class is permanent.
As a result of holidays and re-arranged fixtures we would have only been 9 players tonight.
However a previous senior game had produced Christian Butcher, former Fiskerton Kwik cricketer to our ground representing Southwell, which at the end of the game has allowed me to have a few quiet words to see if he would guest star.
He, together with another guest, David Sanders, he being another product of Fiskerton’s Kwik cricket school but playing elsewhere for now, both agreed to fill in the gaps, but they both did so much more.
Christian came on at my end, and produced a display of neat line and length bowling and producing an lbw chance – if only at least one of the fielders has asked as it was completely plumb.
However the increasing confidence of the remaining Ellerslie opener (who our players may see in the Representative game next week?) showed there was definitely going to be a battle here.
Having been trapped lbw (not requested so not given) in Christian’s previous over, and knowing it, he realised the bowling wasn’t getting any weaker.
At the change for the Tennis Court end Dan Jones came in . As usual his aggressive running in showed intent rather than grace and he was going to try and beat the bat where he could.
And as it was with a fantastic assist from James Pritchett at deep midwicket (having sensibly tested Dan’s field placement a couple of overs previously when being lost in the field and asking whether he should go deeper), Dan prised out Ellerslie’s powerhouse, he having taken on the bowling with a cross bat slog short of cow corner.
At first it looked like James hadn’t picked it up, and then he took 3 steps forward and caught it at knee height, and what a catch it was.
With continuing frantic finger twitching from square leg, Dan suddenly realised that a further and final over was going to be needed at my end.
The twitching was to remind Dan that he should let his guests take part in the game, and so he asked David Sanders to bowl what he didn’t realise was the final over of the inngins, untilth eball was thrown to him.
Having had a few words of encroaugement with the younger player, to not worry if he was smacked about he park off the final over, Dan need not have worried as Sanders then bowled a neat final 6 balls to restrict with Ellerslie to 73.
Fiskerton only needed 74, and team talks consisted of ‘April pitches’ [in July?] and playing late and straight.
Required run rate was a medium risk at 73, so care could be taken over shot selection.
And when soothsaying afoot, the pitch did indeed have something further to say in the game.
Ellerslie’s Tom Davy was working wonders as the opening bowler from my end, dropping the ball on the spot time and again to frustrate the batsmen, his first ball doing exactly what James Pritchett’s had done in nipping away from the batsmen and producing some raised eyebrows.
Alex ably started his innings correctly playing the straight bat to some tight opening bowling.
It wasn’t going to be a walk over though.
As it was, the pitch did take it’s toll on the top 3, falling relatively quickly and cheaply.
Tom Davy apparently had an armoury of deliveries, first taking the opener Alex Jan through a very tight gate, when he got a length ball to nip back, and then producing the exact same ball into an even tighter gate to Jono Meal batting at 3, Jono again having settled but not getting the luck that he deserves to go on to a score.
Hmm. The plan was to juggle the batting around a bit as the total was relatively low but as a result DAn was brought in early with 5 or 6 overs gone and a low total on the board, I hoped that a partnership could exist between him and James P.
James, being pinned down but taking singles where he could was playing shots to pierce the inner circle but not quite doing so because of tight Ellerslie fielding.
Again he was surprised by the pitch as well, and pulled a length ball which lifted on him without warning to be caught.
With wickets still tumbling, and overs being used up, I couldn’t risk any other strategy so decided to bring in Harry at 5 to partner Jones to see if he could steady the ship with Harry.
Having batted on a similar wicket 5 days ago, Dan came out and counselled Harry Napier to attack the bad ball where possible because of the effect of the pitch on the good ball.
And so it was that they then started to do just that.
With Ellerslie feeling that they had the upper hand, both Dan and Harry then stepped up the punishment of the bad ball, instantly rocking Ellerslie back and allowing the batsmen to relax, the pressure definitely having been put on by the loss of wickets.
A rapid 20 by Dan was brought to a halt by the introduction of a new bowler from the Tennis Court end.
Coming off about 13 paces the ball was finally delivered at a snail’s pace, deceiving Dan into trying to play a clip off his legs to a ball (that he says) was just outside leg stump, the ball colliding with the pad and allowing the Ellerslie Umpire to trigger him. Much muttering of words and replacement of leading leg was carried out at the crease until a disconsolate batsmen wandered back to the changing rooms, swishing his bat at the evening hatch of flies.
In the meantime however Harry had continued his flowing style of batting.
So it was that our guest stars were to take a part in the game again.
Christian Butcher came in to face the new bowler, and almost immediately gave a chance to the Ellerslie keeper who couldn’t run back fast enough.
Was it nerves, the pitch or the weight of expectation?
Whatever it was it settled Christian down and with a few words from Harry, some reminding about speaking (shouting) loudly the calling of runs, this pair decided enough was enough and started playing shots around the ground and taking quick singles.
In truth at that stage, the game should have been up, and it was really, as Fiskerton’s bowling attack had already restricted Ellerslie to a gettable total, and a rapid 30 or so runs by the Napier/Jones partnership had quietened things in the field and that continued.
However Ellerslie continued to press their attack and Christian then showed his footwork and skill by clipping and cutting the bowling for 4’s, in truth not before having given a couple more catching chance, each of which feel agonisingly, for Ellerslie, into gaps.
With 2 required, Christian craft fully edged a safe ball for quick runs, the ball finally beating the fielder for four, the batsmen having completed 2 runs in any event already (look out for the quiz question on that as to what the final Fiskerton total should be – answers by email please).
The game was won and hopefully second place at least secured in the league, depending on other results.
Man of the match – a huge shout goes out to HArry napier, not only for the superb caught and bowled but also his batting and carrying his bat to the final win.
They all were worth a shout as always, but you have to make a choice, and if I could make a choice that sums up my feelings for the game as a whole, it would be the constant calling of support from James Pritchett (along with one piece of sledging obviously gained from the senior side during Dan Jones’ bowling – naughty boy!) who unfailingly remembered that to play the game you have to be included and to be included you need positive support.
I must admit as I watched the players come onto the boundary to shake hands there was a lump in the throat as I approached the club house for that the final summing up.
For me it’s the end of an era, having coached most of those at U15 for over 9 years.
I can honestly say that whenever I have umpired or scored a game for these guys, the opposition have always gone out of their way to tell me how well they behave both on and off the field ( even when a bit younger their concentration levels were not up to much when waiting to bat!).
It’s not always the skill but the way the game is played. Play hard, play fair and always with a smile is the mantra I have tried to bring to them.
At about their age I remember being introduced to poetry, strangely enough though the history of warfare, and being taken aback by a version of one of his poems:
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night --
Ten to make and the match to win --
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his Captain's hand on his shoulder smote --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind --
'Play up! play up! and play the game!'
At that time it resonated with everything that mattered to me at their age, wanting to win but wanting to do it fairly and within the Laws, but having that grit and determination to succeed in everything you do and whatever problems you face never walk away. I hope that I have planted some of that spirit in them and they go on to great things in whatever field they choose.
To all that played in all the games and to every member of a squad coached by me my thanks go to them for their unfailing attitude to sportsmanship and their attempts to improve their skills.
But, in the words of my mentor, Bill Tomlinson, as always, Mecum Avit!