Another game that moved venue last minute (this time sort of at our request!) as we made our debut at the Vic “Old” ground (aka the baseball ground), instead of Vidreres. It was a curious ground, with the pitch laid out between second and third bases, meaning a very short boundary behind the wicket. To counter this, one of the dugouts and an area behind the fence were bizarrely included in the playing area. More on that later…
We scraped together an eleven and drove up for the afternoon start (a nice change from the early morning starts). With the opposition turning up late (a nice change from us turning up late), we were awarded the toss and Umer Razi chose to bat first. Well aware that this ground was much less of a run fest than its neighbour (the “new” ground), the skipper opened up with Umair Iqbal. This left Maroof Shaikh and Jack Jewson, who had shared a century opening stand in the last game, in the dugout and much cursing of the captain and his clearly very selfish ways. Fortunately, they gave us a decent start, with Umair surviving a couple of dropped catches. Umer even managed to hit the ball into the dugout, leading to a scramble to find the ball amongst the bags as the batters lazily and somewhat uncomfortably ran four. Shortly after, both were dismissed in the space of three balls after a couple of bad shots. Maroof came to the middle first, followed by Ravindu Maduranga. Another decent partnership was formed, and we were keeping up a decent run rate given the extremely long grass in most of the outfield and the fact that Maroof seemed to pick out short mid-off from half the balls he faced. After Ravi was caught behind, Shane came to the middle and struggled to get going at first before finally finding the middle with an aggressive stroke. “Shot!”, cried Nathan Blyth from the sidelines, as the ball nestled into mid-on’s hands. Shriram Bhosale was promoted up the order as a pinch-hitter and we took the batting powerplay at the end of the over. There were some big shots, that all got caught in the grass, before Shriram was bowled from the penultimate ball of the powerplay. Maroof’s (22) lengthy stay came to an end shortly after and Jack came and went, before a mini partnership between Nathan and Burhan Ejaz as we tried to make sure we batted the overs. That looked less likely when Nathan and Agni Sikdar fell to consecutive balls. Despite yours truly seeing off the hattrick ball and some clever running we were all out nine balls short of the end of the innings for 137, Burhan the last to fall.
A total that was perhaps a bit below par, but with the opposition also yet to record a victory this season, we had high hopes of defending it. Umer rang the changes in the first few overs, with Burhan, himself, Shriram and Ravindu sharing the new ball through the crucial first six overs of powerplay. Ravi picked up three early wickets, one in each of his first three overs (their top three, no less), to get the ball rolling. The skipper got in on the act soon after, before Maroof, the “best bowler in the league” did his party trick of taking a wicket with his second ball. At the halfway drinks break, the game was right in the balance at 84/5, with the Warriors seemingly heavily dependent on their number 6, Harjot Singh. Ravi got a fourth wicket with his last over before the seventh wicket partnership seemed to be taking the game away. Shriram came on with just ten runs needed to win but got the wicket of the dangerman Singh with his first ball. Suddenly our spirits were lifted and optimism returned - and that only increased when, three balls (and three precious runs) later he got another. Burhan was given the next over, two wickets or seven runs needed. Just like Shriram, he got a wicket first ball and numbers 10 and 11 were at the crease. With the Warriors clearly desperate to keep the last man off strike, they attempted a second run which was never on, and despite a slightly high throw from Maroof in the deep, Burhan removed the bails at the bowler’s end to complete the run out which won us the game! A first league win of the season by just four runs, thanks to some much better fielding than last time out keeping the pressure on from some more solid bowling (and, remember those four runs we scored having it into the dugout....!). Hopefully it’s a catalyst to better performances and more victories - the post-match beer (or air, for our still fasting Muslim brothers) tasted all the sweeter this time!
A few of us reconvened later for Iftar - breaking fast with a curry in Barceloneta. Here’s to more post-win curries!
We arrived in Vic with March’s incredible cold snap still in full flow, the car thermometer reading 0º and some frost still lingering in the shade! Unlike our game against Botany Bay last week, at least the sun was out. With one car arriving at the ground late, we forfeited the toss and were put in the field - not exactly what you want in such cold conditions.
The first innings was littered with far too many dropped catches to be able to remember when they took place, but we estimated on the way home that each of their top four batters were dropped at least twice each as all passed 50, Manish Manwani really punishing us for his second consecutive century against us. Raval got off to a quick start against Burhan Ejaz and the returning Rez Hassan before Ravindu Maduranga was brought into the attack early, his first three overs going for just six runs. Seeing that his spin was slowing the oppo down, Umer Razi brought himself on and and finally made a breakthrough in his second, and the game’s 12th, over as Ravi took a good catch in the deep despite being blinded by the sun - breaking the 100 run partnership that C Patel (54) and the dismissed Datta (52) had formed. Burhan came back into the attack for another two over spell, but it was his replacement Edward Spencer-Phillips that got our second wicket with his second ball, getting Patel LBW. Unfortunately for us the run rate shot up from there, despite Umer chopping and changing the bowlers, as I Patel and Manwani repeatedly found the boundary. Their devastating 8.2 over partnership put on 122 runs - their efforts combined with some sudden cloud cover making fielding less and less enjoyable. Ravi finally and deservedly picked up the wicket of Patel (80) caught by Burhan. Another 50 run partnership later and Manwani (101) became the third Raval player to be dismissed immediately after a personal landmark, Burhan claiming his wicket in his third two over spell of the innings. Rez managed to put some life into his figures by getting two wickets from the last two balls of the innings, both brilliantly stumped by Jack Jewson standing up to the stumps. Raval finished on 332/6, some 25 runs shy of the record score they got against us last year!
After a quick turnaround, and with the sun back out, Maroof and Jack - our two highest scorers against Raval last year - opened the batting. Together they put on a fantastic 107 run partnership with things neck and neck with where Raval had been in their innings. Sadly, Jack (45) was bowled and two overs later Maroof (45) was caught. Umer followed them back to the hutch in another two overs, and from then our run rate fell somewhat. When Nathan was also caught, another batting collapse had seen us go from 107/0 to 157/5. Ravi (30) and Damien McMullen (26) put up some defense and played some great shots but with the required run rate now rocketing we were effectively out of the game. Their 54 run partnership was ended as first Ravi, then Damien, fell in the same over to Das. A quiet couple of final overs followed before Das again struck twice in the last over, to claim a 4fer. A shoutout to Ishan Patel for adding a 3fer to his 80 from the first innings.
We finished 112 runs short, rueing giving Raval’s top four so many chances. Had we taken even half of them, who knows how this game would’ve ended up - but hats off to Raval for taking advantage. Manwani took a nasty blow to the eye whilst fielding and was forced to leave the ground, we’re assured he’s ok and we hope there’s no long-lasting damage (even if he does love batting against us!). Our next game is in three weeks, our first game in Vidreres against the unknown team of Punjab Warriors.