2012-13 HKCA Saturday Championship Division
2012-13 HKCA Saturday Cup
- Saracens v. Crusaders @ KCC, 8th September 2012
- Saracens v. HKCC Nomads @ HKCC, 6th October 2012
- Saracens v. Centaurs CC @ HKU, 13th October 2012
- Saracens v. HKU @ HKU, 20th October 2012
- Saracens v. LSW Sarjan @ KCC, 17th November 2012
- Saracens v. Tartars @ KCC, 24th November 2012
- Saracens v. CCC @ HKU, 2nd February 2013
- Saracens v. Pakistan Association AMSUA @ Mission Road, 16th February 2013
- Saracens v. Kai Tak CC @ PKVR, 2nd March 2013 (12:15PM start)
- Saracens v. Taipan CC @ Mission Road, 9th March 2013
- Starts 16th March 2013
The 2011-12 season was transitional, yet turbulent for the Mighty Saracens. The departure of former captain, fearless legend Tim Parkinson, was definitely a blow to the side, but one that did not affect the inimitable team spirit and pride he had instilled. The honourable role of leading the tiger-like Saracens unit was entrusted to myself, Kunal Parwani, with homegrown all-rounder Nigel Shroff appointed vice-captain.
We began the season at HKU, where we were privileged to have witnessed one of the finest knocks by Peter Wooden, spanking a flawless 180. The season was punctuated with brilliant performances – the other notable individual performances being a magnificent 134* by Wooden and Waqar Dawood’s mesmerizing spell of 6 for 19. Most of the brilliance, though, was on a team level – the standout performance was the demolition of top-of-the-table (at the time) Kai Tak, bowling them out for a mere 51.
However, the lack of consistency in performing to our potential plagued the team occasionally, proving somewhat costly as the Saracens finished sixth in the league. Despite being an improvement from last season (8th), it was not a fair reflection of the talent that was on display.
There are plenty of positives to carry into next season. In the bowling department, the lethal outswing of Gurjant Singh spearheading the attack (16 scalps in only seven games) coupled with the emergence of Waqas Barkat as a strike leg-spinner were solid contributions. The batsmen showed flashes of elegance and will be looking to convert the 30s and 40s into big scores next season. Our wicketkeeper, Ritesh Jhaveri, got better with every game, pulling off blinder after blinder (fracturing his ribs in the process).
Another major plus was the development of young blood – the likes of Hersh Khatri, Karan Shah and Apurv Sharma were given as much game time as possible and showed their true colours.
I would like to thank Tim Parkinson for his faith in me to take the reins as Saracens skipper. My appreciation also goes to the former Head Coach Peter Wooden and the senior players, including Mathew Collins and Ravi Sujanani, for their unfailing support and mentorship on and off the field. Also supporting from the sidelines whenever possible were our (Division 2) arch-rivals, the Crusaders, which definitely spurred us on. Last but not least, I would like to thank every single one of my teammates, particularly vice-captain Nigel Shroff, for backing me even when the going got tough.
It has been an absolute pleasure leading the side for the second half of the season – I have relished every minute of it. After reflecting on the year, we have set our sights on the Saturday league finals next season – stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen!
Submitted by Kunal Parwani & Tim Parkinson
This was the most destructive, disciplined, and utterly comprehensive performance the Saracen captain has had the privilege to be part of in his time at KCC. That is not glib overstatement, but an honest description of what took place out on the magnificent KCC ground this Saturday. Those fortunate enough to see the scoreboard in the next few days – and injured Saracen legend Matt Collins has a photograph for those who missed it – will shake their heads and ask if there is some mistake. Tartars: 68 all out. Saracens: 70 for 2. Saracens thereby retain the Vachha Shield for the top KCC Saturday side (having beaten Crusaders already this season).
The day did not begin that auspiciously. 2010-11 Saracen player of the year Peter Wooden pulled out with fever just before kick-off, and super vice Kunal “KP” Parwani, stepped in despite being only 80% fit with a foot injury. Tartars then won the toss and decided to bat.
