Saturday Cricket Club Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Nothing is as sweet as a win in a must-win situation ...

Folks, hold your breath. What you are going to read is a testimony of why people say Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Before I take you through the amazing roller-coaster, I must narrate the constraints of the game. SCC were playing their last regular league game and it was a decider as far as their league endeavor was concerned, their regular players (and bowlers) were unavailable en masse as SJSU exams are nearing, there were few injuries here and there and they had already lost 2 games and in other 2, the points were split, the opponents (Kasturi Pade, KP) had not lost a single match and as such, things were getting tough.

Viral won the toss and elected to field first on a day with overcast conditions. Bowlers stuck to a tidy line and were rewarded for keeping the batsmen quiet. Ashish who opened the bowling with Kedar got into nice rhythm and bowled a great nice a bit outside the off. The discipline paid off and soon KP lost their first wicket by an accurate throw from Nadeem running the hustling batsman out. It was a great start. Ashish had conceded just 3 runs in his first two overs and bowled a batsman (played him on). Naresh was the first change and he too quickly got his line giving no room for batsmen to play. Divya was too eager to improve the run-rate and edged a rising delivery outside the off and Shiv one-handed a great catch.

This was a crucial stage. Actually, the 10th over saw a brilliant display of tactical spin bowling by Mayank and a great bit of captaincy by Viral. With his front-line bowlers missing, Viral made a nice move of introducing Mayank who made KP's woes worse. Unless you have a great eye and selection, it's not possible to hit Mayank cleanly.

At the end of first ten, KP were 19/3 and the first session belonged to SCC. That's the thing. Even if first 3 sessions in a 20-over game belong to a team and not the 4th, it loses the game. So, SCC players had to focus really hard. Abhay started off well with those speedy delivering angling across the right handed batsmen. It was so nice to watch those being bowled consistently, frustrating the batsmen as they left them. Soon KP were under pressure to get the score-board ticking and they lost their wickets at regular intervals. Vijay was the only danger man left somehow holding back against Mayank. But Mayank got the better of him when he ended the 16th over with a simple catch at deep mid-wicket. It was 39/7 in 16 overs. Last 4 overs too kept batsmen away from big hitting and since Abhay bowled a great line and length, they could finally reach a modest 51/10 in 20 overs.

This is a tricky score. It gives the bowlers something to defend and if the chasing team is too defensive, the situation can quickly get out of the hands. That's partially what was in store for SCC as the game commenced with Sun getting out of the cloud cover. Both Nadeem and Mayank looked good with their usual thrust on the front foot, on a pitch where mysteriously the ball keeps low and beats the batsmen. Nadeem was thus the first to fall and Viral soon followed on a similar delivery. Mayank missed a simple full toss and played it on the stumps. SCC were under pressure too with 15 for 3. Naresh and Kedar then had to steady the ship and played sensibly for a partnership of 16 runs and plugged further damage till the break.

The game was nicely poised. An onlooker who does not understand Cricket enough would have thought that it is favoring the SCC, with 7 wickets in hand and (only) 25 runs to get in 10 overs.

Distaster struck. Kedar skied one high which Vijay held well, Naresh was wrongly adjudged clean-bowled and Prasanna played one across getting yorked in the process and suddenly it was 31/6 from 31/3 in the same over! It seemed as if the usual story of losing the most crucial quarter of the entire match is going to repeat itself. This has been the hall mark of SCC matches this season. Too much of tension, sensation and excitement. I am loving it as long as they won those :).

Ashish and Shiv labored and took the score to 38 when Ashish was stumped in a situation that should have been ruled in his favor. Abhay then followed and Boy! he looked determined. His temperament looked solid. Shiv on the other hand was playing well and these two demonstrated how a chase should be performed under pressure with 3 wickets in hand. Although there are places where SCC batsmen should improve their skills to steal scoring opportunities because that matters against good teams, it goes without saying that it is not easy to keep your cool in extremely demanding situations. That's what Abhay did. He released the pressure well, ran well between the wickets and this neat innings culminated in a great boundary running down-the-track. That tied the game as the equation changed from 8 in 3 overs to 1 in 2 overs, with 3 wickets in hand. That's when Shiv got out cheaply and Neeraj ran himself out with all players inside the circle. Man, I can't believe it. 51/7 to 51/9? No, not another tie. All prayed. The finish had to be nail-biting. But then again, Abhay was standstill and hit one out to long-off and won it for SCC.

Kudos to Abhay. 10 runs not-out and 4-1-5-2 -- what a performance!

Hopefully, this should see SCC through to Quarter Finals. That should be rewarding. Lot to be learned still though.

One thing I learned that it is futile to critique anyone's batting and batting is easier said than done even on subcontinental pitches!