Date: Sep 18, 2016
By: Biju Paul
Mid way through the Engineers innings on a day marred by persistent rain, a feeling of déjà vu gripped them. It’s the all too familiar middle order collapse. From a formidable position of 92/0 in 18 overs the Engineers literally handed the match in a platter to the Men in Blue just 16 balls later when their score read 110/7 and eventually finished with a score of 143/8. Engineers now need some sort of Kundalini Awakening to fire them up for the remaining two matches if they don’t want to be shut out of the knock out stage of the KCL.
It was a day no team would have liked to play due to the overnight rain and the forecast rain all day but the MIB forced the Engineers to the ground thanks to the walkover the Rising Stars gave to the Pakistan Stars in the other match on the same day. That concession by RS threw MIB in to a dire situation of winning as many matches as possible in their remaining outings. So both teams arrived at the ground, Engineers reluctantly though, and both were pedantic about KCL rules under such situations and of course the D/L Method.
Afterthought may question the wisdom of playing a match under constant drizzle throughout the day but both teams having full strength team at the ground, the captains decided to go ahead anyway. After winning the toss, under the constant drizzle, the MIB put the Engineers in first.
Masaomi Kobayashi accompanied his skipper Vinay Mohan to the crease to open the innings. Both the openers did a tremendous job of forming a solid opening partnership under wet and slippery conditions. They carefully constructed the partnership with scoring most of their runs behind the wicket towards the third man area. In fact, MIB didn’t bother to plug that hole throughout the innings and the openers scored their 1s and 2s in that area with élan. MIB openers Abhishek and Manvi, both former Engineers, posed no threat, whatsoever, to the openers. Kobayshi hit the first boundary over third man off Manvi in his second over which went for 9 runs. There was a brief stoppage of play at the end of 6 overs for 30 minutes. What initially started off as a 32 overs per side was then reduced to 28 overs as per the D/L Method.
After the break, MIB skipper Gurdeep Dua, another former Engineer, introduced himself to the attack but only for one over. Gurdeep then replaced himself with yet another former Engineer, Karthik M, and the other end saw Karthik V walking – literally – and bowling. As bowling looked innocuous and openers well set it was time for the skipper to up the pace of scoring and he obliged the need of the hour. Vinay hit his first boundary in the 2nd over of Karthik M. Two overs later he hit Karthik V inside the batsman’s V region on the on side. In between the hits to the boundary, runs kept flowing in 1s and 2s and at the end of 10 overs the score read 43/0 and at mid innings break at the end of 14 overs saw the Engineers sitting pretty at 62/0.
The first over after the break witnessed the first 6 off the innnigs, Vinay taking advantage of a loosener from Karthik M and the ball disappearing the surrounding jungle in the long off region. Vinay hit his second six in the following over to long on this time, taking his score to 47. Anticipating his 50 with a boundary or a six, the Engineers kept themselves ready in the pavilion with the trumpet to celebrate but the skipper didn’t fall into the trap of aggression. With a level headed approach he played innings well for the next few balls and scored his well deserved 50 off only singles.
Meanwhile, Kobayashi on the other end played a perfect foil to Vinay and scored his runs at the same rate at which his opening partner was scoring. He let his captain play his aggressive shots while he continued to eke out singles and twos. The turning point of the innings came when Sushil Kumar was introduced into the attack. His first ball was hit to the boundary by Vinay, but in the very next ball he was caught at deep mid-off by Sanket, a man who chirping a lot all the time. Fall of that wicket opened the flood gates. In an attempt to improve the scoring rate, Prakash Jayara was sent in as a pinch hitter only to return one ball later, run out at the bowler end having backed up too much. That brought the cool and calm Pavethy to the crease. Sensing blood after two quick wickets, Gurdeep brought his ace bowler, Manvi, back into the attack. The moved seemed to have produced a counter effect when Manvi was hit for a huge six by Kobayshi but the bowler had the last laugh two balls later as Kobayshi was caught at deep mid wicket. Manvi then clean bowled the next batsman and his former mate, Ashok Kumar, the very next ball. Manvi’s bowling figure of that over looked 1,6,2,W,W, dot.
Panic stricken Engineers had one last hope in Prashant Kumar, who always showed what a player he can be. Given the circumstances, he played gem of an innings to steady the ship while wickets fell at the other end. He stood tall amongst the ruins at the other end. His flicks off the pad showed his class and maturity in handling the situation. He played wonderful shots; flicks through mid-wicket were played with panache.
