On Sunday, the Optimists 1st XI welcomed Antwerp Cricket Club to the Pierre Werner Cricket Club or becoming better known as "The Fortress".
Having lost away earlier in the season, the 1st XI were in determined mood to seek revenge. Winning the toss, Skipper, Richard Neale elected to bat first and saw Ben Embleton and James Barker leading the way.
The Antwerp bowling attacked started well and restricted the Optimists start. It was slow going and after the first 10 overs, the Optimists were 36-0. Ben Embleton was caught trying to pull whilst trying to increase the run-rate and Richard Grundy at number three went three balls later.
Vikram Vijh joined Barker and Vikram immediately set about the task of increasing the runrate. Vikram hit some wonderful shots and soon brought up his 50. James Barker also reached his 50 soon after Vikram. Vikram eventually went caught and Vice-Captain Saransh Kulshrestha joined Barker. Saransh looked in great touch with some exquisite cover drives and immediately started to score quick runs. James Barker was eventually dismissed caught behind for a deserved 83.
Richard Neale joined Saransh but could only manage 6 as it was all out attack to get a decent total. Aanand Pandey joined Saransh and together they batted until the end of the innings scoring quickly with some superb boundaries but also running well and taking quick singles. Saransh ended on 47 not out off 34 balls and Aanand on 17 and the team on 266 at the end of the allotted 45 overs.
After an excellent curry from New Delhi Restaurant in Gasperich, Optimists set about defending this and it was fair to say not all went to plan in the first 10 overs.
After 10 overs, Antwerp were 79-0 and were batting well. Some wayward bowling from Richard Neale and the normally ever so reliable Yatin Bhamare did not help. However, as the ball got older and the lacquer started to come off, the ball started swing and brought Vikram Vijh, Pankaj Malav and Shameek Vats into their own.
With the ball moving, all three bowled extremely well and produced some unplayable deliveries. Vikram started the Antwerp downfall by dismissing thier opening batsman with an edge through to wicket-keeper, Ben Embleton and quickly trapped the incoming batsman LBW. Shameek then got into the action by dismissing the next new batsman - again caught behind by Embleton and the wickets started to tumble.
When Pankaj dismissed the other opening batsman for 66, the Optimists started to feel they were on top.
Enter stage right, the spin twins of Chris Fry and Saransh Kulshrestha who both bowled an excellent line and length and started to take wickets too as the batsman got frustrated and had to go for the big shot and were caught.
Antwerp decided to close up shop after the 38th over and pretty much dead batted everything back to ensure we did not bowl them all out. This saw some fairly adventurous fields being set and one point, there was 5 slips and 2 gullies!
However, at the end of the 45 overs, Antwerp were left 189-9 and the Optimists won by 77 runs.
Pick of the bowlers was Vikram with excellent figures of 6 overs, 4 wickets for 11 runs. However, Pankaj, Shameet, Saransh and Chris must also be congratulated too as they bowled superbly. It was a strong fielding display from the Optimists too which kept the quick singles down and increased pressure on the Antwerp batsman.
Optimists 1st XI have firmly stamped thier mark at the top of the BCF Division 2 league table but have two more games which must be won to maintain this position.
Next game will be the final 1st XI home game of the 2018 season on Saturday 15th September vs Ostend Exiles CC. Match starts at 12:00 and support is always welcome.