Chiba Cup, Togane Arena, 15 Nov 14
By Anton Lloyd-Williams
Perfect weather, close cropped outfield, pitch laid in a perfect line and Camp Shark established under shady canvas on the boundary. Something had to go wrong. This was the Chiba Cup. Something had to go wrong. Calamity came in curious fashion when the University XI were picked up by chartered bus from Oami station on time and dropped off at Oami Arena shortly afterwards.
The problem was that everyone else was at Togane Arena. How many Arenas can you have in the middle of nowhere? About two, it would seem. The bus returned to pick up the castaways and deliver them to the correct destination allowing this 30 over match a 10:40 start.
Turning out for the Sharks: Vicky (C), Dave, Chris T, Sankar, Adit, Atharva, Anton, Sagar, Alwin, Karthik and Sumon.
And for the University XI: Tsunenari, Shiratori, Yagita, Machida Y, Yamashita, Suzuki, Ohshima, Yamada, Sato, Machida K and Ito.
Umpire: Chris Molloy.
Il Capitano Signor Varun “Vicky” Sancheti won the toss and asked for a bat. Anton and Sagar were given the honour of opening our final match of 2014, providing a neat bookend to the season as these two had opened in our first match against the roving Bundy Rumblers way back in March. (Hat’s off to Bundy if you are reading down under by the way.)
The pitch was, as expected, low and slow. Uni pacemen Yamada and Sato bowled quickly but soon saw the speed sapped out of their deliveries so they bowled smart instead. Good lines just outside off, inswing and sharp work around the field meant the scoreboard didn’t see a lot of action except for a the odd flurry of wides.
The batsmen stayed patient though, knowing how short these Flicx Pitch matches can be when runs are searched for too ambitiously. Sagar’s classy looking drives found eager fielders but a streaky 4 over point from Anton signaled a change up in gear. However the same batsman had seemingly stalled when Sagar called through a run, was sent back and caught short by a great direct hit from Yamashita at mid off.
Lollback came into the middle with his usual gravitas and looked to calmly assert himself on the bowling. Again though, the fielders swooped on anything that came near them and after 7 overs just 21 runs were registered. A change of bowling brought Suzuki’s fruity loopers to the fray, hypnotizing Anton into inaction and upsetting his woodwork behind. 2 for 22. No need to worry though as flat track maestro Sumon was next in to unleash his sumptuous drives across the trim outfield.
Both he and Dave traded boundaries and the Sharks tent felt it could now settle down to a royal milk tea, a biscuit and a batting masterclass under the cornflower blue morning sky. Any regular reader of these matchday missives can already smell the unmistakeable niff of what happened next. Another carefully crafted Sharks batting collapse of 8 wickets in 7 overs.
Don’t blink. Here we go:
Sumon – bowled by a beauty from Suzuki that spat off a short length, staying low. 3/42
Dave – caught in two minds by a Machida mystery ball and caught in two hands at short mid wicket. 4/42
Karthik – hit on the knee roll by a looping full toss. LBW. Not a happy fellow. 5/51
Chris T. – Tried to ease out of a big pull shot but a Thurgate hit stays hit. The ball flew out of the ground and into a stonemason’s yard. Out of Bounds. 6/63
Alwin – Poor old Alwin run out yet again. Called through for that run that still isn’t there. 7/66
Vicky – Having seen Chris T fall foul of the Togane Out of Bounds rule, Il Capitano sensibly and responsibly did exactly the same thing to exactly the same stonemason’s. 8/72
Adit – LBW to one hitting leg. 9/72
Sankar – LBW. Details unclear. 10/77 after 18 overs.
Atharva was the man not out. Good job Sir.
|Vicky||Out Of Bounds||0/0||11||5|
|Chris T||Out Of Bounds||1/0||7||6|
|B 1 LB 3||WD 27 NB 7||38|
|18 overs||10 for||77|
Again, what do you say? With batsmen dropping like autumn leaves there was little opportunity to ruminate over the cause of each felled wicket at the time, as the in-tray was quickly clogged. Afterwards…… well, it’s just cricket. These things happen. A lot.
On the plus side though the Sharks knew that they had screwed up big time and had but one chance to put things right. Vicky’s pep talk hit the right notes and the Green & Red took the field with noisy intent and 77 runs to gamble with. Vicky set an unorthodox field, with the leg side almost unmanned, the off side thick with close fielders and two good men in straight and close.
Orders were given to hit off stump and nothing else. With such a close field and short square boundaries it was a high stakes gamble but it soon started to pay off.
Adit struck in the third over, moving the ball into opener Tsunenari who fended the ball off at pace to Karthik at short mid on, who held on. The next ball accounted for Yagita, clean bowled. It’s never easy when you get a perfect inswinging yorker first ball. The intended hatrick ball took a thick inside edge and skidded behind for a dot but the damage was done. The Sharks had blood in their nostrils and were relentless from then on in.
Sagar, bowling beautifully, wrecked Shiratori’s furniture and this brought in Yamashita to join Machida Y. at the crease. These two knuckled down and played sensibly and defensively which, with a required run rate of just over 2, they were perfectly entitled to do.
Yamashita, a national training squad member, showed his pedigree and played some good looking drives but got poor value from them as the field was in grimly ungenerous mood. Adit and Sumon chased down numerous boundary bound balls while Alwin saw nothing go past him at cover.
Machida’s stubbornness was eventually broken with a Sancheti special that clipped the leg stump bail. This opened a revolving door for the University XI and there was little they could do as Sankar, Sagar and Sancheti flew in on a wave of bristling assurance and took out their men, one by one, with an irrepressible cocktail of pace, guile and verve.
In the 15th over, the last wicket fell with the scoreboard jammed on 50. It was inevitable that it should fall to Sagar, with an off stump shattering crackerjack, in his last Sharks game before he starts a new life in Singapore.
The crowd (thanks for coming Mairaj) had been treated to the best and worst of the Sharks 2014 season, which was neatly wrapped up in 33 overs; some nice shots, big hits and a total collapse with the bat. Some tight lines, swift hands and full bullish spirit in the field.
The Sharks were absolutely elated at getting their trophy back.
There was still some daylight left for a quick mini game between the two sides which gave the chance for the Uni chaps to bat unfettered and pepper the boundaries. Atharva was the standout Shark bowler in this exchange taking 4 scalps in total.
As the light dimmed both sides retired indoors where the presentations were made. Molloy picked up a bottle of bubbly having been voted, unanimously it must be added, as Best Umpire. Sagar’s fine brace got him Best Shark while Best Uni went to Suzuki after his 2 for 16.
Many, many thanks to the University XI, captained excellently by Tsunenari-san for a tight and entertaining match, to Chris Molloy for overseeing proceedings and to Yumi Ishimoto for the use of her Flicx Pitch, tents, tables, drinks, tool bag etc etc.
The cup is home Sharks. Let’s keep it there.