Semi-final berth all but sealed
By Biju Paul
The weather all week preceding to the match was giving an impression that the match was going to be played in furnace like atmosphere. Fortunately, by the weekend, the low pressure in the Pacific Ocean brought cooler air to the land but that didn’t ease the pressure on the Tigers as they were under high pressure to win and keep their chances for a berth in the KCL semi-final alive.
After having been involved in two eventful matches earlier, due to umpiring decision disputes at the square-leg, where normally a neutral umpire is not present, Tigers were justifiably wary about batting side umpire’s impartiality. To aggravate their fears, the neutral umpire appointed for the day didn’t turn up either, which caused consternation in their camp. Tigers’ skipper went on overdrive even to suggest that the match be not treated KCL but a friendly. Arguments for and against playing without a neutral umpires continued for a significant amount of time, with various suggestions such as removing the LBW decisions all together which was the main sticking point for the Tigers, trusting the umpire and playing in the right spirit and so on. While the Engineers seemed unfazed by the absence of neutral umpire the Tigers didn’t share that view and some of the Engineers felt that a mountain is being made out of a mole.
A suggestion from the Tigers asking the Engineers to accept one of the non-playing Tigers on that day as a neutral umpire was initially rejected by the Engineers as it would have appeared that Engineers trust Tigers but not vice-versa. But in the end, skipper Sanjeeb relented and agreed to their suggestion to give them a level of comfort. To make up for the loss of time in the morning, the match was reduced 30 overs per side. Engineers elected to bat first after winning the toss – skipper has made this a habit now – and in the absence of regular opener Shailaj, veteran Ashok Kumar was sent in as a partner to Sanman, who is yet to convert his reputation of explosive batting to some tangible performance. Sanman returned for a duck in the 2nd over after being caught in front of the stumps. Dinesh Singh went in next but good bowling from the Tigers kept him quite for a few balls and then he too returned without troubling the scorers. In came the ever dependable Prashant Kale.
Both Prashant and Ashok brought in some semblance of balance in the game. The pair batted with common sense and temperament and runs started coming. Prashant was particularly severe on anything lose and dispatched a couple of such balls over the boundary which brought cheers to the Engineers camp, who were a bit worried when two quick wickets were lost in the first two overs. Prashant departed when the score was 46, to a superb low catch at short extra-cover by Rajeev. Srikkant, the leg spinner, is a good prospect for the Tigers if he can control his loose balls. Karthik, the Engineers new find of the season, walked in and walked back quickly after hitting Srikant for a six but falling to the same bowler in the next ball, trying to repeat the shot. Hopefully, the batsman has learned his lesson from the past three matches that he cannot score all his runs in one single over.
Patience is the key. Rahul Yeskar, the debutant, showed his potential with some stylish defense and a shot over the bowler’s head but he too did not last long as he was cleaned up by Balu. Vezley, another veteran, playing his first match of the season, tried to rebuild the innings again along with Ashok, who was waging a lone battle at the other end. As the pair looked settled and skipper watching them in the pavilion remarked, “Ashok will remain not out today”, the batsman fell LBW to Rajeev Nair, claiming his second wicket. Someone in the pavilion then replied, “keep your mouth shut captain!”. With the added pressure, after getting his own batsman out from the pavilion, skipper had to put in extra effort to rescue the team. And did he. The pair put on 33 runs and took the score past 100 in the 20th over. Engineers heaved a sigh of relief as they knew that anything above 100 runs is a score that the Tigers would struggle to chase. Vezley soon returned with a personal score of 26 but not before inflicting some damage to Tigers and destroying the rhythm of Srikkant and in that process helped the Engineers post a defendable total.
Skipper stayed at the crease grinding his way, when the new batsman, Abdul Satar, another debutant, showed his aggressiveness by fearlessly stepping out to both slow and fast bowlers, ala Matthew Heyden. In the end the Engineers posted 129 in 25 overs. Knowing fully well that they have a decent total on the board, the Engineers set about their task of defending it, but with one player missing on the field. Grapevine has it that the missing player was bating somewhere else on easy pitch, after his failure on the grassy pitch :-). Karthik and your reporter opened the bowling. Tigers’ first wicket fell in the 2nd over, when yours truly claimed opener Anil to a juggling catch by Prashant in the first slip. Baiju, the other opener fell in the next over to Karthik’s pace and was clean bowled. Srikanth, the next batsman, stuck around for a few overs but fell to Karthik again when he slashed a wide delivery to third man fence where Vezley took a catch after a brief fumble. Soon the Tigers appeared to have lost any interest in chasing as none of their batsmen offered any significant resistance although some of them tried to play as best as they could. The anti-climax was when last batsman Ramki hit the first ball he faced to a huge six over the top of the bowler’s head. Indeed, no bowler likes that shot. But Tigers folded up for 62 runs in 23 overs with Dinesh, Vezley and Kathik picking up two wickets each. Brief scores:
IECC 129 (25 ov). Tigers 62 (23 ov).