Welcome, gentlemen and players, to the inaugural instalment of Trashes to Ashes - a serial blog chronicling one man's progress through the trials and tribulations of Cricket 19's extensive Career mode. I've been playing a lot of Cricket 19 so far this summer, the latest offering from Big Ant Studios (the developers responsible for Don Bradman Cricket '14, and by extension one of this site's most iconic Quick Looks). It's done a fantastic job of filling the void left by an absence of sport on account of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing me to live out my boyhood dream of ascending from lowly village club cricket through domestic counties, overseas franchises, and ultimately an international call-up. Thanks to its full-featured editing suite, I was even able to customise the clubs featured at its lowest level, letting me relive the spirit of some classic match-ups from my teens and early twenties. The recent time I've spent with Cricket 19 has sparked a desire in me to do something creative, using my gameplay experience as a springboard. This blog series is the result.
I'll be starting a new career from scratch, creating a rookie player modelled in my own image, and attempting to guide him from English village cricket obscurity to the ultimate accolade for any cricketer - victory against rivals Australia in the series of test matches known as the Ashes. The goal is to put out roughly one of these blogs a week for as long as I remain invested in the game or until I earn that Ashes series win, whichever comes first. Each blog will catalogue the events of a number of matches in the career of my player avatar, taking the form of brief diary entries. Alongside on-pitch reports, I'll also be peppering in some creative role-play to attribute a more authentic narrative to both my character and his career progression. Please note that while I've created custom teams based on towns and villages local to me in real-life for the club portion of the career, all players apart from my avatar are generated randomly by the game itself and are therefore entirely fictitious. For anyone who's been following me long enough to remember my A Month in Skyrim blog series, I anticipate this project will pan out in a similar way, albeit with slightly less dragons and a few more LBWs.
Cricket is a baffling sport, governed by complex and sometimes contradictory laws. It is a sport where a match can last for five long days and still end in a draw. But it can also be a fascinating sport, be it as a psychological war of attrition between bowler and batsman in a gruelling test match, or as a thrilling spectacle in the form of a high-scoring Twenty20 match. I'm aware this content is incredibly unlikely to find an audience here on Giant Bomb, but as this series is first and foremost a passion project for me, I won't be too bothered if it goes unread. It just so happens that Cricket 19 is a video game, Giant Bomb is a website about video games, and I have something of a reputation here for embarking on ill-advised serial blogging endeavours, making this the most sensible (or, perhaps more accurately, the least ridiculous) space to share entries. However, I'll also be trying to make this series as accessible as possible, so that even if you don't know your leg stump from your silly point, it will hopefully still prove an entertaining read.
With all that said, I'm going to jump into the first part below. If you've read this far, I hope you'll consider joining rookie cricketer Daniel Kempster as he signs up with his local team in the village of Aldbury and makes an eventful club cricket debut.
Part One - The Club Debut
1st April, 2019
Today I officially became a player at Aldbury Cricket Club. I've been coming down into this picturesque little village for years to watch my dad play, and now that I'm eighteen and can make the move up from youth level, I couldn't imagine playing anywhere else. I know this ground like the back of my hand, with its rickety old pavilion and single sun-bleached terrace. I know a few of the players, too - my dad may not play here any more, but a few of his old team mates are still around, and they feel like friendly uncles to me. Dan Reece, who captains the team in three-day matches, used to open the bowling with my dad back in the day, and he's already offered to take me under his wing and teach me a thing or two about turning my arm over.
Overall it's a much younger team than it used to be. Quite a few of the guys are around my age, and most already have one or two seasons under their belts. Felix Caratelli came to Aldbury last year and quickly established himself as a bit of a wunderkind with both the bat and the ball, earning himself the Twenty20 captaincy for this season. He's a talented all-rounder and I suspect there's going to be a bit of (hopefully healthy) rivalry between us as we jostle for position in the middle-order this year. Apparently some scouts from Middlesex are already eyeing him up, so this could well be his last season before he moves up to county level.
