Chiba Sharks vs Falcons Div. 2,
18 October 2020, SICG 2, By KB
The season is now done for the Chiba Sharks 2nd XI.
On the surface of it, a 0-6 win-loss record, with a massive net run-rate deficit, with negative total points (which was no fault of the 2nds) would suggest it was a season of abject failure. But that is not the case.
We fielded an almost entirely new sets of teams across the season, with debutants and 2nd year players far out-numbering established players. We debuted an ENTIRE XI in six games. In fact, in only one game was there NOT a debutant! And here they are:
Erika, Ajeet, Ibby, Santosh (Rd 1), Arthur, Mohsin (Rd 3), Arman, Deepak, Amman (R4), none (Rd 5), Hamid (Rd 6), Avnish (Rd 7).
Many players were new to any cricket in Japan. But sometimes circumstance left us short of an XI. We faced a plethora of clubs and teams with what seemed an endless supply of lithe 30-year all-rounders on missions of redemption or revenge or carnage. We even got the rough end of the coin toss on days when winning the toss doomed us to face the heat, defeat and dehydration. (We were ‘home’ team 5 out of 6. Each ‘visitor’ called correctly in all 5. KB called correct in his only call!) All led by KB, an old bloke with Peter Pan syndrome, mild delusions of grandeur and a dodgy fashion sense.
Still sounds abject, you say? It would probably make a darkly humourous Netflix sitcom, perhaps? S. S. Chiba Minnows?
But from Game One, which was the second game played in the COVID-19 delayed season, a group of strangers and a wonderful cross-section of existing Sharks more or less bonded under a relentless battering from our opponents. Repeat that for another five games. There was frustration but never any accusation. There was disappointment but always encouragement. Our victories were small ones and far between, but they were each celebrated like we won the World Cup. And we laughed and enjoyed the diversity of cricket and culture.
We had good time.
And we saved our best for last.
Even though it was not a game win, it was the closest we got!
We faced the Falcons, who, although directly above us on the table, with a win could leap into third and finals. Despite their position they have a significant presence in the Div. 2 top ten with bat and ball. They wanted to cream us. We wanted otherwise.
We lost the toss and were sent into the field in a beautiful day for cricket. The only real sign of the steady rain which had washed out Saturday was an evaporating sheen on the turf wicket.
We entered today with probably our best team. Many of us had played together most of the season so we knew each others’ game, and we had a battery of quicks, supported by Mystery Mahesh and KB. KB established a clear bowling rotation and we stuck to it with a minor variation. We were going to need it because their top four all sat in the top 10 of bats in Div. 2, mostly at the top half.
Aditya and newbie Avnish started us off in a steady fashion with plenty of dots, but the few loose balls were sent flying over the fast outfield. Our first wicket came in the 7th with a magnificent piece of work by Adit. He had cramped the batsman short of a length on leg. On lashing out he sent a top edge high, up and straight back over Adit’s head. Running back Adit tracked it and took an excellent C&B over his shoulder – it was a really tough one.
We were on our way as was one of the big guns. Then it was his partner next over. Avnish had been working the corridor of uncertainty but straightened one up to nail him in front. 2-43. Two guns silenced, two more in.
Though successful Adit and Avnish made way for Arthur and Mahesh. It was probably the spell of eight overs that was a delight to watch and where the game was lost. Arthur was almost unplayable at times, getting great bounce off his laconic action. He had both bats playing and missing or just staying the hell away from it. In beautiful contrast Mahesh showed his class. Also beating the edge and finding it for no return. Both players were supported by a brilliant offside field of Erika and Arjun and Sunny got into the act a couple of times. All we wanted was a tickle… Only 20 runs in eight overs but no wicket came our way. 2-64 in 16th.
Arjun now stepped into the fray and Avnish returned. Probably settled after concentrating their way through Arthur and Mystery, and happy to survive it, the bats put their foot down and we helped by far too many freebies of one kind or another. This spell took Falcons to 2-135 after 24.
Arthur was recalled and was greeted unceremoniously. 2-145 with 15 to go. We had been here before in this season… and KB threw the ball to himself. It had been a torrid time for the old bastard, and if Rodney Dangerfield ever felt like he got no respect, he obviously is not an old spinner in JCA Div. 2! His first ball went well wide. The next half dozen encouraged. Arthur, then got his revenge. One climbed on the bat and the result flew to Adit at mid off who clung to it. Finally a vital break! Then the fun started.
At one end, Arthur found some more juice and pinned the quaking bats to the crease. At the other end, KB pinned five consecutive batsmen like biological specimens and removed the Falcon middle/lower order’s digestive and reproductive system. He said to me later that it was probably the best he has ever bowled, definitely the most satisfying considering season, timing and the stuff headed down. Even the crap was treated with maximum suspicion. There were actually 2-3 catches that went begging. It mattered little. He removed the set bat LBW and the newcomer likewise in one over. 5-160. Arthur scared them some more. Ajeet finally got his stumping off KB next over. 6-166. More scary Arthur. Another KB LBW. He said he wasn’t seeing a batsman, just a bat and stumps. 7-171. Falcon tent silenced. Adit back and took a bit. Top edge off KB goes straight up and straight down into Ajeet’s gloves, but a few runs sneak through. 8-184. KB gets a 5-fer.
