It was the occasion of the big clash in KCL between the top 2 teams in the competition at Ageo. Early morning rain had made the ground wet and soggy. Nonetheless, the toss was done with both teams uncertain about having a full game. Trouble started immediately after Engineers captain Biju Paul had, apparently, won the toss after calling Heads to the home team captain’s spin of the coin. As the coin landed on the ground with the flower side of the 500 yen coin facing up, Lalazar skipper declared he won the toss saying the flower side is the Tail and number side of the coin, Heads. Thinking that the opposition captain was trying to play a prank, skipper laughed off the claim but soon it became apparent that opposition skipper was serious to the shock of Biju and the entire Engineers. Having played all his cricket regarding number side of a coin as Tail and the other side Head, a stunned skipper almost walked out of the ground but his team mates persuaded him for a re-toss, this time deciding to call the actual image on the side of the coin instead of Head or Tail. Skipper called Flowers this time and indeed it was Flowers but as the coin fell hard on the soggy ground, the ground was so soft that a small part of the coin went inside the ground making it standing at a slight angle(probably about 5 or 10 degrees) but with the Flowers clearly and fully visible. Jokingly, or may be half seriously, the opposition captain tried for a re-toss but Engineers skipper controlled his tongue to keep it to himself what he was about to mouth off and brushed off the second claim. Anyways, the Engineers chose to bowl first on a wet ground and uneven Flicx pitch relying on the forecast of the sunny weather later in the day.
The decision of bowling first seemed to be correct initially. With a wet outfield and a slippery pitch and trying conditions Rajneesh and Biju broke the top order of LaLazar in the initial opening burst with the score reading at 8/3. Hard hitting opener Barqat was clean bowled by Rajaneesh and Ashiq Hussain, the other opener was caught at square leg by Ashok Kumar off Biju. Ibrar, the centurion in their previous match, with skipper Gulzar did try to stabilize the innings but Ibrar fell before the score reached 50, clean bowled by Rajaneesh. Even though the top 4 were back in the pavilion in less than 10 overs and half the side was sent back by the time score reached in the 90s, the Engineers had a big task in their hands. As the Engineers entertained the thoughts of finishing off Lalazar’s innings quickly, Adil and Noman had other ideas and their partnership for the sixth wicket brought some respectability to the total and with some late big hitting from the low order saw Lalazar reach 226. Rajneesh bowled his heart out to earn 4 wickets. Engineers bowled well in patches but the fielding was below par, which can be partially blamed on the wet outfield.
226 was a good score but not a impossible total to chase at Ageo where the engineers have already chased down a similar total this season against Nagoya. Skipper assigned Abdul as opening partner to regular opener Sanjeeb and boy, did they provide a wonderful opening stand. Abdul’s aggressiveness sent shock waves through Lalazar camp as he dispatched the opening bowlers to all part of the ground. Abdul was very severe on Lalazar spearhead Mubashar hitting 17 runs in one over. But against the run of the play, Engineers lost Sanjeeb when he attempted a suicidal run and an accurate throw from mid-off hitting the batsman’s wicket as Sanjeeb tried to got back to his crease. But 30/1 in 3 overs is not a bad score and the Engineer kept up the scoring rate till the 12th over with the score was 94/3, well above the asking rate. However, the introduction of spin on both ends resulted in a batting collapse. The pitch, which until then looked like a batsman’s paradise suddenly became a devil’s den for the Engineers. Wickets started tumbling every over and the Engineers yet again witnessed a spectacular collapse as they lost the next 7 wickets to the spin of Gulzar and medium pace of Barqat. Their innings folded up quickly and the journey from 94/3 to 110 all out didn’t take very long. 5 overs, to be precise. That, my dear friends, is the story of a spectacular collapse! The Engineers lost the match from a winning position – not the first time – by a margin of 126 runs. Gulzar was pick of the bowlers taking 6 wickets as he had a perfect game as caption(except for the controversy over the toss) with an all around display with bat and bowl.
Lalazar are well placed in the competition as they are yet to be defeated this season. The Indian Engineers needs to find a solution quickly for its repeated batting failures. Even though they are in second spot but they should win the last game to confirm their place in the semis without being subject to complex calculations of run rate.
Lalazar: 226 (33.2 ov). Adeel 80, Nomnan 41. Rajneesh 4/37
IECC: 110 (17 ov). Abdul 27, Gulzar 6/15, Barqat 3/28