The SAC cricketers were on tour for the second time this season last weekend, playing three matches in beautiful Cheltenham.
We played Gotherington CC on Saturday in a 40 overs match. SAC won the toss and elected to bat first on a slow low wicket that would prove to test the techniques of a batting order more accustomed to the artificial track in Meudon. The early loss of Praneeth Kumar, to a stunning one-handed catch from the opposition skipper Rob Sharp, was the first of a steady stream of wickets that never allowed SAC to build up momentum, and we grafted our way to 170 for 9 in our 40 overs. Captain Alastair Thomas batted through the innings for 83 not out, while Matt Day was next best with 24. In reply, Said Azam Sadad, in particular, bowled superbly – but luck was not on his side with several catches going to ground and even more edges flying past the slip cordon. On another day, we could have had them 30 for 3, but instead they got through this difficult period, and then began to prosper. In the end in they won convincingly by 9 wickets with seven overs to spare. A deserved win for Gotherington, but we were not as bad as the result suggests!
On Sunday we were welcomed back to Woodmancote CC, having toured there previously in 2013 (and having twice hosted them at SAC). We played a Woodmancote President’s XI on Sunday in a declaration match, and their U23 team in a T20 on the Monday.
On the Sunday, SAC lost the toss and were invited to bat first. On a faster wicket than Saturday, SAC prospered with the opening pair of Henry Colburn and David Greaves putting on 76 in quick time before David was run out for an excellent 52. Henry continued on with good support from Chandh and Waheed Mohammed who both made 20s. After a middle-innings wobble, Alastair Thomas then joined Henry and the pair lifted the run rate, putting on 85 together. Unlike his block-a-thon from Saturday, Alastair scored at faster than run-a-ball for his 35! Many were in shock. Henry then continued to pepper the extra cover boundary, and he brought up his superb century (100 exactly) shortly before SAC declared on 267 for 9 from 44 overs. Former SAC player Paul Goring bowled well for Woodmancote, taking two wickets and fizzing one past the oppo skipper’s outside edge to gain bragging rights that evening.
In the field, SAC started strongly with Gurdev Singh, Said Azam Sadad and Shakeel Ahmad all bowling good spells. However, Woodmancote stalwart Tim Young and their Australian pro Josh Dowd both made excellent 50s, and kept the match very much in the balance, despite the rising run rate. Praneeth Kumar’s superb spell of swing bowling then tilted the match in SAC’s favour, as he took 5 for 52 from 13 overs. Once their Aussie was out (for a brutal 78), Woodmancote’s chances of winning looked to disappear, but SAC were still hunting the last three wickets for a win. With 3 overs left, a catch went down, and from there number 8 and 9 held out for an honourable draw. A fair result in a very even encounter.
SAC finished the tour on a high note on the Monday with an excellent win. SAC won the toss and batted first against the Woodmancote U23s. Waheed Mohammed opened up and made an intelligent 53, before Shakeel Ahmad took over, scoring a rapid 59 not out, to take SAC to 160 for 5 off our 20 overs. As with Sunday, the match was in the balance until near the end, with Josh Dowd again scoring a hard-hitting half century. The turning point was when Shakeel returned for his second spell in the 17th over and capped a memorable match with his second wicket, bowling Josh for 65. SAC then closed the match out to win by 11 runs. Shakeel finished with 2 for 28, while Azam, Praneeth and Gurdev also bowled well. Some superb fielding also from Waheed, Shakeel and an age-defying Rich Parkin.
Excellent dinners were held on both Saturday and Sunday evenings with the Gotherington and Woodmancote teams, respectively, and the warm company of our hosts (plus the beer!) added to a very enjoyable tour.
A huge thanks to Woodmancote member and former SAC leg-spinning superstar Paul Goring for his hard work arranging the tour for us, and for his and his team’s hospitality (and Rob and Gotheringtons!). We hope to welcome Woodmancote back to Paris again in the near future for a third tour, and have extended a similar invitation to Gotherington.