Our penultimate day of action saw us face Pak Barcelona for the first (and second) time. Shriram Bhosale lost the toss, and we were put into bat.
Despite Imran Fareed falling cheaply early on, the second-wicket partnership of Anton Kritzinger and Ash Reynolds (31 off 19) was a good one, without them ever going completely mad. The dismissal of Anton (24 off 10) in the middle of the fifth over brought on a flurry of wickets, as we collapsed from 53/1 to 62/6. That sixth wicket brought Zeeshan Dildar to the middle and he alone got us up to a respectable score, after those quiet middle overs. The last over went for 31 despite Vishesh running himself out off what would have been the last ball of the innings but for it being a wide, as Zeeshan finished on his BICC-top score of 42* off just 12 balls. We scored 124/8 despite looking sketchy to reach much more than 100 before the last over.
Once again, our realistic goal was to defend the total long enough to win a bonus point. Fortunately for us, Pak Barcelona didn’t seem overly interested in going for that point. Zain Bashir would get an early breakthrough, with a wicket off his first (legal) delivery with a diving catch by Umer Razi at point that would win the “play of the day” and almost have his trousers off. It would be the one and only real highlight of the innings though, as the next pair were pretty much always in control. They eventually knocked off the winning runs off the penultimate ball of Khyzer Nawaz’s ninth over to claim the win.
Shriram finally won a toss and chose for us to bat first. Imran and Ash opened again, getting us off to a slightly better start before Imran played all around one and was bowled for 18. Ash and Anton came together again for the second wicket, and despite a slow start for Anton, went up through the gears. We reached 66/1 after six overs before the pair of them really accelerated, with the last four overs going for 25, 20, 17 and 25 runs respectively. When the last ball was hit for six by Ash (72* off 29), we passed 150 for the first time in ECS cricket and set our highest total. Anton too passed 50, finishing on 54* off 21 with the partnership unbeaten on 120.
With 154 needed to win we were in with a real shout. The shout turned more into loud talking after the first four balls went for six (and the fifth for four) but Zain would dismiss the batter into the next over. In a case of deja vu, the next two balls also went for six and eventually the powerplay would cost us 62 runs, although James Bentley would claim a wicket with the last ball of it. The next pairing formed a partnership almost identical to Anton and Ash’s. A slowish start for a couple of overs eventually turned into carnage and despite a significantly higher score, Pak Barcelona would chase down the target two balls earlier than the first game. In the end, the big difference game in the powerplay scores (34 vs 62). We did at least again claim the bonus point.
Just two games left for us in this tournament then, and they are against table-toppers and old frenemies Men in Blue on Tuesday.
We headed into our third-last day of action knowing we needed to start getting some wins, although we had three of the best teams to face still. Today’s task was Royal Barcelona, who were flying high at the top of the group.
Shriram Bhosale lost the toss and we were put in to bat. Ali Osama got us off to a decent start with 16 off the first over but the other two powerplay overs would only see us score 16 between them. Ali (24 off 11) was caught at cow corner at the end of the third over and a mini collapse would occur, as we went from 30/0 to 36/3 in 7 painful balls. A better partnership would form between current captain and former captain Umer Razi, although he wasn’t hitting quite as cleanly as he might have liked at the start. Shriram was also caught at cow corner (26 off 9). Umer stepped up a gear although he lacked a big-hitting partner. He finished on 40* from 20 balls and we scored an underpar 122/6 against a strong batting line up.
Despite some luck and thick edges, the Royals matched our powerplay score within two overs. James Bentley did get a wicket next ball, but they continued their onslaught throughout the rest of the over and the start of Anish Shindore’s fourth over. He did manage to get a wicket with a beautiful slower ball, although the umpire was less keen on his now legendary celebration. Two more wickets fell in the next two overs, one to Vishesh Gajjar and one to Zeeshan Dildar but the Royals were still heading to a bonus point win. They fell just short of that fortunately for us, finishing the game after 7.1 overs. A total of 122 was never going to be enough against them, so we did well to get a point out of it.
