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