By Nikhil Sikka
May 21st, was a momentous day, at least for some of us who play for the Boston Eagles. First, Mumbai Indians lifted the IPL 10 trophy for a record three times, and are well on their way to becoming an IPL dynasty. Second, Boston Eagles proved their mettle against the MSCL Division A defending champions Conway Cricket Club (CCC) by winning their second straight match of the 2017 season.
Boston Eagles won the toss and elected to field. Shawn Blackwood and Philip Williams opened the batting line-up for CCC, with Shawn Blackwood’s 6-year old son cheering him on from the sidelines. The opening batsmen did not waste much time getting things going, taking singles and doubles at regular intervals and smashing a couple of boundaries in the first six overs.
However, the batsmen didn’t really threaten either of the two opening bowlers and pretty much followed your run of the mill kind of batting approach during the power-play. Guruprasath Madhavan (Guru) was brought in as a change of pace (literally) to rattle the opening duo a little bit. The trick worked and Williams was out on the first ball with an edge, caught by the keeper for 29. The opening pair put together a solid 54-run partnership before Williams departed. Next came Akimeo Lawson who was initially flustered by Nikhil Sikka’s pace and out singing deliveries but settled in and started piercing both leg and off-sides of the field. Shawn Blackwood relaxed a little bit as well and hit a couple of really “yuge” (as Bernie would say) sixes in the V. The skipper Raghunandan Sridhar (Raghu), with his faster off-spin bowling replaced Guru and finally got Blackwood out for 46. Shawn Blackwood looked utterly disappointed, spending a solid minute at the crease repenting his shot selection.
The score was 107 for 2 in 20 overs before the drinks break. Nicoy Samuels who had a stellar 2016 season, took his time at the crease and played rather defensively. Archan Chakroborthy, a left-arm spinner, not only made his debut on Sunday with Boston Eagles but also made his mark. He irritated both Samuels and Lawson to the point where Lawson in trying to manufacture a big shot to relive the pressure, got caught by Sikka on the leg side. Bruce Blackwood came in next and provided the necessary anchor for the rest of the CCC’s inning, although Archan would go on to take a couple more quick wickets. As a sensible middle-order batsman, Bruce Blackwood played beautifully and kept the scoreboard rolling with shots all around the field including a couple “yuge” sixes. Bilal Khan did some damage towards the end by taking a couple of wickets, including Blackwood’s in the 37th over. CCC finally folded at 217 for 7 in 38 overs (Bruce Blackwood 67, Shawn Blackwood 46, Archan Chakroborthy 3 wickets, Bilal Khan 2 wickets).
Boston Eagles’ opening pair, Raghu and Mithun Reddy (Mithun), fresh off the previous week’s incredible 157 opening partnership, looked to repeat the magic. And they did, to quite an extent. Mithun looked as poised as ever against Shawn Blackwood and Ricardo Sitcheron’s fast bowling, and hit some smashing boundaries to start the inning. Raghu was more defensive in the beginning but as clinical as you would expect him to be, taking his jolly time to open up. A single here, a double there, and an occasional boundary; the opening duo looked as calm as a millpond, as if it was CCC vs. CCC. Cool, Calm, and Collected vs. Conway Cricket Club.
Before you knew it, the scoreboard read 100 runs in 18 overs. Zuhaib Khan, a dubious spinner, finally broke the partnership at 102 runs, when Mithun got caught literally three inches short of the leg boundary. Then came the star of the show, Anil Yedugani. Although he provided too many cameos last season for a batsman of his caliber (primarily because of a leg injury), it seemed like he found his music on Sunday. As a beautiful timer of the ball, Anil launched multiple shots over the infield, including a “yuge” and effortlessly timed six over long-off. Raghu provided the necessary support at the other end, and finished his 50 as if he was running a routine chore. However, he finally got caught trying to pull Donovan Blake, when on 61. A mistimed shot against a timeless bowler like Blake. The score was 144 for 2 in 26 overs with Anil looking as formidable as ever at the crease.
Boston Eagles lost a couple more wickets rather quickly, including a terrible mix up between Anil and Sanjay which led to Sanjay being run-out. Muqudas Raza came in as the fourth down batsman, just when CCC’s bowlers thought they were in for a respite. However, Boom Boom Raza had different plans for them and before CCC’s bowlers could craft a strategy to get him out, he had let himself loose. The ship finally sailed away from CCC when Raza hit a couple of sixes in the 35th over against Nicoy Samuels and called it a day. The final score was 221/4 (Raghu 61, Anil 54*, Mithun Reddy 46, Muqudas Raza 23*).
With this comfortable win against the defending champs, Boston Eagles looked resilient and aptly balanced going into the rest of the season.