JCL2 Grand Final, Sharks vs Tigers
Tanuma, 03/10/15 – By Anton lloyd-Williams
And so we arrive at the end of the second season for the Sharks 2nd XI. It has been a superb year where the “Super Seconds” have established more of an ethos and identity of their own while still remaining a key part of Chiba Sharks CC bedrock.
Part of this change is due to the fact that they have won all but one match this season. A team that is winning is generally a happy team and happy teams are good to be around and be part of. Another part of the team’s success is that several 2nd XI players have taken the opportunity of playing regular games, in positions of responsibility, to really show their abilities while others haven’t been afraid to try a few new things out;
Sankar has been a revelation with both bat and ball. Few performances will beat the bevy of late cuts he slew Wyverns with on the way to a 38 ball 70. Who can forget Mairaj’s slow bouncer that came down vertically and clocked the batsman on the helmet or Viv’s pace and guile that terrorized the Adore openers? Marcus’ diving catch in the covers anyone? Takady and Molloy have also developed into wicket taking spinners in the less pressurized JCL2 environment. In just two seasons it feels like the Sharks 2nd XI has gained a cult following, largely among its own players.
However, to find the main reason for the success of the side, one need look no further than the Skipper, Chris Thurgate or CT as he is known these days. He’s involved everyone, applauded everyone and encouraged everyone. His efforts over many years culminated in a 2nd XI side that have loved their cricket, played for each other, finished on top of the 2nd Division and now found themselves up against Tigers in the JCL2 Grand Final at far off Tanuma.
Having recently hosted a series of matches against Hong Kong Dragons, Tanuma was looking pristine with a trim outfield. The boundaries were in another postcode though so 4s would prove to be very rare. Given the stringent rules that all members of the starting XI had to have played 50% of their matches in the 2nd XI and a few punters being unavailable we found ourselves in the odd position of playing with 10 men, but with a 12th man, Sanjeewa, who the tigers graciously allowed to field for the whole game.
The Starting X were; Bayne, Chris Thurgate, Chris Molloy, Sankar, Takady, Anton, Marcus, Naz, Sayeed and Mairaj.
After a kerfuffle over a locked Tanuma gate, a search for some keys that didn’t exist and the discovery that they were (ahem) not actually needed, Chris T wasted no time in losing the toss and was given the option to bat. The 2nd XI this season have had a lot of joy bowling first, dismissing the opposition for not much, and then cheering on Sankar and Murad as they cut, hooked and drove us over the line with ease. All very good, but it gave us a batting line up a bit short on time in the middle. KB agreed to accompany Sankar out to the track with orders from the boss to see off the first 15 overs for whatever they could but most importantly, to keep their wickets.
The Tigers are a big club with plenty of human resources (they rolled up with 16 guys!) so it came as no surprise to find their opening bowlers were a real handful. Salam pushed the ball through at pace outside off, mixing up his lengths and never allowing the batsmen to settle. Ragesh at the other end was all line and length through the corridor of uncertainty. Both batsmen did extremely well to survive the opening burst. KB dug a few out of the blockhole and Sankar avoided some testing chin music. If either of the openers got out then the tail would be exposed so they stuck grimly to their defence, waiting for the few bad balls and and extras that never came.
After 10 tension filled overs the score was a measly 14. However the wickets column hadn’t been touched. With the Tigers first choice bowlers running out of steam there was a begrudging recognition that this would be a marathon, not a sprint. The batsmen started to express themselves a little more against the first change bowling options.
Sankar was by now seeing the ball well and his feet should have had ballet shoes on, so deftly did they skip into position. Some sweetly timed drives through the covers would have gone for a 4 on any other day but with the ropes out of sight, anything that went into the scorebook had to be run. KB ended his stoical dot ball vigil after 21 deliveries (well it takes that long for the old fella’s eyes to focus now) with a squirt out through gully and then turned back the sundial with some sumptuous leg flicks through the vacant fine leg area. Sankar, looked to be moving up a gear now and having done the hard job of getting himself in, deserved a bit more luck rather than the top edge that sent to ball up and out to Ravichandran at Mid-off.
Takady strode in and soon got to work in his punchy, compact way, unleashing some crisp drives straight away. He had the same problem reaching the boundaries though and ran poor old KB ragged up and down the track. However the crumbling ruins of KBs knees stood firm and he looked to be in the form of his life, really getting his dentures stuck into some of bowlers’ more wayward pitched stuff for well-run deuces.
