Yesterday on the lush Megi-ignored Sixes-reduced KCC pitch we saw a Saracens team playing at full throttle, with its individual components also at maximum RPM. Gap Ramblers won the toss, chose to bat, and found themselves 4-3 after three overs. Chris McAnulty and Tim Parkinson opened the bowling for Saracens, and in those three overs there was a sharp chance for Waqar Dawood at cover – snaffled – a looping catch to Roshan Dadlani at mid-on – pouched – and a couple of play-and-misses before an off-stump went rocking back.
Gap Ramblers had a number of partnerships as they tried to recover from their calamitous start, yet they were never able to regain the initiative as the classically tight middle overs bowled by Ravi Sujanani and Peter Wooden tightened Saracens’ grip “like a boa constrictor” (image courtesy of Chris McAnulty). Shahn Malik took the catch of the season at first slip, wrong-footed and one-handed; Zubair Nizami took two back-to-back steeplers at mid-on, and then fizzed in a return to run out the non-striker who was limping and rambling his way towards wicketkeeper Robin Gill. Spin twins Azeem Ebrahim and Waqar Dawood followed the Sujanani-Wooden asphyxiation, maintaining relentless pressure on the Ramblers, with Dawood taking the final Ramblers’ wicket with a sharp C&B in the 33rd over: Ramblers all out for 128.
What genuinely impressed the Saracens’ captain was the unspectacular yet critical teamwork in the backing-up of throws, the double-chasing of balls in the outfield, the constant supportive urging-on of the whole team. We have played like this all season - building and maintaining pressure on the opposition - and then taking the pressure-induced chances of run-outs (two yesterday) and catches.
The run chase started with some swashbuckling stuff by Sujanani – 12 coming off the first over – and some Athertonian elegance from the stylish Shahnawaz Malik. A partnership is what it says, and by the time Shahn was superbly taken at gully, over 60 were on the board in quick time. Enter Wooden. I begin to write “we can’t all play a punched straight-drive like Peter Wooden”, but in honesty, I don’t know anyone who can. Two of those had the spectators purring with delight, really crisp beautiful shots, reminiscent of Marcus Trescothick, Edgbaston, 2005 (and what higher compliment can be paid?). Ravi fell just short of his 50, and immediately lamented not being able to see his innings through to the end of the chase – pure class. Louis Chan received an lbw decision in the closing stages, leaving Chris McAnulty just time to blast a massive six over the KCC restaurants. Peter Wooden finished things off in style with his own clanging six into the sightscreen off the last ball of the 17th over.
This was a Saracens’ performance of the highest quality, of which it was a privilege to be part: a tight and cohesive team effort, complemented and enhanced by individual brilliance.
Saracens were: Ravi Sujanani, Shahn Malik, Peter Wooden, Louis Chan, Chris McAnulty, Waqar Dawood, Roshan Dadlani, Tim Parkinson (c), Zubair Nizami, Azeem Ebrahim, Rob Gill (wk)