Belgian league cricket returned to Luxembourg after the success of the national team a few weeks ago, with the Optimists 1st XI taking on Crescent. Optimists won the toss, and as usual opted to bat in extreme heat. The first wicket was to fall with the score on 32, but this brought Joost Mees to the crease, who along with Richard Neale put on a fine second-wicket partnership of 91. Mees was dismissed for a well-made 44, with Neale continuing to bat with intent. The Optimists’ middle order pushed the score along quickly, though wickets fell at regular intervals. Neale was showing his aggressive side, regularly charging the bowlers and finding the boundary with ease. He brought up a well-deserved century, courtesy of four overthrows, as the score passed the 200 mark, but soon departed for a fine 102 made off just 85 balls. The lower order ensured that the Optimists pushed well past 250, with Christopher Fry and Yatin Bhamare finding the boundary on a number of occasions. With two balls remaining the Optimists were bowled out for 317, a formidable target on a large ground. However, with the lightning fast outfield, sweltering conditions and unfamiliarity with Crescent’s batting lineup, the Optimists knew that they would be facing a stern challenge in the field.
A disciplined start by the opening bowlers Bhamare and Suhail Sadiq brought them both an early wicket, with Vikram Vijh pulling off a sensational diving catch at gully. Yet Crescent battled hard, and were soon scoring runs with relative ease, taking advantage of any wayward bowling. With the score passing 150 with only two wickets lost, the Optimists were under considerable pressure, with aggressive behaviour shown by the opposition increasing the tension. Aanand Pandey provided the breakthrough, a well-disguised slower ball resulting in a caught and bowled. Regular wickets then began to fall, with Crescent’s number 4 batsman eventually being bowled by Saransh Kulshrestha for a courageous 90. The spinners Kulshrestha and Fry both grabbed a pair of wickets, bowling well in partnership to dry up the runs. Tony Whiteman ran through the lower order with 2 wickets to his name, the final one giving the Optimists a 38-run victory. A well-deserved victory for the Optimists, who again face Crescent next weekend which is sure to be another tightly-contested affair.
Please come down to Walferdange on Sunday to support the re-match! 12:00, Sunday 29th July at the PWCG.