For the second year running, our first game of the season changed grounds at the last minute, although at least this time it was just 100 metres across the Vic playing fields! With the sun barely over the hilly horizon, captain Umer Razi won the toss and, much to the annoyance of his sleepy and chilly team, chose to bowl first. Our opponents Ali Youngster CC, losing finalists in last year’s 30 over competition, featured former BICC player Tanzeer Mohammad. We had three players making their first league appearance: recent recruits Nial Evans and Ravindu Maduranga as well as club president Sam Phillipps.
Birthday-boy Burhan Ejaz opened the bowling with Tommy Creagh, a seam/ spin combo. With fielding restrictions for the first six overs, the pair couldn’t keep the run rate down and they finished the powerplay on 53/0. An over later, and there was a double change in the bowling with Ravindu and Shriram Bhosale coming in to the attack. There was finally a breakthrough in Ravi’s second over as he dismissed captain Basharat (55) with a tricky high caught and bowled taken at a wide, short mid-on. Two overs later, Ravi claimed the other opener LBW. After Shriram got a deserved wicket in the fifteenth over, Ali Youngster were 128/3 (a much better score than last time we played in Vic…!). The runs had dried up a bit since Ravi’s second wicket and he was replaced after the drinks break by Sam with Shriram continuing. A five over spell together saw a couple of chances go begging but the run rate remained lower than would be expected. With the batting team taking their three over mid-innings powerplay, Ravi came back on for his final two overs along with the skipper, with both taking wickets in the first overs of their spells. Ravi (3/58) was replaced by Damien McMullen’s medium pacers as Umer continued, with the Pakistani picking up a wicket in each of his three overs of the spell. Damien too picked up a wicket (although the umpires claimed that Maroof’s stumping was in fact a run out!) as Ali Youngster collapsed from 172/3 to 226/8. Unfortunately for us, that ninth wicket partnership put on 52 unbeaten, mainly helped by Arslan Mohammed’s own 51*. We would have 279 to chase down after the break, but we went in buoyed by an improvement compared to our last league game there. A shoutout to Maroof Shaikh for doing a good job filling in behind the stumps, and to Ravi for his three-fer and two catches, plus two drops no one else on the pitch would have got anywhere near (and for escaping with most of his skin intact).
Maroof and Nial opened for us but couldn’t quite get us off to the start that we wanted. Both fell in the fifth over bringing Ravi and Nathan Blyth to the crease. Whilst there were a couple of profitable overs between the two, Nathan was dismissed caught trying to keep that momentum going. Ravi was joined by Damien and the pair enjoyed the third 30ish run partnership of the innings. Sadly we then endured a middle order collapse similar to Ali’s in the first innings, as Damien, Ravi (41), Umer, Tommy and Shriram fell in a five over spell, the last two dismissed by our ex-player Tanzeer who was inevitably in the wickets. This left us 130/8 just after the halfway mark. Now at the crease were Burhan and James Smith who combined for an incredible partnership, frustrating the bowlers who had sensed they were close to victory. Despite some great shots by both batters, perhaps the most incredible part of their partnership was the 20th over, with fifteen balls bowled by three bowlers, after the first two had to be removed from the attack for bowling high no-balls. As the two progressed, some hope started to trickle into the nine watching from the boundary although time was definitely against us. Burhan was trying to up the scoring rate but he was dismissed for a very well made 37 and with him gone any chance of a shock upset was gone, but the 76 run partnership had at least gotten us closer than looked possible. The newly re-injured Sam hobbled out to the middle only to have to hobble back three balls later (his first BICC dismissal in 1275 days, he’ll have you know!) and the game was done.
We had fallen 71 runs short but there were some promising displays against one of the strongest teams from last season. With the sun now firmly beating down on Vic, most of us headed to the train station for a drink before heading back (although a few stayed on longer enjoying the city’s main square throughout the afternoon). Our next game is in two weeks against another new opposition, King Empuriabrava CC, at their home ground. Onwards and upwards!
Long-awaited return to Alfas
A 16-strong group of players (plus a supporter!) drove down to Alfas on Friday, with the jokes and banter flowing from the start despite us going in five cars. Although he captained in last year’s trip to Menorca, it was Umer Razi’s first tour as official club captain, and indeed his first game since becoming captain in December. We were due to play against Sporting Alfas on Saturday before being joined by La Manga Torrevieja on Sunday for a T10 triangular tournament. BICC hadn’t faced either team for at least a decade, meaning they were new opponents for all of our squad. However, one of the Alfas players (Carlos Parkin) had faced us in the first meeting between the clubs back in 1996! Ravi Maduranga (Saturday), Hesh Rukunayake and Agni Sikdar (both Sunday) were all set for their BICC debuts.
Having all set off at different times from Barcelona, we met up at a colonial themed restaurant (perfect for our mixed nationality bunch…) up the coast in Altea for dinner, before heading back to base in Albir to sample a few of the local beverages.