The seventeen overs until drinks were completely extraordinary. KP and Nigel Shroff would bowl their full allotment of 8 overs each, and Azeem Ebrahim came on for the last one with his devilish twirl. I hope readers will understand if I put down the stats for these players. KP: 8 overs, 4 maidens, 14 runs, 2 wickets. Shroff: 8 – 2 – 28 – 2. Ebrahim: 0.4 (drinks taken at the fall of a wicket) – 0 – 4 – 1. The stats do not tell the full story, but give an indication of the colossal pressure exerted, similar to that at full ocean depth. As Lyle Tate, marine biologist in the brilliant film Submarine puts it, “Any human who found themselves at that level, well, they would die immediately; they would implode, they wouldn’t stand a chance.” Exactly.
KP and Shroff bowled dot ball after dot ball and the pressure of having nothing at all to hit caused predictable results. KP sent back opener Usman Manj from his sixth delivery of the match (KP has the rather fantastic habit of lethal opening overs), aided by a superb diving catch from Waqaz Barkat at second slip. Shroff and KP then asphyxiated Ravi Lulla and Babar Hyat; after four overs Tartars had scored 1 run (and that was a wide, one of only seven extras given away in the entire innings).
The run-rate then accelerated as Ravi took two Greek-debt-risk-level singles, surviving only because the throws narrowly missed the stumps. Hyat then attempted to smack Shroff around, but you can’t do that to quality pace bowling, and he found Tim Parkinson at mid-off. Tartars were now two down for three runs in six overs. Kinchit Shah came in and slogged a couple of sixes – the run rate rising to nose-bleed levels (two per over) – before KP cleaned up Lulla with a sharp C&B in the ninth over. At the fall of the wicket Tartars were 16 for 3.
Afzaal Haider came in and he and Kinchit set about repairing some of the damage, raising the score to 46 as drinks approached. But Afzaal could not resist another Shroff leg-cutter, and edged a tough chance to Vikash, who snaffled an excellent catch at second slip. Saracens rightly gave standing ovations for the superb opening spells of KP and Shroff, and the captain turned to “Extreme” Azeem Ebrahim for the last over before drinks. Kinchit, perhaps relaxing his guard (but more likely simply mesmerized by the hypnotic twirl of Extreme) slapped his fourth ball back to the bowler: C&B, gone!
At drinks the captain was naturally ebullient and delighted, but urged continuing vigilance and pressure: we had got ourselves into a superb position but Tartars are dangerous opponents and yet had the potential to wreak havoc, especially with a cavalier batsman like Devang Shah replacing Kinchit.
Robbie Bacon came on for his Saracens debut, and continued where Nigel had left off, with a great dot-to-dot maiden. Devang Shah looked like he might indeed cause some pain, smacking Azeem for 10 in two balls, but then the earl of twirl looped one of his mystery balls enticingly into the off-stump area (the captain, from mid-on, could hear various fizzing and crackling noises as it arced through the air) and Devang hoisted it high in the region of Zubair Nizami. You simply don’t give steepler-specialist Nizami these kinds of chances: he is AAA-rated under the high ball, and he back-pedalled away in delight after taking the catch. Tartars were now 56 for 6 in the 19th over.
Make that 67 for 7 in the next over, as Bacon thudded a leg-stump yorker past the next Tartar’s bat for his first Saracen wicket. Parkinson then came on in place of Azeem, and took two in two balls – in-ducker through the gate and then a sharp nick to flawless keeper Ritesh Jhaveri – to leave Tartars on the brink at 68 for 9. Keen cricket watchers know that the tenth wicket can sometimes be problematic; Australia, for instance, last week made 55% of their runs from the last wicket stand (admittedly going from 21 for 9 to 47 all out) so the captain was a bit hectoring in urging continued effort. Bacon did not disappoint, instantly inducing a chip from Shamal Perrera to mid-off where the captain himself scooped it just above the turf.
