It is often said that cricket is a game played in your head. The more I play, the more I find this old adage relatable. So much of batting is about confidence and a positive mindset (anyone scraping around for their next run will attest to this). Bowling isn’t just about wanging it down as fast as you can and hooping it round corners (although it helps). It’s as much about working out a batsman’s weaknesses and then trying to expose them. Fielding is all about concentration, expecting the ball to come your way every single delivery. There’s more, of course, but that little lot alone takes up more than its fair share of head space.
And then there’s the perceived mental block we appear to have when it comes to playing and beating “our friends and rivals” Southbank CC. Something I believe is truly all of our own making. Started by various members of The Plough giving it the ‘Billy Big Bollocks’ in the bar (in fairness, only once well lubricated), it continued with a fair number of resounding thrashings, was then accentuated by the false bravado created by some looking at a few big names on a team sheet and internally believing that all we had to do was turn up, before then being stimulated by unnecessary pressure-piling prose and, finally, ending up at yesterday’s match, where we batted really poorly as a unit and left ourselves just too much to do with the ball. Southbank’s Sunday team is a very good side, they don’t lose very often and can be rightly proud of their achievements each season. They are by no means unbeatable though. We just need to create the right mindset in which to do that.
It has been mooted that a change of tact and complete rethink is required in order to make that happen. Something I was well on board with until Sunday’s fixture. However, I’ve now dismissed that theory entirely because at the weekend we showed, if nothing else, that we now respect this particular opposition and do know what’s required to triumph over them. We simply need to play better on the day! Particularly with the bat. With the ball and in the field, however, we were comfortably the better side and very nearly pulled the proverbial Phoenix out of the ashes of our innings in what turned out to be a truly entertaining, keenly-contested, thriller.
Southbank were put into the field and both opening bowlers looked pretty threatening but playable. Unfortunately for us, the good deliveries found the edge or the gap in the defence and it wasn’t long before one of them had taken 4fer and we were 58-5 and still some way off the drinks break. James Tisato and Ben Hamilton put on a ship-steadying partnership which added some much needed respectability to the score but, once Ben was dismissed, the last four wickets fell pretty swiftly. Tis last man out for a well-crafted 55.
A solemn tea was taken, by some in solitude and by others whilst collecting various bits of kit that had been dispatched to all corners of DSG post-dismissal. It wasn’t pretty.
The aforementioned belief and confidence can work wonders though. Knowing I owed the team something after an embarrassing Golden Duck, I near enough demanded the new ball from Skipper Carson. Aware that if I could set the tone and get us back into the contest early then others may follow, start to believe in ourselves again, grow in confidence, display some positivity… and then, with all of that combined, who knows what might happen.
What actually followed was nothing short of magnificent. An exemplary display by all the bowlers, supremely backed up by every single man in the field.
Three quick wickets got us going, one the result of a well judged catch by Fred under one that went very, very, high, and all of a sudden we were in with a sniff. With some seriously good bowling options available to him Skipper Carson must’ve felt like he was playing Laser Quest with a machine gun. He got them all involved at some point. And not one of them let him or the team down. All bowled with heart and plenty of skill (not a single wide bowled testament to the concentration and effort made). Lewis took a superb caught and bowled, diving across the wicket to dismiss the other dangerous opener. Logan removed the stubborn Southbank Captain, John Thornton, with a crafty (and wholly unexpected) leg break/leg cutter. Oli Lonsdale, lauded loud and proud from the sidelines, found a beautiful rhythm and probably deserved more than his one wicket – Isaac making the catch look easy at gully. Tis steamed in and threw down some proper thunderbolts before being unluckily removed from the attack for two no balls (over waist height). Max charged in so hard he couldn’t stay on his feet but produced an absolute beauty to knock over Southbank VC, Zach, and then Isaac took us to the edge of the precipice with a well deserved wicket in his second spell.
9 wickets down and three runs required. I reckon there’s a good chance John Twinn, Southbank’s No.11, had forgotten how to pad up, it’s been so long since his services were required.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The whole affair finishing meekly with a no ball and just five deliveries left in the match. I’d wager good money that neither side really wanted a quality contest to end like that.
So… In summary, there is no mental block. We will beat Southbank one day. We have proved to ourselves that we can compete and we’re good enough to get that elusive W. I wouldn’t be surprised if we win a fair few subsequently once we do.
We just need to bat with a bit more discipline and hope that a few more top order players find some solid form. The fact we scored 107 off 26 overs, yet Southbank required almost their entire allocation to overhaul that, shows we have the bowling attack to match any Club of a similar stature. After all, bowlers win you cricket matches. Batsmen just need to set it up for them.
I, for one, cannot wait for 26th September to come around. At which point I trust we’ll treat it as just another cricket match for us to try and win. Because, when all is said and done, that’s all it is, fellas. Just another cricket match.
p.s. huge props to the Beer XI(ish) who turned up to support. It means a lot when club mates do this and definitely has a positive effect on those on the field.