CSCC marches on
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Player of the Match - Kervyn Dimney helps his team march on.
Spirits were mixed heading into the first round KO clash between 2nd seed CSCC and 7th seed Green. CSCC realized they would be without stalwarts Mukesh Patel and Ananth Kota for this important clash, while Green had lost champion all-rounder Krishna Nemmani earlier in the season and were now travelling without prolific opening bowler Sameer Sawant. They were however bolstered by the return of their classy batsman Rajesh Joshi.
Green captain Anshu Boonapalli called correctly and elected to field first, perhaps hoping to extract some life out of the morning wicket. Across in Longmont Denver Sluggers were doing the exact same, winning the toss and bowling first. It seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.
With the regular openers not yet to the ground, CSCC had no choice but to send veterans Aravind Giri and Vijay Hurkute to the wicket. Both were watchful as expected, hoping to lay a foundation where runs per over was not neccessarily an issue, rather wickets in hand. Boonapalli tossed the new ball to PC Vimal and Venu Garuda in the absence of Sawant. And Vimal struck early when Hurkute (1) was unable to place a pull shot precisely where he wanted and slapped it straight to Keyur Desai at short midwicket.
Kalpesh Bhakta, CSCC's nomination for Batsman of the Year joined with Giri and proceeded to build the perfect foundation. They negated not only the opening bowlers and first change, but also the entire session. Giri was typically patient, yet unusually agressive on a couple bad balls, one slower ball was dispatched to the square leg boundary and another rank full toss was sent high to backward square for four. Bhakta was his typical flambouyant self, clearing the boundary when the bowler dropped to short. It was to be the only six of the match. Understandably spirits were high in the CSCC encampment at the first water break.
Immediately into the second session the ball was tossed to Keyur Desai, a complete shock to CSCC as he was regarded as a part-time-part-time bowler. Prior to this match he had bowled a total of 16.3 overs (since 2000), taken just 6 wickets with a best of 3-14 in 2003. The gamble paid rich dividends as Bhakta (20) tried to clear the infield but only achieved finding the safe hands of Joshi at mid off. Raymond Mascarenhas (1) didn't last long either as he drove a ball slightly uppishly where Srikanth held onto a stunner at short mid on. And when Shashank Shekhar, Green's leading wicket taker for 2005, outfoxed Giri (18) and trapped him plumb in-front, CSCC had surrendered a commanding position of 47/1 to 55/4.
Captain Kervyn Dimney and (Sehwag look-a-like, hit-a-like) Ritesh Bhakta were charged with taking the innings back into safe ground. Dimney was offered two early lives as he struggled to find his touch, Bhakta just took off from where he left off, where Sluggers fielders were craning their necks and watching the ball disappear into the atmosphere. Bhakta (14) quickly lifted Shekhar easily over long-off before pulling not a cricket ball but a muscle while attempting a second run an over or two later. The downtime seemed to have rattled him, Desai himself quickly rattled his timber thereafter. At 74/5 CSCC found themselves in a very dangerous situation. Michael Doig joined his captain charged with getting to the 2nd drinks break further unhurt.
Identifying a great opportunity, Boonapalli smartly brought back his quicks for a 2nd burst. However, Doig seemed to be seeing the ball clearly right from the outset, his 2nd ball to Garuda disappeared straight back over the bowlers head for four. Englishman and perhaps part-time comedian Alisdair Davey was heard to have said, "So they sent you to up the run rate?" Thats exactly what happened. Dimney and Doig ran the fielders ragged, converting plenty of 2's, and even 2's into 3's on successive occasions at one point. With the 2nd break fast approaching Doig pulled a short ball from Vimal for four, and immediately sent the next delivery to the midwicket boundary. Danger was avoided and there was some relief for the CSCC camp as the score read 99/5 with one session remaining.
Dimney started opening up and slightly disturbed Shekhar's pristine bowling figures by finding the cover boundary twice in one over. But he was tiring and Green could smell a wicket. Doig took over and clipped a ball on leg for 4, and continued by chipping the ball into deep midwicket and extra covers. The pair kept running perfectly between the wickets. The 50 partnership came and went, in slight desperation Sameed Abdul was brought back into the attack. He had actually bowled one over earlier and had looked great in giving away only 2 runs. Doig (36) quickly hit him on the up for 4 over cover, before edging the next one to Davey almost completely against the run of play. It was a terrific catch stretching up and to his right. The 68-run stand was scored in many fewer balls and really took the game back heavily into CSCC's favour.
