Japan Cup Final – Sharks vs Sano
14.10.13 By Kris Bayne
The Japan Cup Final was played at the Tanuma Cricket Ground, a recently-decommissioned high school. With a close mountain back-drop and large ground it really has the ‘cricket ground’ feel to it, and with most teams in attendance there was plenty of vocal support from the side-lines. The Chiba Sharks had obviously made some friends over the weekend!
The road to our spot in the Japan Cup Final included some forgettable performances but also some stunning games, against Indian Tigers and Wyverns in particular. We know that when everything clicks for us we can beat anyone… though we do struggle with certain ‘anyones’ named Sano. We always match up well on paper but struggle on the pitch. Other off-field issues considered, oh, how dearly we would love to beat them! Both teams were without key players: us, Adit and Prashant, them, damaging all-rounder Hanif. However we still managed to turn out with Nick (C), Sumon (W), Dave L, Murad, Vicky, Chris M, Sagar, Takady, KB, Rockey and Moto.
Nick took this one as Captain. Sano won the toss and sent us in. From one end it was hard going for Dave, from the end Nick let loose from early on. After a quiet first two overs Nick took a 2, 4 then a controversial 6 off the start of the third. After completing the hoist over the square leg rope Nick seemed to stroll back on his stumps, but the eventual decision after some discussion was ‘not out’ – whew!
The over ended, however, with the first of three catches to Naeer in the deep and Dave was on his way. Nick continued to move his score along but the bowling and fielding was tight, as we always expect from the well-drilled Sano. Both Sumon then Takady found Naeem’s unfortunately very safe hands. At midway we were 3-57. Chris M was the new batsman and with his solid form and Nick still there we could take the game away. They found the gaps for ones and twos and occasional four from Nick to take us forward. Disaster struck, though, when the set Nick looked to go straight down the ground only to be caught by the scampering A. Miyaji for 45. A big blow!
At 4-77 we needed our two remaining recognized batsman, Vicky and Murad to step up and support Chris, who was going along nicely. Vicky probably went at it too hard too early and was gone in the next over, mistiming one straight back to the bowler. Chris and Murad then perked us up again tapping the bowlers round to edge us toward three figures but we needed boundaries.
Run outs had been a feature of our games all weekend so it was perhaps inevitable that we would be on the end of one here with a direct hit sending Murad back. At 6-98 in the 17th Over we were in a bit of strife if we wanted to get a defendable score against deep-batting Sano. Nick demanded a run a ball and at least getting the score up to 120 from the remaining batsmen, which was the message Kris took out to bat. The Chris/Kris combo can certainly take an order and got value off everything sent down, with Chris chiming in with his first boundary. That was it for him, sadly, for a run-a-ball 23, caught trying to clear the field. Kris and Sagar added eight more cheeky runs to end the innings on 7-118.
We went down swinging with almost every batsman being caught off the square, except for Murad who was caught short of his crease instead. While the bowling was tight it was not devastating. We did struggle to rotate the strike in the top order, which may have led to the need for more rash shots and thus wickets.
|Vicky||Caught & Bowled||3||0|
|Kris B||Not Out||10||10|
But, we had 118, which was still a shade under 6 an over. We had kept teams so far to 28, 76, 104, but it was Sano that had scored best against us batting second. We would have to play at our best to take this but knew we had it in us.
Dave opened with Vicky who got us off to a great start, rocking one right through Kinimont’s defence and stumps. As happens the next pair, the experienced Naeem and Ankit, added the best partnership of the innings (32). It was never dominating, with the field and bowling keeping up the high standard we had set, but it was consistent. Dave got the breakthrough, getting Naeem to sky a thick top edge where Nick at slip backpedalled to take a safe catch at gully.
But with a third of the total erased we still had to get eight wickets. New batsman, Bebe Miyaji, showed his intent to break the squeeze and the paired added 21 in quickish time before we struck back. Sagar enticed set bat Ankit to get a touch back and Sumon completed the catch. 3-59. With the addition of a just handful more it was the introduction of Chris Molloy that got us back in it. With the need to hit out comes risk and Takady gratefully accepted the resulting catch at mid-on. 4-66 and we felt that with Sano’s young ‘tail’ another couple of wickets would crank up the pressure.
It was a great tussle as the slight advantage passed between the teams. Next in, surprisingly, was veteran, Mumtaz. It might be a battle between Kris and Mumtaz as to who had the first rights to a Silver Seat on the train, but beware the old bugger with the bat. Bebe was finding empty space to fill with runs and Mumtaz added two boundaries to take them up to the 90s. Chris again stepped up, getting Mumtaz to touch a dropping slower ball to the ‘keeper. Sumon had to come forward and down but took the critical catch to leave Sano at 5-91. The energy level was up and the crowd became more vocal as they urged us on.
