We travelled up to Vic for the first time for our last game of the 30-over league season against a new opponent in Raval Sporting CC. It would turn out to be a game with many records, with very few in our favour! Captain Sid Tewari lost the toss and Raval chose to bat.
Sid opted to open with the spin/ seam combo of Tommy Creagh and Anish Shindore. The scene was set early on as the first ball of the game went for four, followed soon after by the first six. Despite some damage in the first over, Anish quickly pulled things back with a wicket in his first over, caught well by Umair Iqbal at point. However, Raval's other opener Karan Datta continued bludgeoning the ball over the short straight boundary and by the time the opening bowlers came off after 6 overs Raval had reached 47/1, despite tidy figures for Anish. Sid brought himself and spin-twin Umer Razi on. Umer got a wicket in his first over thanks to a second good catch by Umair. Unfortunately, this brought Manish Manwani to the crease, who had clearly been watching Datta (at this point with over 75% of Raval's runs having passed 50) from the sidelines and fancied a piece of the action. Sid started to chop and change the bowlers more often, with Anish and Tommy coming back for one over either side of the introduction of Maroof Shaikh. Datta had had a bit more trouble with Anish's seam than any of the spinners, which proved to be the same with Maroof until he got hold of him in his third over. Todd Fraser gave the trees at long-off some catching practice, but offered the team a half-celebration after having the batters caught twice in two balls (sadly off a no ball and the resulting free hit). By this point Datta had passed a brilliantly made hundred, but was to fall in the next over to Umer for 125 off just 67 balls. Two balls later and Umer had another wicket and, at 193/4 off 20 overs, there was hope that we might be able to limit Raval to a chaseable total. Sadly, Manwani clearly didn't read the same hopeful script as us and set about demolishing our bowlers. None of Tommy, Damien McMullen, Umer (3/57), Sid or Anish (1/54) could stop him, or new partner Kshitil Patel, as Raval scored a mammoth 165 in the final ten overs. That was until Tom Kynaston, in his last game for the club before returning to England, was brought on for the last over. With his second (legitimate) ball, Tom (1/16) had him stumped by the again fantastic Jack Jewson. Raval had finished on 358/5 from their 30, the highest score of the league season so far.
If chasing two a ball for 30 overs was unlikely (especially with our dismal batting form all season), any chance of winning quickly to improve our net run rate to get into the top positions was definitely out of the window and splatted on the ground below. Umair and Maroof went out to bat. Aided by five early penalty runs for rubbing saliva on the ball, and a few wides, the pair got us off to a fast start and we started to get more hopeful on the sidelines that the chase might just be possible. Having reached 67/0 from eight overs, we were just two runs behind where Raval were. At this point they brought on Guarang Mahyavanshi, who immediately got a wicket with his first ball, with Umair (14) falling. Maroof and Umer (13) rebuilt briefly before the latter too felt to Mahyavanshi. In came Sid, who smashed two sixes off his first two balls but would all too quickly fall to the same bowler again for a quickly made 20, caught in the deep attempting a fourth six. Anish came in to join Maroof, who was on strike and got to his 50 next ball, his first for the club. Sadly two balls later he was bowled by that man Mahyavanshi (4/46) again without adding to his score. When Anish was dismissed cheaply, we were on 135/5 from 18 overs and the task of chasing down this mammoth record target was becoming rather unlikely! The two wickets falling had brought Jack and Damien together, who went about steadying the ship with a 26 run partnership. By this point we were taking the small victories, and celebrated bringing up our highest total of the (rather abismal batting-wise) season. El Presidente (17) fell with the game absolutely dead and gone and Todd came to the wicket. On the sidelines, the remaining three batters of James Smith, Tommy and Tom were all padded up, clearly not expecting great things from either Todd or Jack. However, the two of them batted through the rest of the innings with a superb 71 run unbeaten partnership, with Jack cruelly finishing two runs short of another maiden BICC half-century, with Todd finishing on a BICC-best of 21. We finished on 232/6, some 126 runs short of Raval but still easily our best score of the season.
Sadly, the defeat condemned us to last place in Group C with just one win from the six games we actually played. There was little shame in losing to this Raval side though, who will finish top of the group, and had four fine individual performances backed up by the rest. Most importantly, the game was played in a great spirit and Raval invited us for a beer at the end of the game. That's definitely the way into our hearts and I'm sure we'll meet again on the pitch soon. We wish them well in the quarter-finals. Hopefully our next showing in the federated league will go slightly better!
After the game (and beer), we headed back to Barcelona for a curry at our partner's Koh-i-noor in Poble Sec.