1st XI vs Tigers 1st XI JCL Div 1 Semi Final, SICG2
14 Sept 2019, By KB
We booked a semi-final date with the Tigers on the back of another good season. We have had some great clashes with this powerhouse Indian club. Who could forget our gripping (and dripping) last over win in Round 6? Our semi final was no exception. It was not done deal until into the last handful of overs and we almost had to do it with nine players!
Lock doors. Notify relatives and neighbours. Loosen restrictive clothing, place sharp objects at a safe distance and READ ON!
Light rain scheduled for late afternoon was unfashionably early, folding and floating like a gossamer veil over Mt. Karasu and SICG. And it set in for the first half of the game. We were playing on turf and it was putty-coloured and suggestive of a low-scoring game and a very careful, front-foot approach. Dhugal won the toss and we batted, his thoughts being that life would not be easy in the field and we may get the best of the bowling conditions.
Doogs and Neel yet again got us off to a good start albeit a slowish one. The putty-pitch was tricky: it kept low in general, and sometimes lower out of sheer spite, spinning, coughing and there was even swing. The Captain is sitting atop the JCL batting so the low-slow pitch did not stop him crashing fours at regular intervals around the clock-face. Neel was rock-solid in watchful defense; however, it was as if the fielders were targets and he was Robin Hood.
The bowling was pretty accurate and if you did not take full toll of bad balls there was not much to be had in between. We often forget Sabaorish is a very good bowler – he actually heads the JCL Div. 1 this year. Doogs fell to him, quizzically, LBW for an entertaining 23. Sharks 1 for 38 (11th Over). Clampa patted back a few with enormous ease then launched a trademark on-drive down the ground. Neel was visibly frustrated with himself but showed great maturity nonetheless. Clampa added another over the top for 4 but it was increasingly hard-going as you can see. We came into drinks on 1-42
The pair added runs in drips and drabs and were only 71 off 24 overs when Clampa again departed unfulfilled (let’s hope he is fully filled the next innings!). Neel was still battling himself as much as the Tigers attack who were accurate and marshaled well by their Captain Supremo, Sabaorish. Kazu joined Neel but it was not the conditions for a hammer-of-the-gods innings but his 5-ball cameo consisted of 1612. 3-84 in the 26th then Marcus, who never really settled, went in the next, 4-88.
Shark bums shifted either nervously or not at all. Except for Doogs, who could not sit down and paced the rope like an expectant father! And to add to the tension the constant rain had worsened, so much so that both games were halted and, in a rare occurrence in Japan, the covers were put on! Our run-rate was now a worry but luckily it cleared up and patches of blue appeared over the mountains. We lost no overs.
Whereas earlier we all willed Neel to find runs, now he was the rock we needed. With Takady he had a good partner – very front-foot, low to the ground and in form. Takady got proactive and this sparked Neel. Takady clobbered a 4 follow by another off a no-ball. They scampered for runs and the scoreboard began to tick over. Takady fell in the 34th but they had added a run-a-ball 47.
Neel was joined by Asala, again with a ‘finisher’ role to play. But he probably carried a bit too much pressure with him this time and his feet would just not work. The bowlers seemed to sense it as he fished outside off without success. But Neel was finding gaps now and they ran singles and twos like, well, a tiger was on their tails! Sage advice from the boundary to ‘RELAX!’ snapped Asala’s spell and with a shoulder-shimmy he cracked a blistering square cut to the rope. To belie his early struggles, Neel’s last eleven balls included ten scoring shots for 23 runs including a huge 6!! Talk about changing gears! Unfortunately, a chancy second run did for Neel just short of a half-ton. Asala slammed the last ball down the line for 4.
Sixteen came off the last two overs (70 off the last 10). The Captain had been eyeing off 180 as a really good score on this pitch and it was almost delivered. Sharks 8-176. Neel top-scored with 48, facing 112 balls into the 37th over. It was not as fluent as he can be, but he was at least in control and he fought through his frustration and exploded at the right time. It was a massive job for his team! We again had good support down the list.
We were not sitting pretty but quietly we were confident that our strategies and deep bowling could prevail. Then the sun came out. The field dried out and the pitch calmed down somewhat, enough that we were in for a fight.
In Rui’s absence (I think he was just avoiding us singing him Happy Birthday…) we were able to call on Vivek! Him partnered with Muneeb on a low pitch was a scary prospect. The fast-bowling ace had been limited in appearances by injury and work but this would be a pitch he enjoyed. Muneeb started us rolling, splaying the stumps (1-5). Viv soon joined the fun with his own comprehensive LBW (2-17). This brought in dangerman, Sabaorish. Viv again trapped the remaining opener in front and Tigers were wobbling at 3-28 in the 8th!
