By Chris England
With nine wickets down and fifteen overs remaining, another WSLCC victory seemed a formality. However, such are the vagaries of cricket that Embrook’s final pair survived everything the home side bowled at them and hung on for the draw.
Despite having conceded over three hundred runs the previous week, Embrook won the toss and elected to field. A similar fate lay in wait. On a docile pitch, combined with some loose bowling, WSL openers Andrew Hartland and Ankush Ghandi made a brisk start until the former was undone by a straight full- toss, hitting it straight back to the bowler. Sid Sainani got quickly into his stride, and he and Ankush were now racing along at six or more an over. Both looked comfortable when Sid pushed at a wide delivery and was caught at cover point for twenty. The in- form Zaheer Gujjar came to join Ankush and dropped into an uncustomary anchor role as Ankush unleased a volley of cover and straight drives to ease to his 50. The pair put on over 80 when Zee was trapped LBW for 18.
This proved to be the prelude to an even greater partnership of 120 between the now cruising Ankush and Asif Ali. The pair blasted fours to all parts of the ground and it wasn’t long before Ankush added another hundred to his collection with a straight six into the pavilion! At the other end, Ali was looking equally impressive and soon clocked up another stylish fifty. However, looking to accelerate even further, he holed out at deep mid-off for 52. The pair had brought WSL to an awesome 274-4 off just 34 overs. Chris Waghorn, itching to bring his attacking game into play, was caught out in a similar fashion for just one. Hari Guliani joined Ankush who had soared past 150 and was looking set for a possible double hundred when he too was caught in the deep for a massive 182, the highest individual score by a WSLCC player in the club’s history.
Hari had clearly been inspired by what he had seen at the other end and before the close, hit a six on to the road. Having reaching the heady heights of 329 for 6, skipper Ravi Sainani decided to declare and gain four overs.
Taking the field, he opted to open the bowling with two spinners, Chris Waghorn and Kenny Simpson in an attempt to prize out the openers. It wasn’t long before this tactic worked, with Embrook opener Robertson bowled for 4 by Waghorn. This brought Embrook skipper, Alex Cobb to the crease and soon he and Virosa were punishing any loose balls. With so many runs to play with, it was wickets that mattered but the home side had to wait until the pair had added 50 more runs in quick time when Kenny Simpson picked up the other opener thanks to a splendid catch on the run by Andrew Hartland. With the introduction of Zee Gujjar with the new ball, the tide started to turn in Waltham’s favour. He quickly disposed of batsmen four and five, leaving the visitors wobbling on 63 for 4. Sadly, Zee had to retire again with a back injury which left the already weakened home bowling attack with even fewer options.
Not to be deterred, skipper Ravi, turned to brother Sid and Chris England to squeeze something out of the benign track. Both obliged by taking two wickets each and Embrook, looked to be heading for a heavy defeat at 83 for 7. However, signs of stubborn resistance grew as Ollie Vickers joined his skipper Cobb, who had by now achieved his 50. The pair added 60 runs but more importantly used up vital overs. But when Vickers went, Patwardman proved an even tougher nut to crack, looking anything but a number 10 batsman! In an attempt to squeeze out the final two wickets, Ravi tried almost every player on the pitch to bowl. It seemed success was in his grasp when Hari Gulani finally dismissed the dogged Cobb for 80 with 15 overs still remaining. But enter another wily Embrook tail-ender, Steve Kingston, to join Patwardman. Embrook’s last stand was about to begin. The pair comfortably ate up the overs despite WSL’s best efforts to buy the last wicket. Bowlers were rotated rapidly but to no avail. It wasn’t to be Waltham’s day as the pair saw the visitors home after surviving fifteen overs!
A sense of frustration and bewilderment reigned, and although still undefeated, WSLCC had only a winning draw for all of Ankush’s amazing batting exploits.