Tartars were 68 all out in 21.1 overs. I urge the rereading of that sentence. This was the best fielding performance of which the captain has ever been a part. It was simply unrelenting pressure, and all the time backed up by crisp fielding, fine catching, selfless backing-up. It was not perfect – three catches did go down and we did bowl three wides – but it was pretty close to it. Nevertheless, Saracens have had an ugly habit of making a hash of run chases, and just a week earlier we had been skittled for 67 ourselves against Kai Tak; the captain, while delighted at the fielding performace, urged resolution and responsibility from the batters to get us to victory.
Vikash and Nigel opened the innings, and it was evident the mood and talent that they took out to the middle. Haider and Mustapha came steaming in at them, but balls onto the pads were swatted imperiously to the boundary, and after two overs the Saracen run rate was close to 15. The intensity of the pressure revealed itself in the Tartars extras count: they would bowl 17 in the 8.2 overs it took Nigel (22 not out), Vikash (20), Waqaz (10) and Robbie (1 n.o.) to get the runs.
This was a delirious, delicious, and even quasi-linear performance. Saracens are sometimes accused of being a one-man team; but as the captain pointed out, we are an eleven-man team, and teamwork – one of the modern world’s most easily abused corporate clichés – exists precisely in what we did today. It was demonstrated, for example, in the selfless fielding of Nick Brennan and Simandeep Singh, who didn’t get to showcase their batting and bowling skills but were always where they needed to be, backing up throws which were never misfielded, tirelessly presenting the Tartars with a wall of white which proved impossible to scale or penetrate, except at extreme risk.
The captain took proud possession of the Vachha Shield for 2011-12, and dedicates it to Saracens past, present, and future. He also appreciates very much that he was able to accept the shield, named in honour of her husband Jungu Vachha, from Mrs Mani Vachha in the presence of her sons Shiroy, Shiraz, and Yarman – Saracens all.
Saracens were: Vikash Vaswani, Nigel Shroff, Waqaz Barkat, Robbie Bacon, Simandeep Singh, Ritesh Jhaveri (wk), Nick Brennan, Tim Parkinson (c), Zubair Nizami, Azeem Ebrahim, Kunal Parwani
By Tim Parkinson
Let me begin by quoting part of last season’s match report: “Crusaders were all out for 92 in 31 overs – this was the best Saracen performance in the field the captain has ever been associated with.” Well, yesterday on the pristine pre-Sixes KCC grass, Crusaders were all out for 91 and the Saracens captain found it difficult to fully express his delight, pride, and satisfaction.
This year Crusaders won the toss again, but decided to bowl, inserting Saracens onto what was believed to be a green seaming wicket. Aditya Kanthan and Damian “K-dog” Kelleher opened the bowling, and sound found themselves being pummeled by Saracens Shroff and Barkat. This season we have opened strongly in every game, and once again Nigel and Waqaz got us off to a flyer. Nevertheless, they did give a couple of chances, which were badly missed. This would be relevant at all times, but it had extra resonance when Saracens came to bowl…
The opening stand was 66, and put us in a great position. Waqaz departed C&B for 37, and after Matt Collins was unable to reproduce last year’s bludgeoning innings, a hamstrung Peter Wooden limped out at number four. Playing well within himself, Peter nudged the ball around while Nigel continued his swashbuckling assault on the Crusaders bowling. There was one particularly imperious swat of an Aditya delivery – a crunch over mid-on – that had the spectators purring. He was finally run out for a superb 65, as he and Peter looked to push the run-rate up in the final third of the innings.
Saracens then lost a couple of quick wickets before Tim Parkinson came in; he and Peter gorged themselves on a labouring attack. Peter was out just before stumps for a crucial 48, Tim finished not out on 36, and Saracens registered a healthy 208-6 in their 35 overs.