Takady’s promising start came to an innocuous end as he holed out trying to pull Bala round to fine leg. A bit of a waste from a player who always looks good for a 50+. He was replaced by Sayeed who had come to Tochigi to hit a ball. A quick one ball sighter before the front leg plunged forward, the torso lurched back and the bat began a graceful arc from behind the head sending the ball all over the park. More often than not the ball hit a fielder but enough got through the cordon to get the scoreboard rattling along, providing a bit of cheer for the tent. Yes, a few went past the bat but it was all or nothing from the big hitting Bangladeshi and the first 4s of the innings came back to back off two thumping drives that had the bowlers scratching their heads. The Sayeed fireworks display came to its inevitable end when he was stumped for an entertaining 21. 63 for 3 now, with 26 overs played.
That was 63 for 4 shortly after as KB’s superb knock came to an unfortunate end, misreading Vinod for a hard earned, but stylishly crafted 18 off 61. They were replaced by a fine pair of Thurgates. Unfortunately though, not to be outdone by the Sharks 1st XI, the middle order showed that they too could engineer a mini collapse, with a catwalk show of batsmen marching out to the middle, punching gloves halfway with the returnees who ruefully shook their heads, swinging their bats through shots they hadn’t played.
First up on the block was Marcus. He’s been one of this season’s batting success stories and he has developed a rich variety of shots, a solid defence and applies himself with no fear. Having put together a couple of tons in the Junior competitions this season a lot of Shark hopes rested on his youthful shoulders. He looked good too; A solid straight bat in defence, some tentative cuts out through the point area and some sound advice from KB at the other end. He seemed at home against some decent pace bowling until he spooned one out to George in the covers, much to his own chagrin.
Next in was Nazrul who did very well to fend off a few pacy deliveries before a comfortable looking two turned into an tragic looking run out. It was an odd sight. Naz’s legs were moving properly but this didn’t seem to be translated into forward movement. Traction control issues? Who knows?
Anton joined his skipper in the middle to face Tigers paceman Salam. The omens were bleak as he had not got bat on ball in any of his last 3 innings (including, ironically enough, being given out caught behind last match). He fended off a barrage of quality deliveries, including a brute off the grill, but then lost his composure and swatted one out needlessly to Ragesh at Mid-off.
CT looked to be settling well, getting forward to the good length deliveries and leaving the quality alone. A miscued trademark gay dab seemed to get a freakish bottom edge which sent the ball up high down to fine leg. A disappointing end for such a powerful batsman. 78 for 8 and dreams of posting a competitive 100+ total looked fanciful.
However there was a bit of sting in the Sharks tail as the resurgent Molloy took little time in establishing himself at the crease and reminded everyone of his 1st XI pedigree (before a big injury last year kept him out) with a pot-pourri of textbook drives, leg glances and late cuts. It was quality stuff and the Tigers were a bit non-plussed to see these kinds of shots coming from the no. 9.
Mairaj, yet again playing down his own ability, came in for the swansong and yet again, left no one in any doubt that he should bat at 5 or 6. He seemed to have so much time to pick his scoring shots and leave the good ones alone. He effortlessly cleared the field with a majestic drive over to the cow corner ropes, bringing the scorers’ tent to raptures. He finished unbeaten on 12 off 12 as Molloy’s fiery knock ended in the closed hands of Salam at Square-leg. These two put on a late flurry that pushed the Sharks over the ton mark to a possibly defendable 106.
Although there were no big scores, everyone showed a bit of grit and mettle, looking to dig in, score if possible and not throw away their wickets meekly. After a delicious lunch courtesy of the ever charming Mrs. Sayeed, we were joined by Adit and his equally lovely wife and young’un to peruse the Sharks response.
Of the bowling options available to him, the only pace as such was from Sankar’s military mediums. Everything else was either off spin, leg spin, or spin that didn’t really spin at all. Takady agreed to send down a couple of hisashiburi, seam up, pace overs but being a confirmed (and very effective) leggie now, this spell was never going to last long.
However the sight of Takady speeding in again was a tonic for the field and the ball flashed past the inquisitive bat of Ragesh a couple of times. What he’d lost in pace he more than made up for in nouse, the odd slower ball hypnotizing the batsman into late defensive measures.
Sankar bowled a good direct line and was extremely unlucky not to squeeze some of his Yorkers under the Tigers bats. The lines were tight, the fielders were sharp and the runs were pretty hard to come by.