Probably the last two ‘recognised’ batsman were at the crease. Now, Kohli and Dravid are to India as Sabaorish and Manoj are to Tigers. Get by one (better both) and then it is just a matter of time. Manoj can drop anchor while Sabaorish single-mindedly executes the plan (and the opposition). They proceeded to do just that. They put on 61 of which Manoj pecked out 6. Sabaorish took a liking (or recognized the danger of) Yugi and Mahesh in bursts. They defied whoever or whatever we threw at them: Magic, Mystery, even mud. Doogs finally prized Manoj off the pitch, caught by Takady. 4-89 and we had an opening.
We took it.
But not before we had dropped a number of catches that should have been taken. Sabaorish was still there and swinging, but Kazu Ueda atoned by latching on the Yugi’s first. 4-110.
It was around here that we had our first injury scare. Asala prevented another boundary running around from point but in doing so turned himself into a banana-shaped-pretzel-squeezebox. The big man spent some time flat on his back as his backbone and ribs returned to their starting positions. His was gingerly arranged in a chair on the sidelines and Deba took no urging, setting loose into the field like an off-the-leash ball-loving Border Collie! And it did not take him long to get into the action. Almost immediately a gentle top edged swipe at Mahesh lopped Deba’s way at point and he held it with glee and the adoration of his teammates. 6-119.
We went into the 30 over drinks with the edge in an uncomfortably even contest: we needed four wickets and Tigers on 126 needed about five an over.
It was about to all bust loose in unexpected ways.
One guy stood in our way. Sabaorish is a man on a mission. He wears it. Exudes it. And his time was now or never! After drinks he announced his intention. And we announced ours with Viv coming back.
On strike second ball he flailed a flat cut shot right out of the screws. Deba at point did not flinch and took it right in front of his nose, and I swear it carried the lad back a metre or so. The field and Shark supporters went freakin’ ballistic and you could almost hear the Tigers tent emotionally collapse. It was a fine, measured innings of 68 from the Tigers Captain but we knew we had a couple of Sharky fins firmly in the final with his removal. 7-127.
The bowlers and field ramped it up. Yugi snuck one through to bowl the No. 9. 8-133. And even Debashish was not done yet! Another top edge of Mahesh looked to be clearing him at point. But, eyes on the ball, Deba chucked off his cap. Little legs pumped furiously in reverse. He tripped himself up. He fell backwards directly under the trajectory of the ball. It bounced out of his hands on the way down. With a second grab he hugged it to his pounding heart as he lay prone the ground! OUT! The super-sub had bagged three catches. 9-133.
But it was at this point that the whole thing could have come to a terrible end. Our fielding had been manic and magnetic all day. Players threw themselves at every ball. A Mahesh ball was lifted back down the ground. Oblivious to the other, Takady hurtled after it from the circle as Muneeb did the same from the opposite direction off the rope. It was like watching one of those grainly black and white movie train wrecks building up.
Who called? What was called??? Was there a – BANG!!!
You could hear it from a distance. Both of them hit at full pace diving for the dropping ball. Players rushed from everywhere as the young men lay side by side. I fumbled for the car keys trying to recall the route to hospital. So so very luckily Takady came away with a bit of a sore shoulder. Muneeb nursed a sore jaw and a ringing ear (not bad for having been hit by a human cannonball). The collision could so easily have put them both in hospital. Fortunate to say the least (especially since only KB and Hamdan were there to sub)!
Shaken but not stirred they continued (Asala was quite ready to come back on!) as we looked to wrap up the innings. Viv returned for the coup de grace. Quite fittingly Neel took the catch.
Tigers all out 143 and Division 1 Final here we come again!
It was a great game. It is not often that the pitch has to be negotiated in this way. It was far from easy with the bat. The enormity of Neel’s effort cannot be denied (Sabo’s neither). He was frustratingly slow at the start (he knows it) but he stuck at it and in the end his knock got us to 176. A very good score on that wicket. Our top order all contributed without being spectacular or even comfortable. But we got partnerships.
We bowl deep and everyone did their bit to either get wickets or limit runs. While Viv was the star with four wickets we bowl as a pack. The ground fielding was superb, spectacular, even. And death-defying! Several efforts both in the ring and on the rope from the likes of Clampa, Asala, later Deba, Kazu and others had kept certain 4s, to zero or two. I’d say the fielding prevented 20 or more (and gave us a lot of momentum). Our catching has been better but, my word, DEBA! That alone may have scared the daylights out of the Tigers.
We mangled the Wombats. We have taken out the Tigers. We have players who have starred but plenty who can do much, much better. We have confidence and form and potential!
There was one more twist to be had on the day. The MAX also seemed to be K.O.ed at 7-77 needing 161. Having finished early we gathered to watch Alpha blow that enormous advantage and cough up 13 runs in the final over. MAX had escaped and would again meet us for the title. Kicking their Houdini-shaped posteriors will be even sweeter! We owe them.
October 5 – SHARKS! Let’s get up to SICG to support our brothers!!