JCL1: Chiba Sharks 1st XI vs Sano 1st XI
Sano 1, 31 May 2015. By Paul Grant
This top of the table clash at Sano promised to be a high-quality affair between the two pace-setters in the JCL Division One. Sano came off a convincing win against MAX posting a mammoth 331 along the way, which they had no trouble defending while the Sharks are running with great momentum and on strong contributions from all team members against Paddy’s. It had the makings for a great contest.
Both teams arrived at the ground only to be met by a strong north-westerly breeze which would challenge the bowlers pushing into it. Captain Dhugal won the toss and decided to see how good Sano are at chasing targets as opposed to setting them. The Sharks batting has been a solid part of their game and has laid the ground work for their bowlers to finish the business.
Sano came into the game with a handful of spinners picked to do the job. Sharks came in with a largely settled spine of players but with two promising Japanese additions: Wakita is touted as the quickest Japanese bowler in the land of the Rising Cricket Ball and was picked to send down a few Shark rockets; Yosuke is also a promising Japanese talent coming in for his first run with the Sharks this year. Both products of Uenomiya’s cricket machine. These two would prove to be vital contributors in the wash up. And, Mairaj, the consummate team man and gentleman, named 12th man for the day would also prove to be pivotal.
Captain Dhugal’s instructions in the warm up were to draw on the batting discipline showed by the Sharks against Paddy’s and that was to get to the 30 over mark with wickets in the shed and then hit the fireworks button for the last ten to catapult the team to a winning score. Sumon promoted to opener was the only change to the Sharks’ top order, elevated to cover Karthik’s absence.
Dave, who has been in good form with the stick in recent times, was hoping to back up his 67 against Paddy’s and Sumon as mentioned before, opened for the Sharks. Sumon wasted no time in getting the score moving by dispatching the third ball to the square leg boundary with a perfectly timed pull shot. From then on, it was a disciplined and solid opening six overs until Dave attempted to put Roshan into the weeds over mid-off but the strong breeze had other ideas and decided to hold the ball up for a catch to Akthar who held his lunch and the catch.
Dhugal came out wanting to set about his business of making runs as efficiently as possible, scoring a single from his first ball with a back foot glance down to fine-leg. Sumon and Dhugal toiled and saw the score past 50 in the 13th over with some fine shots by both batsmen, but perhaps none more memorable than the aggressive six that Sumon welcomed Sano’s first change bowler with by sending the ball over the ropes from his first delivery. Sumon departed with the score at 61 looking to up the pressure on Sano’s wealth of spinners.
Huss in at four looked to continue his form of accumulating runs in a very short space of time. However, he got nine on the board and was desperately unlucky when he negotiated the ball well only to see it dribble on to his stumps just hard enough to dislodge one bail. You could see and feel his disbelief from the boundary at one of cricket’s most unlucky ways to go.
Asala joined Dhugal just before drinks and upped the run rate. Dhugal playing a solid captain’s knock went past 50 for the second time in three games with a modest raise of the bat. The two put on a valuable 62 runs for the fourth wicket when Dhugal fell for a well-compiled 59.
Sharks had made their way to 4/139 with ten overs left, but lost a few wickets in quick succession. Yosuke for 11 and Vicky fell after a sharp catch from Shizuka Miyaji and Asala again with a valuable 29. Wakita and Viv got the score to 8/191 with some lusty hitting from Viv, then departed with four overs still to see out.
Sharks still in the mood for making runs were not interested dot balls with Wakita proving to be a dangerous proposition if left unattended and Paul given licence by Dhugal to “Clear the ropes”. Paul and Wakita set themselves a target to get the score to 210 but by the end were re-evaluating the target after the two took 16 off the 37th over, with Wakita deciding enough was enough and it was time for some fireworks.
Sano played a daring and ultimately successful card by bowling a spinner in the final over against the breeze. This looked to be an error after the first ball of the final over went for six. However he got his revenge and Paul’s wicket the very next ball. This left Adit and Wakita to get as many runs with the remaining five deliveries. The two closed the innings at 9/221, with Wakita not out on an impressive 28 and Adit unbeaten on one.
Dhugal again noted that it was a solid batting display from an improving batting side with valuable hands played throughout the team. Would this be enough for the Sharks strong bowling line up to defend? It would take 40 overs to find out.
When you are on a roll with the ball in your hand you don’t change the formula. Vicky and Adit took the new cherry and looked to strike as early as possible against some very accomplished batsmen. It would be a contest that would no doubt be tough, entertaining and ultimately of high quality. Sano are known for their strong batting line-up and Sharks for a depth of bowlers that would make any captain happy.
Vicky, with the new rock, came in with a stiff breeze behind him looking to impart some damage early. He found the going tough as an aggressive Ahmad took ten from the first over with some very fine stroke play. At the change of ends Dhugal had a brief chat with Adit before his first delivery, about what? Nobody will know for sure (possibly asking Adit about his recent trip to The States or where to go for post-match beers) but Dhugal didn’t take up his normal position in the slips but lodged at short mid-wicket.
