I hope that you have all had a lovely summer and that those of you who are not teachers have enjoyed your couple of days off! Now that the three reasons for teaching (June, July and August) are fast-fading memories, it is time for your Team of the Week correspondent to once again shed some light on some of the many sporting teams that grace the splendid Salopian sports stadia.
The transfer deadline has been and gone and many of the coaches have been active over the summer bringing in fresh faces to enliven and strengthen their squads. I am sure we will get to know some of these stars in the weeks to come and I am hoping they do not come with reputations akin to Mr Balottelli! We start this term with a look at a team that is still involved in a competition that began last summer.
The under-15A cricket team has made it through to the semi- finals of the National under-15 Twenty20 competition, after thrashing a strong Lincoln Minster team on the first day of term. Having posted a total of 130 for 3 on a large pitch, which coach Adam Shantry reckoned was worth 160 (and who am I to disagree), the opposition were skittled out for 58. Skipper Charlie Home, who played a couple of games for Northants 2nd XI over the summer, made 58 not out opening the batting and was happy with the team’s performance. “I am happy with the team’s performance” he told me.
When I asked him how he felt about his own performance, Charlie was typically detailed and analytical in his response. He is lovingly referred to as one of the team ‘badgers’ by his fellow cricketers, along with George Garrett. Upon further research I have discovered that this means that Charlie and George are known to have an encyclopaedic knowledge about the ‘beautiful game’. I can only report a brief summary of Charlie’s assessment of his innings but I am hoping that Wisden will publish the full version of my interview in an extra edition they are considering printing later this year. It slightly depends on whether I can keep the article under the 700-page limit they have imposed on me.
Charlie described his role as that of the team ‘anchor,’ (a top-order batsman capable of batting for a long duration throughout the innings.. He went on to tell me: “I enjoyed keeping out the opening bowlers ‘anglers’ (a type of late-swing delivery used by Bart King in the early 1900s. King, a rightarm fast bowler, delivered his inswinger with the right arm raised over the left ear, and concealed the seam of the ball by commencing his action with the ball held in both hands, in the manner of baseball pitchers) and I dealt with the ‘chin music’ (short pitched bowling intended to intimidate the batsman) quite comfortably as he was not that quick. The pitch was a belter (a pitch offering advantage to the batsman) and although I flirted briefly with the corridor of uncertainty (a notional narrow area on and just outside a batsman's off stump. If a delivery is in the corridor, it is difficult for a batsman to decide whether to leave the ball, play defensively or play an attacking shot. The term was popularised by former England batsman, now commentator, Geoffrey Boycott). I quickly got my eye in and began to nurdle (to score runs by gently nudging the ball into vacant areas of the field) the cherry (cricket ball) around.”
Given that cricket is not a main sport this term, the team have been training after their other commitments. The less observant members of the squad had not seen the notice telling them where to be and so my picture of the team is not complete.
A number of keen new girls lent a hand by fielding in the slips, although such is the high standard of our batsmen that there were few chances. Lucy Cowper told me, “I am quietly confident that the lads will bring back the trophy. There are no rabbits (a particularly incompetent batsman, who is invariably a specialist bowler) or ferrets (even worse than a rabbit) in our team. and everyone can play the switch hit (a shot played by a batsman who reverses both his stance and his grip during the bowler's run-up, so that a right-handed batsman would play the shot as an orthodox left-hander). I am also impressed by the spinners as they have perfected their ‘teesras’ (a variation delivery for an off spin bowler, Saqlain Mushtaq has been credited with creating it. Teesra comes from the Urdu meaning "the third one”) and their ‘doosras’( a relatively new off spin delivery developed by Saqlain Mushtaq; the finger spin equivalent of the googly, in that it turns the "wrong way". From the Hindi or Urdu for second or other).”
New Third Former Leo Jin should be commended for helping to field, and his enthusiasm and eagerness to help has won him the role of ‘Team Mascot’, with rumours that he may travel with the players to Arundel for the Finals Day on Sunday.
Coach Adam Shantry, who cricket aficionados will remember was a left-arm swing bowler who represented Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Glamorgan in a career cut short by injury, was very positive about his squad. Although he is described as being ‘unusually slow’ on the cricket info site, I found him to be personable and quick witted as he dished the dirt on his players! Adam has certainly got a wealth of cricketing knowledge to impart to his fledgling stars and they are wise enough to listen to his carefully crafted team talks.
Opening the batting with Charlie Home on Sunday will be George Hargrave. I heard George’s name being banded about on Test Match Special over the holidays by none other than my good friends Charlie Dagnall and Michael Vaughan. (You can read more about this elsewhere on the website – see the report George Hargrave featured on Test Match Special.) The former England skipper had viewed George’s prodigious talent playing in the Bunbury Festival (a competition that is not as interested in the bun/ run ratio as it sounds). George is now the team’s media spokesman as he is clearly on good terms with the whole commentary team.
At three it will probably be Harry Gregson. Harry is known as the team Lazarus as he makes miraculous recoveries from serious injuries in a matter of minutes. At four will be Jordan Zaza and at five, Lysander Adair. This season’s new overseas signing Jamie Crawley is unavailable as he has been recalled to his home country of Scotland to play in an end of season international. His absence should be well covered by the likes of Dan ‘lady-killer’ Orchard, Tom ‘I look good in whites’ Brunskill, George ‘I can take whatever Mr Pridgeon throws at me’ Pearce and the hard men Oli ‘I wish cricket was as physical as rugby’ Dixon, Pat ‘team loose canon’ Jacob and Josh ‘you won’t like me when I am angry’ Malyon.
As you might have picked up from the above, the team are in good spirits and although they will play Sedbergh on Sunday, who beat them earlier in the season, we were not at our full strength. So hopefully that will lull the opposition into a false sense of security.
Good luck to the team. The only advice I can give is: batsmen play with confidence whether the pitch is a belter, a minefield, slow, low, flat, a feather bed, a green top, worn or sticky. Watch the cherry and try not to let it hit the furniture, timbers or stumps, even if the bowler delivers a jaffa, doosra, teesra, beamer, trimmer, bouncer, angler, vatta, popper, out dipper, out swinger, in swinger, yorker, sun ball, mullygrubber, off spinner, leg break, top spinner, leg cutter, off cutter, chinaman, gazunder or grubber. If it is a floater, full toss, long hop, half volley, loosener, lolly or the bowler is a trundler, buffet provider, then tuck in and smash it! Bat first.
Follow that advice and all the bowlers will have to do is bowl straight!