SHAILESH Joshi was back to his mind-bending best as King’s Road blew apart LPL rivals the London Itinerants.
The man dubbed India’s Number One smashed 61 off 32 balls before bagging two wickets and a catch in a sensational all-round performance.
Leon Watson also had a fine game hitting 22 before taking three quick wickets with his gentle seamers to spark a fatal Ities collapse.
In doing so, he passed 50 wickets for the club to become only the second bowler after James Couldrey to reach the landmark.
The day started with ominously grey skies and persistent rain forecast between the hours of 1pm and 7pm and after losing the toss The Road were put into bat on Battersea Park.
Four balls in and they lost charity fundraiser Raju Mazumder, bowled for a duck by Smith. However, there was to be no King’s Road collapse quite yet.
Out strode man of the match Shailesh who proceeded to wreak havoc at the crease smashing 11 fours and a massive six to haul The Road towards a total.
With captain Matt Cocken holding fort at the other end, the pair put on 56 before Matt – who opted to go for an unfamiliar opening role – was bowled for 10.
The wicket didn’t stop Shailesh though who, with new batsman Leon also happy to play second fiddle, continued his onslaught to pass 50.
With the score on 76 Shailesh’s brutal one-man run-fest came to an end when he was bowled by Walker. Fourteen runs later and The Road lost Giles Fagan for 9, caught behind off Hong.
As rain began to plummet, so did the run rate leaving Leon and Dan Howard facing a rebuilding job but with one eye on posting a big enough total.
The pair put on 63 before Leon, trying to push on, was caught off a leading edge by Walker.
It sparked an awful collapse that saw King’s Road lose four wickets for one run.
Dan, who scored a career-best 46 last week, followed straight after having again contributed with a handy 30.
An unfortunate mix-up that saw Mark Isham slip running from the non-stricker’s end as Jamie Keating called for a quick single saw Keats depart for a duck.
And then Isham himself went fourth ball after being given out lbw to Smith.
It was left to Chris MacNicol and Matt Small to see The Road to 35 overs without being bowled out as Smally hit a run-a-ball 13 before becoming Walker’s fourth victim, caught by Crawford.
At lunch The Road had reached 173 for 9 off their 35 overs, denying the Itinerants a second bonus bowling point but looking for some early wickets to give themselves a chance of victory.
Right from the off The Road knew Itinerants captain Michael Behl was the dangerman and they had to get him out quick.
The big-hitting Aussie teed off nicely early on hitting two fours and a mighty six but the ball kept passing the bat and on 19 the key wicket fell, bowled Shailesh.
With the breakthrough made with the score on 26, King’s Road followed it up two runs later with the wicket of Davies.
Ward and Jeffreys also looked threatening before Ward smacked short one from Keating high into the air which landed into space just short of Shailesh for two runs.
That was a let-off, but the next ball he made the same attempt to clear the ropes and this time hit it straight down Shailesh’s throat.
The Itinerants were 68 for 3 and wobbling. Next over, smart work behind the stumps from Giles saw Leon get his 50th.
The keeper took a dot ball over the bails and spotted the batsman R Walker with his front foot out of the crease and his back foot, which would have been in the crease, raised.
In a flash he threw the balls onto the stumps and, after the slowest of deaths, the umpire gave it out.
Cue wild celebrations. The Itinerants, at 68 for 4, were now more than wobbling – they were in serious trouble.
In his next over Leon took his second, Freddy Walker for 10, and Dan at the other end got Crawford caught behind.
Leon and Dan both got another wicket each, Harrington and Smith respectively, to leave the Itinerants dangling on the edge of the precipice at 104 for 8 with Jeffreys still trying to keep his team from falling off.
By now, after posting what was thought a modest total, the win was a mere formality. And with Shailesh returning he took the wicket of Hong before Small ran out Wein to seal the victory for new captain Matt’s side.
Jeffreys finished 48 not out, but it was not enough.
In bowling out the Ities King’s Road picked up two bowling bonus points and scored 9 LPL points for the match to give them a blazing start to this season’s LPL competition.
Tomorrow, the second part of this weekend’s double-header, The Road take on The Sunday Times Occasionals in Dulwich and will be captained by Keating.