Season starts on a winning note
It is not in the memory of this author that the Engineers have managed to start off the season on a winning note anytime earlier. Also not in the recent memory is a good, solid opening partnership that the Engineers managed this tiime. But it happened, this year. 2007. All fools day, but I fool you not. The match almost did not happen. First there was the weather, with rains on Saturday. And then there was the small problem of not having a XI. Some last minute phone calls and both issues were sorted out. But then there was the Tomei traffic doing its bit to slow the Engineers on their way. A diversion, some highway help, some car navigator confusions, some wrong turns later the engineers finally reached the Shizuoka greens to see that it was pretty close to noon. The captains decided to go ahead with a 35 overs a side match. The Engineers’ back-as-captain president Biju Paul won the toss and decided to field, partly to use whatever little help was available from the conditions and mainly to give bowling and fielding practice to his boys, who had little or no net or match practice this season. Of course, given the number of bowling options available on the day, it was, at least in theory, a good decision. Ritesh opened the bowling and struck in the first over with his second legal delivery, a peach of an off cutter that spread the opening bat’s stumps.
The captain started from the other end and after a few looseners sent one a little wider, a little fuller and Arbab could not resist having a go at it. The slash went straight and fast to Ajey stationed at point who took a nice, low catch in front. 2 down in the second over but better was to come as Ritesh managed one more act of “spread the stumps” in his next over. 3/12 and the engineers were already dreaming of a quick finish. But next in was the the old war horse Sharpey. And what followed was a long 132 run partnership with Angus. Both endured some moments of uncertainty, some variable bounce and some bowling of varied pace and style. But they stuck it out, punishing the bad balls, keeping out the good ones and were helped just a little bit by the rusty Engineers’ fielding which let a few catches go down. Anurag bowled with good pace and had both batsmen (and the keeper too) in trouble time and again with his searing yorkers, but was unlucky not to get any wickets in his kitty.
The drinks interval came and went and the batsmen started opening their shoulders and heaving a few shots all around the wicket. But finally, your truly managed to get the breakthrough, as Sharpey top edged one, while going for a pull and Ajey again took a very nicely judged catch at square leg. Some wickets fell towards the end of the innings as is to be expected, but not before Nick “the cannon” Shannon blasted a few out of the park, Ajey mostly being the “cannon fodder”. Ritesh ended up with 3 wickets. Sanjeeb pulled off a couple of very fine outfield catches, leaving some of the Engineers’ new comers wondering how he was doing it, given that last season he hardly seemed to have held any. Anyway, the innings did finish off with one of those catches, Sanjeeb running in about 20 yards from long off and picking off a fine catch, which took out Nick (quickfire 39 of 20 balls) with the last ball of the innings. The Kytes finished up with 217 off 35 overs. Given the start and of the match and then again, the fall of Sharpey at 144 and Angus at 163 the total was still a reasonable bit more than what the Engineers liked. Anyway, the runs were on the board and they had to be chased down. A quick changeover of about 15 minutes and yours truly and Partha were back in the middle with bat in hand. The Kytes bowling was steady, but even the usually threatening Sharpey was slightly off-pace.
The ball did move around just a bit, but the openers managed to keep out the good stuff, and punished the bad stuff. Some fielding let-offs helped. Almost within no time the opening stand went past the half century mark. Both batsmen were looking comfortable in the middle when Harvey produced one of those quick jaffas that went thru Partha’s defences and knocked the stumps over. Ritesh walked in was troubled by Harvey’s pace. He got hit on the foot with a yorker and that seemed to unsettle him. He lashed out at one, after walking down the pitch and got a boundary. But he fell next ball, playing across to another full york-length delivery and was hit again low on the shoe. Sanjeeb walked in and things again seemed to be going the Engineers’ way when your truly patted back a ball back to Nick who could not believe his luck, yelling in glee “You ****-ing beauty” while accepting the catch. I headed for the hut, a reasonably comfortable 52, but it was just when I thought I could get a few more easy runs. Anurag joined Sanjeeb in the middle and there was another productive 51 run partnership. Anurag and Ajey fell in quick succession after the drinks break and it suddenly looked like it would be the all too familiar “so near yet so far” story, but Sanjeeb kept going. The score went past the 200 mark. A sudden rush of blood and Sanjeeb fell, bowled for 45, playing across to a Sharpey indipper and missing the line. But thankfully for the Engineers, Bikash and Biju then saw the team across the mark with some simple basic batting strategy, of running the singles and putting away the bad balls.
In the end, it was a pretty nerveless batting display by the Engineers. They were of course helped to an extent by a well-below-par fielding performance by the Kytes. But all that matters is that the season has been kick started in an unheard of fashion for the Engineers. Hoping to see more such days in the field this season.
Brief scores: S Kytes 217/7 (35 ov). M Sharpe 73, A Liley 53, R Kakar 3/36 IECC 217/6/6 (30 ov). V Vikrant 52, S Sahoo 43.