By Chris England
An assured six wicket victory against Stratfield Turgis saw WSL.CC consolidate their position at the top of BCL Division 2. Despite a depleted team, Saints showed a strength in depth and a growing confidence to fulfil their potential.
The day did not start well when skipper Ravi Sainani announced that the eleventh player had misunderstood the date and the side were back to ten ( yes, and the poor old 2s had 8.5!). However, he won the toss which triggered the game plan to keep the opposition down to a gettable total.
With three spinners absent Waltham were relying on pace, and in his opening spell Matt Andrews did not disappoint, never letting the opposition settle with several pacey deliveries which had the batsmen well beaten. However, the Stratfield opening pair of Walton and Clarke dug in, with the later punishing the occasional lose ball. Sid Sainani was soon replaced by Zee Gujjar who also had the openers scratching for runs. However, no break-through materialised and although the visitors had only scored 35 from 15 overs, they had wickets in hand.
The breakthrough came when veteran Chris England came on and had Walton caught sharply by Gujjar in the slips. Still Stratfield struggled to accelerate and the pressure was beginning to mount. Most of the Stratfield middle order got a start but then were undone when trying to push their score on. A fortuitous caught and bowled from Ali and two wickets from Gujjar suddenly had had the opposition on the ropes with a modest total and wickets falling. Although a couple of difficult chances went down WSL continue to pull together well in the field and the missing player didn’t seem to be as significant as it might have been. Matt Andrews came back into the attack and finally got his rewards with two wickets. But the star of the show was waiting in the wings (still nursing a sore shin from his fielding) – Krishna Mathur ripped through any final resistance, mesmerising the Stratfield lower order with a variety of flight and pace, taking 4-17 from six overs. Stratfield closed their innings on 136, with only Clarke (57) showing any serious resistance.
The opposition total did not look daunting but when skipper Sainani returned to the pavilion bowled by Clarke without scoring, it looked like the Waltham batting wobbles were about to set in again. Ankush Gandhi was batting with his usual flamboyance at the other end and Chris Sharpe was looking to be settling into the anchor role, when he padded a straight one. This brought the returning Asif Ali to the wicket at 23-2. The pair then set about the Stratfield bowlers with great flair: Ankush hiiting a trendous straight six over the new boundary rope at the pavilion end. However, it was Ali, with his elegant shots all around the ground who caught the eye. Whilst Ankush was merciless, Ali was majestic! The pair put 86 runs to put Waltham in a commanding position. Ankush finally holed out caught right on the boundary. Ali saw the team home with an excellent 66 n.o. and a welcomed return to form.
On this showing, with players itching to get back into the side, Waltham St. Lawrence look to have genuine promotion potential but tougher challenges lie ahead……starting next Saturday with the top of the table clash with Shinfield.