On Sunday 6 May 2018, the Optimists Cricket Club hosted International Cricket Club Brussels (ICCB) on a beautiful sunny day at the Pierre Werner Cricket Ground in Walferdange; the BBQ was lit and the scene was set for a great day of cricket.
Optimists skipper, Richard Neale, won the toss and elected to bat. The outfield was fast and the conditions were set up nicely for Ben Embleton and Girish Venkatesh who opened the batting the Optimists. Unfortunately, Girish was out early on and Richard Neale joined Ben Embleton and both immediately started to dominate the bowling by punishing the bad balls and offering a solid defence to the good ones. At the first drinks break (after 15 overs), the score was 101-1 and a large total was starting to be built. Shortly after the drinks break, Neale wafted at one outside off and was caught at cover for 29 which brought in-form Vikram Vijh.
Vikram immediately took to the bowling and continued the scoring rate, with Ben Embleton at the other end playing some glorious shots to reach his 50. Embleton then started to increase the tempo with some elegant drives, powerful pull shots and devastating cuts. Vikram was looking solid until a loose shot from out of nowhere saw him delicately place the ball into the hands of point, and he was out for 27.
Joost Mees was to join Embleton and the score was 155-3 after 25 overs. Mees immediately looked in good touch with a classy cut shot and all was well in the Optimists camp. A short time later, Ben Embleton brought up his century to rapturous applause from the growing crowd. It was a great century, but Embleton was not finished there and was determined to carry on. For the next 15 overs, the Optimists, ICCB and the crowd were treated to a batting masterclass from Ben Embleton and Joost Mees. Bad balls were punished and hit for some spectacular boundaries and all the while both were scoring one and twos and running well between the wickets. The 300 came up in the 43rd over and just before Ben Embleton was raising his bat for the third time in the innings after reached 150. Joost Mees was also into bat-raising action when he brought up his 50.
To the relief of the hot and tired ICCB fields, the Optimists innings closed after 45 overs with score at 316-3. It included an excellent 54 not out from Joost Mees, but the standout performance was the superb 155 not out from Ben Embleton which is also his highest individual score. A great batting performance.
As ever, the job was only half done, but the Optimists were keen with a large score already amassed to go out and strive for victory.
The opening bowling partnership of Atif Kamal and Yatin Bhamare were both back in action and immediately made inroads to the ICCB batting line-up with an excellent catch at gully from Aanand Pandey to give Atif Kamal the first wicket. Yatin immediately then decided to get into the action and took two wickets with two balls to reduce ICCB to 29-3 off 8 overs. Mohit Dixit came into the attack but struggled to find his usual form to the right-handed batsman but was able to move the ball nicely past the outside edge of the left-hander on numerous occasions and was unlucky not to be rewarded with a wicket.
Vishy Deshpande then came on at the Fitzgerald Bridge End and was immediately into his stride. Bowling leg-spin is a difficult skill to master but Vishy was flighting the ball well and landing in the right areas consistently. He got some sharp turn and was rewarded with three wickets – one cleaned bowled, one LBW and one caught by a great diving catch from Yatin Bhamare at mid-on. It was great to watch Vishy in action and bamboozle the ICCB batsman who finished on 8 over 3-42.
Reinhardt Heyns was bowling at the other end was getting some nice away shape and constantly beating the bat. ICCB were 99-7 off 20 overs at this stage and never looked like chasing down the target. Reinhardt took a wicket which was well caught by Ben Embleton and Aanand Pandey came on to bowl to finish off the tail ending up with 2-15 dismissing ICCB for 151. Optimists won by 165 runs.
It was a very strong performance from Optimists and hopefully one that will be repeated throughout the season so the title can be lifted for the fourth year in a row. Congratulations again to Ben Embleton for a sterling batting performance.
The next game for the Optimists 1st XI is on Sunday 10 June against ICCB again. All information can be found on www.optimists.cc