First game of the season and the enthusiasm was evident. All players were brimming with hopes of doing well and starting the season on a high. Our first half hour was wasted by pitch squatters. With no time to huddle up and plan, the toss was quickly sorted which Elite won and elected to bat like any other captain would have done under those conditions. Both captains agreed to reduce the overs to 35 due to forecast of rain later in the day. It was also decided that anything on the leg side will be deemed wide.
H was running late and so we opened with Kuni and Ritesh. After a few looseners, Kuni found his line and the openers had no room. Kuni had to retire early due to knee injury finishing with an economy under 1 of his 3 overs. Ritesh marched up from the Station end and bowled a good length first ball of his season which opener Ashok drove straight into the hands of Tejas at covers. Rits, few yards quicker than previous season bowled few inswingers and got the new man Paresh wicket’s wheeling in the greens. On the other hand their No. 2 Kamlesh who made a decent 40 in the last outing was looking good when he lifted Rits over the covers. New man in Nehit was extremely cautious to begin with but was equally solid.
This prompted a change in bowling to Dharmesh to bowl his quick slingers. Dharmesh got one to bounce and Kamlesh edged it and was gleefully accepted into my gloves. Umpire denied it but the bastman walked and the spirit was applauded. We thought this would be the turning point of the game and we were having talks of bowling them out under 100 and getting the batting order reversed. In came their left hand captain Atish and slowly began building partnership with Nehit. H arrived by then and started his spell in partnership with Junior. Junior had Nehit trapped plumb but the umpire denied without even flinching. This begs a question that "Why bother with lbws in friendlies". The right left combination became annoying as the day grew as both had different playing styles and the field has to be constantly changed. Both settled in and grew in confidence by taking singles and dispatching loose balls to boundaries. I wish I had a spinner at this stage to slow the game or even tempt these settled batsmen to make mistakes. Atish reached his well-earned half century but offered few chances on his way which Priory did not take advantage of.
Four chances were dropped of Junior’s bowling. With no assistance offered Junior went solo and clean bowled Nehit for 39. H cleaned up Atish soon after by firing one in block hole. Elite posted a decent challenge of 168 at an asking rate of just under 5. A fine tea with a selection of tasty sandwiches, samosas and a homemade cake prepared by Dharmesh (or shall we say his better half) was relished by everyone especially the opposition.
Priory openers Tejas and Punit took their guards with an aim of scoring around 40 in the first 10 overs without losing a wicket. Both started well with hitting boundaries and taking quick singles. However Tejas couldn’t resist the lack of pace offered by the slow Elite bowlers and played few cross bat shots and was eventually stumped at 9. Hambo joined Punit and with his brute force hit one over the covers for a 4. Hambo had other ideas and similar to Tejas couldn’t resist the temptation and went for a big hoick and was caught behind of Rajan’s bowling. Nerves were unsettled by now as Priory was 2 man down in the first 10 overs. I strode up to the crease with multiple thoughts on how to bring a bit of sanity. Luckily both I and Punit settled into a bit of rhythm. By the time we were starting to tune the strings, Punit played a pull of a dying straight ball to be bowled for 9. Gaurav, a natural stroke player and with a strong dislike for slow bowlers joined me. Rajan bowled a slow Yorker and bails flew and Gaurav was back in the pavilion without troubling the scorer. Captain believes that Gaurav just need one good game under his belt and will be getting his lost mojo back.
Priory by this time was falling like 9 pins. In came Dharmesh ahead of Sid to accelerate the run rate. On the contrary Dharmesh played a very controlled innings and a partnership was building up. Both of us hit few boundaries and by drinks break we are in the late 60s needing another 100 in the next 18 overs. Breaks always bring wickets and so did in this case. Something flicked in my brains and I stepped out to be stumped for a meagre 17. Sid with his new SG bat nonchalantly walked to the wickets and started flicking the bowlers at acute angles and soon there was some light at the end of the tunnel. Sid bludgeoned Nehit (their only medium pace bowler) over the head and with a sweetly timed square cut to soon reach 20s. Dharmesh took the onus of increasing the run rate and perished soon at long off for a well-made 19. Ritesh swept one for 4 and possibly showed the top order the way to play slow bowlers. Ritesh and Sid were forming a partnership and were well on course to a nail biting finish. Adrenaline was peaking but troughed at the same rate when Sid couldn’t make it to the non-striker end and was run out for an entertaining 30.
We were hoping for a repeat of Kuni and Junior’s performance from last year when they snatched victory but not today. Priory got bowled out for 131 losing by 36 runs. A sore wound but I am sure win against Watford Town will help in the healing process. Batsmen need to step up to the plate and deliver.
Man of the Match: For an entertaining 30 and a decent spell of 2 overs, our Man of the Match is Sid Pandya.