Sep, 2009 – Sharks Breeze into Semis with Sano Win

JCL – Sharks VS Sano, 30/8/2009

Cloud enshrouds Fuji
Batsman marks two centres, taps and waits
Right-arm over, into the wind

Buoyed by their stirring victory over the Predators, twelve Chiba Sharks assembled at a very blustery Fuji for the final JCL game of the regular season. ‘Mano-a-Mano with Sano’.

Unfortunately for Sano they could only round up seven mano for the game; nonetheless, they were the hardened core of their strong side. You could almost hear Sano humming the theme to “The Magnificent Seven”, or reaching for the Marlboros. They would bat seven and we allowed them to field four ‘gun’ university players from the adjacent practice session. A win would see us into a Saturday final against Wyverns CC, the other, err, result would have us loading up, full metal jacket, next Sunday to renew acquaintances with the table leaders, the Tokyo Wombats Cricket Club. ‘Tank talk’ to ensure our most satisfying match-up for the Sharks finals assault was lightly entertained but quickly dismissed as frivolity, best left to the aquarium types – the Chiba Sharks turn up their fins for no man, mammal or mythical monster. Game on, Sano.

Cap’n Chris did his best Ricky Ponting impression by losing the toss and Sano chose to bat on the more unpredictable of the Fuji slabs. A rising wind was driving from the freeway end and would do so for the whole day. (It got so strong that by the end of the day it blew the Conservative Party clean out of government. Talk about winds of change.) Despite missing three of our established bowlers in Lollback, Mossop and Walters, we still looked strong in that department. Pat opened with the north bound-Typhoon 11 gusts at his back and made his presence felt quickly. A ball with Hannibal Lector intent ripped off a good length, smashing into the Sano openers face grill. The ‘lip ball’ is born! But it was Alexis from the Shinkansen tracks end who made the first inroads, trapping their highly-regarded opener ‘plumb’ LBW. Another LBW to Pat and a bowled to Alexis, who is having a great year, saw Sano slip to 3-15. It was looking like a short match. Sano have some quality players who had other ideas, however, and with patience and a good slice or more of luck through the wider slip region, Miyagi and Ruzzaq built a steady and worrying partnership. Although Prasant was troubled by the wind in his umpired-curtailed spell he accounted for Ruzzaq (47) not long after drinks (at 20 overs). A slick piece of work behind the pegs eventually fixed up the set Miyagi (50), stumped off the at times unplayable, at times un-watchable, Graphic. As usual, Levi was always threatening and would have benefited from a 3rd or 4th slip. Varun steamed in for his spell and picked up the final wicket. Himi and Taka had their moments but the ever strengthening and swirly wind was a constant problem. Our good fielding standard continued, some standouts being Taka literally putting his body and appendages in the direct line of fire (those are ball-shaped bruises all over his chest, Mrs. Morimoto, not love bites), Himi’s sprint and dive to cut off a certain four was one for the Sharks highlights package, and Nick got a 8.5 from the Russian judge for his unique ‘ground with tuck and half pike’ catch attempt behind the ‘keeper. Nikhil as 12th man got plenty of action in the field while Kris was so threatening at point that the ball barely came near him. Mention should be made about the successful efforts to rescue our ball several times from the relentless Fuji undergrowth. Despite Sano only batting seven we removed their ‘best’, Sano Cricket Club all out 6-153 off 32 overs.
Bowling Figures
Pat Giles-Jones 8 overs 1-wicket-15 runs (bowled)
Alexis Coovre 4-2-14 (LBW, bowled)
Levi Thurlow 3-0-18
Himi Agarwal 2-0-17
Varun Vancheti 3.2-1-17 (bowled)
Markus Adams 8-1-34 (stumped)
Prasant Kale 2.3-1-21 (bowled)
Taka Morimoto 2-0-17
Extras 20
Our fate was in our hands. Nick and Prasant strode out confidently to open the Shark innings with a tricky 154 to win. Prasant showed his intentions by creaming the second ball to the long on boundary, but his eagerness to get his prodigious mojo working again saw him chase a wide one which the ‘keeper juggled for the out. Looking for the big one in the finals, mate! Just as in the Sano innings Nick had to deal with a vicious steepler but apart from that and an on-going difficulty with the word ‘water’ he was looking untroubled. Pat joined Nick and they proceeded to plot the downfall of Sano. As usual Pat was very strong in the ‘V’ and also produced some nice shots off his hip – one of which was not yielded up by the vegetation. Nick, meanwhile, was laying down a classic wagon-wheel. Drives, cuts, pulls, hooks, and the overly lush boundary areas and four athletic subs probably in the end denied him the three figures. Pat eventually fell caught right on the boundary rope by a ring-in for an entertaining 26. While were not in ‘in the woods’ to begin with we have the capacity to charge in a deranged fashion off the trail at times this season. The Sano bowlers were helping us along with some extras, but there were still some runs to be made. Nick was rolling along at a run a ball. After Pat’s demise Chris accompanied for a short while and then ‘The Slayer of Predators’ Varun joined Nick to push the total toward our target. Varun probably played the shot of the match. Helmetless and bespectacled, Varun’s lightning, boxing-ring honed hand reflexes not only saved him from being defaced, they also kept him not out, both in wicket and consciousness. There is a spot on a good length in that pitch at the Shinkansen end that needs exorcising. With the end in sight, Varun departed for a feisty 11 and Kris joined Nick to get the final 16 runs. It was maybe quite apt to have the two mad Bombers supporters out there to get their team into the finals! Art imitating life or something. With Nick slamming another couple to the ropes, some extras and Kris ‘guiding’ a few through the vacant gully and, for the winning goal, er, run, through the vacant second slip fielder’s hands, the Sharks recorded back-to-back wins to blow into the 2009 JCL finals.
Chiba Sharks Cricket Club 4-154 off 27 overs.

