Raw cricket

IMG_5907Raw. That’s the only way I can describe domestic first class cricket.

Played in the same major grounds that host international matches, but with only the tiniest number in the stands to soak up the action and compete with the sounds of the middle, you hear and feel everything so much more keenly.

Every grunt of exertion, every shout or clap of encouragement or groan of disappointment, every slap of ball on bat, or thud of ball hitting pads, guards or helmet.

Even great performances feel all the more raw for the inevitably modest recognition from the small crowd.

I love it.

For a newbie to the world of cricket like me, it offers a much better opportunity to watch and analyse and try to understand the game. There’s less distraction, from fans and big match theatrics alike. Less likelihood of feeling overwhelmed by the occasion and finding the action passes in a blur. Plus I’m 100% more likely to be able to get a seat end-on to the wicket where my dodgy eyes have a much better chance of following the ball.

My first experience of live professional cricket was a Sheffield Shield match at the MCG in 2013. My latest and current is one of the same series in the current season but at the much more modest WACA ground. Both equally enticing and enjoyable.

Even rain breaks have their charm. It gives some time out to reflect, catch up on other concurrent matches, do some writing or reading or just go for a walk and stretch the legs.

I love it how the birds take over when the rain sets in at the cricket. They started poking around the western end of the field as soon as the ground staff came out to cover the pitch and square this afternoon. Once the humans’ work was all done, the birds descended on the white square themselves to inspect the work of the ground crew.

It reminded me of my first match experience at the MCG and my great surprise at the audible bird life within the stadium right throughout play. I was later to learn that even at the Boxing Day Test you can hear and see them – they’re a hardy bunch over in the cold state.

As a proud Western Australian, of course I would love for the Western Warriors to win this match against the NSW Blues and gain a home final. But if I’m totally honest, I don’t actually care too much.

It’s not that often that I get to travel down from Geraldton to Perth to enjoy first class matches. So I ask only for a good match, a close match, with plenty of interest. And not too much rain.

I hope the cricket gods are listening.

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Feeling like I belong – the magic of membership

And I’m back!makes me smile

Bit of a break from the writing about cricket while some other stuff was going on, but now the Aussie season is getting back into swing I’m all fired up again.

It may have just a little something to do with recently becoming a WACA member and having just tripped down to Perth over the weekend to spend a couple of days in the members stands for the first Sheffield Shield match of 2014-15 season.

What a win for the WACA boys over the Tassie Tigers! I’m very sad for the lovely George though. Not a good start to his bid to make it back into the Aussie test team.

The lovely George wondering what to try next...

The lovely George wondering what to try next…

Saturday was just balmy – a beautiful warm day for my good friend Mel and I to spend having a beer or three, checking out a few different spots for cricket viewing, and a visit to the WACA museum too. Nice break from the kids for Mel, and nice change for me to have company at the cricket!

Sunny, 29 degrees, beer, wine, kicking back watching some cricket - could it get better?

Sunny, 29 degrees, beer, wine, kicking back watching some cricket – could it get better?

We both felt pretty chuffed to be there for Cameron Bancroft’s maiden first class ton – what a great job he did. Concentration did wane a bit in the second session, when it seemed like Tassie might never get another batsman out. But the third more than made up for it, with a steady tumble of wickets once the dominant Bancroft – Voges partnership of the second session was broken. So by the end of the day, although WA was clearly in the box seat, it did feel like there was a fight on at least.

As we were leaving, we shared the stairs down from the members’ bar with none other than WA coach and ex Aussie batsman Justin Langer. He even smiled and offered us a “Nice day for it” greeting. I tried to be cool about that and make a half decent reply, but suspect I failed!

It’s actually the second time I’ve had a close encounter with Langer on those very stairs – the first being when I did a really enjoyable guided tour of the ground in March this year. On that occasion, he and I did that little dance where we both tried to step out of each other’s way, only to get more in each other’s way. To be honest, it was only afterwards I realised who he was.

Later in the tour we had checked out the players rooms, only to encounter the boys just come in from a final training session before they headed to Queensland for their day-night Shield match, one of the last of the season. They were really friendly and we had a decent chat with one of the young guns, and with Captain Adam Voges.

And that is my overriding impression so far of the WACA team and scene – lots of friendly people, and very down to earth. The folks in the membership office were great. No one got grumpy with me (well not that I noticed!) for moving about a lot – I was a bit restless and keen to check out as many different areas as I could. I’m afraid I only remembered part way through about the etiquette of cricket spectating!

