Sriram’s 74 seals the match and series
By Manish “Ghost” Jain
On Friday morning, the Chief Engineer(captain, that is) received an anonymous courier. No prices for guessing it right. It was the Pacific Cup for the winner of the final match between the Shizuoka Kytes and the IECC, to be played on Sunday, Nov 26th. The brave Engineers had levelled the series winning the previous encounter with the help of a sick man!(read sick, not sic!) On Friday evening, a very annoying thought struck the captain and this ghost (journalist, that is!). What if it rains as the weathermen predicted? The only comforting fact was that when the weathermen predict rains on Sunday evenings, they usually happen late Sunday nights.
The rains were soon forgotten as a small contingent of the IECC members (including the Captain and this particular ghost), assembled in ASS’s apartment to soon forget the impending match in a pool of some excellent concoctions(by the way, ASS stands for Aditya Shankar Srivastava, not what you thought). Elsewhere, not very far from the decisive grounds in Shizuoka, in a nice little bar, plans were being hatched to destroy the IECC blitzkrieg. (Remember, the ghost who also writes?) It was decided that before dawn at around 4am, elaborate preparations would be made to drug the Engineers. Robert had specifically recruited his girlfriend for this aforementioned conspiracy. A small quantity of Bhang (an Indian poppy-seed drug) was added to the portion of food to be served to the Indian team. On Sunday, on a glorious morning, captain, Biju Paul, drove the Engineers (some of them had to sit-out, including the Ghost, as the team was over-subscribed!) to Shizuoka covering 180 km. in 1.5 hours.
Have you ever wondered how the 10-seater van carries 11 Engineers and wives of one or two of them sometimes? The day was ever-so beautiful, sunny and warm. The Engineers basked in the sunlight. Perfect day for cricket. The Kytes, dressed so-smartly in their whites, like always, greeted the familiar Engineers, in the true spirit of the game. The coin was tossed. Biju won and wisely decided to bat first on a newly rolled pitch. The Engineers were missing the hero of the previous encounter (the sickman, Balu!), but instead, they had Sriram, the perennial worry for Kytes, back in the team after a long engaging vacation in India. It is not a surprise that in every match report to date involving the IECC, there is a brief, yet Godly mention of this man. True to his status he produced a thundering(pun unintended) knock. A magnificent 74(6×4, 4×6). The only time he was kept away from the strike was when Dinesh Tashidar, a newcomer, took to the crease. Their partnership of 27 runs was mainly constituted by Dinesh’s quick fire 24 of 13 balls (2×4, 2×6). Sachin again came up with a cameo of 34 runs. Sriram, who seemed to be all set for a century, lost his wicket to an attempted sweep of Raja Akthar, the top edge carrying the ball to the comfortable hands of the square leg fielder. After that loss, the Engineers’ wickets tumbled frequently but amassed a very defendable 208 runs!(incidentally, this was the highest score of the Engineers this season, and second best in their history, the first being 220 made against the YC & AC while chasing a target of 240+, two years ago.)
The most interesting part of the Shizuoka trip is the lunch. The veteran Engineers familiar with Robert’s 4 a.m wake-up call, felt that the curry looked and tasted different. Q. Wonder why? A. Wonder drug! After the lunch session, Biju decided to put a brake to the Kytes score machine, even before they hit the accelerator. Bang, Bang, Bang! 3 wickets fell in his 3 consecutive overs from Biju! With this feat, Biju, proved to be indispensable for the Engineers in more ways than one (yes, he drives too! No, not with the bat though, but with the wheel instead). He ended with bowling figures of 4 for 16 (his best!), a miracle, he promises will take a long time for him to repeat! Opener Harrison was caught at mid-off in the first over and in his second, one down Raja was caught in the second slip off a lovely outswinger that found a thick outside edge of his blade.
The third and the best of the 4 wickets was probably when he bowled an inswinging yorker(probably unintentional!) which sent a stunned Todd Philip’s middle stump cart-wheeling. This ghost believes that Biju had probably applied cream to his fingers, as the ball seemed to have slipped off his fingers. Anybody got that on a handy-cam? And while the Kytes were still groping for the accelerator, another career best performance from Shankar sealed first ever Pacific Cup for Engineers. 4 for 9 off 3 overs, a figure that would put even Shane(Warne) to shame. In fact, he was on a hat-trick in his second over in which he snapped up two batsmen with his 5th and 6th deliveries(isn’t that astonishing? Actually, isn’t that logical?) His gentle teasers were too much for the Kytes to decipher. Bruce Harris, who was whacking the balls at will, provided the only resistance to the bowling attack. The worst hit was Rahul, who ended up with 2-0-30-0 (ironically, he was the most economical of the Engineers’ bowlers this season!). Anton McCloy, umpiring at that time after his stint at the crease remarked, “I wish he were bowling to me like this”(ghosts can hear it all!).
One more uneconomical bowler was Santosh, who seemed to have bought wide-angle lenses recently. Good news is that, his wide-angle lenses are getting a little bit narrower with every match. But the catcher in the eye, was the diminutive spinner, Ashok Sharma. He bowled a particularly economical spell conceding only 10 runs off 4 overs, to the chant of Sharma-ji sharmana nahin (Mr. Sharma, don’t be shy). On the way back to Tokyo, after a couple of drinks in the van, the truth came out. Sonali Bendre was the inspiration behind the perspiration!. The result? The Kytes managed to muster only 92 runs. For the records, this was the biggest margin by which the Engineers triumphed upon any side.
Brief Scores(35 overs):
IECC: 208 all out in 32.2 overs(Sriram 74, Sachin 34)
Kytes: 92 all out in 21.1 overs(Biju 4/16, Shankar 4/9)