We are the champions!
We did it. We won the Colorado Cricket League Knock-out championship. But it’s more significant than that. We finished the year with the best overall record, 13-2. We beat every team twice (not including Littleton, they only had to play us once). We have a dominating record on the road, completely undefeated. And we have this knack of winning matches from hopeless situations. You do that once, it’s a fluke. You do it twice, you scratch your head. What happens after the 3rd and 4th times? You begin to realize that you are not safe at any moment when playing Colorado Springs. Our resilience shines all the way to #11.
So we started the day not so well, an accident perhaps on I-25 saw traffic blocked and most of us arrived just as the game was starting. We won the toss, but our New Mexico guys weren’t here yet. Rather than bat and be out-of-sorts, we decided to bowl first. This was dangerous because we know Fort Collins are good defenders of a total. And frankly, they’ve been terrible chasers this year.
So Nadeem flayed away and FCCC were already 33 after 3. Walking all over the crease, as usual, trying to disrupt the bowlers rhythm and get under the ball. He hit me for a six and a couple fours and I had gone for 23 in my first 2. I had him dropped at fine leg, a sitter. I could only look away and wonder in disbelief. He was also dropped by Mukesh and Kervyn from Mehmood’s bowling. You can’t give these kinds of chances to a batsman like Nadeem. So I decided to mix it up and varied my line, length and most importantly, pace. Nadeem was not reading my slower balls at all, as in the next 3 overs I went for 4 runs and got his wicket, as he spliced a ball straight up and I wasn’t trusting anyone, colliding with Mehmood to claim the caught and bowled. (44/1)
Ravi Sajjan came in, he is a batsman with such ability, but the worst temperament I have seen. Slightly worse than Gopal. Ravi gets a lot of talk about how good he is, but you just don’t do what he did, and I see him do this a lot. First ball, I mean absolute first ball, he tries to launch into it for a six. His middle stump goes flying. You can’t just walk in and do that. (44/2)
And then Nirmal, who’s role I am not sure of, opening for FCCC shuffles across the wicket to find his leg stump rattled behind his pads. FCCC players have this habit of walking or shuffling across their wicket, as you will find a couple plumb LBW’s and another bowled behind the pads before this blog is done. They can only blame themselves, they all do it. (49/3)
So a period of consolidation occurs, although so lucky as Ganesh punched wide of Ananth at point and set off for a single. Ananth picked it up brilliantly one-handed and fired a beauty straight to the keeper, a real bullet but perfectly placed. Ganesh was stranded mid-pitch as the keeper failed to collect the ball and the batsman made it safely back. It was a huge mistake, and one that could haunt us. The two proceeded to play some very good looking cover drives and clips to fine leg, rotating the strike and putting the rare bad ball away. But Ganesh shuffled across trying to flick a ball and completely missed, rapped on his pads full and back in his crease. The finger went up and he trudged off. (90/4)
So Mike Riley walks in, one who is never short on advice to anyone who will listen. Sashi, now bowling to a lefty, strays down the leg-side but it just clips Mike’s leg and harmlessly goes through to the keeper. The next ball is wider, so Mike leaves it. But it viciously cuts off the seam and clips the top of his leg stump! Eyes wide in terror and disbelief he walks off muttering and shaking his head. His comment when he got back to the pavilion was, “Why didn’t you guys tell me he could bowl like that?” Good on you Mike, always someone else’s fault… (90/5)
Rajesh Idate and Gopal continued towards the 2nd drinks break, but right on the stroke of the break, I mean just 3 balls left, Gopal gives Keshav the charge and hits it straight down my throat at long on. I am told by the keeper that the sequence of events went as such:
1. Crack of the ball
2. “Shit! Why?” exclaimed by Gopal the batsman
3. Gopal turns around and heads to the pavilion
4. Michael catches the ball