As we went out to field we had our usual quick chat about how we play cricket. Critical to our success this year and last has been, I firmly believe, a team spirit which shows itself in genuine support when things go badly. It is easy to be happy and chirping when bowling sides out cheaply; a team truly shows its mettle, however, when things are non-linear, on the downswing, when a couple of fours have whistled through the ring and a partnership is starting to form.
Teamwork also comes through pressure, regardless of who gets the actual wickets. Kunal Parwani exemplifies this ethic. Last year he took a wicket with his first ball; this year, he bowled 6 overs for 13 runs. A team needing to score at six an over facing that sort of metronomic accuracy is going to have a hard time; at the other end Nigel Shroff was bowling quick away cutters and both Crusader openers, succumbing to this dual pressure, tried to attack him. First, there was a regulation chance to steepler-specialist Zubair Nizami; running in, he misjudged it a touch and spilled it. Two overs later, the same pressure caught out K-dog, and he chipped over Nigel’s head, where the captain dropped a straightforward chance. This was utterly galling for the two fielders, and for the rest of the team (notably Nigel, of course, who should have had both openers out). Instead of quiet despondency, however, Saracens responded by simply continuing to play tough cricket – the balls were bowled in the same place, the chirp on the field continued, and the next chance – a much tougher one to Ming Li – was snaffled brilliantly and Nigel had his deserved wicket. Next ball he pinned the other opener, and then KP destroyed Crusader number three’s stumps with the first ball of his next over. Three balls, three wickets. Superb, resilient, tough Saracens cricket.
Crusaders never recovered from this start, and were always behind the required run-rate. Saracens, however, never allowed them a moment’s respite, and just kept the metaphorical foot on the neck. Ming Li came on to bowl his leg-spin, and absolutely bamboozled the Crusader middle order. He picked up three wickets as the opposition looked to smash their way out of trouble – you simply can’t do that to top quality spin bowling (as the world has found out about Graeme Swann). The captain came on after Nigel’s magnificent 3-35 spell and, despite getting dumped for six during the Crusader captain’s cameo, picked up three late wickets. One of those was a sharp snick to keeper Ritesh Jhaveri, who continued his faultless season behind the stumps.
It’s easy to write, “this was a team performance” after any game. But this is no cliché. Regardless of runs scored or wickets taken, each player was a full part of this performance. The captain was particularly struck by the fielding attitude during Ming Li’s spell: any attempts to break out of Ming’s pressure were back foot shots through the off-side. But Matt Collins at point, Saumil Shah at cover, and Peter Wooden at extra cover simply blanketed the whole area. When the throws came in, the leg side field of Shiroy Vachha and Zubair Nizami were backing up, doing further inglorious but totally necessary work for the team.
This match was one of the three needed to decide the destiny of this year’s Vachha Shield. Saracens currently hold the trophy, and will be looking to retain it in the decisive match v Tartars later in the season. For today, however, we should luxuriate in the warm afterglow of a magnificent performance, one of which the captain was utterly proud to be a part. We are the Saracens.
Saracens were: Waqaz Barkat, Nigel Shroff, Matt Collins, Peter Wooden, Ritesh Jhaveri (wk), Saumil Shah, Tim Parkinson (c), Zubair Nizami, Kunal Parwani, Ming Li, Shiroy Vachha
by Tim Parkinson
Saracens began the new season down at Sandy Bay with a potentially tricky match against HKU. Some new faces climbed onto the bus, but there was plenty of the old-school grit that characterizes this Saracens outfit.
Saracens won the toss and decided to bat on the astroturf wicket. Opening up with legend Peter Wooden was Saracen debutant Waqaz Barkat, and it was Waqaz who hit the first six of the season, dumping a long-hop way down onto the HKU basketball court. He and Wooden were just starting to dominate the HKU attack when Waqaz crunched a full toss to mid-wicket, and fell to a sharp catch. Shroff went out to join Wooden, and the two colossi put on a solid stand: Wooden merciless on anything short, full, wide; Shroff classily rotating the strike before dumping his own six just shy of the spectators at long-on.
