Super 2s Alpha Quashed in Sano Semi

JCL2 Semi Final vs Alpha Quashers – 09/10/17
By Anton Lloyd-Williams

Dr. Wheatgrass Highlight of the Day!
Neel's pristine inswinger to take the #4 batsman 1st ball

The Sano River grounds were abuzz with early morning activity; amongst the litter of bags, tents and pads, bowlers turned their arms over, batsmen and women inspected their willows while captains shuffled team sheets and scorebooks, cheerily wishing each other the best of luck. The local wildlife was also keen to get involved with a mass of tiny green frogs looking for a safe spot from which to watch events unfold.

Cars continued to arrive and deposit their occupants as the grounds began to take shape into two distinct semi-finals. On Sano 4 the Sano 2nd XI looked young and innocent next their rivals; a big, boisterous crowd of swaggering Tigers.

On Sano 3, our opposition, Alpha Quashers Yokohama (“Alpha Qs”) were, alarmingly, already deep into some warm up drills and close fielding practice. We were still waiting for a couple of players and looking around for a dry spot to get changed as the recent rainfall and riverside humidity meant everything underfoot was sticky and damp. Not a great start but certainly a Sharky one.

As the mercury exceeded the 32® mark, Camp Shark was gradually established and the 2nd XI formed up as CT, Sankar, Sayeed, Anton, Mairaj, Molloy, Limo, Gaurav, Neel, Murad and Sumon. Marcus came along as 12th man for which we were very grateful.

CT lost the toss and Alpha Q put us into the field. Not many of the Sharks 2nd XI had played in the round robin match against this side but the word was they had a bunch of hard swinging batsmen, some fair medium pacers and an expert spinner.

Umpires Mumtaz and Shukla got proceedings underway at 10:30 sharp. The Sharks were noisy in the field as Neel came down the slope from the embankment end to Kumar. After a few sighters, Neel found a rich vein of inswing which had both batsman making last minute dabs and prods to keep the cherry out. Neither batsman looked sure of the line and were often found swinging wildly at air. Kumar, eventually decided to play cricket shots but alas found an edge to one that stayed straight. Sayeed, in the gully had all the time in the world to wake up and take a simple catch at chest height.

At the other end Gaurav found plenty of pace but seemed to have left his radar in the taxi. A litany of wides kept the scorers alert and Gaurav took himself off to regroup, inviting Marcus to join the fray.

Neel showed how far he has matured this season with a superbly crafted wicket in the 8th over. Perumalsamy had asked for leg guard but had actually shuffled across to off stump. Neel looked for the perfect line for an inswinger to bring the LBW. The batsman just about flicked one off the pads for a cheeky 4. The next ball was a little straighter, starting on the off peg before smacking into the pad half way up the middle stump. Everyone went up! An absolute peach that gave the umpire very little to consider.

The departing batsman gave his teammate a word of warning as they passed in the outfield. It was to no avail however as the very next ball was even better. Starting outside off, the ball spat off a perfect length to clip the top of off stump. Alpha Q dismayed. Sharks rampant. 3 for 41 and the hatrick ball up next. Everyone was in, but here was a batsman who knew his trade and stylishly left the ball going down his off side.

Sankar made life difficult from the other end, coming around the wicket and making the batsmen play nervously as the ball jagged across them. The scoreboard fell into stasis as the ball found a dead bat or the gloves of CT behind the stumps.

Neel wasn’t finished though. His inswingers to the right handers’ pads were causing merry hell and in his very next over he had Sendogan trapped just as he was looking handy. 50 for 4 in the 10th over and we were on our way.
On our way where exactly? Well, nowhere good as it turned out. Prasaath and Thennarasu were the first Alpha Q batsmen to play genuine drives and had a tight enough technique to keep out the good balls and punish the bad ones. They ignored the scoreboard and looked to safeguard their wickets for as long as possible. Try as we might we couldn’t find a way through. Murad bowled slowly and thoughtfully but was respected with the straight bat. Molloy found his usual extravagant turn but the batsman were happy to watch the ball rip away safely past the stumps. Anything bowled too full was mercilessly sent to the boundary without fail.

Drinks were taken at 15 overs with the Sharks in command at 70ish for 4, but ominously, neither bat had ever once looked like getting out. One of CT’s great strengths over the years has been his adaptability in the face of adversity. Where quality has failed he has often thrown muck and obtained his goal. With this in mind he threw the ball to me. I’d had no notice so I had to hurriedly open the pie-case and see what was in there. It worked for a bit too. I got a nice bottom edge 2nd ball and the batsmen couldn’t make up their minds about how best to send what they were facing to the boundary, eventually settling for some poor value singles. I couldn’t find a way through to the woodwork either though.

Alpha Q sensed the tide was turning. Molloy’s bad balls were deposited directly into the scrub and the batsmen used Gaurav’s pace to send the cherry skipping over the ropes. Uncharacteristically, we also started shelling catches. They weren’t easy ones but they were the ones we’d been taking all season. We kept up the verbal support for each other but there were lots of hands on hips and airy sighs as the ball dropped between fielders, the temperature rose the scoreboard moved towards 150 and drinks.

With 6 wickets left and 10 overs to go, Alpha Q put their collective foot down and went tapeball crazy! Every delivery was greeted with a wild swing. Some connected for 6s, some didn’t and catches still went down. Gaurav’s line and length finally paid dividends with a sharp catch from Limo and Neel got a swift run out off his own bowling but we let Alpha Q off the hook big time. It was they who were the happier side as the innings closed at 208 for 6.

