Austrian Open League - Week 1
The first weekend of the Austrian Open League saw all three of Austria's non-Viennese teams in action, as Graz CC, CC Velden 91 and Salzburg CC all played against Viennese opposition. CC Velden 91 were returning to the league for the first time since 2002, when they had been part of the 9 team single division Open League, whilst Salzburg returned to the League after a year's absence. In 2004 they had been the first non-Viennese team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Open League. Finally, Graz CC, after a winter full of promise but then rocked by turmoil as several players left the club made their début in the Open League - a sign of how far they have come in the year and a half since the club was formed. This was also the first weekend of the new two conference league - until now, Austrian cricket had been played in a single division.
Sri Lankan CC, who had narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth last season, travelled to Latschach for a double-header, with matches against CC Velden 91 on the Saturday and Graz CC. The Carinthian spring had come late this year - making it slightly more difficult for batting than is the case in high summer. CC Velden 91 batted first, and made a total of 180, with two key partnerships shaping the innings, - one of 42 for the 2nd wicket between Gagen Deep and Eric Holmes and one of 49 for the third wicket between Holmes and Harkamal. Aravindan Ganeshan took three lower order wickets to finish with 3-10.
Withana and Peiris opened the innings and had added 44 when Peiris, who had scored 176 on his last appearance at the ground was caught. 44-1 soon became 49-3 with Harpal Gill having taken all three wickets to fall. At 74-4 the game appeared to be going towards the hosts, but a partnership of 67 between Riza Ahamed and Withana, who made 62 before he fell to Daniel McDonald took Sri Lankan CC to 140-5 and despite Riza Ahamed falling without further score being added, the pair of Nalinda and Rajapakse were able to steer Sri Lankan CC home to a 4 wicket win with an unbeaten stand of 40.
In Seebarn on Sunday, Lords CC elected to bat first against a Salzburg side which had travelled several hours to get to the ground. - a decision that they might have been regretting with the score at 8-2 and both openers back in the pavilion. Ashwani Sharma and Kulwinder Singh, however, stabilised the ship and added 104 before Ashwani Sharma fell for 46. At 184-7 Salzburg CC might have been hoping to bowl Lords out for under 200, but the last three wickets added another 50 runs to guide Lords to 234 all out in 44 overs.
In reply, Salzburg's innings started badly - both openers falling to the first change bowler Nandeep Soggi. Salzburg managed to consolidate somewhat with cameos from Kashif and Nadeem Akthar supporting Manzar, who top-scored with 42, and at 129-5 the match was looking as though a lower order display of clean hitting might prove enough to see Salzburg home to victory. However, amid the backdrop of a rapidly approaching rainstorm, the Salzburg tail surrendered to Rajeev Sharma and Kulwinder Singh, with the last 5 wickets falling for 13 runs, to give Lords victory by 92 runs, the tail's collapse being watched by Olé "Stan" Mortensen, who was in Vienna as a visitor and who had been holding a junior coaching camp.
Graz CC took the field for their first League match against Sri Lankan CC in Latschach, having lost the toss. Graz's Canadian import, Emlyn Bates, who only took the game up when Graz CC was formed just under 2 years ago, took the first wicket. Imran Malik then proceeded to take the next four wickets - reducing the Sri Lankan CC team to 72-5. A sixth wicket stand of 85 between Aravindan Ganeshan and Chintaka Nalinda saw the Sri Lankan team through to 157-6 and when Imran claimed his fifth wicket with the score on 165-7 , Graz might have been hopeing to restrict their opponents to around 180. Rajapakse and Ganeshan, however, guided Sri Lankan CC to 226 before Rajapakse fell and by the end of the 50 overs Sri Lankan CC had managed to accumulate 238 - aided considerably by 71 extras.
Bowling hero Imran Malik opened the Graz reply with captain Jan Smith, and together they put on 73 before Imran was run out. Smith completed a half century, before succumbing to a similar fate, and Graz were saddening 93-2. As the middle oder of Shukla, Johnson and Hutchins struggled against the bowling of Munaweera and Ekanayake, the team being reduced to 139-5 the balance of the game appeared to have swung back towards Sri Lankan CC. However, Safee Soomro, who had been unlucky with the ball batted sensibly for 43 and with support from Bashir Ahamed (putting on 69 for the sixth wicket) and Adrian Millward-Sadler (adding an unbroken 33 for the 7th wicket) Graz CC batted their way to a famous victory - their efforts applauded by their opponents in recognition of how far the club had come in such a short time.
Highest individual score: Aravindan Ganeshan (SLCC) 91* versus Graz CC
Best bowling: Imran Malik (GCC) 5-41 versus Sri Lankan CC.