The Royals again won the toss, but decided to bat this time. The first over went for 26 but Vishesh removed the dangerous opener in the second over. Despite being hit for two sixes after that, the 13 runs he conceded would be the most economical over for a while… James got a wicket in his first over but this only began a rapid 95-run partnership. Kieran O’Donnell was unlucky in the fifth over, as he had both batters dropped in an eventful, and according to commentator Vinny “decentish”, over (wide, wide, 6, drop, 6, drop, 6, 6). It wasn’t until Vishesh came back in the ninth over, with 200 looking very possible, that we regained some control. His over went for only nine runs and finally ended the partnership that had been going since the third over thanks to a brilliant one-handed catch by Anish at long-on. Khyzer Nawaz came on for his first ECN bowl in the tenth, and amazingly only conceded three runs and picked up his first wicket off the final ball. They finished on 182/5, almost definitely still out of our reach but we had at least still avoided conceding 200 in the ECS.
Needing 128 for the bonus point, Ali got us off to another good start. 20 was scored off the first over that had the commentator daring to dream, and Ali himself dancing. Sadly, the other end didn’t go so well. The second over started with a hattrick and only went for one run and that all but wiped out any slim chance of a win. Jon Wong was then run out at the start of the third before Ali and James put on a partnership. Ali was eventually dismissed for 41 (off 19) when he toe-ended one to mid-wicket. Disaster struck in the next over as a second hattrick of the innings was taken and we went from 70/4 and a good chance of the bonus point to 75/8. The efforts of James and Vishesh weren’t quite enough, and we finished on 114/9, after James was comically bowled by a off-cutter long-hop.
One point from the two games wasn’t quite enough or what we needed. Our next games are on Thursday against Pak Barcelona.
Our second set of Saturday fixtures of this ECS were against Catalunya Red, and again we had incredible availability. The games were to be followed by our 2023 prize-giving ceremony, so there was a good crowd in (including club legend Ted!).
Red won the toss and chose to bat, but lost their captain second ball as Vishesh Gajjar had him caught at long-on by James Bentley. Vishesh and James managed to keep the powerplay relatively inexpensive (despite Shriram Bhosale’s best efforts) and they were 36/1 after 3. Anish Shindore, making his ECS debut, had a brilliant first over going for just three runs and getting his first ECN wicket. Zeeshan Dildar kept the pressure on next over with another wicket, a bail-breaker, before dropping a very high caught-and-bowled opportunity. Sam Phillipps would be next to get a wicket, combining once again with Imran Fareed in the deep. There would be another drop later in the over when James “well he has sticky fingers” Bentley pushed one over the bar for six instead. The next three overs would prove a bit more expensive, as Red pushed to try and get a defendable score. James (2/11) pulled it back in the final over, conceding just four runs and getting two wickets (as well as there being a run-out last ball). Red finished on 118/8.
Their below-par score was just what our out-of-form batting line up needed. As he often does, Imran went out to open with the wicketkeeper, in this case Jack Jewson. Imran got us off to a reasonable start, and we matched Red’s 36/1 powerplay score, with Jack having just been bowled attempting to flick one into the legside. A quick 40-run partnership formed between new bat Umer Razi and Imran before the latter was caught and bowled for 44 off 20. As has often happened this week, the middle order failed to fire. Ever the clubman, Damien McMullen retired hurt before fellow Aussie James toe-ended one and was caught at long-off. With the penultimate over going for just seven, we needed 23 off the final over. The second ball being a no-ball and going for two runs, before the free hit went for six helped and we were looking good. Sadly Shriram missed the next ball and was run out after Umer attempted a single to the keeper. Another dot ball killed the game despite another six next ball, and we finished on 111/5. It was another game where we fell antagonisingly short.
