The West Side Story’s lyricist Stephen Sondheim could not have penned the musical words any better, nor could Leonard Bernstein have written a better musical score for last Sunday’s encounter between Westbury Cricket Club and Atlantis Cricket Club – NY at the Westbury High School ground. For the second week in a row, Atlantis provided some exciting nail-biting down the stretch cricket for those in attendance. Maybe it was the way cricket was meant to be played, but with paramedics and cardiologists in attendance.
The clash was not between the rival gangs in the 1957 hit Broadway musical – West Side Story, but it had all the trappings of a territorial encounter, albeit for points and standing in the Metropolitan Cricket League’s 2017 Clement “Busta” Lawrence Premier League tournament. Atlantis was clearly the spunky upstart underdog, despite its earlier success against other premier Metropolitan League teams like Villagers and Progressive. Thus the stage was set for an epic encounter, as Atlantis looked to go up 7-1 in the season; the only blemish being a loss to Lions Cricket Club in the rearview mirror.
Atlantis winning the coin toss, offered first strike to their host Westbury at the picturesque Westbury High School cricket ground, with its undulating but well-manicured outfield and odd interrupting fence, but set against a backdrop of tall luscious green trees on the northern end of the Old Village of Westbury, Long Island, NY.
After scoring 13 (1×6, 1×4) of the first 21 runs posted by Westbury; in the sixth over Derron Ferguson was run out by Keon Lake via the keeper Francis Mendonca. It may have been an omen or an opening for Atlantis, however, the match was still young. Fellow opener Bereston Reid sought to establish a dominance of the Atlantis bowlers posting 37 off 31 balls (2x6s, 2x4s) before being trapped LBW by Keon Lake in the 15th over with the score at 73. He was preceded by Keswick Henry, 5, but enjoyed a partnership of 70 with Wayne Cuff, 46 (4x4s, 2x6s). It was the type of partnership Westbury needed to post a score in the neighborhood of 300 runs.
Wayne Cuff’s 46 run (2x6s, 4x4s) inning was somewhat cautious, having been joined by Omar Hutchinson and a dominance presence established; taking the Atlantis bowlers to task and the score to the 150 zone in 27 overs. Hutchinson would have an unbeaten contribution of 77 (6x6s, 2x4s), but eventually running out of overs and partners. Cuff was trapped LBW by Alex Amsterdam in the 26th over, as Westbury sought to up the run-rate. However, with most of the top order gone for 160 by the 30th over, Westbury still managed to run up another 67 runs, before closing out its inning at 227 for 9 in 40 overs. It would mean that Atlantis would be denied any additional points for bowling out Westbury.
The Westbury wickets fell at 21, 50, 73, 143, 146, 160, 169, 187 and 200. Bowling for Atlantis: USA national and Atlantis’ club captain Alex Amsterdam 8-0-53-4, with Keon Lake, Kevin Darlington, Prashanth Nair and Greg Robinson each capturing a wicket apiece. There were 14 extras.
With 227 on the board and an asking rate of 5.7 per over, Atlantis took to the middle with Francis Mendonca and Pakistani player Suleman Ahmed making his Atlantis debut, having joined the club while still residing in Pakistan. It was an inauspicious debut opening for the right-hander managing to score only two runs with the Atlantis score at 3 for 2 in the third over, following the earlier dismissal of Francis Mendonca for 1 c. Dennison Thomas, b. Juanoy Drysdale. Atlantis was in deep trouble and early. It did not get any better as Atlantis lost its match skipper Treon Forde for 2, c. Horace b. Juanoy Drysdale at the 14 run mark in the fifth over. However, the Atlantis score climbed to 70 in the 11th over with the loss of Alex Amsterdam, 21 off 22 balls (4x4s). Three overs and 19 runs later, fellow USA national Nicholas Standford was bowled with one from Joseph Brown that kept low ricocheting off his inner heel, for a well-made 40, (5x4s) off 33 balls and stabilizing things somewhat.
The Atlantis middle-order woke up and responded positively posting 139 runs between overs 13 and 38 and for the loss of three wickets. It was slightly above the asking rate and enough to catapult Atlantis north to the top of the league standings, with just one point ahead of Westbury Cricket Club.
How Atlantis squeezed out the two-wicket victory is a testimony to the team’s depth and belief in themselves as individual players, capable of applying themselves to situations not necessarily in their favor.
With the openers and the upper top half back in the shade, it was left up to Keon Lake, 31 off 42 balls bowled by Dennison Thomas, Ron Andrew, a quick fire 25 off 27 deliveries, bowled by Linden St. Louis, and the perennial savior Prashanth Nair, 54 not out off 54 balls (2x6s, 2x4s), to team up with veteran Kevin Darlington, 14 off 23 balls, along with pacer Greg Robinson, 16 not out off 9 balls (1×6, 1×4), to coax Atlantis over the finish line and the victory in 37.5 overs at the 228 run mark.
The Atlantis wickets fell at 2, 3, 14, 70, 89, 121, 153 and 198. Bowling for Westbury: Juanoy Drysdale 7-0-56-3 was the pick of the litter. While Joseph Brown had 2 for 45 off 8 overs and Dennison Thomas, Linden St. Louis and Wayne Cuff each snared a wicket apiece for 37, 37 and 45 runs respectively. There were 22 extras.
Atlantis carved out the victory with 13 deliveries and two wickets to spare, as the match drew to a close and all eyes and palpitating hearts focused on the middle. There is no doubt that the presence of Atlantis in the Metropolitan Cricket League has made a difference to the cricketing landscape of the 125 plus year-old league, especially among the top tier teams. Atlantis’ participation has helped to further elevate the level of the league’s competition; and that’s a good thing for cricket and all of the teams involved, not only the top-tiered combatants. It augurs well for the future of New York cricket.
With eight weeks of competitive cricket completed, Atlantis sits at the top of the 14-team table with 41 points and a 7-1 record, followed by Westbury with 40, (6-2), Suburbia, 37, (5-1-1) Villagers, 35, (5-3) and Queens United rounding out the top five teams at 31 points (5-2).
Atlantis plays Spice Island Cricket Club this Sunday, July 9 at Floyd Bennett Cricket Ground. Match time is 12:30 PM.