The local league season runs from the third week of April into August. Over the course of the season we'll be playing against my hometown of Tring and nearby Berkhamsted, as well as village teams from Long Marston, Pitstone, and Mentmore. I'm particularly looking forward to meeting Mentmore on the pitch, as that's another team my dad used to play for, and thus another team I have history with. There are three match types - two-innings games played across three days, fifty-over one-day matches, and Twenty20. We'll play each team three times, once in each format, and each match type has its own league, meaning there are three trophies up for grabs at the end of the season. Personally I'm most looking forward to playing the three-day games, partly because I'm a slow-and-steady kind of player, but also because I stand to learn a lot under Dan Reece's captaincy.
11th April, 2019
This evening I attended a pre-season nets session with a few of the other guys on the team. We met at Berkhamsted sports centre, a choice of venue that proved slightly awkward when we arrived to find several players from the town's own team using one of the other nets. Watching them practise was pretty intimidating, since for the first time I was able to get a feel of the standard we would be coming up against in the coming season. Still, it was nice to be able to spend some time with a few of the team regulars and get to know them a little better. I took a turn batting for about fifteen minutes and faced off against Alan Fisher, the pace bowler who took my dad's place in the line-up when he retired three years ago. He clean bowled me a couple of times as I initially struggled to find my rhythm, but after a few nervous minutes I started to see the ball a bit better and time my shots well.
After my stint of batting I pulled off my pads and gloves and started practising my bowling. Over the winter I put a lot of effort into varying my pace, in the hopes of deceiving batsmen into mistiming their shots with the occasional slower ball. In practice the net session didn't really seem to show off the fruits of that labour, since I wasn't able to draw any of my team mates into playing their shots early. Hopefully that strategy will come together more successfully on the pitch. When we were done practising, a few of us headed down into the town centre of Berkhamsted to grab a quick beer before heading home. We were joined by a couple of the Berkhamsted players from before, who turned out to be a lot less intimidating in the pub than they were in the nets. The whole evening left me feeling a little more confident in my own abilities, and eager for the season to get underway next week.
20th April, 2019
Today was the first match day of the season, and my club debut! I got a call from Dan Reece on Wednesday to tell me I'd been selected for the match, which saw us facing off against the village of Long Marston in a three-day game. Long Marston have one of the stronger sides in the league, and play at a ground that has been used for both youth county and minor county matches, so we knew going in that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get a result out of this one. Thankfully we were playing in Aldbury, which gave us the home advantage and levelled the playing field a little.
Dan won the toss and put us in to bowl first - a wise decision in my opinion, since Aldbury's pitch is usually pretty soft and grassy, favouring the bowler over the batsman. Putting Long Marston in to bat first meant that we could take advantage of the conditions, hopefully restricting them to a lower target which we could then try to move past in our first innings. Nine overs into the match, with Long Marston on 27 runs, Dan called me up and tossed me the ball, inviting me to bowl for Aldbury for the first time. It didn't take long for me to settle into a rhythm, and I was able to draw blood in just my second over when batsman Jose Wilkins deflected the ball onto his own stumps off the inside edge of his bat. It was pretty lucky as wickets go, but regardless of the circumstances, I managed to take my first wicket for Aldbury! Dan allowed me to bowl two more overs before taking me off so he could come on to bowl himself.
I returned to the attack in the twentieth over, with Long Marston on 62 runs and with three wickets down. This short spell only lasted two overs, both of which were maidens, before Dan took me off once again. I was initially perplexed by his decision to end my stint of bowling there when I'd been so successful at preventing the batsmen from scoring runs, but his decision was justified as the change signalled the start of Long Marston's collapse. By around 2:30pm on the first day Long Marston had capitulated, giving away their remaining wickets cheaply and only managing to post a total of 108 runs. Dan was the pick of our bowlers, taking three wickets at the cost of only 21 runs. After a short break, we returned to the pitch, this time to bat out our first innings. Dan had put me seventh in the batting order, serving as a buffer between a strong middle order and the weaker tail-end of our line up. While our other batsmen started looking to make a higher total than Long Marston's underwhelming 108, I passed the early overs of our innings by keeping score of the match from the pavilion.