This time we won the toss and Shriram decided to bat. We were gifted five wides off the first delivery but soon Imran was bowled around his legs and Anish, promoted to open, was bowled in front of his legs. In the third over, we were gifted five more wides, and four byes but lost the services of the Bentley to leave us 34/3 at the end of the powerplay. The next over saw some big hits from Umer and went for 15, before the runs really dried up in the middle overs once again. Umer’s batting partners came and went before he was finally dismissed at the start of the last over, caught in the deep (40 off 24). Shriram became only the second batter to reach double figures batting almost one-handed with two quick fire boundaries before the third shot couldn’t clear the rope. A high no-ball off what should have been the final delivery was swatted for four by Vishesh before he was run out off the final ball. With that four, we had at least scrambled past 100, finishing on 103/9.
Red were clearly looking to finish it quickly and get the bonus point. Their captain Sandal, having got a duck in the first game, was smashing everything everywhere. Despite the wicket of his partner in the third over to James (following a great catch by Vishesh), they finished the powerplay beyond halfway to the score on 59/1. Absolutely no one could keep the scoring rate down, although Vishesh would get a wicket off his own with an inswinging slower ball that hit the top of middle. Dave Martin came on to bowl what would turn out to be the final over, and was cruelly denied a wicket following a controversial height no ball call, but it mattered little. Sandal would stay til the end finishing on 66, as they completed the chase in 5.4 overs and claimed the bonus point.
We packed up and headed upstairs to award the prizes from last season, before heading out for some food. We’ll be back on Tuesday against Royal Barcelona, now rooted to the bottom of the table. We have just six fixtures left, all against strong, in-form sides.
On Thursday afternoon we faced Catalunya Dragons for the first time. They had started the tournament late and slowly and were still looking for their first win.
Shriram Bhosale lost the toss and the Dragons chose to bat. It was to be a tough 45 minutes for the bowlers, with Imran Fareed’s bowling the most economical at 13 an over. The powerplay went for 50 and we finally got a breakthrough in the fourth, as Dhiman toe-ended it off James Bentley, with Shriram aggravating his wrist injury in catching it. Runs continued to flow as was shown in Zeeshan Dildar’s first (eventful) over, with a wicket in the middle breaking up a run of sixes. Imran came back and picked up a deserved wicket in the sixth but the Dragons were heading towards a monster score. Further wickets came for James and Zain Bashir but could not slow them down. The final over went for 27 despite there being three run outs and saw Shriram have to be removed from the attack. The Dragons finished on 186/8, and we had a difficult task to even get the losing bonus point from the game.
With the realistic target of 131 to get that one point, our now usual opening pair of Imran and Ash Reynolds went out. Imran got off to a slow start but Ash at the other end was flying and reached 38 off 14 balls before chopping onto his stumps. This woke Imran up and he suddenly started hitting the ball to all parts, and we started creeping up towards the required rate. Imran was brilliantly caught at short leg for 45 off 22 and with no one else able to contribute even double figures, we ended on 113/5 and the four points went to the Dragons.
This time Shriram did win the toss and elected to bat, although the openers did not fare as well. Both ended up walking back to the dugout in the second over, to be joined shortly by Jack Jewson when he was run out brilliantly from the deep having been dropped. Umer Razi also went cheaply but the fifth-wicket partnership was at least a good one. James Bentley, having not scored off his first five balls suddenly exploded. He hogged the strike for most of the next few overs and reached a maiden 50 on just his 19th delivery, but was out next ball. He had been ably supported by Zeeshan, who was also providing some lusty blows but none of the bottom five scored more than two runs and we finished on a well-below par 115/9.
