OCC 1st XI played their first home against Gent CC on a rather hot summer day with temperatures soaring up to 35°. Skipper Vikram lost the toss unfortunately and was asked to field. After a brief warm-up session led by William, OCC started their bowling attack with Hari & Ankush who together put great pressure on the opposition bowling tight line & good length. A brilliant runout throw from William got OCC the first breakthrough, while the other opening batter fell shortly to Hari having survived 2 dropped catches early on. At the end of 10 overs, OCC was in a formidable situation with Gent CC at just 33/2. OCC quickly reduced Gent to 34/3 on the first change of bowling with Ranjith picking his maiden 1st XI wicket off a scintillating diving catch from Girish, who was just placed at gully a ball before. This brought Faisal, Gent CC’s captain and highest scorer of BCC Div. 2, to the crease who played a captain’s inning - watching the ball carefully, defending and leaving the good balls, dispatching the bad ones for boundaries and carefully motivating his batting partners. The motivation didn’t seem enough though as Vikram got another 2 scalps off his patience testing spin bowling reducing Gent CC to 97/5 in 22 overs. At this stage OCC was in commanding position and hoping to wrap up the opponents cheaply below 150 well ahead of their 50 over quota. Waleed, however, had some other plans as he played in good alignment with his captain and kept the score board ticking. After a short break, OCC skipper looking at how opposition has been playing vs spin, handed the ball to Anoop. It was to be his spin comeback day, he bowled beautifully and confidently - pitching and turning the ball from outside off, forcing the batters to play to front foot and putting pressure with his dot balls. The dot ball pressure eventually got onto the opposition skipper who fell short 1 run of a well-deserved 50 caught & bowled - Anoop. Anoop picked up 2 more wickets while Vik got Waleed out for a well-made 48. Last few wickets fell quickly with Gent CC scoring 202/10 in 45.2 overs.
Anoop was the pick of the bowlers having picked 3 for 33 runs of 7 overs followed by Vikram who also got 3 for 39 in his 10 overs. Hari, Ranjith and Amit D picked up one wicket each. Although Ankush went wicketless of his 8 overs, his economy of 2.8 showed the consistent and the tight effort he had put along with Hari creating pressure early on.
Chasing an odd 202 with the OCC batting line-up in a home game seemed rather doable, but little had we known what was about to unfold. Gent CCs opened with Waleed (6’’8 inches – yes, he was almost 2.5x the size of Shiv and even taller than our big man Joost) who bowled some good paced deliveries at Girish and Ady. While Ady fell early, Girish continued to show resistance leaving the good deliveries and hooking 2 short length balls for boundaries over square leg. However, Girish couldn’t continue his stride as he fell leg before of a good swinging delivery from Waleed. An air of disappointment then briefly settled over the defending champions as Shiv & Vikram also came back to pavilion (without disturbing the scorers) not being able to negotiate against the monstrous swing from Sajad who was moving the ball both ways with great control. OCC was left 28/4 of the first 10 overs. Anoop, carrying on the confidence from his bowling, was well supported by William as they held the fort until 25th over bringing some sense of confidence in the OCC camp. However with their spinner in action, William fell next for a well fought 11 runs having faced 47 balls with OCC at 68/5. Next walked in Ankush (the upcoming 3-dimensional player in OCC camp – and I’m being vocally self-critical here) as the opponent was now talking about wrapping up the match in next 10 overs and heading home early. Reminiscing the teaching from his ‘Shifu’ - Tony Whiteman, Ankush played carefully defending/leaving the good balls and kept rotating the strike with Anoop. While Ankush was showcasing his array of off-side shots hitting boundaries off cover drive & backfoot punch, Anoop decided to take on the opposition and played a lofty shot off the left-arm spinner getting caught at deep mid-wicket to the lone fielder there. Ankush then continued the fight with Amit D and Jatin but fell at 28 runs having edged the ball to the keeper. All eyes were now on Jatin and Hari with OCC requiring 72 runs of last 10 overs – time to switch gears to T20 mode. But the Gent CC bowlers kept the magic swing going until the 45th over and didn’t let the batsmen score any easy runs. Jatin, trying to accelerate the run rate, got caught at long on by a juggling relay catch by Gent fielders who seemed to be having a rather lucky day on the field. Hari was the last wicket to fall with OCC all out at 146 in 45 overs falling short by 57 runs.
Although OCC 1st XI has now lost 2 consecutive games, we learn and move on towards our next game this coming weekend where we face the same opponent again. Champions keep playing until they get it right, and for OCC, this mantra becomes all the more important as they continue their efforts to defend the title.