Adit’s first ball was a well-directed bouncer which got big on Qureshi. He flayed at it with a rather ambitious hook but only succeeded to sky it. Dhugal must have had some inside info on this one as he ran backwards to take a comfortable catch on the 16th attempt! A very well thought-out and executed plan got the Sharkies up and running. Kudos to captain Dhugal for doing what good captains do best.
At 1/10, the Sharks had a sniff of more Sano wickets and another almost came immediately when Adit was presented with a sharp breadbasket opportunity from Ahmad but was unable to latch on to it. He did instead pick up the Sano number three in his second over when Viv took the catch of the day by snaffling a daisy cutter from around his ankles. In the context of the game it was an important wicket as it added just a little pressure onto the shoulders of Ahmad. At 2/23 it was threatening to fall away from Sano but they hung in there, as they always do, and soaked up all that the Sharks could throw at them.
Wakita, coming in with big wraps, pushed them through with decent pace, making the batsmen play and miss on several occasions in an impressive first over with the Sharks. It was a double change with Paul, coming off a strong performance against Paddy’s and hoping to get some movement in the air against the breeze, doing his best Steve Harmison impression with his first ball which went for four wides in a rather uncharacteristic wayward first over.
With Sano shoring up their innings the pressure and the balance started to shift with the score at 80 from the first ten overs, Dhugal threw the ball to Dave to tie up one end and it proved again to be an inspired bowling change. Dave took (centurion against MAX) Rana’s middle stump with a peach of a delivery dismissing him for 33.
At 3/83, the game was still firmly in the balance, but the Sharks knew that if they couldn’t snare a double breakthrough then it would be a bit more challenging for them especially with Ahmad set and going past 50. Approaching drinks, the Sharks had lost their bite and it was obvious with runs starting to flow with some un-Shark-like fielding errors. At 130-3 and strolling their way to 222, Dhugal’s drinks address was clear: “Pick up the enthusiasm, back your teammates and get back to basics of hitting the top of off stump”. On top of this Yosuke had picked up a niggling little injury, which prevented him from taking the field after drinks, and this brought 12th man Mairaj into the game where he would prove to be vital.
Paul came back on after drinks and dismissed Kanoh with the second ball after drinks as Viv claimed his second important catch of the day which got the Sharks moving again. 4/135 quickly became 5/143, as the Sharks got their double breakthrough they had been seeking, with Wakita taking a very difficult catch but, in the process, injuring his finger.
Nothing inspires a team more when a team member hurts himself for the team. In this case when Wakita went off for some medical attention, the already-injured Yosuke returned to the field. The Sharks were inspired and could now again sense a victory on the cards. With the game up for grabs, Dhugal took the ball seeking a sixth Sano wicket, and justified his decision, getting Sankalpa to tickle through to Sumon.
At 6/162, still needing 60 to win, Sano still had the dangerous Ahmad at the crease and when a guy is on 70 not out, on Sano 1 and set anything is still possible. The plan was to keep him away from the strike and attack the lower order batsmen. But this plan soon changed on 180 when Ahmad, looking for the short boundary, miscued and skyed another catch, which Dhugal took comfortably running back with the flight. It seems the momentum changed the moment the wind changed. Now no longer a stiff north-westerly but a rather gentle south-easterly.
With 40 runs to get and three wickets in hand, it looked more likely that the Sharks would run away with it, especially after Machida hit the ball straight to square leg and took off for a run. Sumon was left with the easy task of taking the bails off from Asala’s return to make it 8/182. Another patented Sharks double break through.
The experienced Shizuka Miyaji and Raja Akthar still believed they could snare the win for Sano, however, and aimed to work the score down to single digits until victory. With some very valuable fielding from Yosuke and Mairaj cutting off boundaries at fine leg and third man, every run was becoming critical. Dhugal called for Vivek to come back and push the Sharks toward victory and he did so by shattering Akthar’s stumps. It is the type of game we play cricket for, we all want to be the bowler to take the final wicket or the batter to hit the winning runs in a tight game.
The game was on a knife edge. Sharks needed one wicket. Sano needed one boundary. Sharks dreading the flying edge through the slips for four and Sano dreading the sight and sound of flying woodwork. Who would be their team’s final hero? It was Viv who snared that final wicket, leaving just one stump standing and sending the Sharks into delirium, yet again.
It was truly a see-sawing game with both teams being on top throughout both innings. In the warm down address, Dhugal made it clear that we still have a ways to go to be where we want to be and that if we can win a game in those circumstances not playing at our best then it bodes well for the rest of the season. Mairaj and his presence in the field gave the Sharks an 11th fielder when needed after two injuries set them back. He was able to guard a boundary on many occasions which proved to be pivotal in a three-run victory. An incredible show of resilience by a Sharks team who are clicking more and more, match by match, and being well led by Captain Dhugal.
Next game should be another belter against MAX.