For the second week in a row, the Optimists 1st XI cricket team played host to Liege CC in the Belgian Cricket Federation’s division 2; as the league begins to tighten at the top, bonus points are beginning to play a significant role and, with this knowledge, captain Richard Neale was hoping to bat first in order to post a big total to maximise the chance of gaining as many bonus points as possible.

Upon winning the toss, the Optimists naturally elected to bat first in the sun. Ben Embleton and Saransh Kulshrestha got the innings off to a steady start, negating the visiting team’s accurate bowling. Ben was unfortunately run out with the score on 37, bringing the skipper to the crease. Unfortunately Richard was unable to match his run scoring of last week, though this did not stop the score from progressing courtesy of Saransh’s strokeplay.

Vikram Vijh joined Saransh and immediately looked at ease, dispatching balls to the boundary when they needed to be. Together they put on 81, taking the score up to 145 before Saransh fell for a well-paced 63 off 79. Timothy Barker then joined Vikram at the crease and immediately signalled his intent by smashing his second ball over the midwicket boundary for 6.
Vikram departed a few overs later for a run-a-ball 50, an excellently paced knock. Joost Mees was the next man in and he immediately took a liking to the bowling, dispatching balls to the boundary at will. Timothy was the next man out pushing for runs, his cameo adding a quick 28 off 19 balls. This did not slow momentum however, with Joost continuing to dominate the bowlers, a huge 6 to the longest boundary of particular note in his fantastic innings of 68 off 49. Christopher Fry added another 20, meaning that in total the Optimists posted a challenging total of 297, a superbly-paced effort that would take some chasing.

Aware of the approach that the Liege CC batsmen would take, the Optimists knew that runs would flow, though, provided they took their chances, wickets would also come. And so it proved, 2 wickets falling in the first five overs, one each to Atif Kamal and Yatin Bhamare. Nevertheless, runs were coming even more quickly than expected as the ball managed to evade fielders and find the gaps. Atif and Yatin persisted and each was rewarded with another wicket before the first drinks break.

At 83-4 it appeared that the hard work had been done and a couple of Liege batsmen would have to knuckle down were they to stand any chance of threatening the total. Needless to say, this is what happened, with the opposition’s numbers 5 and 6 showing real application to keep the score ticking while not providing any chances. The Optimists bowlers toiled away during this partnership, desperately trying to find an opening without much luck. As the stand passed 100 it looked like the game was possibly slipping away with plenty of overs and wickets remaining. Eventually the stand of 132 was broken, courtesy of a Joost catch behind off Atif. This was to prove the pivotal moment.

Christopher then produced the match-turning over, taking 3 wickets, all caught in the field, to ruin any hopes of a successful chase. The final wicket fell with the score on 233, meaning a win by 64 runs for the Optimists and, importantly as well, 3 bonus points.

All in all, it was a good all-round display, the batsmen applying themselves excellently, the bowlers staying patient and fielders staying disciplined. 9 catches in total (3 for Joost behind the wickets) demonstrated great concentration in the field. This win further boosts the Optimists chances of defending their league title and sets things up nicely for the final few games.

Photo: Joost Mees