The Mission Road ground is strangely not available to teams until 1.15pm, and so the toss was conducted in the street at 1pm; the toss-winning Saracens captain inserted the opposition with little thought to issues of light later in the day. As at KCC a week earlier, the new ball was taken by McAnulty and Parkinson, and SCC initially found the going slow. There was an early wicket, but a couple of chances also went to ground, and the Lancers inched their way along. Shiroy Vachha celebrated his first game of the season by demonstrating how to take a tough chance as he clung on to a steepler at fine leg off the bowling of McAnulty for the second wicket.
The captain likes to turn to his strangulation spinners, Wooden and Sujanani, in the middle overs, and yesterday also the guile, the flight, the threat of these two were ever present. Lancers had to take risks against them, and they scored runs at approximately the same rate as they lost wickets. Waqar Dawood came on to add his own brand of magic to the spin attack, and at the end of their 35 overs Lancers had accumulated a formidable 207 (readers will remember Saracens scoring only 128 at this ground earlier in the season). Those 207 were many fewer than they would have had were the keeper not Robin Gill: a spinner loves being able to bowl knowing the batsman cannot wander thinking he might escape a stumping chance, and Rob’s glove work was superb – as was his grit after taking a spitter in the side of the head, crumpling, and then getting right back on his feet.
There is no independent hit-and-giggle aspect to Saracens cricket: as we huddled in the debrief of our fielding performance, everyone understood that building partnerships would be key. Thus is individual performance better attenuated to the team ethic and the match situation; this would prove vital throughout our run-chase.
Peter Wooden bestrides the crease like a mighty colossus, and from the short-arm pull for six in the opening over Lancers must have realised their post-batting celebrations were a touch premature. Ravi Sujanani perished attempting the quick scoring that made light work of last week’s run-chase, and Matt Collins came belligerently in at number 3. He smashed a towering six, punched on lowered knee through the covers, and was really getting going when the inconsistent pace of the MR plastic pitch caused him to mis-time a cut to point. The partnership had proved fruitful, however, and it was becoming clear the middle and lower order would have to bat round Wooden – nudging, nurdling, and grittily eking out runs where possible.
McAnulty, Mahtani, Dawood, Dadlani all batted in this vein, and by the time Roshan Dadlani was given out lbw the required runs were down to 40 from 9 overs. Tim Parkinson, hamstrung, limped to the crease with the mercurial Dawood as his runner. Peter Wooden completed another majestic century, but then nicked one to the keeper: his score of 100 actually reduced his season’s batting average. Enter Louis Chan and the Yellow Helmet. As the following overs ticked by, the light faded and the drama increased. Dawood, Parkinson, and Chan would gather for a quick brains trust, peer through the murk at the oncoming ball, and then tickle a single (Parkinson), unfurl a gorgeous square drive (Chan) or yell for a seemingly suicidal single / two (Dawood). Finally, batting on sonar, the triumvirate dispatched the winning runs through backward point and righteous celebration began.
This was not Saracens’ best performance of the season in terms of the individual elements of batting, bowling, and fielding; but it was in terms of coming to terms with our performance level, setting targets, and grittily attaining them. A great victory for precisely those reasons.
Saracens were: Peter Wooden, Ravi Sujanani, Matthew Collins, Chris McAnulty, Yogesh Mahtani, Waqar Dawood, Roshan Dadlani, Tim Parkinson (c), Louis Chan, Shiroy Vachha, Rob Gill (wk)