Players must adapt the conditions if they are to succeed
Just what is going on with our weather? Are we really in May, and have we just witnessed the wettest April on record?
These are just some of the questions being asked locally as we reach what should be the stage where leagues are four games into their season.
However, at the moment clubs are lucky if they have played two games, with even some local sides failing to play for the fourth consecutive Saturday. Where cricket has been played it's often been in low temperatures, biting winds and on very bowler friendly wickets.
So how has this crazy weather played havoc with the clubs and their preparation for the season? Certainly at my club Acle we have never experienced anything like it. Due to Easter falling when it did this year, we opted for no pre-season friendlies but hoped to use our own facilities to get out on and practice hard before the first game on April 21. Not only didn't that happen but it has also rained every Thursday evening since Easter thus ruining any possibility we may have had to get some much needed net practice outdoors.
Up to Saturday of the last weekend (May 12-13) we had not played cricket of any description on our square – junior or senior – and none of batters or bowlers had managed any worthwhile practice to speak of. I can only imagine this will have been the case at many other clubs throughout Norfolk!
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So, what do you do when we are confronted with your first game? For me and some of the more seasoned players at our club you have to fall back on those pockets of experience that you will have accumulated over the years and hope, that by digging deep, you will have enough skill to get you through.
For the younger players, those who may have little experience of playing on saturated wickets, they are on a steep learning curve and need to apply themselves and learn very quickly. The problem is, as has been the case at Acle, it doesn't always work out like that!
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Having had described to me the capitulation of our batsmen on Sunday for 28 – yes 28! – against Old Buckenham in the NACO cup competition, surely things can't get any worse. Added to this embarrassment, so far in the two league games we have managed to complete, we have mustered 119-8 and 123-9, hardly scores to frighten the life out of Alliance Premier Division bowlers. But it's not the low totals that concern me it's the inability of our players to graft a bit harder for their runs.
We all know that scores are going to be low until we can get the sun to 'bake' a few wickets, so batsmen have to accept that hitting the ball 'on the up' of whipping the ball square of the wicket are significantly harder to do at the moment.
And we also have to accept that the Geoffrey Boycott way of playing with a straight bat 'through the V' has to be an option that all batters should consider. If our players don't adapt their game to the conditions and continue to play as though they were playing on August wickets then we will find ourselves where we are now, firmly rooted to the bottom of the division. However, there is one big BUT! I know my players and they will turn it round. For our sake and for that of our captain Shaun Roberts, I trust that will be sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, through all the rain and cold weather Norwich, and Copdock & Old Ipswichians have emerged as the early frontrunners in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division and the East Anglian Premier League respectively. Norwich will want a swift return to the EAPL from whence they came last season, and Copdock will surely want to cement their place in the EAPL having beaten clear favourites Fakenham in last season's play-off final. Having witnessed Fakenham at close quarters last Saturday, where we were soundly trounced by 7 wickets – they will once again be the side to beat. There is no doubt that the Alliance Premier Division this season is stronger than it has been since the EAPL was formed in 1999. At its inception, Norfolk lost its strongest four clubs to the new league but has gradually recovered its strength over the past 12 years. This year it could well be a battle royal between Fakenham and Norwich for the title and most importantly for that prized return to EAPL status. Downham Town, perennial title contenders in this league for many years now, will have to play exceptionally well this season to be in the frame for silverware come mid September, but this can only be good for the league and for the strength of cricket within our county.
The poor weather has also put paid to Norfolk's chances in the Minor Counties Knockout trophy matches. Sunday's results meant that Norfolk can no longer qualify for the next stages. In my time as captain it was particularly frustrating to a get a game called off due to rain but to have all four matches cancelled or abandoned must be completely mind dumbing. I can only imagine what George Walker and Chris Brown will have been thinking but there was absolutely nothing that could be done to prevent any of it so it just has to go down as bad luck and they must now think positively about the first championship game on June 3.