Just before 5:30pm, we lost our fifth wicket and I made my way out to the middle of the pitch to make my batting debut for Aldbury. The team had thus far scored 176 runs, giving us a lead of 68 over Long Marston. I joined our wicket keeper Phoenix Yates at the crease, but he quickly gave his wicket away leaving us on 180 runs with six wickets down. Unfortunately, I wasn't far behind him. I managed to get off the mark with a well-timed drive shot on the off-side, penetrating the inner ring of fielders and buying me enough time to take two runs. Just a few balls later though, I gave my wicket away attempting the same shot against the bowling of Jax Guptill, but timing it just a little too early. Rather than running along the ground, the ball stayed aloft just long enough to reach the outstretched hand of Matteo Rogers at silly point. I began the slow walk back to the pavilion, my first innings for Aldbury lasting just nine balls and amounting to only three runs. The day's play finished not long after, with our team on 185 for 7 and commanding a lead of 78 runs going into the match's second day.
21st April 2019
We returned the next morning to resume our innings where we left off. Thankfully our last few batsmen were able to add quite a few more runs to the team's total, leaving us on 252 runs at the end of our innings and leading Long Marston's total by 144. Our top scorer was our number 4 batsman Abraham Peters, the only player from our team to make at least a half-century with his innings of 54 runs. We returned to the field after lunch, all of us hoping we could repeat our performance in the first innings and restrict Long Marston to an easy-to-reach total. Long Marston seemed equally keen to avoid that eventuality and came out strong, scoring 66 runs off the first thirteen overs of their second innings. Dan brought me on to bowl for a five-over spell and while I was able to restrict the flow of runs slightly, I wasn't able to create any wicket-taking chances. It looked as though Long Marston were set to stage a strong comeback.
That is, until I came on for my second spell.
Dan Reece tossed me the ball again for the thirty-eighth over, with Long Marston on 156 runs and only three wickets down. Jose Wilkins, whose wicket I had managed to take quite cheaply in the first innings, had just reached 50 and showed no signs of slowing down. With Long Marston in a strong position and the match slipping out of our grasp, I knew I had to pull something out of somewhere. My first over was a maiden, with no runs conceded. My second over began with the breakthrough that we'd been seeking, in no small part thanks to the variation in pace I'd been practising all winter. I put the ball up full to Mitchell Leaning who attempted to flash it through the covers, but clipped it with the inside edge. The ball missed his stumps and carried through to Phoenix Yates, who caught it one-handed while diving at full-stretch. It was a spectacular take, and the wicket lifted morale and helped to turn the tide in the overs to come.
Another breakthrough came in my next over as I was able to dismiss the danger man Jose Wilkins with another caught-behind. This one was far more pedestrian than the last, a thin outside edge that Yates barely had to move for, but it was arguably even more important given the form Wilkins was in. He was on 63 runs when his wicket fell and had looked likely to score even more. The fact I was able to dismiss him in both innings and claim my first "pair" was a nice little bonus, too. I was able to strike for a third and final in my fourth over, this time tempting lower-order batsman Dominic Steyn with a full ball on the leg side. He clipped the ball off his legs and into the air, straight down the throat of Tucker Lam who was fielding at fine leg. These three wickets in quick succession really helped turn the tide for us in this match, preventing Long Marston from getting too far ahead of us.
Dan took me off at the end of my fifth over with the damage firmly done. Long Marston's remaining wickets fell quickly, the team finishing on a total of 184 all out and leaving us with just 40 runs required to win the match. I finished up with bowling figures of 3 wickets for just 19 runs across the ten overs I bowled, a personal best that's probably going to take some beating. We took a short break before our top-order batsmen went out to score the runs we needed, posting 42 runs in just ten overs to secure an unlikely eight-wicket victory in our first game of the season! Even better still, since we managed to finish the game on the second day, I now have a free day tomorrow to celebrate!
For my club cricket debut, I'm happy overall with how I played, but I do feel my performance was a bit inconsistent. I had a great match with the ball, taking four wickets across both innings and keeping my average, economy and strike rate all very low. On the other hand, I under-performed with the bat by giving my wicket away cheaply in our first innings, and didn't get a chance to make amends with a better performance in the second. Thankfully my low score didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but there may well be games in the future where a good result is dependent on my scoring a respectable number of runs. Hopefully I can show some improvement in our next few fixtures.
Career Stats to Date
Here ends the first instalment of Trashes to Ashes. I'll be back next week to cover the next handful of matches in our journey through Cricket 19's Career mode. Until then, thanks very much for reading. Take care, stay safe, and I hope to see you around.
Currently playing - Cricket 19 (PS4)