So here it was, the international leg of the season, a week after the domestic season was wrapped up. Graces visiting Ibiza CC, a former polo club ground, surrounded by the winding hills of the Spanish island.
Graces started the tour with a 40 over game on the Saturday against West Midlanders, West Hagley CC. The opposition appeared strong, especially considering they had Zain ul-Hasan in their team, fresh from his nine County Championship performances for Glamorgan this season!
One of the rarest sights in cricket occurred to start, an opening seam bowling partnership of Matt Earl and Sam Long started the Graces assault. However, it would be West Hagley starting the assault, with many quickfire boundaries. They were taking advantage of the treadmill-like outfield, with the ball appearing to accelerate hugely every time it rolled across the highly dry, dusty red-soiled outfield; picking up the ball post-boundary seemed like a half-marathon at times!
Ari would be quickly introduced into the attack and would stem the flow of runs initially with some accurate bowling. It would bring Graces their first wicket, a stumping from Adam. The runs would continue to flow in the heat, but so would the wickets. A second stumping off Ari, followed by a good long off catch from local guest player Rupert gave Ari his third, either side of drinks served with an array of biscuits, to leave West Hagley 95/3. Unfortunately, it would be another 162 runs before they would see another wicket. The swashbuckling batting of Abu and Shan would see the ball fly across all parts of the ground. Regular changes of bowling saw Mahender, Mark, Dom and Leo all having a go, in desperate search of breaking the extremely strong partnership – silly three figure scores coming into the heads of many fielders as to what the final score would be.
A reintroduction of Mahender would finally work after the second drinks break. Shan trying one big legside shot too many, with Ari taking a boundary catch to dismiss him for 120. The second big wicket of Abu would soon follow, giving Sam a wicket and Ari another catch, dismissed for 104. An attempted quick single to Mark would give Graces a run out to celebrate, followed quickly by Ari’s fourth wicket with a Mahender catch. From the final delivery of the innings, an attempt straight six would give Stuart a catch and Ari a well-earned five wicket haul to end the innings at 354/8. Ari finishing with 5-49 from his 8 overs.
Matt and Rupert began the reply and took great advantage of the rapid outfield, being rewarded for good drives and flicks, pushing nine and ten an over at the start of the chase, Matt with 30 runs from just 15 balls at one point! Graces had their best 10 over start of the season with 81. A bowling change would work for the opposition as pro player Hasan had his first involvement, bowling quicker leggies instead of his usual seaming pace. Matt would play on attempting a sweep to depart for 45 at 84/1. Rupert would soon follow, being bowled at the other end for 40, leaving Leo and Ari at the crease. Leo would hit four quick boundaries, including a overthrown five, before departing for 21. An unusual scratchy innings from Mahender followed as bowling changes were introduced, being bowled for 3. Skipper Stuart would be the new batter, looking to give Ari as much of the strike as possible.
Ari was looking in fine touch as most balls faced were either going to the boundary or flying across the outfield to the boundary fielders as he passed fifty. Skipper out to skipper then happened as Stuart offered an almost bump ball catch back to bowler Brandrick, followed soon after by Adam with the nightmare sight of two batters at the same end with a miscommunication and a run out. Dom would feather a small nick behind to the returning opener Brooks, with Jonners repeating the exact same shot and result the next ball. This left Ari batting with last man Sam and three overs remaining. The field would close in on Sam, sensing blood for the final wicket wicket, only to be greeted by Sam confidently clearing his front leg and swatting the ball through the covers for four, not once, but two balls running! However, in the last over, attempting to keep Ari on strike, Sam would be the second run out of the innings, finishing the innings in defeat at 253 all out. Ari cementing his player of the match performance of the first innings with 84 not out in the second. Cricket being the winner on the day, closely followed by the long eating and drinking session in the town that night!