Midi Cricket Club came tantalisingly close to a dream start in their 2016 campaign against last season’s league champions Toulouse CC but a plethora of wides at the end handed the visitors victory by one wicket in a thrilling see-sawing match.
Midi won the toss on a fine, sunny day but gloom quickly descended on the St Pons de Mauchiens ground when the decision to bat saw four batsmen back in the pavilion for a disappointing 31 runs.
Openers Paul Rogers and Nick Allison both went cheaply for 8 and 5 and when Toulouse’ dangerous strike bowler Chris Srikanth sent back Harshesh for 5 and Gaurav for a duck in the same over, Midi were looking at a sub 100 score.
But new captain Ankush Lal and the ever-dependable warhorse Dom George (pictured above during his innings) steadied the Midi ship to lay the foundation for a reasonable target in the 40-over match.
The pair, who topped the batting averages last season, put on 56 runs before Ankush was caught and bowled by Rayhan for 43, a superb innings which included four 4s and a 6.
George battled on and though losing partners and retiring hurt for a spell with cramp in his thumb (sic), he top scored with 83 not out, steering Midi to 214 all out in the 38th over.
George’s innings included 13 4s and three imperious 6s. Ram Khumbar (11), Joris Verdaasdonk (7) and Lucas Zivanovic (5) all provided gritty resistance at the other end to help Midi pass the 200-run mark.
Skrikanth was the pick of the Toulouse bowlers with figures of 4 for 34.
Toulouse started their run chase at a gallop, hitting 39 runs in the first five overs and with the score on 132 for three and under half of the allocated overs bowled, looked on course for an easy victory.
But the introduction of slow bowler Gaurav stemmed the run flow and with the support of George, Rogers and Ram, Toulouse were pegged back and the wickets started to tumble.
Toulouse lost five wickets for 44 runs with Gaurav fittingly trapping top-scorer Pankaj LBW on 68 to have the visitors struggling on 166 for seven wickets, still 49 short of the winning target.
Midi were smelling the sweet scent of victory when the eighth wicket fell. With only 10 men in the side, Toulouse last two batsmen needed 39 runs.
But somehow Midi contrived defeat. Wides had already given notice that they would have a hand in the result and this proved to be the case. Fourteen were presented to Toulouse in the last few overs, the winning run not surprisingly going to this irksome extra.
Midi’s two best bowlers, George (2 for 36) and Gaurav (1 for 14), conceded only four wides in their 14 overs of the 47 conceded by the home team. Ram also contributed with 2 for 38.
Captain Ankush was not too disheartened by the defeat in his message to the team ahead of the friendly double-header against Andorra CC on 14 and 15 May.
“We lost but it wasn’t an easy match. A lot of pressure from the beginning. We all tried our best and that all counts first.
“Hats off to Dom for the great innings with the bat and bowl. He made us able to give a good fight! Gaurav was just amazing today who gave us a great comeback in the game with Ram. It was very close in the end.
“We needed to be more disciplined in the bowling (specially me). Extra runs ruined the day for us. And we lost our major wickets in the beginning. Going forward, let’s try to have more patience in batting and rely more on singles, doubles and ground shots.”
Saturday’s match against Andorra CC at St Pons starts at 1pm.