After Nigel was also caught at mid-wicket, there were short stays for Saumil Shah – another quality off-season signing – and Louis Chan, before Ritesh Jhaveri made a memorable batting debut. He scored briskly, and he and Peter put Saracens in a great position with a few overs to go. Wooden at this time was unplayable, scoring 34 off one over, and flogging balls to all parts of the western area of Hong Kong island. HKU even had to beg some balls off Wooden himself, as they simply couldn’t cope with the rate at which they were disappearing into the jungle, over the tennis courts, and through the stratosphere. Nizami, Parkinson, and Vachha enjoyed brief cameos, before Wooden was out for an immense 180. Ming Li, on debut, and Kunal Parwani ensured that we completed our 35 overs, registering 257 for 9.
It is perhaps a bit tough to be critical of a bowling attack that has to face Wooden, but HKU appeared deflated throughout our innings, and this was one shortcoming that Saracens were not ever going to have. From the first over, majestically bowled by KP, to the last one, Saracens were committed, mutually supportive, and relentless. KP and Shroff opened the attack, and HKU simply had no balls to hit: the line and length were as discussed in the pre-innings huddle, and HKU’s attempts to hit out of trouble led to edges and skiers. Ritesh took his maiden catch for Saracens via a sharp KP-delivered inside-edge chance, and he enjoyed a very solid debut behind the stumps; retired keeper and Saracens überlegend Robin Gill, watching from the boundary, would have approved.
The middle overs were impressively bowled by Wooden and Ming Li, spin twins who bamboozled HKU. One monster skier off Wooden in fact went to his partner in twirl, Ming making the tough chance look easy. Saumil Shah came on to lend his medium-pace to proceedings – there was a Paul Collingwoodian reliability to his bowling – and the asphyxiation of the HKU chase continued. Nigel Shroff came back on to make short work of three batters, narrowly missing out on a hat-trick, and when HKU’s 35 overs finally expired, they had made 162 for 8. The captain was particularly impressed to see committed athletic fielding from all the team (especially Louis Chan and Ming Li) right up to close of play, as well as Grit to battle through injuries such as a minor gluteal strain for Wooden and probably a broken finger for the captain (after he put his hand in the way of an AK-47 bullet of a shot off his own bowling – it was cruelly suggested that this was actually a dropped C&B chance, but the author thinks it more useful to think of this as a certain four saved…).
This was a clinical performance from Saracens, in all departments of the game. Our bowling and fielding were particularly impressive, underlining good net practice in the previous few weeks. Of course, Peter Wooden scoring 73% of the Saracen runs must make the team conscious of its responsibility not to over-rely on him, but today’s batters all did a great job in partnerships with Peter, so if required they could certainly have paced their own innings differently. This was a fine start to the season.
Saracens were: Peter Wooden, Waqaz Barkat, Nigel Shroff, Saumil Shah, Louis Chan, Ritesh Jhaveri, Zubair Nizami, Tim Parkinson (c), Kunal Parwani, Shiroy Vachha, Ming Li
By Tim Parkinson
This was a season of transition for the team. Legendary captain Matthew Collins departed and I tried to control the beast that is Saracens. The reins were sometimes tough to hold – Saracens are a spirited animal – and it was at times a wild ride, but one I would not have missed.
We began our season at Mission Road, confronted by locked gates. The HKCA’s policy of not opening Mission Road until shortly before the scheduled start can be somewhat frustrating, but we didn’t let it put us off, and we began with a victory – by defending a small total against a valiant Mainlanders outfit. This was a typical result in some senses – we bowled and fielded grittily all season – but atypical in that Peter Wooden barely scored.
Early in the season I wrote about the balance between the individual and the team in cricket, a game in which so many key confrontations are individual, yet the team ethic so important. I love cricket, and I hate clichés, so I want genuinely to understand where this balance lies.