118/6 now, Gopal’s suicide really should have opened the floodgates. But I feel we mis-managed our bowlers, Kalpesh finished with 7 overs, but the worst was Mehmood who only completed 5.1. He took 3 wickets and really troubled all batsmen. We should have brought him back at this moment for the kill. This let off in pressure saw Rajesh (23), Dipal (18) and Khaleel (21) take the score on to a good one. Kalpesh came in for his typical breakthroughs, his 3 late wickets probably saw him through to the MVP title. Mehmood got the final wicket and FCCC had posted 172. It looked enough if they could get Kalpesh out quickly. But they will rue the fact they still had 11 balls to spare in the innings. 4 more runs would have been enough. Maybe 2…
So Mukesh perished 2nd ball trying to hit Nadeem over the top, but only found Dipal at mid off. (3/1) And then the big one, Kalpesh had been looking good, putting Nadeem away for four in his first over. But he missed a fuller one and was bowled by Nadeem. (17/2) FCCC celebrated like no tomorrow, probably expecting to tear us apart. Yeah, whatever. See after we beat them last time, coming back from 28/6 to post 190 thanks to Kalpesh’s 97 and my 58*, they had to be telling each other to never let that happen ever again… ever…
Ananth and Kervyn took us towards safety, Kervyn had one blistering cover drive all the way along the ground for 4, Ananth was simply looking brilliant. His flays through cover and his cut shots were superb. One rising ball from Nadeem was met with a perfectly balanced cut on his toes, it was a treat to watch. Nadeem got Kervyn again with a full ball that he missed, and suddenly we were in danger at 36/3. But the real treat of the morning session was watching Ananth’s 6 over cover. It was a breathtaking stroke. Sadly, he found again that playing the ball fine in Colorado is a dangerous one, as he attempted to glide to third man and only nicked it to the keeper. His 29 was extremely valuable, as evidenced by FCCC’s rapturous celebrations. (62/4)
So surprise package Keshav and myself worked on putting together a valuable partnership. Keshav has been batting #10 and #11 all year, so batting #5 was certainly new. He relished his opportunity and executed it to perfection. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, his innings of 12 from 49 balls doesn’t sound a whole lot, but it was completely necessary in the grand scheme of things. He held up one end, sure he was beaten, but he was staunch and resistant. Myself on the other hand, I came out full of strokes, first ball was clipped to fine leg for a couple easily, then a full ball on my pads was chipped over midwicket for another couple. A low full toss was driven down the ground for 3 and I was feeling very comfortable. But my over confidence was my undoing, as I attempted to pull a short ball that got on me a bit quicker than expected. On your day this might result in a boundary off the top edge over the keeper, but today it went straight up and was caught by Rajesh in his follow through. (73/5)
Robert came and went very quickly, as he nicked through to the keeper for a duck and trudged off, upset with his apparent failure to contribute. (75/6) But this is a team effort, not all of us can steal the glory on each occasion. His departure only meant that wrapping up our tail should have been a formality. Enter Ritesh, perhaps the biggest hitter walking around the CCL at present. This kid is a pocket dynamo, and he showed that by flaying the bowlers all over the place. Robert made a comment that is so true, this guy doesn’t deal in boundaries. He just hits sixes. Early on he was struck in the groin as he misread a shortish ball, a few minutes were taken as he dealt with the pain. I was surprised to see a hint of a grin in Kalpesh’s face, he explained to me that the bowler would pay for it. Unbelievably Ritesh hit the very next ball for six!
He then proceeded to blitz each and every bowler over the boundary, clearing it very easily, save for one that just eluded Dipal’s reach on the boundary. As if to make up for it, when Dipal was re-introduced to remove this menace, Ritesh half swept/half flicked him for a huge six that took a long time to fetch from way down the street. Ritesh continued on his merry way, and forced Nadeem back into the attack. It was brilliant. Even though Nadeem got him on the verge of the end of his spell, he accomplished exactly that, forcing Nadeem to finish his spell. The way things were going, Ritesh would have finished the match in the next few overs. Nadeem and Dipal *had* to come back. Nadeem achieved his 3rd bowled of the match, Ritesh was gone for 35 and now the score was 114/7.
