On a glorious day at the Pierre Werner Cricket Ground in Walferdange, the Optimists 1st XI played host to new opposition Liege CC, promoted at the end of last season, last Saturday.
Despite losing the toss, the Optimists got what they wanted and openers James Barker and Ben Embleton went out to open the innings. Against disciplined bowling, progress was slow but steady, with Ben departing first out (28) with the score on 41 after 11.3 overs.
Skipper Richard Neale was the next man in and immediately looked at ease, playing his trademark cuts and pulls and dispatching anything remotely loose to the boundary. James Barker departed a few overs later for a measured 14, which brought Vikram Vijh to the crease. Progress was steady, thanks in part to the huge boundaries and the opposition bowlers' continued tight lines. Nevertheless, the platform was being set and Vijh and Neale proceeded to add 140 in just over 20 overs, smashing the ball to all parts. Neale hit 13 fours in his marvelous 85 off 92 and Vijh 10 fours and 2 sixes in his 77 off 64, an innings of two halves that saw quick acceleration just when it was needed. Timothy Barker and Saransh Kulshrestha then continued the momentum, adding 29 in 17 balls to bring the Optimists’ score to a challening 260.
After the batsmen were able to catch their breath and the welcome mid-game curry was devoured, Richard Neale led the Optimists into the field, knowing that a disciplined bowling performance on a large ground would be needed to restrict the unknown quantity that was Liege CC’s batting line-up.
Atif Kamal set the tone immediately, with his first ball taking the batman’s gloves and racing through to Vikram at second slip, who was unable to grab the half-chance. At the other end, Yatin Bhamare made an immediate impact, removing two batsmen within his first over, one LBW and the other caught by Saransh at cover. Atif Kamal continued to bowl well but without the luck he deserved. Nevertheless, Yatin continued his good work by removing more of Liege’s top order.
Despite wickets falling regularly, the run rate was above the required rate and shots continued to be played. Chris Evans came on to bowl and tightened things up in the middle period, bowling economically and picking up one wicket. Saransh’s offspin and Vikram’s variations proved too tempting for the Liege lower order, with catches coming at regular intervals. The most notable of these came first ball after skipper Richard’s demand for quick wickets at the second drinks break, the batsman duly obliging by smashing a catch straight to Yatin at deep square leg.
In the end, the asking rate and weight of runs proved too much for Liege, with only one batsman providing any real sustained resistance. The pick of the bowlers had to be Yatin, who finished with 6 victims, including the first five of the innings. The final wicket fell in the 39th over with Liege on 203, resulting in a convincing win by 57 runs.
Liege CC return next week-end and the Optimists will be hoping that they can repeat the result as they continue the defence of their division 2 title.