Nov, 2009 – Giants Dwarf Sharks

Japan Cup – Sharks VS Giants, 5/10/2009
By Alexis Coovre

The Chiba Sharks ended their 2009 season, going down to the Tokyo Giants, by 35 runs, in the Japan Cup.

Dodging zigzagging creatures of the night, and peppy marathon hopefuls, our emerald heroes found their way to the spot marked ‘X’, under strict instructions to be on time for the 6:42.

The steel behemoth screeched to a halt, opening its gills, before roaring out into the heavy morning air. The front carriage, normally abuzz with machine gun Sharkabulary, and first light palaver, was unusually quiet…

Japan Cup V Giants

Meanwhile back at the station, the Sharks, camped-out on the causeway, used their motion trackers to search for the missing stragglers. Messengers were sent out, but they only came back with quizzical looks and a belly full of soba. When the kettles began to slightly whistle, the missing became found, and fortunately for the offenders, they were pardoned for their tardiness.

The 7:19, fuelled by an unkindled fire, and fragrant Dutch courage, shot its way out of megalopolis, past the factories, over the hills and through the Gates of Valhalla, finally easing down at the place where the mountain meets the sea.

Nine Sharks shuffled across Fuji 1’s dewy prairie, eleven imposing silhouettes watching their every step, eventually revealing flashy smiles and outward palms. Two lances for hire, remnants of a fading empire, came out from the morning shadows, making good their promise to Chiba. The captains made the toss, and moments later the cry rang out that the Giants were to bat. David and Goliath would dance once more.

Against India blue, the low sun shone its Sunday best. Gliders circled like sharks; black-tailed gulls rode the north-westerly, autumn shrapnel dotted the sky brown.

Away from the womb of Ageo, the Giants’ openers, Tauseef, and Navid, slowly marked out their territory, pushing and poking around for fuel for the scoreboard. Thurlow came at them, assiduously slanting it across their body, beckoning them to be their old selves. But they kept on looking…

Finding a line outside off stump, Coovre, coming in from the river end, drip fed the batsmen, who were happy to work it away safely out to deep point, for singles.

Things needed shaking up, and Thurgate found his man, in the introduction of the hard working Thompson. The British Embassy faithful steamed in, and continually beat the bat with swift balls just short of a length. The agile Sharks’ ring backed him up, cutting off certain fence finders. The Sharks fielders were looking to throw anything down, even their unsuspecting team-mates…

Realising that the Fuji boundaries are a little longer and a little slower, the openers began to bulldoze their way through the organic obstacles, playing the shots they love, with all of their trademark intensity.

Lollback turned down the music, however, when he fired the ball back to Thurgate, during a quick single, to get Tauseef (14) short of his ground.
Kobayashi, aka Amigo, captain of Japan, bane of many a cricket team, squared up, relishing this delicious contest. He quickly pulled his cover drive out of the drawer, and began to play it whenever possible.

Mohamed was brought into the attack, and quickly found the line and length he was looking for. Meanwhile, Navid and Amigo put things on cruise control for a while, using their experience to guide them.

Fresh from his twenty20 rumble against the MCC, Prashant came on and began stirring the pot. He quickly got the ball to talk, and in no time at all Amigo’s (19) off stump was on its back.

Punchoo, Thompson’s brother in arms, replaced Mohamed, and had a crack at new batsman, Waseem. The latter began to show how his bat could make the numbers move on the scoreboard, going gonzo on anything remotely loose. The Sharks’ fielders began kissing the boundary, in retort.

Desperate to stop Navid’s (28) determined vigil, Punchoo came in harder and faster, and succeeded in sending one into the small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port.

Thompson wasted no time in bringing about Waseem’s demise. Playing one that he should have left, Waseem (33) snicked one through to Thurgate, the bowler’s patience paying off.

What followed was a minor collapse that seemed very, very familiar… The sight of ex-ODI player, Kamal (0), must have got the competitive Prashant, ticking all over. Three balls later, and the former was back having lunch, his stumps still being knocked back in by the umpire.

The score 5/101, the Sharks really started believing in the home ground advantage. Were the Giants just planet Mars specialists?

Prashant came in and did it again, this time getting the experienced Mumtaz (4), to give the waiting Punchoo a straightforward catch. Scratchy gave one pectoral fin up, in approval. For the first time in a long time the Sharks had the Giants pinned.

Nikhil was brought on, getting the ball to co-operate with the seabreeze. His tantalisers were too much for the eager Naeem (2), who zigged when he should have zagged.

The wind switched around to a south-easterly, stirring up the green willow trees on the banks of the Fujigawa. At long last he was brought on, coming out of nowhere, like a late summer storm. Enter David Lollback. Three minutes later, Naseem’s (6) stumps were unearthed, victim of another ‘special delivery’.

Presently the Giants were 8 for 120, the circling Sharks, back in around the bat. But in Cardiff-like fashion, the tail wagged, leaving many scratching their heads. Fayaz flayed across the line, Qasair (10*) went over the top, rotating the strike like an old 45.