Hard hitter Vivek Singh came in at the fall of Ashok and he did hit hard by dispatching the first ball he faced, off Sushil Kumar, over long on for a huge six. For some unknown reason – will we ever know it? – he tried to repeat the same shot the next ball only to see the timber behind him rearranged. In walked Rajneesh Shukla and out he went the next ball, clean bowled by a fast yorker by Sushil. MIB clawed back in the game with 7 wickets in the span of just 18 balls. A score that threatened to put the MIB out of the KCL this year at one point suddenly seemed like the Engineers were going to fold up for a meager total. The score read 110/7 at the end of 21st over.
Having wrested the initiative back, MIB was not to be blamed if they thought that the immediate closure of the Engineers innings was a foregone conclusion. Your writer came in as the next batsman determined to hang around to give company to Prashant Kumar at the other end. The one noisy player of the MIB tried his level best to dislodge both the batsmen with his tasteless comments but Prashant’s innings of 19 off only 23 balls and the partnership of 33 runs for the 8th wicket with yours truly took the score to a respectable 143 at the end of the innings in 28 overs.
The D/L method said the MIB needed to score 148 of 28 overs.
MIB opened their innings with both Karthiks – may be MIB skipper can explain why both of them are always paired together – and Engineers opened the bowling with Rajneesh and Vivek. While the former was all line and length, the latter was wayward in both departments in the first over while trying to achieve express pace. Rajneesh produced the first breakthrough in the 5th over when Karthik M tried to hoist the bowler out of the park only to be holed out in the long off by an amazingly judged catch by Basava Manu. In what can be nominated for the catch of the season, Kobayashi took out Karthik V in the next over in the deep cover point, covering a good 30 yards, running in from wide long off and diving at the last moment with outstretched arms and the ball securely sat in his hands. It was a remarkable athleticism by the national team captain.
Next man Md. Thouseef was stumped by ‘Keeper Prashant off Vinay for 13 which brought Sanket to the wicket. Engineers didn’t make the batsman’s stay comfortable at the wicket as the batsman was given his own medicine. The unexpected, targeted chirping by the Engineers probably unnerved the batsman as he attempted many shots only to miss the ball. Finally, his agony at the crease was put to end by a nalla throw from the deep cover by Pavethy which caught the batsman short of his crease.
In came the skipper, Gurdeep. In his inimitable style Gurdeep tried to muscle the bowlers and he did not go without success. His stay at the wicket produced a crucial partnership of 41 runs in 5 overs with steady hand, Amit Jain, at the other end. Gurdeep was finally caught plumb in front by Manu for 18 off 19 balls. From 81/6 in 18.5 overs MIB had progressed to 122/7 and by that time the Engineers had sensed the danger. With Amol Vaidya – yet another former Engineer and one who could play an anchor role – at the crease giving company to the well set Amit, it was game that could have gone either way.
Needing 24 to win off 24 deliveries, the air was thick with tension and could have been cut with the proverbial butter knife. With the maverick batsman Manvi still behind, the only way the Engineers could come back into the game was by putting pressure on the batsmen by denying runs; wickets didn’t matter at that point. Quick conferences on mid pitch was followed by elaborate fielding changes. The pressure indeed had a telling effect on MIB. With 6 runs needing off 8 deliveries Amol was run out attempting to sneak a non-existent single and both batsmen ended up at the striker’s end. Next two balls went without any runs being added to the score. That brought 6 runs to win and 5 to tie off the last over. Skipper Vinay took the job on himself and boy! he almost produced a wicket. Amit, the well set batsman, edged one to short third man but the man who was positioned there was at least 5 steps too front and the batsman scored 2 off that delivery. That set the drum rolls going in the MIB camp and why not! Singles off next two deliveries put the match in a classic situation. 2 balls to go, 2 runs to win, 1 to tie. With all the fielders guarding singles Amit hit the ball over the mid off fielder to score two runs the next ball, bringing a raucous MIB to the ground to celebrate a stunning, come-from-behind victory that took them one step closer to the KCL semi-final berth at their first attempt.
Amit Jain anchored the innings with a classy 32 off only 35 balls. In addition to the Engineers middle order collapse, it was perhaps, Amit’s innings that made a difference for the MIB. If this result was any indicator, then opponents will be spending a far greater time second-guessing the MIB. Well done, Men In Blue!
IECC: 143/8 (28 ov). Vinay Iyer 55, M Kobayashi 36, Prashant Kumar 16. Sushil Kumar 4/28
Men in Blue: 148/7 (27.5 ov). Amit Jain 32*