Again, our realistic target here was to claim the losing bonus point, by making them need more than seven overs to chase the score down. Despite two boundaries from the first two balls, Vishesh Gajjar’s first over went for just nine runs and it seemed that this could be possible. The scoring rate improved significantly in the next two overs, but then Vishesh came back for his second over, conceding just three runs this time. Either side of that over, James claimed two (very expensive) wickets to keep his tally ticking up. The fifth, sixth and seventh overs went for 64 runs, but couldn’t quite reach the target in time. Just one more ball was needed to get the final run but we had at least managed to claim a point from a bruising day.
We’re back again on Saturday against Catalunya Red, who have also petered off after a good start.
Our two games on Tuesday morning were against the reigning champions Catalunya Jaguars, who have had quite an upheaval of their squad since December and started the tournament very slowly. Some last-minute additions saw them play better at the weekend but they were still there for the taking. Or so we thought… I’ll keep this one short as there’s not much to write home about!
We didn’t even win the toss, with Shriram Bhosale’s weighted coins (allegedly weighted coins, lawyers) failed him, The Jaguars chose to bat and flew along throughout the innings. Tom Coulthard finally took his first ECN wicket in the fourth over getting their dangerous opener and captain Haider out for 33. Every over, bar one, went for at least 12 runs as the Jaguars went about racking up a big score. Shriram bowled his second over in the ninth, and despite it lasting 12 balls he only conceded seven runs and got a wicket, after Ash Reynolds "Alex Careyed" his opposite number Qasim Ali. Jaguars finished on 153/2.
We couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, with only four coming off the first two overs and both openers being dismissed in that second over. The third and sixth over provided a bit of something about but apart from those two the first seven overs went for three runs or less. James Bentley (30*) and Tom Coulthard (27*) provided some fireworks in the final three overs but it wasn’t even enough to reach the 108 target to get the losing bonus point. We finished on 100/4.
This time Shriram did win the toss and chose to bat. Imran Fareed was back for the second game and opened up with Ash but it didn’t go much better. Both were back on the bench within seven balls which did at least bring together two of the brighter sparks from the first game in Umer Razi (40*) and James. They got the scoring going a bit more for the next couple of overs before James holed out. Ali Warriach (45*) came in at 5 and the two batted out the remaining 6.1 overs to take us to something resembling a competitive score - 116/3.
The Jaguars’ chase was once again helped by a whole heap of extras and some out of character wayward bowling. Imran and James did at least manage to control the scoring a bit in their first overs and they were 52/2 after four overs. Smelling the chance of stealing the bonus point, Jaguars went for it and hit 67 in 2.5 overs from there to take it from us with a ball to spare. Tails between our legs, there was not much else to do but applaud our opponents, who comprehensively outplayed us in both games.
We move on to play the Catalunya Dragons on Thursday afternoon. Having started the tournament late, they are still yet to get their first win. They’ll be two crucial games in our fight to reach the next round.
With captain Shriram Bhosale out having injured his wrist in our previous games, James “Bent-skip” Bentley took the BICC reigns for the first time. Clearly Sohal were scared of this, and didn’t even bother turning up for the toss of the first game. James chose to bat first.
With our regular opening partnership of Imran Fareed and Ash Reynolds also broken up, Anton Kritzinger was sent out to open with Imran. It was a relatively slow start in the first over, but the two of them picked up the pace and we ended the powerplay on a respectable 41/0, mostly thanks to Anton (32 off 12). Both openers were dismissed in the fourth over which brought together two former club captains in Umer Razi and Damien McMullen (not that anyone in the club remembers Damien’s spell as captain!). The two kept the score ticking over well in the middle overs until Umer (28 off 14) was caught at deep square leg after toe-ending a swivelled pull shot. Our longest-serving player was joined by one of our newest in Suraj Jha and another steady partnership formed. We weren’t flying along against a team more known for its batting ability than its bowling but there were never any disastrous overs. The final two overs, containing the wicket of Suraj bowled, though went for just 17 which was perhaps a bit below par. We finished on 119/4 from our 10 overs.