Saracens finished 8th in the Saturday league this season – thus making the play-offs, and we also won the Jungu Vachha Shield by beating the other two KCC Saturday sides. It would be naïve to believe we could have had this same success without Peter Wooden, who led Hong Kong’s batting statistics both in terms of runs scored – over one thousand – and in terms of average – 108. He was also our leading wicket-taker with the ball. It is invidious in a team game to talk too much about individuals – and I have never met anyone who carries his enormous talent quite as lightly and humbly as Peter Wooden – but it is necessary to salute the colossal contribution he has made to this team in terms of results, but perhaps even more importantly in terms of helping our key young players to develop.
That youth talent has been another major positive this season. Vice-captain Kunal Parwani, his opening fast-bowling partner Aditya Kanthan, elegant bat Vikash Vaswani, mercurial Waqar Dawood, and absolute rock Roshan Dadlani have all developed strongly, and have contributed enormously to the great camaraderie and energy in the Saracens.
Alongside that youth has been the wisdom and expertise borne of experience. Ravi Sujanani has had an immense season with both bat and ball – second in the team statistics behind only Peter Wooden – as has evergreen Robin Gill behind the stumps. Shiroy Vachha has enjoyed playing as the Senior Pro, and has shown his class in taking a couple of sensational catches and also demonstrating the straightest Saracen bat in our ultimate play-off loss to Nomads.
I want also to thank particularly Matt Collins, Zubair Nizami, Chris McAnulty, Azeem Ebrahim, and Louis Chan for their unfailing support and advice, especially when I might have captained less than wisely or could have shown greater insight.
It was a fine season for Saracens, a privilege to captain the side, and I look forward to even greater success in 2011-12.
By Tim Parkinson
This game had eerie undertones of our match against LSW St George’s: Saracens lost the toss on a gorgeous Saturday morning at KCC; the opponents chose to bat; they left us to chase just over 170 runs. But this time the outcome was different.
Millennium are a fine side, vying with Saracens for the last play-off berth, and they came to the crease with confidence. However, they had to face Saracens’ premier quicks - Kunal Parwani and Aditya Kanthan – and soon they found themselves struggling as ball after ball zipped and lifted past their outside edge, each one expertly pouched by stand-in superkeeper Roshan Dadlani (something of the Alec Stewart in his bearing). However, it was not a catch or a bowled that had the first batter back in the hutch, but a lethal pick-up and throw from Louis Chan at mid-on. Superb stuff, reminiscent of Derek Randall in his prime.
We kept the asphyxiation pressure on, and edges and wickets came for Adi and Kunal (one of which was a spellbinding Matt Collins leap and one-handed grab), as well as a first Saracen wicket for debutant Simandeep Singh. Just the second ball of his Saracens career, and the Millennium bat was unable to cope with his pace and verve.
Ravi Sujanani came on at the KCC end of the ground, and gave an exhibition in resilience and skill under pressure. After a couple of uncharacteristically loose balls in his first over, he knocked over two Millennia in successive balls, and Saracens crowded round the bat as we pressed for a Ravi hat-trick. In vain, unfortunately, but Ravi did pick up his third wicket a little later; he, Peter Wooden, and Waqar Dawood kept it tight so that Millennium could post a total of only 174 all out.
We failed to chase such a total a week ago, of course, but this time there were to be no mistakes. Superbat Peter Wooden, his blade firm and linear for those trademark straight drives, was at the crease throughout the innings, and Ravi Sujanani underlined his return to form by compiling a classy knock. Simandeep and Waqar added some quick runs, and we completed the run chase with three overs to spare.
Saracens have two matches to go, on April 2 and 5, and a play-off spot is well within reach. We saw a tremendous team effort out on the KCC paddock on Saturday – lots of supportive encouragement, great fielding (without too many complaints even from Senior Pro Shiroy Vachha, asked to shuttle around from third man to midwicket), tight bowling, and disciplined batting – and we stand well ready for these final challenges.