We had the task now to get over the Miyaji pair as Alex strode to the wicket. He could easily end it for us with cunning placement and running. Two singles came then Alex opened his generous shoulders off Chris. All eyes at Tanuma watched the ball disappearing in a graceful 6-bound arc across the setting-sun-tinged sky. One pair watched it arriving, however. Dave did not have to move a millimetre. Checking his position to the rope he waited and those big Lollback hands swallowed it. The Sharks erupted as Alex trudged back. Double wicket over and 6-97 – the teams were effectively level at exactly the same number of overs! Amazing!
Koji Iwasaki was the next bat in. He and Bebe were young and fleet of foot and eye but with them was Sano’s and our fate. Seven off Vicky’s 3rd and it came down to the penultimate over by Sagar. Sano needed 15 off 12 balls. Our focus was on Bebe but it was Koji who showed his mettle and talent. Sagar was urged to pitch it up by Captain Nick: it was a case of you miss, I hit. We were not to know the young fella’s strengths – we do now. Six runs came of the first four balls. Then, with the impetuousness and impertinence of youth he latched on to one that cleared Dave on the rope for six. A four followed it and that was that. It was one of those things, unfortunately the ball found the middle of the bat not the stumps. All the bowlers bowled so well and Sagar did not deserve such treatment. The Sharks and Sano had fought tooth and nail but the prize was theirs.
So came to an end our 2013 outdoor campaign. It started with us fielding two teams – okay, neither made the finals – and ended with us almost being National T20 Champions. We added a lot of members and I have to say it is a pleasure to play cricket with all of them. The dedication shown to travel many kilometres to play with their team is inspiring. It was a great team effort but there were also some fantastic individual efforts:
Nick Creece collected the Batsman of the Tournament. Nick played in 4 matches for 4 innings, 1 n.o., racked up 133 runs with a h.s. of 62. He averaged 44.33 with a SR of 113.65. He topped our innings in three games (we won’t mention the second-ball duck in the other). Congrats, Nick, and with the new bat as a prize you will have to knock it in over next season.
You would not have known it but Tsuyoshi ‘Takady’ Takada was injured and could not bowl pace so instead he picked up the most wickets for the tournament by bowling spin! 14 overs, 47 runs, 8 wickets @ 5.88, best of 3-12, SR of 10.5 and Econ 3.36. I guess some other spin was involved to give the Bowler of the Tournament to someone else….
Official Tournament MVP was Dave Lollback. Over 4 games and a lot of pain Dave grabbed 5 wickets (with two maidens), toughed out 57 runs with the bat and latched on to 5 catches, including that memorable grab on the rope in the Final. The official record failed to mention the two direct hit run-outs from the boundary against the Hawks!! Great all-round effort from our Fearless Leader.
We also must thank all the players who made the journey up to Sano, sometimes twice, to play. We are the strongest club in Japan in terms of getting teams out and we should be proud. But as it is cricket, ‘play’ does not necessarily mean you even touch the ball, let alone bowl or bat. Our strong showing meant a number of people never got to have a hit or have a bowl. In the field Dave and Nick were like ball magnets when it came to catches. Many others may have felt like fridge magnets – a DNB ornament just stuck in a position and staying there. But that is the way of a cricket team. We need eleven to put on constant pressure. Every cut off COULD be the important runs saves. A No. 11 who blocks a few balls COULD be the difference. And eleven can certainly enjoy a wicket out in the middle with their teammates. Thanks to everyone who came, played and felt the spirit – we are a team!
And we MUST NOT FORGET that the biggest Shark of them all, Chris Thurgate, was a constant presence and supporter at the Cup, and although our official 12th man, he did not get to hit a ball or catch a batsman in delight. Why? Well, due to the last minute loss of sponsors and thus umpires, Chris – as an unpaid volunteer and bloody saint, also unpaid – took upon himself to fill the gap. This meant that he umpired six games (!), including the final for which he was eligible to play. If only the paid JCA employees who did play could be so dedicated. Those of us who know Chris and those who were at the Cup know how he longed to play, how he could hear us thrash the Wyverns while officiating at the next ground, how he shared our desperation in a narrow defeat in the Final. He was the utter professional to the end. Chris – great job, mate, and sorry we could not win it for you. Next time.
We head next to our last outdoor game of the season, our own Chiba Cup. Let’s hoist it again, shall we? We know the Sharks say, “Yeah!”
What does the fox say?
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