The Optimists 1st XI welcomed Brussels Warriors to the Pierre Werner Cricket Ground, looking to continue their unbeaten run in a tightly-contested start to the season. In wet conditions Brussels Warriors won the toss and elected to bat first, a decision that the Optimists were content with given the match had been reduced to 44 overs a side and further rain was forecast.
Opening bowlers Atif Kamal and William Cope started strongly, with the Brussels Warriors opening batsmen forced to stay patient and disciplined. With the score 20-0 after the powerplay, pressure was building on the batsmen, and captain Vikram Vijh got the breakthrough needed with an edge behind to wicketkeeper Advyth Manepalli, who was making his debut for the 1st XI after an outstanding start to the season in the 2nd XI. The score had crept to 46-1 after 14 overs when rain forced the players off the field. After a delay of just under an hour, the players returned to the field with the match now reduced to 38 overs a side. Debutant Edmund Packard, who had started his spell wonderfully well and had beaten the bat with his swing on numerous occasions, managed to finish his over before the storm clouds once again appeared and sent the players and umpires running for cover. A longer break allowed the players to watch some of the live England vs Sri Lanka ODI game, with a couple of players opting to sample some sophisticated comedy (although Ed might argue with this description, appearing less than impressed).
With efforts to dry the wicket and infield proving successful, only a further 16 overs were lost, and Brussels Warriors resumed their innings in what was now a 30 overs a side match. Knowing they had to increase their run rate if they were to reach a competitive total, they did so effectively, with the next six overs bringing 47 runs to leave the score 93-1 after 20 overs. Spinner Anoop Simha broke the partnership, with Atif taking a smart catch at square leg. The number 4 batsman immediately showed his intentions, finding the boundary on a couple of occasions, but fell for the trap set by Anoop and Vikram as an attempted sweep found the fielder at deep square leg with the scoreboard reading 118-3 after 22.1 overs. With the opposition well placed to reach a strong total, Amit Dhingra was brought into the attack, and with a devastating effect, doing what he does best. His third over saw the stumps disturbed twice by a destructive yorker and a well disguised slow ball, and the following over also saw another wicket fall, with the two Amits combining to leave Brussels Warriors reeling on 131-6. Any chance of a lower order recovery was ended in Amit’s following over, with three wickets falling. The first ball of the over saw a run out, courtesy of a brilliant direct hit at the wicketkeeper’s end by William running in from long off. Amit ensured the new batsman’s stay at the crease was brief as he produced another scintillating yorker to send him back first ball, and the last ball of the over saw another run out as both batsmen found themselves at the same end. With Brussels Warriors nine wickets down and one over remaining, the question on everyone’s mind was would Amit be able to complete a well-deserved 5-fer. With three balls remaining in the innings, he did just that, inducing a mistimed slog to deep cover which was safely held by Anoop. Having been well set at 118-2 after 22 overs, Brussels Warriors had collapsed to 139 all out in 29.4 overs! Amit ending on impressive figures of 6 overs, 5 wickets for 23 runs, a superb performance! With the weather clearing the Optimists were pleased with their fightback, but knew that runs would be hard to come by on the lush heavy outfield and under overcast conditions.
OCC openers Amit Halbhavi and Advyth Manepalli, fresh from impressive innings the previous week, started the innings in confident fashion, with Amit clearing the rope with a gorgeous flick off his legs and Ady caressing one over mid-on for a boundary. However, both were to fall in the same over, with the score reading 28-2 at the end of the fourth. OCC captain Vikram and national team captain Joost Mees set about rebuilding the innings, with Joost also clearing the ropes with a powerful slog sweep. His next attempt unfortunately found the fielder, and at 61-3 the game hanged in balance. Shiv Karan Gill, who had started the season so strongly for the 1st XI, calmed any nerves as he and Vikram knocked the ball about to near the 100 mark. Trying to find the boundary that would move the innings’ total to three figures, Shiv was caught at long off, and the following over saw another wicket fall as the Optimists found themselves 96-5 after 19.3 overs. New man Ed began confidently, with some lusty straight shots that deserved more than the singles they brought, had the ground not been so heavy, but when he was out caught at deep midwicket the Optimists were uncomfortably placed on 105-6 in the 23rd over with skipper witnessing quick loss of three wickets. Thankfully the Optimists bat deep, and with William striding to the crease confidence was high that the target could be reached. Required run rate had climbed up, with five overs remaining 39 runs were still required, but some sensible batting saw the required runs steadily decreasing. Some tension still lingered on the sidelines, but Anshuman Bhadauria confidently assured everyone that “the Optimists bat down to number 10.” As the lower batting order still had not been set, the remaining three batsmen all glanced round suspiciously, wondering who Anshuman had designated as the number 11 batsman!
Meanwhile out in the middle, the 27th over saw the Optimists grab control of the match. This was the big over needed as Vikram managed to clear the ropes by some distance off the third ball with a huge six over deep midwicket, and also with the final ball of the over, pulling it for a four. The runs required had moved from 32 to a run-a-ball 18 off the last three overs! Another big six from Vikram in the next over left just six needed off the final two overs. William and Vikram sensibly knocked the ball around to reach a vital 50-run partnership, and on the second ball of the final over Vikram cleared the infield, fittingly hitting the winning runs, ending on a fantastic match winning 77 not out off 91 balls, with William also picking up crucial 15 off 17 balls having entered with the Optimists perilously placed. The four wicket win means the Optimists continue their unbeaten start to the season, and with a big weekend ahead (two matches for the 1st XI, one for the 2nd XI), confidence is growing in the club that another successful season is on the cards.