2016 CTCL T20 Plate League Final
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Final - Jaguars Vs Anchors Sunday Oct 16th
A crisp fall morning with clear skies and a strong wind blowing towards the east was going to be the perfect backdrop for the final game of the T-20 Plate segment of CTCL. Making it to the finals meant that both Jaguars and Anchors had had an unbeaten streak for the last several games. While the Anchors had an aggressive batting lineup with some big hitters on their side, the Jaguars had a strong and tightfisted bowling attack. A perfect recipe for a final game of any format of cricket was about to unravel between these two contrasting sides.
Jaguars won the toss and elected to bat first considering several factors – the Anchors’ batting could post a huge target if allowed to bat first, the strong wind towards the long-on boundary could aid some big hitting, and finally the fact that they had won the previous 3 games batting first. Anchors on the other hand seemed content with losing the toss and were determined to repeat the performance against Jaguars in the earlier league game when they were able to run through the Jaguars’ batting.
The opening combination of Naveen and Azim was tried for the first time with the hope of surprising the Anchors’ bowling. The duo started off cautiously scoring just a couple of runs in the first 2 overs and a few more in the 3rd. Azim took on the offensive in the 4th over by hitting Suri for a 6 and then a 4. Praveen & Dixit weren’t able to apply brakes on the Jaguars’ scoring either and boundaries kept flowing from Azim’s bat with good support from Naveen who played some determined reverse sweeps. Jaguars raced to 49 in 7 overs, which was uncommon at the Longmont field with its slow outfield. Sameed slowed the run flow with his flatter deliveries and was awarded with the wicket of Azim (30) when Suri grabbed on to a lofted drive. Naveen departed quickly thereafter when he was bowled by Sachin while trying yet another reverse sweep. Mrugesh and Venky found themselves as the 2 new batsmen in the middle and looked to stabilize things before stepping on the gas. Jaguars were at 56/2 at half time and a big score was on the horizon.
Mrugesh tried to give as much of the strike to Venky who was starting to play freely. However, he didn’t last long and was out caught by Praveen off of Dixit. Amit arrived next and was happy to provide the support that Venky needed who was hitting boundaries consistently to take the score to 97 at the end of 15 overs. Amit (17) was finally out caught at long on caught by Prasad off of Dixit. And, that’s when Venky went ballistic and unleashed a flurry of 6’s – three consecutive 6’s on the last 3 balls of the 19th over and 2 more in the 20th over. How often have we seen eight 6’s and four 4’s by a single batsman in just 1 inning? The final score read a staggering 165/4 with Venky scoring 86 NO off of 41 balls and provided one of the most memorable fireworks in a T-20 game in CTCL.
The target of 165 was extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve against the disciplined Jaguars bowling attack, albeit the Anchors batting was capable of almost anything. With a century earlier in the season, Suri was looking to lay the foundation along with Sachin. Once again, Kuldeep and Shanthi started off with very tight spells and the Anchors’ batsmen were content pushing for the 1’s and 2’s punishing any bad balls that came along. Up to 3 catches were dropped in the first couple of overs that clearly showed the anxiety levels on both sides. Shanthi struck in the 4th over when he had Suri caught by Kuldeep who held on to a catch running from long off towards cover. Sandeep took on the mantle and started off by going after any bad ball that was bowled. Naveen claimed the wicket of Sachin when Venky took a brilliant forward diving catch running from deep square-leg. Sujith departed in the very next over when Mrugesh held on to a catch off of Azim. The Anchors’ woes were compounded when Naveen came back in the 9th over and clean bowled Sandeep on the very first ball. Anchors reached 62/4 at half time, which seemed not too far off other than the number of lost wickets.
Das and Prasad tried to build a partnership and put together 25 runs before Venky had Das caught behind by Amit. Prasad made a belligerent 40 to pose some challenge from Anchors until he was sent home by Naveen in the 16th over and the score was still 50 runs short of the target. The pressure was clearly on the Anchors batsmen and it showed with the fact that 2 of them – Dixit and Praveen were both run out trying to scramble for runs. Azim cleaned up the Anchors tail by making Kiran edge one to Amit and knocking off the stumps of Sameed. In the end, Anchors seemed to crumble under pressure despite a fairly reasonable start they got from their openers and fell short by 42 runs with 2 overs to spare.
After the early setbacks in the season, Jaguars put their act together, pulled up their socks, changed their jersey, and showed amazing grit & determination to not only reach the finals of the Plate segment but won it comprehensively against a worthy opponent. Both teams have played numerous times against each other over the years, and yet this final game was probably one of the most fiercely fought and won till date!
Venkatesh Deshpande (Venky) has been consistent with the bat and the ball for Jaguars in almost all the games that he played. He has scored 154 runs in the 5 innings he played in the 2016 season and claimed 9 wickets with an economy of 4.25. But, Venky actually rose up to the occasion in the final game and was the unanimous MoM for his unbeaten 86 in 41 balls studded with eight 6’s and four 4’s, a very tidy bowling performance of 2-0-12-1, and brilliant catch at deep square leg.
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