With many of the regular first teamers away in Finland on international duty, Richard Neale stood in as captain and led a new look Optimists 1st XI who had their work cut out if they were to register the first win of the season against a strong 12 Stars CC.
After winning the most important part of the day, Richard Neale won the toss and decided to bat first. Openers Ed Packard and Gopi Vallari were sent in to build a platform on a day where runs were to be scored. Both played excellently, negotiating the early swing bowling, reaching 46 off 10 overs. Unfortunately, Gopi fell trying to up the ante (8 off 25).
This brought in captain Richard Neale. Together Neale and Packard built a solid partnership together, negotiating the good balls and punishing the bad balls. Both batsmen looked settled but Ed eventually fell for a very well made 43 off 68 balls, including 6 fours. With the score at 99/2 off 23.2 overs, it was an excellent knock in the heat, building the platform for the rest of the team. Eds dismissal brought Thomas Martin to the crease.
A classic Richard Neale innings continued, as Thomas Martin adjusted. As spin continued in the heat, both batsmen looked to punish the bad balls, with boundaries starting to flow on the rapid outfield. The two worked together to drinks, leaving the side 188/2 after 35 overs. Thomas Martin was then given permission to up the ante. Martin did not hesitate and the 12 Stars fielders to only watch in astoundment as Martin punished everything with some massive sixes. It was truly a formidable knock with shots all around the park and many a ball being out of it. However, as pace was brought back on, Martin attempted a scoop shot to the vacant third man area but was instead bowled! Thomas finished on 99 off only 58 balls, including six fours, and a monster 9 Sixes!
With the score at 267/3 off 41 overs, hard hitting Jatin came in looking to finish off and build a monster score. Richard continued to show his class (and the younger members how to sensibly reach a hundred!) and was eventually run out for 113 off 112 balls. A proper captains knock. Gaurav came and went first ball, Eliyas came in and whacked 18 off only 8 balls, including 2 enormous sixes over square leg. Jatin finished on 41 off only 31 balls and enabled the Optimists to finish with a flourish and set a total of 369/6.
After a quick turnaround, and a great curry (thank you New Delhi Restaurant in Gasperich), a very tired opposition who had been forced to chase the ball during the hottest part of the day set about trying to overhaul the huge 1st innings total. The 1st XI knew that the job was only half done and were hoping to make early inroads. Opening swing bowlers Raju Akulwar (outswing) and Sareer Shah (in swing) bowled well in tandem. The first wicket fell to a classic Raju delivery, well caught at second slip by Ed Packard.
The 2nd wicket soon fell for a debut wicket for Sareer, with a very good running catch by Jigyasu at midwicket. This left the opposition at 29/2 off 5 overs. The Optimists had their tails up, and it was an excellent start. Batsmen 3 and 4 worked hard and were very threatening and dangerous, punishing anything that wasn't a perfect line and length. First change bowlers Ed and Jatin were brought on, however, boundaries were flowing every over and the Optimists were looking flat.
The opposition had raced to 107/2 at drinks (17 overs). Raju clung on to a very hard hit at mid-on off the bowling of Jatin, and the team had their breakthrough. With the classic saying one brings two, Ed had the other batsman the very next over, caught behind to a diving catch by Sri. The team were delighted, both danger men were out, and the team were hoping to wrap it up. Unfortunately, the batsmen had other ideas, slowly rebuilding and tiring the fielding side out. Eliyas and Gaurav were brought on to get the wickets, unfortunately both luckless.
After much toil and hard work, and deciding pace off, Ed came back and bowled in tandem with Richard to bowling off 4 steps, with flight and guile and accuracy the strategy rather than pace on.
The strategy finally worked with a magically diving forward catch by Gopi off Ed's medium/slow/very slow/loopy bowling to get the 5th wicket falling with the score at 201. This moment of magic spurred the team on, with the next batsmen being clean bowled by Ed.
Ed finished on 10 overs, 3 wickets for 55 runs, a top bowling effort, even if some of it was bowled like an old man. Sareer and Jatin (8 overs, 41 runs, 2 wickets) was brought back on to clean up the tail, Sareer unfortunately luckless in his second spell to finish 7 overs 44 runs for 1 wicket. Jigyasu (2.3 overs, 19 for 2 wickets) was brought on to clean the tail, with two catches going to Ed Packard. The opposition finished on 287 all out in the 48 over, finally!
A very long and hot day, but also hugely successful, bringing the 1st XI back to their winning ways, and potentially giving a few selection headaches for the next matches! A great day out and a top performance, onto the next match!