More than 15 runs later, Lollback slammed his gavel one last time, the fiery Fayaz (9), finding Thompson amongst the verdant recesses.

Sayeed came out swinging, tempting fate on many occasions. He blazed his way to a quickfire 10, hitting the ball to strange places, his partner all smiles. Thurlow got the nod for the last over and delivered the coup de grace, vandalising Saeed’s (10) stumps in one fiery breath – the Giants all out 150.

A few soggy morsels later, the sharp end of the order, Lollback and Prashant, walked out, under a flagging sun, with hope in their hearts that today might just be the day.

The opening bowlers found the spot immediately, but found the docile pitch, a massive departure from the juicy Ageo mouse mat. The phlegmatic Lollback deflected back the laser bolts that came his way, his partner meanwhile getting a life, attempting to pull off a lofted uppercut strike, to backward square leg. The shouts from the sidelines reigned in his thoughts, and it was back to the singles and two’s approach between the pair.

In his ascent to double figures, Lollback (9) received a PVC seeker, from Tauseef, and received the elevated arm of dread from 22 yards.

Thompson was given the honour of the number three position, but was immediately sent packing, by a Tauseef ball that would have cleared Tokyo tower. For the next half hour, he launched into a juicy, vitriolic monologue, which would have got the thumbs up by the Bard himself.


Undeterred, Prashant played the role of himself, eventually finding the first Chiba boundary, and some much needed rhythm. Mohamed, in only his second innings for the Sharks, found his footing early, composing an innings of well crafted one’s and two’s. He and Prashant seemingly had the hull breach patched up, before Mohamed (8) found the sticky fingers of Naseem, off the bowling of Amigo.

The score 3/40, the ground a scorpion’s nest, skipper Thurgate, strode out with a glint in his eye. Prashgate began their war of attrition, searching and destroying anything that resembled a red speckle. The Giants called in additional artillery support, but Prashgate only hit the ball harder. The skipper was in vintage form, crashing the ball through the gaps, on one occasion, creatively cutting the ball way over deep point’s head. Prashant released his cow corner barn busters, one for the MCC talent scouts hiding in the bushes, and one for the lonely video camera perched proudly on its tripod.

What goes up must come down, however, and Prashant (42), reaping the rewards of familiarity, only found a lurking Sayeed, off the bowling of Fayaz, just missing out on his half century. Nota bene: the next day he would go on to score 48 against the MCC, on the same ground.

Embassy man, Punchoo, came in, and joined the skipper in the hunt for runs. They put on 20 runs, before the skipper (31) got cleaned up by Fayaz.

Debutant Lloyd’s (0) stay at the crease was short lived, hearing the Amigo death rattle, gone for a doughnut.

Nikhil (0), too, heard the smashing of ash, courtesy of Fayaz, he too walking back with aught but a deep fried piece of dough.

Two balls later Punchoo (14) got caught-out, swiping across the line, off the bowling of the Colonel (Kamal).

The score 9/ 112: Coovre and Thurlow, searching in their souls to find the 39 runs still required. Thurlow (1*) opened his account (for the year) with a cathartic clip past mid-off for a single, Coovre (3) notched up a few, lofting down the ground.

They say never run on a misfield… In an act of desperation, Coovre, ran on an Amigo fumble (bon guerre?), at gully, but the Japanese captain had it back to the non-striker’s end in a flash, and that was the end of that. No ‘Levitation’ in sight.

Ashes to Ashes, we all fall down… The Sharks lose by 35 runs.

The Sharks’ 2009 cricket season was ended. The always gracious in victory Giants, and the weary Sharks, made the gesture of peace ritual, under the ever darkening sky. Eleven green men became eleven shadowy silhouettes, as they made their way across the dewy prairie.

The retrieval boats lay in wait, under cover of darkness, before flaring their boosters, and streaking off into the night.

The hungry sharks made the cash registers sing, at Ito Yokado, gathering supplies for the long journey home. Juggling bags, burgers and bevies, they quickly made their way up the steps of Fuji station – the train would be there any minute.

Something really bad must’ve happened somewhere down the line, because for the next three hours, it was stationary at the station. The resourceful Sharks slumped to the floor, outside the ticket gates, beer in one hand, handful of nibbles in the other. Anton made one of his female students apparate, giving the weary troops a boost. Prashant, staying in Fuji that night, hinted at the festivities that his night would bring, his teammates’ imaginations running riot.

Anxious about not making it home in time, the Sharks, except one, agreed to cough up Go-sen-en, and rocket back to metropolis by way of Shinkansen.

Nine of them raced off, Prashant disappeared, the female student disapparated. Meanwhile, Alexis patiently lay in wait for the magic call to come over the airwaves. And the one thing he was waiting for…

Some people say he found it. Other people say it was in front of him the whole time…

And thus the 2009 season ends. A JCL semi final finish, some hard fought friendlies, a tough KCL campaign, an eye-opening super sixes match, a hard Japan cup scrap – these experiences will only make us stronger in 2010.

An awards day on 22 November, a winter indoor cricket comp likely, and regular monthly trainings, there is always something going down.

You can’t win unless you swim with the Sharks…

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