OCC 2nd XI started their travel amid clear clouds in Luxembourg. The forecast at Mechelen was not pleasing with thunderstorms expected to affect the game.
Upon reaching Mechelen, the team realized the outfield was wet and the grass about ankle height (P.S. - Kudos to the ground care team at OCC for giving us wonderful conditions at Walferdange. We realize our blessing when we travel away). After the usual routine, Skipper Mohit elected to bat first. OCC started cautiously with Anshuman and Ady putting on 25 runs before the rain interruption. What followed was a heavy downpour for about 45 minutes. The wicket was soaking wet with puddles on either side of the wicket, damaged runup, and an outfield where you needed water boots.
The skies cleared and after inspection, the game continued with no change to playing conditions. The team braved the conditions and continued on the quest for another victory. Anshuman and Ady counter-attacked with a 65 run partnership hitting some glorious boundaries over the infield and shifting the OCC momentum. However, OCC lost two quick wickets against the run of play. It was not easy for the incoming batsmen with the heavy outfield and every run was crucial. Ady got out for a well-made 45 on a difficult wicket with the oddball skidding through and the oddball stopping.
Unfortunately, OCC lost wickets at regular intervals, and the team scrambled to 179 in 49 overs.
A quick turn-around and we knew 179 on that wicket was not going to be a stroll in the park against our in-form bowlers. The bowlers set themselves a target of 120 to defend.
True to the word, what followed was a masterclass in bowling efforts (despite the wet and heavy ball, a 40-yard boundary) wherein the bowlers hunted in pairs and never let the opposition get a foot in the door.
Hari opened the bowling with Raju and consistently was challenging both edges of the bat in his opening spell tying the opposition down. Meanwhile, Raju reaped rewards of tight bowling at the other end, getting the opposition's inform batsman Cheema caught by Pankaj at mid-off and their no.3 bowled in quick succession. The scoreboard read 23/2 at the end of 8 overs. The opposition opener Tej counterattacked and accumulated 30 runs in quick succession. It was an important phase and a wicket was needed for the team to bring the game back.
Sensing a wicket was needed, the skipper and vice-captain got themselves on. What followed was one from the movie scripts. The opposition batsman was given out LBW to Mohit and he threw fits on the field at the umpire's decision that he had edged it and the decision was reversed. The skipper promptly calmed the team down and said if we can get him once, we get him again. True to his words, the very next ball, the batsman did edge it but this time on to the stumps. OCC were pumped having the opposition at 54/3 and were determined to wrap them up before 120. Vice-Captain was not too far behind on the action. He got Tej, who made run a ball 63, with a peach of a delivery (possibly one of the contenders for the delivery of the season), which swung in to clip the top of off stump.
For the next 14 overs, they bowled immaculate line and lengths, breaking the opposition's middle order, and collected a combined return of 14 overs 2 maidens 47 runs, and 5 wickets (truly a team game).
The opposition slipped to 89/7 of 24 overs. The team was clear that no game is done until the last wicket is taken (especially against Mechelen at their den). Vishy and Marcus were introduced into the attack and were not far behind on the action. Both continued to build on the pressure and beat the bat on several occasions. At the fall of the 8th wicket, in walked Shakerullah, who has a reputation of hitting big sixes. Vishy removed him first ball (another contender for the ball of the season) with a googly hitting the top of the middle stump and the batsman was left clueless. Eventually, the opposition was bowled out for 124 giving OCC a well-earned 55 run win.
Kudos to the team and now onto the next weekend where we play Ghent at home on Saturday!! Come down to see them in action.