Mahesh and Adit were given the task to end it, but one big hitter lurked at No. 10 and had survived the taxidermy. He and his partner loosened the arms and went for it, and although Mahesh added to Ajeet’s big day behind the stumps, the tail banged on runs to get Falcons to 221.
For the first time this season we walk toward a scoreboard that did not tell us we were chasing 6.5, or 8.5 or 9.5 an over. After 222 and we believed we had the bats to do it!
As with the bowling KB had set a batting order with intent. He (1) opened with Erika (2) and they hoped to reprise their solid stand of the ‘Japan Emergency Services Spectacular’ game against Alpha. The season had shown us two things – Santosh’s (3) desire to get into it and Arthur (4) is as quietly methodical and menacing with willow as with leather. Mahesh has been itching to release his inner batsman (5) and Ajeet, would follow (6).
Sunny and Deepak have shown glimpses during their season so get a chance to shine at 7 and 8 respectively. And we had the chance to do what teams do to us – hide down the order some big hitters who can also defend, Adit and Arjun. Self-proclaimed confident No. 11, Avnish, got his wish.
KB ditched the lid mid season and realized what he already sort of knew: he can’t bat through a wire fence. Erika has been our ‘project’ player and she now knew the value of a judicious ‘leave’. Sadly, she got a ball that would have done for most Div. 2 players. Pitched outside off, cut her in two between bat and body and clipped leg bail. KB followed, showing a leave is not always judicious. 2-2.
Santosh and Arthur showed exactly why they were moved up. They weathered the barrage with patience and straight bats to see off the opening pair. They pushed up against the next pair with careful placement and good running. Santosh started to find the rope but Arthur was content to keep the scoreboard ticking over (not had a chance to write that about the 2s this season…). On the cusp of drinks Santosh cracked a monster 6 to take us to a respectable 2-57 after 15 overs. Our best partnership of the year.
It is almost inevitable that any report on a Shark 2s game will include a collapse of Biblical proportions. And so it is written…
A bowling change did for Santosh, bowled for a top score of 30. Mahesh, full of intent for a long and glorious innings, and keen to impress his 1st XI captain who had wandered down, could only watch in slow motion horror as his first ball, jammed out, rolled unerringly onto off stump. The bail considered, then uncooperatively fell. 4-57.
The procession, begun thus, continued. You could have added a looped soundtrack of a bowling ball careening down a wooden alley and scattering pins as Ajeet, Sunny, Arjun all departed in the same way. 7-62 after 20 overs.
Meanwhile Arthur picked off singles. Deft off his pads. Careful in the V. He was in good touch. He was joined by Adit, and if there was any hope left at all, they were it. They put the brakes on for a few overs. Just when we thought Arthur had decided to go binary his whole innings he launched a massive 6 into the corner near the practice wickets. He enjoyed that so much he took a 4 and a 2, matching his entire score over 39 balls in three hits! Adit was also having a go, crashing a 4 square ad some change. After one more boundary a rush of enthusiasm had him as the 8th bowled of the innings. Arthur followed caught one run later for 29. 9-98.
As anyone who has played 2s or read some of the reports, with our batting KB had asked each week that we try to reach one of two targets as a team, bat 40 overs or make 100 runs. We were now two runs short of the ‘team ton’. Both Adit and Arthur were more devastated at not getting us to the 100 than they were at getting out – great team men! Avnish joined Deepak. We hung on every ball. Every swish and miss. Every heart-stopping charge to beat a throw. But they got us there!! And just to make sure, Avnish belted a 4 before Deepak fell C&B. All out 105.
It was our best performance of the season and while there were glum faces from players who know they could have done better with the bat, we achieved something.
It was a great bowling performance from everyone and the field really supported in limiting runs. We were not dominated by the batsmen at any time and I would have loved to have heard what the chat was when we were flattening them out. It was only the usual agricultural hitting that got them past 200.
Santosh and Arthur showed the way we need to play and got half our runs. We know we can do better if we apply ourselves. Thank you Asala who subbed for us during injuries to Arthur and Deepak (and for the scoresheets). Thanks to the Tigers umps, Piyush and Swapnil for their umpiring. To the Shark veterans Mairaj, Adit, Vicky who got their tired all bodies out for us, thank you. To the players who could not play so often or put family (and commonsense) first, which should always be the case, you have some great new teammates to meet in 2021!
Most of all KB wants to thank all the new players who joined the Sharks, who faced smashings in the early hell hole games at Sano 1 and kept coming back for more. There was no complaining. They was a willingness to get on with it. There was a willingness to learn. Smiles. Always smiles. I hope you stay with us and when we get that WIN we are going to really enjoy it.