But write Green off you dare not, as Desai first claimed his 4th wicket bowling Dimney (39) attempting to hit out. Then Abdul purchased a wicket as newcomer Mehmood Khan (2) sweetly timed a shot to deep cover, but Garuda held on to a solid catch right on the boundary. With Dimney's wicket Desai had achieved a career best of 4-30 in 8 overs. He had genuinely troubled batsman most of the innings. And with Khan's wicket, CSCC tumbled yet again from 142/5 to 146/8. But Rookie of the Year nominee Keshav Murthy and vice captain Abhay Natu ensured a good score would turn into a great one. Murthy was brilliant at #10, finding the boundary with a lofted straight drive and a sweetly timed pull shot to finish with 24*, his personal best. He has been dismissed but once and boasts a batting average of 58.00. Natu inadvertently provided late entertainment as he first needed a runner, then proceeded to complete a run absent mindedly. Doig was the runner and when hearing Natu call "Yes!" advanced to the non-striker's end. Natu did as well, and amidst the confusion the ball was returned to the keeper where he *should* have removed the bails for a wicket. He threw to the non-strikers end while Doig screamed for Natu to return to his crease. It was absolute mayhem for a few moments. Natu safely returned to his ground, and the umpires correctly requested Natu to continue without a runner.
In the end the score read 179/8 with Desai and Abdul the pick of the bowlers; Dimney, Doig and Murthy the pick of the batsmen. A luncheon of Subway sandwiches was taken before returning to the field.
Green needed a solid start and it seemed captain Boonapalli was intent on achieving so. He had infact scored a gutsy 40 as an opener in their previous league encounter. Dimney and Doig shared the new ball as usual, and were given glimpes of hope as Raghu Bhavanishanker looked to hit out early. He just couldn't quite cleanly connect any though, but Boonapalli did as he sent Dimney for the first 4 of the innings. Dimney exacted revenge when Boonapalli (9) shuffled across to far and exposed his leg stump, which came clanking out of the ground. Desai came to the wicket and would ensure that he had a wonderful all-round day. Khan was thrown the ball after the 8 over opener, and although he struggled a little with line and length he did get a beauty of a yorker through Bhavanishanker's (10) defences. This brought Joshi to the middle, surely eager to avenge his score of 2 earlier in the year and find the form that saw him score 92* against CSCC the year before. Green safely negated to the first break with the score reading 37/2.
After the break the two played absolutely chanceless cricket. Singles and two's were the norm as they laid a genuine foundation for an attack at 180 later on. Only one boundary was scored as Joshi attempted to pull a bouncer from Mascarenhas. That's correct, Mascarenhas actually got the ball to bounce above shoulder height! Although slightly dangerous, in reality there was no-one deep on the leg side and the ball skied to deep fine leg for a boundary. Shashi Chikkana, Murthy, Kalpesh Bhakta and Mascarenhas all had cracks at breaking the partnership, but it held firm. The required run rate kept creeping up, first passing 6 and then 7. Chikkana and Mascarenhas struggled with wides and kept the pressure on the batsman a little lower than CSCC would have liked.
Finally Desai (28) tried to hit out, he came down the wicket to off-spinner Murthy and clipped it straight down the throat of Doig at long-on. His anchoring job had been perfect, this had been a 50 run partnership. Now Green needed their middle order to push the advantage. Davey joined Joshi and they soldiered on towards the hundred mark. Davey was helped slightly when he pushed a single in front of Murthy at mid-off. Murthy motored in but in his haste released the ball too quickly and it sailed high over the keeper for 4 overthrows. At the time it wasn't funny, but now this reporter is having a giggle. I'm sure you can picture that poor Bangladeshi fielder achieving the same thing during the 2003 World Cup.
As if to make amends, Murthy was determined to put an end to Davey's tip-and-run efforts. For a stockier bloke the man is deceptively quick, both between the wickets and in the infield (when not keeping). Davey (11) cut one that spun too close and played on. From 83/2 and then 101/3 Green completely collapsed. Garuda (0) sliced Murthy to Hurkute at point who held on to his first catch as a non-keeper in the league. He was genuinely pleased to be rid of that statistic. Then Nimit Shah (1) snicked Doig where Natu took a classic diving-forward catch. This only brought in a determined Shekhar who is a clean striker of the ball. With Joshi still in, it might still have been possible. But Shekhar played a ball to deepish mid-wicket right between Chikkana and Doig. Seeing Chikkana retrieve the ball perhaps caused the batsmen to attempt a second, but Chikkana fired the ball straight to Murthy at the non-strikers end to run out Joshi (21) and seal the deal.
Srikanth didn't last too long as he too shuffled across too far and was bowled behind his legs. At 116/8 it seemed all over. But Shekhar and PC Vimal had some fun hitting a boundary each and pushing the score closer and closer. Shekhar's boundary to deep midwicket was so well timed that Doig had no time to react at long-on. It bounced about 3 meters short of the maximum. Finally Kalpesh Bhakta wrapped things up by first enducing Vimal to sky a ball to Mascarenhas, and then having Abdul slice a ball to point where a tumbling Khan held onto a very good catch. Shekhar finished notout with a breezy 20*.
The final score read 137 and CSCC had won by 42 runs. It was quite clear that if this same playing 11 or 12 can be available next year, Green should easily be able to register a far healthier record than 3-9. For CSCC they march on towards a rematch with DSCC, whom they knocked down to 3rd overall in the league when they defeated them in the final match of the regular season.
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