By Alexis Coovre
The Chiba Sharks pulled off a thrilling last-ball victory to defeat Mach, by one run, in the Winter League Indoor comp.
Kashiwa. Six Sharks walked up the endless stairs, laid down their gear, and watched as the ladies of Mach battered Phoenix into submission. It barely raised an eyelid. In this universe, women are kings, and men ambitious handmaidens.
Aware of the female x3 handicap, that undoes so many a team; the Sharks quickly sharpened their blades, donned their bruchens, and hit the practice court for fine tuning.
The ladies, most of whom are national players, licked their lips at the prospect of shark fin soup. Winners of the 2008-09 comp, and fluent in all technical aspects of both indoor and outdoor, they have developed a thirst for winning.
“We’re bowling!” shouted David, and immediately the Sharks bust through the slit in the wall, and into the aviary.
Alexis got the ball rolling with two bowleds and a run out in his first over. The score minus 12; the jittery openers had indeed started off on the wrong foot. Anton, Nikhil and Gurjinder kept the pressure on, but the singles became threes and there was no stopping the Japanese girls.
Next batters Kanno, and Saito looked more assured, putting on a 33 run partnership with shots all around the park, but two run-outs, and a bowled by Nikhil, undid some of their handy work.
Ota and Kaneko continued to pump out the runs, employing the simple strategy of hitting six singles an over and getting 18 for it. David bowled Kaneko in the last over, but they still managed a 46 run partnership, to bring their team’s score to a competitive 99.
There was no time to waste. The unlikely vanguard of Anton and Alexis, jumped into the aviary, and faced-up. The duo worked the ball around for ones and twos, and sometimes more, darting back and forth, ever mindful of the swift sheilas. Four overs later, 30 runs on the board, no damage recorded.
David and Anshul continued the ascent, hitting the ball into higher paying areas, and calling with conviction. The crash of plastic, stemmed the flow slightly in their last over, but the worm continued north-east, the pair putting on 31.
Nikhil, local hero, after his blazing innings the previous week, joined Gurjinder, and set about giving the girls something substantial to chase. Things started out normally, and then . . .
A stumping! Minus five.
Nikhil hits the back wall and runs – seven!
Nikhil makes a dash and is caught short – minus five. Oh, no.
Nikil hits the back wall and runs – seven!
Nikhil makes another mad dash, but is caught short again – minus five! Ouch.
Final over: Gurjinder hits a single; Nikhil swats a six, a single to Nikhil, two to Gurjinder, Nikhil arcs and cracks another seven – splendid. Cheers all around. The scores are tied. One run needed. One ball left. The fielders are all back – no one around the bat. Mohammad Yousuf, eat your heart out. Gurjinder stays cool, drops the ball down and runs through for a single. The Sharkies bring it home!
Gracious in their defeat, the girls shook hands, and retreated to the upper floor for a think and a stretch. Nikhil took out the MVP award, for his 29 runs and one wicket.
Meanwhile, Navin and his merry men agreed to take on the pumped-up Sharks, in a practice match. It was glory time for Navin, who would take on the big boys, and have a tale to tell.
Alexis and the English gentleman again opened up. They crashed their way to 31, in an innings of close calls and kisses with brick walls. But their partnership was undamaged.
Dave and Anshul opened fire, on the sprightly youths, however they got pegged back by a few costly errors. Navin was getting some in-duck, and was backed up well by his right hand men Shubum and Arpit. The pair ended up making 20.
Nikhil and Gurjinder, sent the ball downtown, making the boys run around madly. But they too got pegged back a couple of times, getting only 20.
Sloppy fielding cost the Phoenix boys dearly, allowing the Sharks to make 71, in an under-done batting display. Overthrows were king, the ball staying live longer than a Gonzales concert.
Navin’s boys never got out of second gear, as they crashed to 43, in their innings. Highlights included Navin’s maturing stroke play, Shubum’s aggressive swipes, and Arpit’s all-round skills.
The Phoenix boys were three hours late for their bus, and bolted for the door. The Sharks sheathed their swords, put on their winter cloaks, descended the endless stairs, and stept into the deserted street, satisfied with their lot.
The Sharks have hit form; players are standing up and being counted. They go to second spot on the ladder, with only three games played.
Coming up next … Phoenix (aka Navin’s team), on 6 February. They’ve had their baptism of fire. Are they ready to take on the big boys, for real?
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