Sohal on the other hand definitely got off to a flyer and for the first 11 balls we were just hoping to keep the game going for seven overs in order to claim our bonus point. With the score already on 43, all scored by Asjad Butt, Vishesh bowled a slower ball that he misjudged and he was plumb LBW. We had a very important breakthrough and things slowed down drastically from there. Imran’s over went for just nine before the skipper brought himself on. He had one caught at long-on by Imran (more of that to come) whilst conceding just two runs and suddenly it was game on. Imran and James bowled out, conceding just 11 and five runs respectively as James ended on impressive figures of 1/7 from his two overs. Sam Phillipps was brought on for the seventh over and had a bizarre wicket first ball, as Ali left an inswinging yorker, expecting a wide, only to turn around and see it had clipped leg stump. Sam claimed two more wickets thanks to the catching of Imran at long-on from his last two balls and now Sohal were struggling at 79/5. When Zeeshan claimed a wicket in the next, very economical, over, we were looking to be well on top. Despite an extremely harsh no-ball that went for six in Sam’s second over, Sohal needed 20 off the final over to win. Zain Bashir was brought on for his first bowl and went for four off his first ball… But only five singles would follow and the game was won before the last ball was even bowled. Our second victory of the ECS this year and James’ first as skipper!
Somehow the first game had ended early so we had a good 25 minutes in between games. With the oppo now here, James lost the toss (for the first time all tournament) and we were asked to field again. Jones Paulson came in for his first ECS game in place of POTM Sam (terrible selection policy at play, if you ask me).
Sohal started rapidly, reaching 59/1 from their powerplay, Imran getting the wicket in what was otherwise a very expensive third over. From that point on, at least one wicket would fall in every over as we began to control the scoring a bit. Stand-in skipper James would get two in his first over, although it was the most expensive non-powerplay over. Dave Martin’s legspin cleaned up in the fifth, bowling the batter first ball before only conceding seven. It was Vishesh’s turn in the sixth, as one was skied up to Suraj in the covers. With the pressure building, Dave’s next over produced a runout following a good, quick throw from Zeeshan and some smartwork from stand-in keeper Umer. The two would combine again in the next over as Zeeshan got the batter to edge one through to the keeper. Jones came on for his first bowl and quickly got his first wicket, another edge through to Umer. The skipper brought himself back for the final over and got a third wicket (3/23) thanks to a good catch in the deep from Vishesh. We had really pulled it back well after the first four overs and Sohal ended on a very chasable 132/9.
Our innings did not quite start at the same rate as Sohal’s. Just four runs came off the first over which included the wicket of Anton first ball (LBW again, with less whinging this time). Things got better in the second and third over as they went for 16 and 13, meaning we ended the powerplay on 33/2 after the wicket of Imran (23 off 11). Two more wickets would fall off consecutive balls in the fourth, with both Zain and Suraj bamboozled by some skyhigh pies. This brought Damien into the crease alongside Umer again and the pair continued from where they had begun in the first game building a 59-run partnership. Both rode their luck with dropped catches and were struggling to run so big hits were required and Umer (37 off 19) was certainly delivering until mistiming one and being caught at midwicket. The skipper walked out at seven but the all-Aussie partnership didn’t last too long. These couple of wickets in two very cheap overs all but put us out of the game. An unlikely 31 was needed off the final over, but just 10 came off it. Damien finished on 27* to complete a good first day of ECN cricket for him. We had at least claimed the losing bonus point, meaning we had four more points on the board and reached the dizzying heights of fifth place in the table!
We settled down for a drink and watched some of the following game, briefly accompanied by ECN commentator Vinny “Mr Maximo” Sandhu. There’s a big week ahead of us, with games against the three Catalunya teams, Jaguars on Tuesday, Dragons on Thursday and Red on Saturday. Bring it on!
Magic had been another strong team from the previous ECS, reaching the semi-finals. Despite this, we were hopeful of casting a spell over them.