Batting Figures
Prashant 4 (caught behind)
Nick 72 n.o.
Pat 26 (caught)
Chris 4 (bowled)
Vicky 11 (bowled)
Bayne 4 n.o.
Himi, Graphic, Alexis, Levi, Taka DNB
Extras 33
Total: 4-154

Fantastic effort by Nick to be unbeaten on 72 not out AND in doing so Nick Creece passes 1,000 runs for the Ichihara/Chiba Sharks Cricket Club. Congrats, Nick.

The middle of our JCL season was either washed out or ‘forgettable’, but two wins at the end saw us finish 2nd on the table to face 3rd placed Wyverns. The Sharks will be looking for revenge after being shot out quite cheaply by them earlier in the season. Firstly, however, we will be looking to actually field a team… And on a personal note, please spare a thought for the author who manages to miss two finals (Sharks V Wyverns & Adelaide V Essendon), in two beloved sports (cricket & AFL), in two days (Friday & Saturday), on two sides of the Pacific (Melbourne & Tokyo) – good effort and he will be tearing his hair out, twice.

Thanks to the two umpires from Paddy Foley’s, Sano for a gallant effort, the uni lads as subs and Nikhil who accepted 12th man duties.

SO – as soon-to-be-former-PM Aso was packing up his manga collection and incomplete Level 5 kanji-kentei textbooks for the long trip back to Fukuoka, the triumphant Chiba Sharks debated the gastronomic merits of cephalopod-leg shaped grease over carbo-bomb rice balls. The trip home was truly an educational experience. Nick got in a quick hour of archaeology. Nikhil and Kris swapped literature experiences. Levi engineered the largest bourbon and Coke in the Japanese history (accomplished at around 100kph) to the delight and probably detriment of willing guinea pig, young Himi. Chris and Graphic, meanwhile, introduced a different kind of wind of change into the environment.

Ah, so it is … the train home – a rite of passage, a ticket to excellence – wouldn’t miss it for squids.

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