Saracens were: Peter Wooden, Matt Collins, Ravi Sujanani, Simandeep Singh, Waqar Dawood, Tim Parkinson (c), Roshan Dadlani, Louis Chan, Aditya Kanthan, Kunal Parwani, Shiroy Vachha.
Another Saturday, and another toss lost by the Saracens captain. This time it was to the young LSW St George’s side, and they unsurprisingly chose to bat first on a fabulous looking KCC wicket. There was a green tinge to the surface, however, and Saracens looked to make an early breakthrough. Aditya Kanthan came screaming in from the KGBC end, and beat the bat on numerous occasions, looking dangerous every ball.
St George’s never were able to accelerate and put on big runs, yet they never got completely bogged down either, scoring at around 4-5 runs an over for most of their innings. Spin twins Sujanani and Wooden restricted them in the middle overs, and Chris McAnulty (cruelly underused, according to him) came on for an explosive three-over three-wicket burst late in the day. St George’s posted 171 all out in 33 overs.
This was an eminently gettable target, and all the more so after Peter Wooden and Matt Collins put on a classy partnership to leave us more than half-way there at drinks, for the loss of just one wicket. The run chase should have been simple - requiring sensible accumulative batting - given that magnificent platform and so it is with regret that I have to report we fell short on this occasion. Although the bowling was tight, there were opportunities aplenty to nudge and nurdle, and suicidal run-outs like the captain’s did not help. As the required run rate climbed, so the shot-making and decision-making became more ragged, and eventually we were all out for 135 in 33 overs. Credit must go to young debutant Hugh Longbottom, batting at eleven, who bravely defended his wicket from the St George’s onslaught.
This was a disappointing loss, but one from which we will bounce back. The Saracens season has been non-linear: great victories (over Tartars, Crusaders for example) have been followed by slumps like this one. The quality of a man is shown when facing disappointment, however, so we will regroup and come back firing for our last three games as we look to qualify for the play-offs.
A few days before this game, Saracens old and new gathered at Sha Tin racecourse for a fantastic afternoon of racing, reminiscing, and relaxation. Shiroy Vachha (who brilliantly coordinated the event) and Superkeeper Robin Gill provided the living link between the old and new Saracens outfits, and here’s hoping that the Saracens flame will continue to burn brightly long into the future.
Saracens were: Peter Wooden, Ravi Sujanani, Matt Collins, Zubair Nizami, Tim Parkinson, Roshan Dadlani, Rob Gill, Aditya Kanthan, Chris McAnulty, Shiroy Vachha, Hugh Longbottom.
“We know it’s not going to be linear,” said the captain, urging on the Saracens as we huddled in the aftermath of a Tartar wicket during their valiant but ultimately unsuccessful run chase. As will be obvious to all the intellectuals who read this column, the captain was succinctly explaining his view that Saracens could not hope to take wickets at precisely regular intervals, or with Tartars gaining runs at a steady rate… Nevertheless, there was a degree of in-house sledging during our magnificent work in the field, with the captain copping a fair bit of stick for his use of the adjective “linear”.
What a victory. Tartars were the KCC form side, but they came up against a Saracens unit absolutely committed to a massive team mission after the heartbreaking penultimate-ball loss to Kai Tak. There were debriefs in the dark again last Saturday, yet this time the discussions in the Saracens circle were upbeat, filled with laughter and the pride of a tough job well done.
Saracens won the toss and batted. Deprived of some key individuals during the week, we nevertheless had 11 players good and true as Saracens legend Matt Collins and Vikash Vaswani faced the Tartars opening bowlers. Vikash looked in good touch but then got a Narang in-ducker and was bowled early on. Out strode Wooden at 3. Peter and Matt made a key platform for the entire innings by the rate at which they scored; by the time Matt Collins was out just shy of his fifty, they had scored at roughly 8 an over and we had more than 140 on the board. Zubi Nizami then unfurled a range of classy shots all round the wicket, elegance personified, keeping the run rate in the same zone.