The bar was a little bit lacking unfortunately – super friendly staff, but disappointing that a good number of things on the menu weren’t available. I wonder is it so hard to put out a special menu for the smaller matches when, understandably, it makes sense to offer fewer choices?

Post cricket cocktails - perfect end to a gorgeous day out.

Post cricket cocktails – perfect end to a gorgeous day out.

Anyway, that aside, it was a great day. So much so I decided to go back Sunday to catch another couple of sessions before I had to start the long drive home.

I suspect that’s going to be the flavour of my summer from here on in.

Keep em guessing Bucky!

He looks pretty mild mannered and unassuming. A reliable, dependable, you-know-just-what-you’re-gonna-get kind of guy.

Mr Casual

But Bucky Rogers sure does know how to mix it up when it comes to ball polishing!

I had a good giggle this afternoon watching him assume the prime ball polishing role (in many different poses!) for Siddle for a spell there …

Though to be honest I always have found the ball polishing bit pretty entertaining. It’s nearly as good as a row of slips fielders, waiting for a delivery, viewed from behind.

Very childish of me I’m sure! But oh well, nothing wrong with being easily pleased and finding small things to giggle about and enjoy, especially on a day like today when you know the result well before play ends. You just have to enjoy the ride.

I can just imagine what he’s saying to his team mate here … “Hey did you see me mix that up back there? Dare you or anyone else to beat it!” 😉

Did you see

PS. enjoying my new camera too!

Defying the rain – the verdict

After the misery of yesterday, I decided that today I just had to give it a chance. So 7:30 this morning I was on the train bound for Melbourne and the MCG – defying the rain to rob me of some cricket joy.

The verdict? Totally worth it!

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Oh, the cricket action is not bad either. Rogers got another ton, White’s now warming up for another good knock I think. NSW struggling for wickets, a draw almost certain.

The frustration of rain…

I’d been so looking forward to heading down to Melbourne again today to catch some Sheffield Shield action (VICvsNSW) but the weather forecast was so dire – 95% chance of 5-10mm rain – that I managed to talk myself out of it, thinking there wouldn’t be much play.

Bugger, bugger, bugger!

One full session played already without interruption – and a great one at that with Rogers and Quiney both on fire – and here I am sitting at home (where it is raining, adding to my misery :() regretting not giving it a chance. Already it would have been worth the two hours travel each way …

To add insult to injury – I can’t even console myself today with watching England vs Australia A on the telly because – you guessed it – rain in Hobart too!!

Edgbaston 2007 tmlvngs flickrI am starting to appreciate the world I’ve got myself into – one where the rain is the greatest enemy, and trying to predict it and make plans accordingly can have great consequences for the cricket tragic.

It’s a delicate balancing act of considering the options – particularly if you live in a regional area as I do and the action you’re looking to catch is in a main city some distance away.

Do I go on the off-chance that my virtue and patience in being prepared to sit watching an empty ground get wet could be rewarded with some fantastic play if the rain doesn’t arrive as forecast? Is it better to give it a try and be content with reading a good book while there’s no play, than to regret not being there when something great happens?

Speaking of which – just checked in, they’re back in action after lunch and Rogers has just hit a six. Bugger!

photo credit: tmlvngs via photopin cc

The things you learn… I

There are some things you can only learn by watching a game ‘in the flesh’ so to speak. I’ve listened to lots of games now, and watched a bit on telly. But now I’ve experienced the game fully I understand far more about the game than I did two days ago.

I’m a bit embarrassed at how obvious these ‘breakthroughs’ for my cricket education seem now, but in the spirit of celebrating my ignorance – as promised from the beginning – I’m going to share them with you anyway.

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#1 just how much running goes on, all the time, amongst the fielders. I guess I’ve never been aware of the rearrangement going on between overs before because that’s when the dreaded commercials come on the telly. But also the re-setting needed when there’s left and right hand batsmen on strike surprised me too. Makes sense of course!

#2 the massive variation in distance of both the bowlers run-up and keepers position for fast bowlers vs the slow spinners. Of course it’s obvious! Pete Siddle in particular needs lots of space…

#3 why a dot ball is called a dot ball! I finally worked out all the bits of the scoreboard today. There’s been lots of them today – dot balls that is. Western Warriors are digging in and playing for the draw. Marcus North finally just got a ton, hard fought, nearly 24hrs after he opened the batting for the Warriors …