Umer lost his first toss as full-time captain and we were put in the field. Despite the economical efforts of opening bowlers Shriram Bhosale and Burhan Ejaz, Alfas got off to a solid start. After six overs, they were replaced by Anish Shindore and Nathan Blyth (much to the surprise of everybody). The Nathan experiment lasted just two overs before he was replaced by debutant Ravi. Anish then picked up the first wicket of the game, removing Crompton just four runs short of his 50 caught and bowled to leave the hosts 70/1. As dangerous as he had been, the wicket simply brought the current national team captain, Muñoz, to the crease. He got off the mark with a huge six off Ravi, before he picked up his first BICC wicket removing the other opener, SACC captain Pennick. Anish was then taken out of the attack to be replaced by Maroof Shaikh, who was also difficult to get away. In his third over, he bowled Muñoz (30) and the three current or former international players were out with Alfas now on 113/3 just past the midway point of the innings. From this point on, the wickets fell much quicker and more cheaply. Ravi (2/24) picked up his second before the skipper (2/3) brought himself on for a successful three over spell. Anish (2/17), Shriram (removing Parkin for a well made 31) and Burhan came back on and picked up a much-deserved wicket each. Jack Jewson also gets a well-deserved shout out for three catches behind the stumps too. Alfas had an England-style collapse, going from 113/2 to 145/9 as their innings ended with no one outside the top four scoring more than two runs.
After a quick break, Maroof and Umair Iqbal went out to open. With the (ahem, significant) help of Mr Extras, they got us off to great start, sharing 46 runs before Umair gave second slip some catching practice. Captain Umer came and went to his first (legal) ball and Nathan didn’t last much longer before controversially being given out LBW by his own teammate. Suddenly we were 51/3 with the middle order rushing to get their pads on. Ravi came in at 5 and joined the calming presence of Maroof. They shared the highest partnership of the day, 74 runs, before Maroof fell for 41 trying to go up a gear with the game all but in the bag. Jack fell cheaply to a less contested LBW. Off the penultimate ball Ravi (48*) and Nial Evans (making a fine 0* from his one ball) managed to run four byes, which probably cost the Sri Lankan a debut 50! BICC won the game by five wickets with eleven overs to spare!
Alfas captain Pennick had half of both teams doing push-ups after the game as punishment for ducks or dropped catches, before BICC player of the match Ravi got a good introduction to Western European culture with a race involving downing a pint, spinning around a bat and a race against Alfas’ player of the match! After a couple of (calmer) drinks with the opposition at their clubhouse, we headed into town for a curry (and another drink or two).
On Sunday we headed back to the ground ready for our first ever T10 matches. Umer won the toss and we chose to bat first, looking to set a challenging total against a team already well versed in 10 over games. Having lost Jack early on, Shriram (29*) and Umair (25) put on 74 for the second wicket aided by 20 wides (each wide was worth two runs, but not bowled again). Umair was dismissed with two balls of the innings left. The most incredible part of the innings was the final ball when five runs were scored following some chaotic fielding and panicked running! Thanks to that, BICC finished on a respectable 81/2.
From very early on, it was clear that SACC opener Brown wasn’t going to hang about. He hit four boundaries in Hesh’s first over for the club to get the hosts well ahead of the rate. From then on, none of the other bowlers took major punishment but everyone also failed to get that crucial breakthrough until James Smith picked up a wicket (the wrong wicket!) of the other opener in the sixth over. Unfortunately this merely brought Bilal to the wicket for a cameo 10* off five balls, with the chase completed by Brown (49*) hitting a high no ball for four - James’ accidental no ball costing him a chance of his personal landmark. SACC won the first of the round robin games by nine wickets with 13 balls to spare.
The second game of the tournament was us against La Manga, who had arrived during the first game. We were well aware of their prowess, having watched them play in the Spanish championship final last year in Barcelona. Umer again won the toss but chose to bowl first this time. Leg spinner Ravi, having been first change in the first game, was asked to open and was miserly, conceding just five runs in his two overs. Sadly for yours truly, that just meant that they attacked the bowler at the other end! Alger (20 off 11) was (crocodile) caught well by Shane Lightley off the bowling of Burhan (1/9) in the fifth over, Tedder came in briefly but soon had to retire hurt. Hesh made up for his expensive first over with two cheap overs, aided by cheap overs from Umer and Shriram too. No more wickets but LMTCC could only manage 62/1 from their ten overs. Having comfortably beaten that score in the first game, we fancied our chances of a first T10 win.
Ravi also opened the batting alongside Crocodile Shane. Despite a couple of good shots, Shane was struggling to consistently get bat on ball and was eventually bowled. Umer came in next and together with Ravi batted cleverly, keeping us up with the run rate. It was largely without risk, until off their best bowler’s last ball Ravi (26) went for a big shot and was caught. AIded by some quick running, and a couple of byes to the keeper, Nathan and Umer (21*) completed the chase with a ball to spare. BICC won by eight wickets!
In the final game of the tournament, with most of us already headed back to Barcelona, LMTCC beat the locals, meaning the tournament ended with each team winning one game each (La Manga officially winning the tournament on net run rate!). It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day and weekend, great to meet two “new” teams and visit the beautiful ground that Sporting Alfas have. I’m sure we’ll be back before a decade is up, and hopefully down the coast to La Manga too! Thanks to all involved for inviting us and organising.