Date: Saturday 17th April 2021
Location: Oak Meadow, Waltham St Lawrence
Photo: Scoreboard at Second Innings Drinks Break (Siva Kumar)
Report By: Andy Malliff
If there is one positive from this last year of lockdown and restrictions it is that it has made getting outside, coming together with friends and playing the sport we all love so much, all that bit sweeter – and what a day we had for it. Glorious sunshine from start to finish in Waltham St Lawrence.
We had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Kiran Alluri and his newly formed club to the ground and the privilege of playing them in their inaugural game. For anyone who fears whether cricket is alive and well, Reading United are evidence that it is thriving, as members have come flooding in to be part of the new venture there. And what a great bunch of guys they are too, with the game being played in the best of spirits; jokes-a-plenty flying around between the two teams (most notably about whether Ali was bowled out missing the ball, or whether it kept low!)
What was also amazing to see (well, hear) was that when WSL took to the field in the second innings, the Reading United team, eagerly awaiting their chance to bat, were laughing and joking away on the boundary throughout, clearly having the best time in each others’ company and having already formed an amazing bond as a team. This is how cricket should be – 22 guys getting together, having fun and a laugh, and maybe play some cricket too.
The pitch perhaps belied the incredible mid-summer conditions and proved a tricky pitch to bat on, slower than you would expect, with plenty in it for the bowlers. Reading United won the toss, opted to field and give WSL a chance to see what they could do with the bat first. After a silence in respect of HRH Prince Phillip, play got under way.
And it got off to a tentative start for WSL, with stand-in Captain, Andy Malliff (4), falling within the first over, having been delivered five good deliveries, completely misfiring on the full-toss sixth, warming the hands of Sudhir Bijlwan at cover. Chris Sharpe (5) fell to a similar fate shortly after, getting early on a ball, driving low and hard to the Sudhir again at cover. Both hardly troubled the scorer and both wickets taken by Jegannathan Srinivasan (2-35), who bowled impressively throughout.
New arrival at the club, Usman Mohammed (9), was a steady opener, showing good technique and patience and he proved a good partner for Asif Ali (16) when he arrived at the crease. Things appeared to settle down for a WSL for a period as the two put the foundations of a decent partnership together, amounting to 20+ runs, working the ball around for 1s and 2s and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. But within the space of two overs, things had started to turn again, with Ali being bowled by a ball keeping low (this is the official verdict, Was! ha) and Usman falling to a similar fate just a few balls later, with a question mark over whether it was ball or bat that took the bails off. Both wickets taken by Pramuldeep Pai (2-26), who looked dangerous and would have had much better figures if it wasn’t for the new leg-side wide rule causing him some problems.
This brought a new partnership to the crease of Wasim Javid and Rehan Siddiqui. Both have shown great form with the bat last season, but have had little time batting together. However, this proved to be a really steady and fruitful period for WSL as the two put on an impressive partnership of 60 runs, starting steadily, moving the ball around before becoming increasingly attacking with a total of 7 fours and 3 sixes getting added to the book. Ashish Patidar (1-21) ultimately ended the partnership and there was a certain irony to this. Ashish had bowled superbly, first coming over the wicket, getting some decent off-spin from the pitch, so much so, that he changed his action to come around and was seeing pretty much every ball pitch in line and turn straight, causing problems for Rehan and Was facing it. Ashish came close on several occasions with a couple of appeals turned down as they were missing leg, another which caught an inside edge, another pitching just outside leg and one that was deemed to have clipped the pad before being caught behind, with the field convinced it had come off of the glove. It seemed to only be a matter of time before Ashish would get a return and it finally came, as he bowled Rehan (19) out with probably the worst ball he bowled all game – a full toss, missing everything, except critically, the stumps.
Ankush joined Was at the crease – not his usual fluid self, but with an eye for the ball like he has, was effective and quickly got the scoreboard moving again. Was finished off his 50 in style and retired not out. Ravi proved a great running partner for Ankush, keeping things moving, but didn’t have his best day as he finished on 3, having been bowled by Shankar Sudharshan, again to a ball that kept low. Sana Ullah (3 n.o.) and Ankush (37 n.o.) finished up the overs, bringing WSL to a total of 179-6 from their 40 overs.
