We were playing away this week against Watford Town CC. After losing our first game of the season, the only tune I could hear in my head playing was “It’s a new dawn, It’s a new day”. After a few catching drills, we saw the opposition, a mix of their 3rd and 4th XI heading towards us in the boisterous wind. Priory won the toss and elected to bat first hoping that the fading light at the end of the day will cause issues for John’s team. Tejas and Punit opened the innings. Tej was offered a wide full toss by their 15 year old opener Connor which he ruthlessly dispatched to register the first runs on board. Connor soon found his line and Tej nudged a few. Non-striker Punit was now facing Ankit from the Residential End. A swinging Yorker had few more knots than Punit’s bat and his innings came to an abrupt end.
I walked to the crease to join Tej and immediately found form especially against Ankit who fortunately couldn’t produce a similar Yorker. Tejas by this time was looking invincible. The flick off Connor’s bowling on the leg side is now etched in everyone’s memory and a sign of good times to come for the batsman and Priory at large. The partnership was building up and we were around 40 off 8. Connor was replaced with Khan and his first delivery screamed through air to avoid both bat and keeper to reach the boundary ropes in no time. I realised he had pace and soon came to know he had good line as well when the ball swung miles, through the gates and hit top of off stumps. I perished for 17 and was replaced by Vijay, last season’s top scorer. Khan welcomed Vijay with some chin music which Vij really did well to play it down. One looped but was cunningly shy of the slip fielder. One more bouncer and this time Vijay was on top of it and away she went to the square leg boundary. Tej continued on his merry way and pulled the pacer for boundary and clubbed the other bowler over the ropes to the jubilation of his new fan club. Drinks were had and both batsmen were able to maintain a healthy run rate of 5.
Out of 3 John’s in the opposition, the short statured bowled a slow Yorker. Tejas swung across the line but missed it completely to be bowled for a delightful 36. It was the only glitch in his innings but good enough for his demise. Vijay had settled in by now and was effortlessly guiding the ball into gaps with occasional boundaries. Gaurav accompanied Vijay for a short while but departed soon for 8. Dharmesh replaced Gaurav and started the run frenzy with Vijay. Ignoring the pain Dharmesh supported Vijay and developed a decent partnership which lasted for good 40 runs. Dharmesh trying to up the ante was caught at long on of the taller John’s bowling. Ritesh promoted up the order due to his recent performance in the nets didn’t disappoint. Vijay was cruising along with square cuts and to his delight the opposition did not bother to plug his strong zone. A sweet cover drive and Vijay was seen kissing the priory badge and acknowledging the loud cheer of his teammates on reaching 50 in his first appearance.
Ritesh at the other end aptly took the pressure of his vice-captain by wielding some lusty boundaries and running tirelessly. Vijay was panting but Ritesh didn’t care and 200 were up. Ritesh perished for a well-made 27. Last 2 overs of the game and we were targeting 220. Hitesh swung hard but was unable to find the elevation and the uncut grass didn’t help either. Vijay was on his last legs and on attempting to run a second was found well short of the crease finishing at an imposing 61. The visitors eventually posted a target of 217 equalling last season’s highest total at an asking rate of 5.5.
Post lunch Priory bowlers were raring to go. Kuni measured up his run up with string and started from the residential end. Einstein found the perfect line and length straight away with the batsmen having no option but to block. When openers Syed and Bilal walked in with their chunky CA bats I was alarmed. Ritesh from the pavilion end was making the ball talk. Pace with movement was crashing into the gloves but unfortunately didn’t find the edge. Kuni varied his pace beautifully and the sniper found his target. Syed was bowled and Kuni was seen standing tall with his arms aloft. Sahil the new man in didn’t last long either. Playing across the line Sahil tried to pull Kuni and was caught by Tejas at mid-wicket. Both Kuni and Ritesh finished their first 4 over spells with economy under 1 and were replaced by Hitesh and Junior respectively. Our workhorse Junior and Hitesh Starc upped the pressure by few more Pascals. Hitesh was firing in full length in swingers while Junior was belching out cutters. Time and again I have seen Junior being unlucky but not today. He was riding on luck and good discipline and comfortably dismissed Sahil and John with assistance offered by Tejas and Ritesh in the field. Hitesh continued bowling the nagging full length deliveries and his express pace found Kaushal saving his boots but not his wicket
Abu the new main in for Sahil was playing few shots and sensing this I brought in Tushar and Dharmesh to replace Hitesh and Dharmesh. Tushar bowling his second off break delivery dazzled Abu clipping the bails. By this time it felt like a parade of batsmen having short stints in the middle. Asif joined Ankit but soon perished at 2 when he tried to pull Tushar’s flighted delivery into the safe hands of Tejas. I could see Junior itching to bowl and it was well worth as he sheared the skin of the remaining tail enders. One with a blinder taken in the slips by Dharmesh of a flying edge, the second with a throw from short fine leg and the last one caught behind by me. Junior finished with 4 wickets against his name but the skipper feels it was a fifer if we include the run out from the fine leg.
Priory Came, Priory Saw and Priory Conquered. Posting a total above 200, 5 catches taken in the field, bowling out the opposition under 50 runs and not letting a single batsman to register double digits. Can I ask more as a Captain? Just a repeat performance in our upcoming homecoming derby against Wealdstone Corinthians.
Man of the Match: I had no option but to award Man of the match to both Vijay Jani for his composed 61 in his first outing and to Mehul Patel (Junior) for his 4 wickets with an economy under 1.