Shriram Bhosale won his third toss in a row, but unlike against Pakicare, elected to bat. Imran Fareed and Ash Reynolds opened up and got us off to a flying start, with our best powerplay score in the ECS (55/0 off 3). Their 66-run partnership ended on the last ball of the fourth over as Imran was bowled for a brilliantly made 39 off just 14 balls. This only caused Ash to up the ante and the next over went for 21, the second over to go “magical” (more than 20 runs). Tom Coulthard found it more difficult to get going and didn’t last long but Ash found a more in-form partner in skipper Shri. Ash passed his 50 off just 17 balls, but was out just a couple of balls later. Captain (20 off 11) was joined by vice-captain James Bentley (18* off 12) at the crease, and the two saw us to our highest ECS score of 147/4. Having missed the last ball, Shriram was run out by the keeper semi-attempting a suicidal run.
With such records behind us, there was confidence going out into the field. Despite an expensive first over, Vishesh Gajjar got the important wicket of their big-hitting captain Waqas off the fifth ball. Imran and Zeeshan Dildar bowled the next two overs, with both conceding a respectable 13 runs. After James’ traditional fourth over, Imran came back and tightened the screw. His over went for just five and ended with the second wicket of the innings. When Zeeshan in the next over also conceded just five runs, whilst also picking up a wicket, we were suddenly well on top and looking the favourites. Magic ended the 6th over just reaching the halfway point in terms of runs required. Shriram brought himself into the attack next over, and pulled it back despite going for 6 first ball. The next two overs however, were much more costly and ended up costing us the game as Magic plundered an even 50 off them. By the time James came on to bowl the final over, only 11 were needed and they were knocked off in four balls. We were inevitably disappointed to have thrown away a strong winning position, but could at least claim some solace in having claimed a bonus point against one of the best-performing teams of the previous tournament.
With just a 15 minute break in between games, we couldn’t sit licking out wounds for long. Shriram had already won the toss in the innings break, and had again chosen to bat first. Imran and Ash opened up again, with Imran again smoking a quickfire 30 (33 off 10) as we started strong hitting 29 off the first over! Another 16 followed in the second over, although Ash was dismissed of its last ball. From then on, the innings was very up and down. The third over went for just two, and saw the dismissals of Imran and Tom. Hiro Lalwani was run out in the next as we scored just seven. Amazingly then, having lost a lot of momentum, we scored a mammoth 35 in the 5th with four sixes (and a couple of extras to help). Our number three, Umer Razi, was struggling to find someone to stick with him and his partners kept coming and going. Only Zeeshan got to double figures (10 off 10) off batters 4-11 but thankfully Umer’s brilliant 67 off 23 got us up to 140 all out, with Zeeshan last man out run out off the last ball.
Imran, Zeeshan and Vishesh were again trusted with the powerplay overs but Magic got off to a good start, reaching 52/1 in the three overs, Vishesh getting the opening wicket off the final ball of the third over. At the end of the next over, there was another wicket as both batters ended up at the same end, allowing Ash to calmly whip the bails off from Zeeshan’s throw. There were a couple of very tidy overs from Zeeshan and James, and the game was following a very similar trajectory to the first one. The eighth over went for 23 and Magic were suddenly back in with a sniff. Tom was trusted with the ninth over, having not bowled all tournament and did well to come back from going for six first ball. It meant that Magic needed a not impossible 18 runs off the final over. Captain Shri stepped up to the plate, having been smashed around the park in the morning. A wicket off the second (legal) ball eased the nerves, although the next ball disappearing over the rope definitely didn’t! 11 off three needed. The new batter couldn’t replicate his first ball shot and two dots followed. With 11 still needed off the final ball, all Shri had to do was keep his foot behind the line, and the ball within them. That he did, and the ball disappearing through the covers did not matter one jott. We broke a 14 (fourteen!) match losing streak and there was relief to be seen all around. It also meant Shri had his first win as full-time captain.