After a short break, WSL took to the field, opening the bowling with Andy Malliff (1-14) with Abhi Joshi (0) facing for Reading United. Having not bowled last season due to injury, it wasn’t known whether there would be the control in his bowling that he has had in previous years, but reasonably consistent line and length was restricting scoring for Reading United from the first ball and got Andy his wicket on the 4th ball of the innings as the ball pitched on off-stump and straightened-up, seeing Abhi, who had looked a threat from the shared nets sessions, dismissed for a duck. Wasim (0-8) took second over, but looked uncomfortable from the off, injury curtailing his spell to just the single over.
With Sudhir Bijlwan (27) and Praveen Saba (10) at the crease, things settled down for a while and the scoreboard ticked over with Sudhir scoring 3 boundaries and keeping up with the required run rate. George Zadrozny (2-25) took over from Was and proved a threat from the off with consistent line and length, forcing Reading United to take risks to score runs. Two dropped catches later by Andy and George (from his own bowling), another 4-5 shots through the air falling just shy of fielders, left WSL wondering if it was going to be one of those days as Sudhir and Praveen appeared to settle in.
But then the breakthrough came, with Praveen taking one risk too many, coming down the pitch in an attempt to dispatch George through mid-on, missing the ball and leaving Ankush to clean up with his first stumping of the season. Another wicket fell shortly after for Sushant Jain (4) with Ravi taking an excellent catch in the covers off of George’s bowling and with Siva (3-8) coming on at the other end, was able to get his first wicket of the season, catching Sudhir out with an arm ball that hit off stump.
This left the highly impressive Vishnu Datla (30 n.o.) at the crease – Reading United’s 13-year-old keeper/batsmen, with captain Kiran Alluri (1) alongside him. Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the immense talent of Vishnu – so much skill already and making such an impressive contribution to the side. Vishnu clearly has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. And despite the fact that WSL were able to get fairly regular breakthroughs, Vishnu held his calm throughout and frustrated bowler after bowler.
Siva picket up his second of the game, bowling Alluri out for 1. Shortly followed by Shankar Sudharshan (0) who smashed the ball low and hard back over Siva’s head, with Andy managing to make amends for his earlier drop by somehow managing to pluck it out of the air from mid-off, despite overrunning it. Sumanth Hathwar (1) came to the crease and quickly returned to the pavilion as he and Vishnu tried to scramble a quick single, not quite beating Andy’s arm and was run out.
Sana Ullah (0-9) and Usman Mohammed (1-24) came onto bowl. Sana bowled with great control, restricting the scoring and was very unlucky that his pace and consistency didn’t yield a wicket, but what it did was put Reading United under immense pressure as they slowly slipped further away from the required run rate. Usman took the pace off the ball superbly and Reading United started to take risks again, having to work hard to generate enough power to score runs and in the end, Ashish Patidhar (11) top-edged a shot which sent the ball sailing high into the air with Andy scrambling to take the catch whilst sliding.
With the game in it’s final throws, WSL turned to Asif Ali (0-16), Chris Sharpe (1-4) and Ravi Sainani (1-11) to provide the final breakthroughs needed. Ali got into a rhythm and bowled well with threatening pace, it challenge the young Vishnu, but despite a couple of moments, he came out unscathed. Next to fall was Pamuldeep Pai (4), bowled by Chris Sharpe and an over later, the game was over in the 33rd as Jegannathan Srinivasan (0) hit the ball straight down Andy’s throat.
There wasn’t much to pick between to the two sides, man-to-man, with plenty of talent on display and Reading United should take a lot of promise away from this with some solid individual batting and bowling displays. WSL really rallied as a team, played with great team spirit, were sensational in the field and critically, didn’t try and rush the scoring when batting and in the end, this showed as they won by 55 runs.
The sides meet again in a mid-week T20 friendly on Wednesday 28th April 2021.