While the Belgian League has offered plenty of thrills and spills this season for the Optimists Cricket Club this season, fans of cricket in Walferdange have not been left short of excitement with the LCF leagues providing opportunities for the ever-growing number of cricketers in Luxembourg to impress, and, more importantly, sample the barbecue skills of Tim Andrews and Martine (with Richard Neale carefully overseeing the whole operation from afar).
On the field, WOCC had performed consistently well, passing 170 both times when batting first, and limiting the opposition to 120 when bowling first, to record victories in all three of their group games. After finishing top of Division 1, they advanced to the semi finals of the Pete Mitchell Cup to face Warriors CC, who had been beaten two days prior in a thrilling nail biter against TCS Star. Winning the toss, captain Mohit Dixit opted to bat in sunny conditions, and a solid start was had by openers James Barker and Timmy ‘Deluxe’ Andrews, who’s innings of 15 lasted four times longer than his nickname did at Loughborough University all those decades ago. At 34-1, Richard Neale entered, and showed that class is permanent with several elegant flicks to the legside boundary. Richard’s innings included five 4s and one large 6, but was ended with the score on 125-2 after 13.4 overs, with him departing for 44 off just 26 deliveries. National team captain Joost Mess arrived at the crease, and in the following over James retired on 50 off 45 balls, a measured innings which took backstage to Richard’s more brutal knock. Quick runs were required by the incoming batsmen, with Atif Kamal selflessly sacrificing himself in the process (not over the fire, rather a run out on the pitch), and it was Joost who ensured that momentum was not lost with a 20-ball 31, which involved plenty of quick running between the wickets, as the innings ended on 187-5 from the allotted 20 overs.
Facing the largest total of the season, Warriors began their innings with great intent, Anshuman Bhadauria showing his class with some wonderful shots straight down the ground. Atif and Praveen Muthumanickam have formed a formidable opening bowling partnership this season, yet Anshuman managed to regularly find the boundary with some crisp shots. Mazeebur Rahaman provided ample support at the other end, and WOCC were relieved when the opening partnership was eventually broken on 62-1 after just 6.2 overs, courtesy of the miserly Pankaj Malav. The run rate remained steady, with the new batsmen wary that they did not have time to get set before looking to unleash some big shots, and at 80-1 after 9.4 overs WOCC knew that wickets were required to ensure they remained on top. Skipper Mohit took care of this, picking up two wickets with the last two balls of his over, then returning to claim his hattrick thanks to a running catch from Joost at midwicket. Mohit celebrated accordingly (following Covid-19 protocol of course), perhaps relieved that the chance had not fallen to Richard, who has a history of putting down absolute sitters (or according to him, “tough chances”) on a hattrick ball. All of this drama, meanwhile, completely passed by the deep midwicket fielder (yours truly), who was totally unaware that a hattrick had occurred. It can get lonely fielding on the boundary….
Warriors rallied after this triple-breakthrough, though when the ball was thrown to Mike West the contest swung heavily in WOCC’s favour. Warrior’s number seven batsman was valiantly keeping Warriors up with the run rate, consistently finding the boundary, but was eventually outdone by one of Mike’s flighted deliveries, trapped lbw looking to swing to leg. The left-arm spin twins of Mike and Mark Fitzgerald managed to further push the required run-rate up above 10 an over, with wicketkeeper Ananth Srisailapathy effecting two stumpings off Mike’s bowling to give him figures of 3-27 off 3 overs. Mohit and Pankaj also finished with 3 wickets each (Pankaj 3-18 off 3.5 overs, Mohit 3-18 off 3 overs), as Warrior’s innings came to an end on 144 after 17.5 overs, Anshuman ending on an entertaining 53 off 35 balls after returning to the crease having retired earlier on 50 not out.
As the players left the field to the smell of grillwurst and veggie burgers, WOCC reflected on a job well done, and with the knowledge that they will have the opportunity to turn in one more dominant performance on Saturday 1st August, the final of the Pete Mitchell Cup.