OCC 1st XI kicked off their 2022 BCF season this Sunday in Hasselt. Since the drive was not the usual one towards Brussels, the customary stop at the ‘Wanlin Rest area’ was replaced by a stop at one of the ‘Q8 Rest areas’ close to Liege. After having a scrumptious breakfast, the team drove the remaining distance before arriving at Hasselt’s revamped and re-seeded ground. The 1st XI team looked well balanced with technically sound batsmen, experienced bowlers, pinch hitters and uber-skilled all-rounders.
Skipper Vikram won the toss and elected to bowl, assuming the rain forecast later in evening will hold true and its associated DLS implications. OCC opening bowlers Atif and William bowled impeccable lines and lengths to start with and ensured that the Hasselt openers worked hard for every run. With multiple economical overs (in addition to a couple of maidens), the pressure eventually got to one of the openers as Harjot Singh spooned a catch off of William to mid-on, where Jatin was waiting with his ever-safe bucket like hands. After a tight spell by the opening bowlers and a couple of missed opportunities in the slip cordon, first change Ed Packard struck off of his very first ball with Hasselt’s #3 edging one to Ady behind the stumps. Ankush was then introduced into the attack and made sure he moved the ball both ways, causing the opposition batsmen to be tentative and play him out cautiously. Before the opener Harman Singh and #4 Syed Qasim could get used to the pace, Vikram decided to bring himself on, and with his crafty slower ones led to the end of Syed Qasim’s innings in his first over itself. Hasselt was the reeling at 88-3 in 20 odd overs. Harman Singh was then joined by Syed Zaki, and together they slowly started rebuilding Hasselt’s innings with 1s and 2s and the occasional boundary. Harman Singh gradually reached his first milestone for the day with a well compiled 50 without much fanfare or overly extravagant shots, being dropped once. The two went on to stitch together an 86-run partnership before Ed uprooted Syed Zaki’s middle stump, a key wicket, leaving Hasselt CC at 167-4.
As the 1st innings approached the 40th over, Hasselt were well placed to set a target in excess of 260, with their opener still going strong on 80+. Since spin couldn’t do much damage to their middle order, Vikram decided to bring Ed, Will and himself back into the attack. This worked wonders as Hasselt quickly lost their 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th wicket in a span of just 16runs! as they slumped from 200/5 to 216/9. The bottom order offered little resistance but Harman Singh (the opener) powered through to a well-made 100, eventually falling to a slower one from Vikram for 116, held calmly by Ankush. OCC 1stXI was fairly confident of wrapping up Hasselt’s innings <220, but the rain gods had other plans, as the skies opened and it started to pour with 4 overs remaining. The wet outfield ensured the ball was incredibly difficult to grip and OCC unfortunately ended up conceding a flurry of boundaries with the last batting pair gathering 45+ runs in the last 4 overs. Hasselt ended their innings at 259/9, with Vikram picking up 4/29 (from 7), William picking up 3/43 (from 9) and Ed picking up 2/38 (from 7).
While the team had conceded more runs than they’d hoped for, OCC was still very much confident of chasing the target down. The subsequent shower had made the pitch a lot more skiddy than before, but with the batting depth and experience, chasing 260 was certainly not far-fetched. After a quick meal, OCC started their innings shakily, losing the first 3 batsmen (Ady, Joosty and Girish) for mere 9 runs in 4 overs, with the scoreboard reading 9/3! OCC was in trouble and Vikram and Shiv had the challenging task of negotiating the wet, moving ball whilst ensuring the scoreboard was ticking. The two rotated the strike well, and gradually got a move on scoring some delightful boundaries in the process, and putting the pressure back on the Hasselt bowlers. Vikram and Shiv put on a rock-solid 60-run partnership, and were all already ready to have a refreshing drink in the innings’ first break at the 17thover mark. However, as (bad) luck would have it, Vikram edged a swinging ball into the keeper a mere 2-3 balls before the drinks break. William then joined Shiv at the crease as the duo batted out the next few overs, scoring briskly. Will unfortunately skied one to square leg and was out caught, with OCC struggling at 89/5. Enter Ed. Not only did Ed bag a wicket off of his first ball, but also scored a 6 of his first ball as he pulled the ball over deep square leg. The duo ran hard and played aggressive shots, and Shiv, who by then had gotten his eye in started to play some glorious drives and flicks to the boundary. Shiv compiled a well-made 50 in the process, comprising of his trademark cover drives and a lusty hit for 6 over deep mid-wicket. Shiv and Ed steadied the boat with a strong partnership, rotating strike and scoring boundaries at will, as the opposition bowlers slowly started to panic. A 61-run partnership ensued and Ed was finally dismissed for a well-made 26 (32), just when the OCC dressing room was getting comfortable with the partnership.
Shiv was then joined by Taha, and they decided to take the bull by its horn playing some top-class counter attacking cricket. Shiv marched towards his maiden century while Taha ensured the run rate was above 6. With nearly a-run-a-ball required, 62 of the last 10 overs, Shiv fell heartbreakingly short of a well-deserved century, to the joy of the Hasselt Bowlers. His 93 consisted of 8 boundaries, 2 sixes and copious amounts of dedication. This brought the hard hitting Jatin to the crease, who went about doing exactly what he is best known for – Hard Hitting. Taha sadly got out LBW at a crucial time in the match. With the score at 198/8 in 41 overs, Atif joined Jatin in the middle. While Jatin went about his job of scoring quick runs, Atif tried to hold up the other end. A couple of overs later, Atif got an excellent ball that damaged the woodwork leaving OCC needing 50-odd runs with 1 wicket in hand. Jatin tried to keep as much strike as possible and gathered a few more boundaries, but eventually succumbed to a slower ball that he played onto his wickets, ending OCC’s innings at 216/10 in 43.2 overs, falling 43 runs short of the target in their season opener.
It was certainly a tough day for the OCC boys in the office, but there was plenty to learn for all, in all departments. The result was in no way a true reflection of the incredible potential that the 1st XI team possesses. We dust this one off quickly and march on to the next games.