Four points claimed from the day, in two really hard-fought games against a strong opposition. We face Sohal Hospitalet on Saturday, who are still yet to break their own duck in this tournament. Here’s to more success!
Our ECS season started with a nice, easy start: two back-to-back games against reigning Spanish T10 champions Pakicare. Perfect for a team with such a great T10 record last year!
New club captain Shriram Bhosale at least continued our best ECS skill, winning the toss. Much to the commentators’ bemusement, Shri elected to bowl. Our most successful bowler from last year’s tournament, Vishesh Gajjar, was thrown the ball and the responsibility of two powerplay overs. His two relatively tidy overs were sandwiched by Shriram, who picked up the first wicket of the tournament. James Bentley got his almost traditional fourth over, and got a wicket first ball (that of Spanish international Mohammad Ihsan, no less), before receiving a bit of punishment. This left Pakicare on 55/2 off four. Imran Fareed came on next, with both of his overs only going for single figures. Anton relieved the pressure a bit but claimed a wicket with his last ball, and Shriram got another next over. Zeeshan restricted the final over to just 10 and Pakicare finished on just 117/5, way below the previous tournament average and indeed their own expectations. We sensed an upset!
Anton Kritzinger and returning club legend Ash Reynolds opened the batting, with Anton getting us off to a brilliant start in the first two overs. Sadly the third over went for just one run, as another Spanish international Muhammad Atif conceded just a wide, before picking up the wickets of Ash (LBW), Imran and Suraj Jha (both bowled) in consecutive balls. Four of the next five overs went for a pitiful two or three runs, with only the sixth over offering us an up-with-the-rate 12 runs. With any chance of an unexpected victory long gone, we did at least manage to claw a bonus point (new to this tournament) as Shriram (38*), with some help from Umer Razi, hit 40 off the last two overs (including two sixes off the final two balls from the skipper), to just get us over the secondary target of 82. We finished on 86/8, disappointed to have thrown away a great chance but celebrating getting that all-important bonus point to get us on the board!
There was sadly less to write home about in the second game. Shriram did again win the toss and tried the same tactic of sticking them in to bat.
Having fallen cheaply in the first game, Ihsan was not in the mood to miss out again. While he didn’t reach the dizzying heights he did against us last year, his 95 off 38 was the mainstay of the innings. Only Kieran O’Donnell could stop him off the penultimate ball of the innings as he chased three figures. Thankfully, none of the other batters came off to that extent which did at least keep the score down to a respectable, and indeed potentially chasable 150/7. James Bentley was through the middle overs, picking up 3/19 from his two overs, and an absolute worldie of a catch that was chosen as the “play of the day”.
Apart from a run-a-ball 15 from Ali Warriach, brought into the team for the second game, none of the other top order fired. James came in at 7, a promotion from the first game, and stamped his authority on the BICC player of the match with a great knock of 37 off 17 as the only batter to really offer proper resistance. This time we fell well short of the bonus point, ending on a disappointing 83/8.
Whilst the bonus point system didn’t exist last time, we wouldn’t have claimed one against Pakicare last time out. Between that and some individual performances there were certainly some positives to take from our performances against the arguable tournament favourites. We move on to our two games against Magic on Wednesday.
Our last day of the competition was also the last day of the group stage. Given the results from the previous day, we knew that we were out but there was still a small speck of pride to play for in terms of not finishing bottom, as well as just wanting another win! Our two games of the day were both against Royal Barcelona, a team that we hadn’t played before.
We once again won the toss (I’m pretty sure we’d win the ECS tossing competition!) and elected to bowl.
The Royals put on a formidable total, despite a debut ECS wicket for the returning Ravindu Maduranga (flown in from Germany just for the day!) and another for Joseph Danam. Eight bowlers were used in total, as Umer Razi spread the workload around and gave everybody a go. They finished on 162/4.
