KCL-Engineers upset the Friends’ Apple Cart

Victory rekindles the hopes for a semifinal berth

By Biju Paul

The Engineers pulled off a sensational three wicket win over the Friends XI, the two time champions of erstwhile Kanto Cup and the front runner of KCL Cup this year, on Sunday in their last league match. The magnificent victory put an end to the Friends’ undefeated run this season and threw open the contest for the semi-final berth from Group A.

For the Engineers, this victory was the icing on the cake after a series of high profile wins since last year – against Edogawa Falcons, YC&AC, Lala and a close run chase against the Fuji Far East – underscoring their might in the Tokyo cricket.

The humdinger, with both the Shizuoka Kytes and Engineers have a total of 18 points each from 6 matches(4 wins, 2 losses) having won two matches each, is fraught with ponderables. But the Engineers have a healthy Runs/Wicket average of 19.26(886 runs for the loss of 46 wickets) as against the 12.67(583 runs for the loss of 46 wickets) of the Kytes.

The other two top performers in Group A – Friends XI and the Sri Lankan Lions have 15 points each from 5 matches(3 wins, 1 loss and a wash out) with one match each remaining for them. If any result other than a win – a wash out or a defeat – in their respective encounters will be the end of road for them as far as KCL is concerned while throwing open the possibilities for the Engineers to qualify. Some of the engineers are already out to perform special poojas but no one is sure if the weather Gods will listen to their prayers!

For the Engineers, everything went as per the script. Yours truly won the toss and with some successful run chases recently to go by, inserted his opposition into bat. After some initial wayward bowling by both this correspondent and Jagan Panda, the other opening bowler, the Engineers systematically began tightening their grip on the game. Jagan drew first blood by having Asad Ali caught at the wicket. First change Ashok Kumar, who eventually captured 4 wickets, was almost impossible to play beating the bat many occasions. He produced some gems, all of which were rewarded. Amir Ali, this correspondent’s opposite number, having faced just two deliveries, stood in disbelief at the crease as a faint edge flew to the ‘keeper. While the Engineers were systematically destroying the Friends batting lineup, opener Naeem Qureshi stood tall amongst the ruins at the other end and top scored with 65. For the Engineers, Ashok was ably assisted in his task by Ganesh Tajave who returned a figure of 3/34, including the wicket of Naeem. At 106 for 9, the Friends didn’t seem to score more than 120 odd runs but thanks to the last wicket partnership 46 between Jamshed Ali and Zafar Iqbal, they managed 152 in 20 overs.

Chasing 153 against the Friends is not an easy task. And they showed that they are no pushovers. At 81 for 7 in the 20th over, the Engineers needed a bit of hard work. And there they were! A perfect chaser(of runs, I mean..) and a man of not outs. Silvester Pereira and Rahul Kumar. Silvester has showed that his batting is at its best while chasing(runs!) and Rahul has remained not out in all his matches this season so far, this time being no exception. The two together took the attack to enemy camp. While Silvester raced to his carefully crafted maiden half century, Rahul with a couple of lusty sixes was virtually unstoppable. One of his shots went up in the air like a rocket but only about two miles, but Naeem at mid-wicket could not judge the flight of the rocket on its downward journey to earth and allowed it to land safely on the ground without causing much damage to the ground or the launcher, a sharp contrast to a similar catch taken by Viswa Ghosh while the Engineers were fielding.

Amir did whatever he could to dislodge the partnership. While Rahul was fire and brimstone, Silvester was calm at one end. They went about their task of gathering runs with consummate ease. While they were at the crease, the bowling looked palpably ineffective. In the process, the duo established a new record for IECC, an unbroken 72 runs partnership for 8th wicket which in the end led to a magnificent win. Silvester remained not out 61(9×4) and Rahul on 31 not out(1×4, 2×6).

Last but not the least, the ‘keeper Balasubramanyam Kaleeswaran(Balu) who has an entry in the Guinness Book of world records for having the shortest name in India, was a real entertainer both on and off the field. Apart from collecting the bullets of Ashok Kumar at chest height, this hard hitting middle order batsman hit Amir Ali out of the attack. He even managed to annoy one of the fielders while at the crease by singing his favourite Tamil rhymes loudly, prompting the fielder to say “urusai yo”.