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!