Escape an embarrassment with a huge margin
By Biju Paul
When duty called, only two Engineers answered it and answered it in style. It was almost going to be a one-sided match (in favour of the opposition though) what with only 8 Engineers available until as late as less than 12 hours before the match but thanks to some last minute work by the captain, even forcing one of the Engineers to take absence from work to play, Engineers managed to get an eleven. After blowing their chances for a KCL semi-final berth by irresponsible bating against the Kytes the previous week, Engineers this time arrived Shizuoka with hope of an easy win against the Indian Tigers.
Nursing hopes of posting an imposing total by batting out all 40 overs, skipper elected to bat first after winning the toss but as it turned out the hopes turned into embarrassment within the first 30 minutes of the play. Tigers’ opening bowler Anil trapped Engineers’ open bat, Atul Joshi, in front of the wicket in the 2nd ball and set off the damage. In his second over Santosh drove one into the hands of Rajeev, who was stationed at the cover. The batsman stayed at the crease telling the umpire that the fielder might have grounded the ball but the umpire rightly disagreed. It was a great catch indeed taken just centimeters above the ground. But from the other end skipper Udayaraj was leaking runs and he replaced himself with Bala which turned out to be a smart move. Bobby, The Wall, went on to flick a straight delivery off Bala but was clean bowled. Engineers 3/27 in 4.2 overs. No. 4 Dinesh pushed the score with some beautiful pulls and drives to the fence but he too fell to Anil- Rajeev combination with Rajeev producing yet another fantastic catch. Skipper Sanjeeb got off the mark with a flick, the exact same shot Bobby tried off the same bowler but he too fell two balls later to Anil, his 2nd victim in the same over and 4th over all. Engineers 35/6 in 6 overs. The Anil-Bala bowling combination damaged any hope of recovery, or so it seemed, for the Engineers with Bala clean bowling Silvester for naught. Engineers 35/6 in 6.2 overs.
The way out of the hole the Engineers dug for themselves was to bat out and last at least 20 overs so a few nudges and pushes and then hope for the greatest friend under these circumstances, Mr. Extras, to come to their help. Targets were soon revised and a score of 120 was thought to be reachable, not really defendable. However, the pair at the crease was the most dangerous of the Engineers line-up. The calm and composed Sidde Raju and the teen-aged Anurag with fire and brimstone. While the Tigers were relishing an opportunity of a rare and long awaited victory, the batsmen bid their time to see off the bowlers. After withstanding the probing spells from Anil and Bala, Anurag teed off with élan once the second-stringers came on who were palpably ineffective. The duo took the sore past 100, and continued with poise and elegance bringing smiles and cheers to the Engineers camp. Raju hit the first 6 of the innings, a ferocious one that was, over midwicket, off Rajeev, with the ball landing in the river, an occasion Bobby used to take an anticipatory bail – in case things went wrong still – saying “this will save our face even if we lose this match”. Tigers tried every bowler available to them but the duo at the crease was not willing to let the advantage slip. They batted almost like a conjugal couple, clearly understanding the one at the other end. Raju did give a chance, after reaching his 50, but skipper Udayaraj, standing at mid-off spilled a relatively easy one. By then the horse had bolted the stable anyway. The rest was all clean hitting, too clean for Tigers’ comfort. Raju departed first after scoring 66(4×4, 5×6) with the score at 186, contributing to a massive 151 runs partnership in 21 overs, which took the match out of the reach of the opposition. Newbie, Merwin Frank, replaced him but lasted only a few balls as he was cleaned up by Bala, returning for his second spell, handing him his 3rd wicket. But in the span of those few balls, Anurag had helped another cameo partnership of 25 runs. Having lasted 30+ overs, Anurag stepped up the attack but fell soon to Udayaraj for 76(12×4, 1×6). After the fall of these two, Engineers didn’t trouble the Tigers much as the innings folded up in the 36th over when Masood pulled Udayaraj but succeeded only in sending the ball up in the air, with keeper completing the formality.
Having been in similar situations before, Engineers knew exactly how Tigers would have had their lunch. Tigers started their chase at 3:20pm with Anil NT and skipper Udayaraj, both former Engineers, opening the innings. Opening the bowling along with this writer, Dinesh did early damage in a long spell of 7 overs, claiming 3 wickets, almost as if to make up for his failure with the bat. With a few quick wickets, but not the way Engineers batted, soon the resistance of Tigers fizzled out. The sights of Raju and Anurag coming at them again would not have been pleasing at all. Anurag bowled with fire in his belly and sent in deliveries with fierce pace which batsmen could only poke at. Raju’s slow run up deceived the pace he generated and both claimed two wickets each. With match almost in the kitty, skipper threw the ball to Merwin, who was full of beans, bubbling around and Masood. An expensive 1st over from Merwin followed with a c&b wicket of the opener Anil(20). Masood’s over too produced a wicket when Gijo lofted one over the head of the bowler but this writer running some 30 yards from long off, defied every fielder’s expectation of a dropped catch, held on to one. Engineers soon ended the Tigers’ innings in the 27th over for 119 runs.
The significance of the partnership Raju and Anurag built can only be gauged when one looks at the score card. The next highest score was 11 by Dinesh, besides the eternal friend of every team, Mr. Extras(42). More than the sum total of this partnership, or the intrinsic value it brought in, it was the way they tore the attack into smithereens which must have destroyed the Tigers’ morale. It has been long since the Engineers has taken the attack to the opposition in such strident fashion but it still leaves the Engineers with a gaping hole(The Wall not withstanding) at the top with successive batting failures which results losing matches that should have been won.
To be fair to the Tigers, their fielding great and they played with the same enthusiasm as they started the innings. They just missed some of their bowlers, who could have helped reduce the damage Raju and Anurag caused.
View photos and score card at http://iecc-japan.blogspot.com/
Brief scores: IECC 231(35.3 overs). Sidde Raju 66, Anurag Singh 75. Anil Nair 4/19. Bala S 3/28 Tigers 119 (26.5 overs). Dinesh Sing 3/28.