209 (or 5 an over plus change) was felt to be a total we could reach, given the ability up and down the batting order. CT was worried that a sluggish opening would soon have the run rate up at 6 or 7 so he opted to put Sayeed in as opener. In form, Sayeed can knock a bowling attack back to the Stone Age in fairly short order. He had license to do the same here. The plan was for Sayeed to speed blast a quick 30+ with his normal fireworks display. The rest of the side could pick and choose their shots chasing down the resultant 4 or so an over. Opening balance would be provided by the more conservative but no less effective bat of Murad, the only Sharks to carry his bat through an innings this term.

The scorers settled in behind the book with the Alpha Q 12th man taking care of CricHQ duities. He was having a tough time concentrating though as he’d brought a princess, his young daughter with him. She had no interest in cricket and kept up a barrage of requests and demands as we eagerly watched CT’s masterplan unfurl.

Plan B was in action as soon as the 2nd over. Sayeed got an inside edge that hit him high on the thigh. The appeal went up and so did the finger. LBW. It’s easy to bemoan the decision but the umpires had the best view of events so maybe there was something there.

From then on, the next 20 minutes or so was painful viewing. Sumon and Murad seemed to be having a bit of trouble reading the pace of the pitch. Defensive shots were solid but attacking strokes were wayward or found lone fielders. Sumon in particular played some exquisite drives but for dots. Murad had a few swipes at a couple outside off and found air. In the 3rd over though, he found an edge which the keeper gratefully accepted. A rotten start; 2 wickets for just 5 runs. It got even worse when the Alpha Q 12th man was called on in place of a dizzy Thyrantakath. The Princess, bereft of her father, began a low wail which improved everyone’s mood no end.

Our hopes now rested on the shoulders of Sumon and Sankar. Both are great stroke players and both are capable of making 50+ scores. Amid the growing confidence of the Alpha Q 1st string bowlers neither could really find any fluency and looked anonymous. The wides column gave the scorers something to do as we waited for the batsmen to shift up a gear and find the middle.

Sumon lifted the tent with a glorious flourish out to the cover boundary but then lifted the field with a tame swat to the man at point. Shortly after, Sankar left a testing looking delivery from paceman Subramaniam, watching it carefully onto his off stump.

It was heads in hands time in Camp Shark. Our brightest and best, the top four, all back under canvas for 17 runs between them. It was fingers in ears time too as Princess started a fresh aural assault, this time because Marcus had pinched her chair (to sit down and score – the nerve!) It got to such a crescendo that the still exhausted Thyrantakath had to return to the field so the 12th man could come back and take charge. Several batsmen and a scorer also offered to take the field but were rebuffed. Something about rules…

Let’s see what the middle order could muster up. Limo, in pretty dreadful form all season, looked as though he had finally found his mojo again. He looked lively, clipping the ball off his pads well and running sharply. It was surprising to see that he’d only made 5 when he was back in the tent after the finest of edges to the keeper. He looked worth more than that.

The innings of Mairaj, often dependable when we need an end holding up, brought about a little trivia question: Is it a Golden Duck if you are out 2nd ball, if the 1st was a wide? The answer was/is Yes.

Drinks at 42 for 6. Diabolical, really. A miracle was needed now. The run rate was still in touch but at this rate of attrition we’d all need to bat again to reach the target. Our first priority was to at least post a respectable score. Neel and Gaurav showed the way.

Each played themselves in against the Alpha Q 2nd string and then each played in their own style. Neel, standing straight, played innumerable textbook drives and spanked away the short ball. Gaurav, more the swashbuckler, let loose with wristy cuts and pull shots on one knee. Both also ran smartly between the wickets and punished any overthrows with their astuteness. Gaurav provided our shot of the day with a glorious reverse sweep for 4 helping the Sharks to 100 at the 25 over mark.

It wasn’t going too far to think that if these two could continue in this form then we would get close to the 209 target. The Alpha Q field was down too as it looked like the unimaginable was starting to become a possibility. Unfortunately Neel played a fairly innocuous looking ball outside off too far from his body, pushing it to the man at shortish mid-off. He was applauded off by the opposition as well as his teammates. An excellent knock of 23. Sharks at 100 for 7 off 26 overs.

Molloy in next. His stylish technique stood up well to the early questions asked and he effortlessly launched the medium pacers to the bushes if they strayed on length. With the asking rate now at more than 8 an over Gaurav took a risk too many and mistimed a drive back to the bowler’s hands. Where quality had fallen, could rubbish finally win the day? I was in next and looked to attack. A few singles and a few dots and then I threw my wicket away with an idiotic swipe at a wide that was caught at 3rd slip.

CT was the last man in and last man out. Nursing a twisted ankle, he hobbled up and down the baize until he threw out the anchor and went in search of boundaries only. The inevitable edge came quickly and the keeper kicked off the celebrations for the victorious Yokohama side. The imperious Molloy was unbeaten again on 19 off 20. Sharks all out for 130.

Of course it was disappointing to lose again but we lost well, if there is such a thing. Everyone had a decent moment or two, the team backed each other up all the way and ultimately we lost to a better side. It was a fun day out as usual with this side. If we have a weakness as a team it is that we can win one session but we cannot string two sessions together. Until we do, then we’ll have to take losses like this on the chin. Our strength? Everything else.

Many thanks to Alpha Quashers for a great game played in an excellent spirit. They are a good bunch and we wish them well in the final. Also thanks to our umpires, the indomitable Mumtaz and ever calm Shukla, both of whom had excellent games.

That’s it for your Super Seconds this season. It’s been another cracker and I’m sure I speak for the team when I express my appreciation to our skipper CT for making it such a pleasure to play for this side. We look forward to more of the same in 6 months’ time.