The Manila Nomads kicked off the new 2001/02 season in style in late September with a resounding 7 wicket win over the Asian Institute of Management XI.
Having asked AIM to bat in a 30 over game, the Nomads ran through the opposition in 22 overs for a less than taxing total of 132. The home side marched confidently to 136-3 in just 21 overs to give new skipper, Bill Bailey, the best possible start to the season.
The match went ahead despite a damp outfield and soft base to the artificial track - low bounce dictated that the batsmen should play a front foot game, a factor somewhat fatally ignored by at least 8 of the AIM team.
Bailey chose to open the bowling with off-spinner Mike Barker and Indian paceman, Rashpal. The combination worked to deadly effect as the top order imploded.
However, it was not a bowler that inflicted the opening blow - the first AIM wicket to fall went to the first ball of the match and season. Aloosener from Rashpal was pushed through wide mid-wicket and the batsmen set off for what looked like a comfortable two. Manish steamed round from square leg - through the quagmire left by the footballers and rugby players - picked up one handed and threw the stumps down with a direct hit from a bullet-like boundary-edge throw.
Barker proceeded to produce the best bowling stint of the innings, with 4 valuable wickets in 6 tight overs. The catching was good and the fielding exemplary as Nomads moved into a clear winning position at the 15 over drinks break.
The next 7 overs saw some real fireworks - Nishant (25) and captain Pankaj Sudan (20) put some momentum back into the innings and induced the first fielding blunder. Pankaj skied to point and Barker and Rashpal, clearly having undertaken an oath of silence to each other before the game, collided heavily as the ball struck the deck.
The mistake was not costly - Pankaj decided to take on Manish's first ball and found the safe hands of Hartley at cover. In terms of batting, the best was yet to come..........batting at a strategically interesting No. 11, the left handed Rana dished out some serious punishment and raced to 41 in 12 scoring shots.
Attempting a fifth six over mid-wicket (and, earlier, over the grandstand) he put one straight up - Barker, who had lost the power of speech earlier, now seemed to suffer from short term deafness as he ignored the keeper's call and ploughed in from point. The inevitable collision occurred, but keeper Manley bravely held on to finish the innings.
In the hope that he would not lose another of his senses, Bailey asked Barker to open the innings with Hartley. The opening overs were ordinary to say the least and the batsmen made merry with a number of resounding drives and pulls. Barker (22) was the first to go and questions were raised as to his optical prowess - the ball which bowled him had only one virtue - it was straight.
Jeremy Smith was next to the wicket and wasted no time in taking the attack to the opposition - his quick-fire 31 effectively put the result beyond doubt. Hartley kept things going at the other end and retired at 36 - a good start to what will be a long season.
Damon Paling had the misfortune of facing Pankaj bowling off-cutters at his best. In fact, Paling was so far out to sea, the lifeguard was called over from the club pool. He was spared the embarrassment of Nomads' first duck of the season with a purely unintentional single through the third man area and was put out of his misery shortly afterwards.
It was left to Rashpal with a crisply struck and undefeated 20 to finish off the game with a good 9 overs to spare.
Bailey expressed contentment with the victory and performance at the post-match conference - however, he was quick to point out that Barker's match fees had been collected very rapidly before his sense of touch, and ability to locate wallet, deserted him as well. Uncannily, his sense of smell was unaffected and he was seen sniffing around a few things before the day was out..............