We got off to an absolute flyer thanks to Ali Warriach (69* off 29). After a couple of cameos from Ravindu and James Bentley, he was joined by Shriram Bhosale who was grateful to break his run of ducks as he scored 47* off 23 balls. Thanks to them, we were in the game until the last over. Needing an unlikely but not impossible 28 to win, the two only managed 10. Their unbeaten 96-run partnership had taken us to our highest score of the tournament of 144/2 but we finished 18 runs short.
This time we lost the toss but the Royals elected to bat first again. James once again was the pick of the bowlers with 1/19 from his two overs, but he couldn’t stop Royals just beating their total from the first game as they finished on 166/2, Joseph getting the other wicket with the penultimate ball of the innings.
Ravindu shone with the bat scoring 65 off 30 balls, but didn’t get much support from the other end (it was another game where extras were second top scorer…). He was eventually run out in unfortunate circumstances. Shriram top edged a ball onto his chin and Ravindu called him through for a single that ordinarily would be on. He was run out trying to return to the non-striker’s end and Shriram retired hurt the ball after. We’d effectively lost our two biggest hitters in the same ball. No one else could get anywhere near the required rate and we finished on 121/5.
Thus ended a chastening first experience of the ECS. Despite the results, it brought the club together well and, whilst there are perhaps some scars amongst the players to have played every game(!), in general it was an enjoyable experience and one we can’t wait to repeat at the end of January!
Hats off to James Bentley, Vishesh Gajjar, Shriram Bhosale, Burhan Ejaz and Umer Razi (minus one where he was 12th man) for playing every game!
By this point, our target was clear. We needed two victories from our remaining five games in order to progress (with one of them against Sohal Hospitalet), although that relied on Sohal’s other game going our way.
We started the day against Catalunya Red, who had improved significantly through the tournament. We won the toss and elected to bowl. With six great overs from Shriram Bhosale (2/20), Burhan Ejaz (2/21) and Vishesh Gajjar (2/17) and two slightly more expensive wickets for James Bentley (2/33) we limited them to a very chasable 128/8.
Despite a great bowling performance, our batting was well below par. Openers Ali Warriach (24 off 14) and Maroof Shaikh (13 off 9) got us off to a reasonable start putting on 36 for the first wicket in 3.2 overs. Sadly we would lose two more wickets without scoring another run, a sign of things to come. We collapsed to 62/6 before again losing our last four wickets without scoring a run as we were bowled out in the eighth over.
The group sat down to lick their wounds and watch the crucial Bengali vs Sohal Hospitalet game. There was bad news for us as a shock win for Sohal saw us mathematically eliminated from the tournament.
With heads now down, the next game didn’t provide many positives beyond winning the toss. Sohal were put into bat and their opener Asjad Butt scored a rapid 116* (37 balls) to fire his team to a mammoth 178/5. Extras were their second top scorer with 19, as to show his influence!
Our collapse from the first game continued, and we were 19/5 after the three over powerplay, with the top four batters only providing one run between them. The lower-middle order provided a bit more, with skipper Umer top-scoring with 22* off 14 from number eight. Again, extras was the second top scorer but there’s a difference between 116 and 22! We finished on 68/9, at least avoiding the embarrassment of being bowled out twice in a row.
We won our third toss of the day and stand-in captain Shriram elected to bat (with Umer nursing a hand injury from the previous game). There was at least an improvement in the batting in the evening game as the opening partnership between Imran Fareed and Maroof lasted four overs! They were dismissed in consecutive balls before the skipper fell to the team-hattrick ball for his third duck of the day. Ali (19* off 15) and Burhan (29* off 15) put on a 55-run partnership and took us to 114/4.
Bengali made fairly light work of the chase, despite two great overs from James (1/13) and an over from Imran that went for just one run (but don’t ask him about the second over!). They completed it with 9 balls to spare.
Just one day and two games left, and the only pride left to play for was not finishing bottom of the group…