JCL Division 1 – Chiba Sharks vs Wyverns
SICG 1, 17th August 2019 – By Neel Date
The opponent: Wyverns, a side boasting 5 men’s national team players in their ranks. Traditionally a side known for its agility in the field.
The setting: SICG1, lightning fast outfield, hot and humid, both teams on 24 points at 2nd and 3rd on the table with two rounds to go.
The stakes: In a word, high. Today’s winners would find themselves in second place with one round to go and with their playoff chances in their own hands, while the losing side would find itself perilously close to missing out on the semis.
The Sharks summoned for the job (in batting order): Neel, Rui, Clampa, Kendel, Takady (c), Marcus (wk), Arata, Ishaan, Muneeb, Yugi, Mahesh.
Skipper Takady lost the toss, and we were unsurprisingly sent in to field. As usual, Rui and Muneeb would make first use of the new ball. Rui kicked things off with a maiden against Miyauchi, second on the list of leading run scorers at the end of the previous round. This prompted him to attempt a risky cover drive against Muneeb the following over; need I say any more? Ball in the safe hands of Clampa at second slip via the outside edge, Wyverns 1-1.
The other opener, Kawashima, playing his first JCL1 match, looked completely the part at this level, imperiously driving and pulling the opening bowlers on his way to 22 off 13 balls before Rui got him, once again caught in the slips by Clampa. However, his promise at the crease did not go unnoticed, with Kendel referring to him as the “best left hander in Japan”.
After their short, fruitful bursts, Rui and Muneeb were replaced by our ‘Spin Twins’, Mahesh and Yugi. They immediately settled into their lines and lengths and dried up the scoring rate. The Wyverns knew they had to be proactive, otherwise the two would bowl 16 overs for not many. It was only a matter of time before something gave way, and Wyverns lost their whole middle order to rash shots against our spinners. Clampa plucked two more catches like apples off a tree, ex-Shark Tomizawa being the Golden Delicious variety. Mahesh finished with 2-23, and Yugi with 2-15 to leave Wyverns reeling at 68-6.
The lower-order pair of Kubota and Buddhika, however, dug in and made sure they wouldn’t let us clean them up so easily. They initially took their time till the spin twins had no overs left, then Buddhika took off. Taking a liking to our next-up spinners Takady and Kendel as well as Muneeb, he began targeting the straight boundaries and clearing them with ridiculous ease, hitting 9 maximums on his way to 93 off only 57 deliveries. Anything in his arc disappeared over long on or long off without fail. Kubota too chipped in with a valuable 31.
Muneeb broke the partnership after they had added almost half their eventual total, and we did not let the tail wag too much. Clampa handed his ball-magnet to Mahesh who held two catches. Rui finished with 2 wickets, while Muneeb bagged 3 scalps. Eight of nine wickets fell to catches, but none for Marcus behind the stumps. Wyverns ended their innings of 40 overs at 203-9, which was certainly more than we would have hoped after the start we had, but definitely gettable on this batting friendly surface.
Opening the batting for us were Neel and Rui, and while Neel hit the first legitimate ball for a good leg glance for four and was assured in his defense, he was very unlucky to be adjudged LBW in opening bowler Kubota’s second over. Rui also looked good while he was there but had to make his way back for 8 after he top-edged a pull shot off a bouncer from Kubota. No.s 3 and 4 for us were Clampa and Kendel. All of us in the dugout were very keen to see these two masters at work and saw glimpses of their combined destructive power, but their stand was short lived as Clampa failed to clear extra cover, leaving the Sharks 38-3.
The skipper, Takady, was next in, desperate to provide Kendel with some support. The run rate was not going to be an issue while Kendel was there, especially with Marcus still left in the sheds. Takady knew this and was comfortable dealing mostly in singles. He contributed 23 to the partnership worth 75 before being caught on the boundary off Bebe Miyaji’s gentle off-spin. Marcus was in at 6 and he didn’t look like getting out, scoring runs taking minimum risks. At the other end, all the while, Kendel was motoring along and had passed 50. Just as the partnership began to flourish and we were beginning to feel at ease, Kendel holed out to the deep off Wyvern’s captain, Raheel, for 86, with the score at 178.
We now had 26 to get with half our wickets left off about 9 overs, with one set batsman at the crease. Sounds easy, right? But in cricket, sometimes the scoreboard as seen by someone not actually in the game lacks context. The Wyverns now had a sniff and seeing as there was no choice but to hunt for wickets like predators, they made their presence felt. Leggie Raheel was on fire, nabbing the wickets of Arata and Ishaan cheaply. Like so many times this season, the win would have to be sealed by the tail now. Muneeb remained unflustered through all of this and added a priceless 13 runs to the score with Marcus for company. A generous offering of wides also aided our cause. Marcus fell with 7 to get, and all of us in the dugouts who had energy left on this sapping day were busy biting our fingernails. But Yugi and Muneeb once again did the job for us, and we won by 2 wickets with 2 overs to spare.
Thank you to the Wyverns for this high-octane game of cricket and to the umpires from the Falcons who had to endure the heat just as much as us players.
It was a good feeling to be on the right side of the result, especially since the fixture held such far-reaching consequences as mentioned at the beginning of the report. Still, there is plenty of room for improvement for our next match against the Wombats in all departments. What’s important is that we have identified the areas of concern and are working on them. Hopefully, we have three matches remaining this season. If any Shark who is not in the XI can come to support us for any of these matches, it would be highly appreciated.