Woodley away for the first game of the season has previously been a banana skin for WSLCC 1st XI but today a new look Waltham produced a professional performance to ease to a comfortable 4 wicket win. The players were greeted with a spongy, grassy pitch and stand in captain Chris England had no hesitation in asking Woodley to bat first.
This decision proved to be correct as Siva Kumar took the wickets of Dhallam and Lotke with his off spin, Sid Sainani taking both catches. At the other end, Gujjar was roaring in with the wind at his back and was unlucky to go wicketless in his spell. Kumar however added the dangerous Upendra to his haul with a vicious off break which turned prodigiously and left the batter floundered, wondering why he hadnt offered a shot.
Waltham were well on top and the introduction of Waghorn from the 3G end yielded further success with Ali taking a well judged catch in the deep and keeper Gandhi making a mess of Naragund’s stumps with the first of three emphatic stumpings for the match.
At 72 for 5 Woodley were on the ropes and WSL were looking for the knock out blow but in the shape of Kadloor, Woodley had a man who was willing to bide his time and accumulate scoring a not out of 61 invaluable runs for his team. Positively, Waltham kept picking up wickets at the other end. Ali got Afzal with a full toss, and Gujjar returned to bowl Harshavardhana Shastry with a delivery that flicked the bail. Next came a WSL first as Gujjar picked us his first career stumping with Gandhi waiting for Kulkrani to lift his foot before again destroying the stumps.
A tidy run out from Venkata and Kumar’s final wicket brought an end to proceedings with Woodley posting 170 all out from 42.1 overs. Waltham went to a sumptuous tea, including a hot chickpea curry and rice which gujjar took with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps (a fusion sensation) in good spirits.
The chase started in a very positive way racing to 30 from 4 overs courtesy of some brutal strokeplay from Gandhi who hit 29 from 12 balls. However, when Sharpe gave Upendra a return catch, Gandhi decided to give extra practice and once again Upendra had the answers. In came Venakta (Sree) and Ali to rebuild and a watchful Ali and some fortuitous early ventures from Sree helped WSL to 72 for 2 before Ali tried to smash Panchepakesan into the housing estate but only proceeded to hit the ball into the ether. When it finally came down the bowler settled underneath and took a smart catch.
Waltham were wobbling a little in spite of a positive run rate but in walked Sid (The middle order rock) Sainani to play the perfect innings in the context of the match. Venkata continued to make hay whilst Sainani accumulated but when the former got an under edge to the keeper, Waltham were 96 for 4.
Next man in was Zaheer Gujjar but was he the man to calm the nerves? A solid defensive shot commenced his innings and we all were confident that he was about to play a calm, sensible knock and take the stuffing out of the Woodley attack. This was the key partnership and Gujjar played beautifully, punishing the bad ball and playing an opulent on drive to bring up his 30. When was finally out, Waltham were on the brink and Sainani took the initiative and responsibility to bring the game home.
Waghorn was an able ally and both were busy as they closed the game out. Waghorn was finally out to leave Mathur to partner the impregnable Sainani at the end. This was an innings of great maturity finishing the game with a trademark off drive.
England and Connor who in the last visit to Woodford park had scored a collective 192 were thankfully not needed and toasted an excellent first victory of the season. Bigger challenges will be ahead but we look forward to the return of a number of players next week to further bolster an excellent group of players.