Antwerp Cricket Club were the hosts for the Optimists 1st XI last weekend -- the first away game in a month.
While Antwerp were
defeated comprehensively in the home fixture, they were on a good run of
form and had recently beaten league leaders Royal Brussels CC and third
placed Antwerp Indians.
As such, the team was aware that they were not
to be taken lightly. Captain Richard Neale lost the toss and the
Optimists were put in to bat on the small Antwerp ground, though with a
long outfield and two of the league’s best bowlers it was not
anticipated that run scoring would be easy.
James Barker and Tony
Whiteman started steadily against some hostile, accurate bowling, though
James was out relatively cheaply with the score on 24.
With the skipper
occupied when this wicket fell it meant that Vikram Vijh was to join
Tony and together they started to lift the run rate. Tony was batting
well and during this partnership of 83 duly reached his 50. Vikram was
well caught for 34, which brought in the captain. Unfortunately Richard
did not last long and with Saransh Kulshrestha also departing cheaply
there was the risk of a mid-innings collapse, with three wickets having
fallen for only 25 runs.
However, Tony was still in and ticking along
nicely and in Girish Venkatesh found an able partner. Good running and a
six over square leg for Girish meant that the score continued to
climb, this partnership of 46 helping to steady the ship and set the
platform for a late innings acceleration.
The score had moved on to 178 by the time Girish fell and the baton was passed to debutant Reinhardt Heyns to continue with the indefatigable Tony, who duly brought up a wonderful 100. 19 runs for Reinhardt and some late order running meant that the innings eventually closed on a reasonable score of 239, though not an ungettable one on a ground where the par score is apparently 275.
After lunch watching the neighbouring six-a-side tennis
ball tournament, Atif Kamal opened the bowling for the Optimists and
immediately looked a handful, the opposition batsmen struggling to deal
with his bounce and movement.
However, it was Pankaj Malav who got the
first wicket, caught by James diving at square leg. Atif then picked up a
well-deserved wicket courtesy of Tony’s juggling effort at first slip.
Shortly after Pankaj bowled the other opener to put the Optimists firmly
in control, with the run rate below the necessary rate.
from Chris Evans continued to apply the pressure, but a small
partnership was beginning to develop between the opposition’s numbers 4
and 5. This was ended thanks to a wonderful bit of athleticism from
Chris Fry, running back and taking a one handed catch over his right
The new man in immediately took on the challenge of raising
the run rate and in doing so struck three consecutive sixes. The
reintroduction of Atif was to prove too much for him however and his
stumps were quickly demolished by a searing yorker that eased any nerves
the fielders might have been feeling.
The opposition captain was next
in and in conjunction with the number 5 batsmen who was scoring
steadily, set about building a partnership against the Optimists tight
bowling. Their partnership of 47 was ended by another super bit of
fielding from Chris Fry, another one handed catch over his head off his
Two further wickets for Chris were followed by one for
Richard which meant that it was left to Atif to remove the number 5 for a
well-constructed 65 and end the innings on 186.
A strong all-round
bowling and fielding performance meant that the opposition never looked
entirely in control and a winning margin of 53 runs was an apt indicator
of the Optimists’ dominance.
This win was enough to send them top of the league thanks to the collection of a couple of bonus points and a loss by Royal Brussels. Ultimately, this means that next weekend’s final league match at home (September 10) against Royal Brussels will decide the league champions.