Mehmood walked in, also a very crisp hitter of the ball. He got a fullish swinging ball from Brendan and decided to leave it go down leg. It hit him in the leg and was given out, none too happy either. I honestly cant tell sitting in the pavilion, what went against him was the fact that he didn’t play a shot. But he was gone, it was 115/8 and our last hope was dashed. The warrior by the name of Keshav had battled all the way through this, and now forced to take command was out via a leading edge trying to chip Mike Riley over midwicket. It went straight to Dipal at mid off. (121/9)
So it was all over. Sashi and Abhay entered and who was to know the miracle they were about to pull off. Between them they had scored 115 runs all year in 17 appearances at the crease. Sashi had an 18* and Abhay had a 12 as their top scores. For FCCC wrapping things up now was most certainly a formality. At first, the two were content to just stay there, even blocking deliveries, determined to not allow FCCC to take that last wicket. The going was pretty slow and the run rate was climbing. They stole a few singles, but we were mortified as they decided not to run two’s on a few occasions. 10 runs into the partnership we were feeling that at least we didn’t lie down like many teams had and give up. Another 10 and we were thinking at least we can say we gave a decent fight. All it took was one mistake, one ball through the defenses, one miscue and it was all over. We had certainly resigned that this one had got away from us, but were glad we were going to be able to say that FCCC didn’t steam roll us.
We became believers when Abhay launched into a fullish ball from Gopal and smacked him high and handsome over midwicket for a huge six. It was an amazing shot, it set me off riding the boundary line on a pretend horse. We were hooting, cheering, completely in ecstasy as we pondered the unbelievable: Could they do it? I couldn’t believe I had just witnessed Abhay hitting a six. He is such a wiry bloke, someone who you feel will nip and tuck cheeky shots and let his good running bring him the results. It was completely against the run of play. It was extraordinary. And suddenly FCCC panicked.
It was pretty funny watching FCCC get smacked all over the park. First it was when Ritesh was going, second when Abhay and Sashi launched an out-of-the-blue counter offensive. Out of all the teams I have faced, they seem to be the worst in dealing with a punishing. It’s like they go into headless-chicken mode, running and flailing about and not knowing what to do.
The attack was poetry. The opening stages of the partnership was getting their eye in, and their confidence up. FCCC thought they were just trying to fight and preserve the final wicket. We thought it was nice that we could just get closer and avoid a humiliating defeat. But these two absolutely opened up and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I feel like that six gave them the belief that they could actually do this.
Although Abhay never found the boundary again, he was the dominating partner. He was playing tip-and-run, anything and everything was being turned into 1’s and 2’s. Initially the field was set in, creeping in to give no singles away. Sashi hit over the top for four and immediately there were 4 outfielders. Then they worked crazy singles again, and the field came in. And Abhay hit that six, and the field went out. Abhay and Sashi stayed one step ahead of FCCC the entire time. The urgency of the situation compounded as about 20 was needed off the final 2 overs. Such urgency that when playing a ball just wide of the bowler Rajesh, the two set off for a single. We were sure they had just committed suicide, but the bowler was frantically searching for the ball, tangled up within himself somewhere. And they completed the run… unbelievable.
And suddenly Sashi launched a ball wide of the stretching Nadeem at mid off and it raced away for four. We were overjoyed, screaming, I lost my voice. The final over required 9 and FCC huddled for a *very* long time. The ball was given to Gopal, he had been that kind of accurate, nippy wicket taker all year. Sashi and Abhay stole singles, it wasn’t going to be enough. Visions of a dreadful couple run loss entered our minds. What if we finished in a tie? The 4th ball of the over settled it all, as Sashi launched one over wide covers to the unprotected boundary. CSCC players and supporters were on the ground before the ball carried over the ropes. Screaming, cheering, unbridled joy was the order of the day as hero’s Sashi 24*(17) and Abhay 29*(34) were launched upon shoulders and carried from the field. FCCC players were stunned, to the point that not all appeared for the hand-shaking at the end.
Cricket is a team sport. We’ve gone in there and showed them how to play cricket with all 11 players in their own backyard twice this year, none of this “rely on just 3 players” stuff. What’s funny is some of the biggest mouths have been the smallest contributors. It can be so easy to hide behind someone and talk… I feel FCCC needs to learn to play all 11 players if they want them to:
A. Enjoy cricket
B. Experience cricket
C. Learn how to win a game of cricket under pressure
And this is what cost them dearly in the end. CSCC are the New England Patriots of the CCL this year, a team effort where contributions from one and all have been the ingredient for some scintillating performances and some unbelievable, can-you-believe-it come from behind wins.
Check out the scorecard.