His departure led to short stays at the crease for Parkinson and Chan, but then we saw the batting adventures of Waqar Dawood: the WaqAttack. One towering straight six was followed by a reverse sweep for another maximum, and Saracens were hurtling towards a very solid score. Once again, the mainstay was Peter Wooden, whose 117 was a study in pure class. Late contributions from Kunal Parwani, Robin Gill, and a last couple of balls from Nick Chelleri left Saracens handily placed at 266 for 9 after our 35 overs.
A team needing to score at 8 an over really wants the kind of start that Saracens got; Kunal Parwani and Nick Chelleri never game them that kind of opportunity. A really excellent tight opening spell put Tartars on the back foot, the pressure resulting in skied slogs and suicidal singles. The first wicket went to Kunal as a fierce clip through midwicket was snaffled by the ever-excellent Louis Chan.
Saracens kept the pressure on all through the Tartars response; our volume never waned in the field, our commitment never flagged. These were big pluses after our last two losses, and we played much more as a side, a true team, than we had done recently. Waqar bowled with great control, as did Peter Wooden, and gradually – although not linearly – we broke the back of the opposition. We still gave away too many wides – the captain holds his hand up as culpable here also – but we never let Tartars build key partnerships. We played great cricket from the first ball until Nick Chelleri’s yorker took the final Tartar wicket, and it was a deserved and very satisfying non-linear Saracens victory.
Saracens were:, Matt Collins, Vikash Vaswani, Peter Wooden, Zubair Nizami, Tim Parkinson (c), Louis Chan, Waqar Dawood, Azeem Ebrahim, Kunal Parwani, Robin Gill, Nick Chelleri
This was the most brutal loss of the season so far: after setting Kai Tak a tough run chase of 257, we had to watch them get over the line with the penultimate ball of the match.
Saracens won the toss on a beautiful Saturday morning at KCC, and elected to bat. We welcomed back Vikash Vaswani from his time overseas, and soon he and the ever-elegant Peter Wooden were building a healthy first-wicket stand. Vikash departed for 22, leaving the core of the innings to be constructed by Wooden and Shahnawaz Malik. Shahn has had cause to lament losing his wicket without making a big score so far this season; he put that notion to rest by batting throughout the rest of the Saracens dig for a classy undefeated 70.
Wooden peppered and cleared the boundary in classic Trescothick fashion – one might think he had heard of the £1m bounty offered to Tresco for clearing the pavilion at Lords – and Saracens progressed to a dominant score of 256 in our 35 overs, helped by this superb Wooden century, Malik’s cementing seventy, and late cameos from McAnulty and Parkinson.
Saracens had a quick huddle as we went out into the field, intending to put Kai Tak under pressure and take wickets as that pressure mounted. Sadly, we could not keep that pressure on them for long enough periods, bowling too many wides and loose balls, and while their wickets steadily fell they were able to keep up with the required run rate. As time became an issue the captain did not get the field well enough set, and allowed runs to leak away. Kai Tak were still up against it as they lost two men in Kunal Parwani’s fine final over, but they got the winning runs with nine men down and deep into the 35th over.
Defending 256 on our home patch should not be beyond us, and that we let Kai Tak even get close was a cause for deep disappointment as we conducted the post-mortem in the gathering gloom. Kai Tak bowled us almost as many wides as we did them, but we really cannot afford to give away 27 extras – more than 10% of the opponent’s target. The captain’s field placings also left something to be desired, as did vocalization of team spirit, and it was a chastened and subdued debrief in the dark.
Saracens slip to a 3-3 win-loss record with this defeat, but will bounce back in the next über-clash as they go head-to-head with KCC Tartars on Dec 11. Watch this space…
Saracens were:, Peter Wooden, Vikash Vaswani, Shahnawaz Malik, Chris McAnulty, Tim Parkinson (c), Waqar Dawood, Louis Chan, David Thomas, Kunal Parwani, Azeem Ebrahim, Robin Gill