With our low total though it was wickets that were needed so a change of plan was executed. Molloy leggies at one end complemented KB’s tweakers at the other. KB bowled his usual stingy line but was heavily punished whenever he strayed off it, unsettling him a bit and keeping him from finding the rhythm that sees dot after dot pressed into the scorebook. Molloy couldn’t find a way through either, in spite of finding some occasional dramatic turn. The experienced opening batsmen knew that they simply had to leave the good ball, wait for the bad one, soak up the odd wide and they would eventually get home. The odd mishit went agonizingly over the outstretched hands of the fielders and a couple of tricky catches went down too. It was frustrating stuff.
Skipper Thurgate was in a bit of a quandary. Ragesh and Anilkumar were proving tough nuts to crack and lady luck was in the ladies. What to do? Perhaps instinctively he took a course of action that is ingrained in the deepest and most fundamental part of the human psyche. It is an ancient but thankfully suppressed strategy used in times of direst danger, which we have no doubt retained from our earliest pre-primate ancestors and still share with our simian cousins: When in trouble, fling poo!
Anton was tossed the ball for a picnic of pies so foul, that the Tigers top order who gorged themselves were soon heading back to their base camp, in the shadow of the Portaloos, looking pretty green. Skipper Ragesh, so well set, was beaten for lack of pace and almost chopped one on that took an age to reach him. A wry grin later, he scooped a tasty short bunger over his shoulder to the bounda…. Hang on what’s Naz doing down there? He’s taking comfortable catches is what! Bowler ecstatic, Naz bemused, Ragesh livid. Drinks.
A quick sip later and the over continued. New man in, gun bat Ravichandran left the 2nd ball but his eyes simply lit up at the 3rd; A rancid, shortish off-side wide, bound for the extras column. In a deft, fluid movement, the batsman steadied himself, raised his blade, upward tilt, and cut the ball imperiously to the bound… to Takady waiting in the covers! Bowler ecstatic, team bemused, Ravichandran in despair.
Udayaraj came in to steady the ship and return a bit of order. He offered a sensible leave to the 5th ball which bounced harmlessly down the corridor but then got pie hungry at a woeful lob drifting down leg which he smacked to the…. which he missed, overbalanced outside his ground and watched as CT whipped the stumps off. Up went the finger at Square-leg. Team ecstatic! Udayaraj trudging off in disbelief. Wide signaled. 49 for 0 to 50 for 3 in no time. CT wisely then pulled his secret weapon from the attack in case there were IPL scouts about (and in case he was shipped next over for 30+).
Where quality had failed, filth had succeeded. Truly there is no justice in this world. With the Tigers top order back under canvas, the sense of disbelief gave way to one of growing belief that a defense of our modest total was now really on the cards. Molloy added to the growing feeling of confidence by getting Anilkumar stumped, swinging away at one outside leg. A deserved scalp for the patient and crafty Kiwi.
With more catches going begging, Takady then worked his own brand of magic, enticing George to slash at one outside off into the safe hands of KB at slip. 63 for 5 and the Tigers in disarray. Manoj and Srivastava then decided that enough was enough and put the anchor out, playing diligently and within themselves. Sanjeewa and Sayeed kept themselves busy stopping the scoring but sensible batting also stopped the wickets falling.
Their approach worked. Neither Molloy nor Takady could get them playing rash strokes and they ground the score up into the 80s. However, there was nothing Manoj could do with a peach from Takady except chop it onto his own woodwork for the 6th wicket. As the score trickled past 90, the Tigers could smell blood and started batting with a bit more abandon. The boundary ropes were breached and the target passed with the Tigers in full voice during the 28th over.
In the end it’s fair to say that the Tigers won fairly comfortably. They were also good winners, keeping their unbridled joy to themselves and commiserating with the beaten Sharks. From the Sharks point of view, we’d had a great match, had a lot of fun and couldn’t have lost to a nicer bunch of chaps. A fitting end to a great season. Congratulations to the Tigers. Gentlemen to a man and Champions in their first full JCL Season.
Many thanks also to the Umpires for a flawless display and to top Shark Sanjeewa who gamely turned out as 12th man and donated his 12th man travel fees to KB’s Charity Tea campaign. What a saint! We are already looking forward to next term when we welcome back some of the juniors into the ranks in addition to some up-and-coming hotshots. The old guard will be there too to make sure things don’t get too out of hand so stay tuned!