The Ramblers and Time Cricket: A Declaration?
The Ramblers were originally formed as an evening T20 side and this form of cricket continues to form a significant component of our portfolio. The club also plays a relatively small number of 40 over games, although our preferred form of the game is time cricket. We do appreciate that in many parts of the country this is a dying, is not entirely dead, art with several generations of younger players brought up exclusively on a diet of limited overs cricket. The forerunner of The Ramblers, Liverpool University Staff, always played time cricket and cricket of this nature is still played at all levels in the Liverpool and District Competition, where so many of our members play on Saturdays.
In light of the decline in playing over a time format, it is really important that everyone who represents our club has a clear understanding of the aims, objectives and subtle nuances of playing in this way. In order to avoid any misunderstandings it is also important that all our opponents are clear on as to how and why we play time cricket. As in previous seasons, we will be playing two variations of this format. In the first of these, the games will be played over five hours playing time, excluding the tea interval, with a minimum of 20 overs to be bowled in the "last hour", which for 1:30pm starts will commence at 6:00pm. These will be the playing conditions for our President's XI, both tours and various other fixtures. The second variation on this theme involves games starting at 11:30am with six hours playing time, excluding lunch and tea, also with a minimum of 20 overs to be bowled in the "last hour". On winning the toss, it is always our philosophy to bat first. In a five hour game, we would look to bat for around 2 hours and 40 minutes, give or take a few minutes, before declaring the innings closed, thereby leaving our opponents around 1 hour 20 minutes plus a minimum of 20 overs for their reply. In order to engineer a run chase and to take the ten wickets required for victory, we always aim to bowl our overs at 20 per hour. This will often result in our opponents receiving at least as many overs as ourselves in less time. In order to achieve this, it is important that everyone remains constantly switched on and moves around quickly to fielding positions at the end of each over. The wicketkeeper and slips have a vital role to play in this. At the fall of a wicket, fielders should return to their positions quickly. At the end of each delivery, the ball needs to be rapidly filtered back to the bowler, who in turn needs to return to his mark with equal rapidity. Should a boundary be conceded the fielders have a big responsibility to return the ball to the keeper/bowler with a minimum of delay. To bowl 20 overs per hour also requires the assistance of the batting side. Batsmen need to get to the crease quickly and changes of umpire need to be efficient to avoid any undue loss of time. At no time would it ever be our intention to bat for too long and spoil the game. When fielding first it is also vital to rattle through the over at 20 per hour. The quicker the overs are bowled then the more likely it is our opponents will declare or be bowled out. If, by way of example, it takes 45 overs to bowl a side out and the overs are bowled at 18 per hour then this will take 2.5 hours, leaving 1.5 hours plus 20 overs to chase. Should the overs have been bowled at 20 per hour then this will take only 2.25 hours thus leaving an extra 15 minutes to chase. This is really important and worthy of some thought. In the six-hour format, if batting first, we should look to bat for around 3 hours 10 minutes, viz 1 hour 10 minutes after lunch, leaving our opponents some 50 minutes to bat before tea and 2 hours after, including a minimum of 20 overs in the "last hour". All other elements of the game would otherwise be the same as in the five hour version. This is a truly great way of spending a day during which it is possible to have over 120 overs bowled.
There are clearly a series of advantages to playing time cricket, as opposed to "crashing and bashing" for 40 overs, which are worthy of clarification. In the event of bad weather on the morning of the game, the toss is nowhere near as crucial as in a 40-over game, since a side inserted on a wet wicket is not unduly disadvantaged. They are able to "dig in" until such time as the wicket eases without having to be too concerned about the passing of overs. In the event of rain during the game, there is also no need for run-rate calculations, over reductions and the like. In order to win, the team fielding second has to take all ten wickets. This means that no matter how far the batting side falls behind "the chase" there are no "dead overs" as there would be in an overs game. When the side chasing is unable to win, they are able to hold out for a draw. This is ideal for younger players learning the game, who can bat properly and not throw their wickets away unnecessarily. This is also true for the side batting first. Batsmen can properly construct an innings rather than having to try and score quickly from the outset. Most clubs put a huge amount of time and effort into coaching youngsters to bat properly but then provide these players with a form of the game - i.e. 40 overs - that encourages them to do the exact opposite! Time cricket also has huge advantages in the development of bowlers. In 40 over cricket, the major aim of bowling is to prevent the opposition scoring runs, with fields set accordingly. In the declaration game, whether bowling before or after tea, the major objective is to take wickets. To do so, captains need to be creative rather than formulaic with both field settings and bowling changes. There can be little doubt that time cricket provides a far better forum for the development of young slow bowlers, who when playing limited overs cricket often can become unduly concerned with bowling "dot-balls" instead of trying to dismiss the batsman.
One of the most appealing nuances of time cricket is that in order to actually win a game, both captains have to be prepared to risk losing. Wyncote Ramblers are of the unshakeable belief that this, combined with all its other positive advantages, makes declaration cricket a superior, cerebral and more subtle form of the game. As such it underpins, and is central to, the ethos upon which our club is based.
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