By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 40th Anniversary – Match #1086):- On an almost perfect day for cricket Cosmos appeared more than willing to soak up most of the sunshine and as a result they ended up being toasted. And for the third time in as many matches Cosmos boys found themselves on the back foot after they made it a habit to commit the cardinal mistake of dropping too many catches early in the inning, and subsequently paid the price of leaking 347 runs. Drop catches has been the bane of the story so far for this young talented team and it prevented them, on every occasion, form being in a position of control to one of fighting to recover to surrendering in the end and loosing three on the trot.
Punjab got off to a flying start with a 110 runs opening partnership in only eleven overs between Bilal Ahmed and Waseem Shahzad (47) courtesy of a few early spills before Shahzad nicked one from Daniel Chunilall to the wicketkeeper. Chunilall then removed Waheed Aktar (5) to a brilliant return catch. Khamraj Conyers then got into the mix when he trapped Raphique Payne (6) with the score on 136 in the 16th over. But Cosmos fielding was once again was found wanting when Suren Persaud grassed a catch from Ahmed at extra cover. With that Cosmos must have sensed that they were in for a long day in the field as the pair of Ahmed and Imran Mazar settled in for a crucial 4th wicket partnership taking the score to 241 before Mazar was run out off a direct hit from an energetic Ronaldo Sookhoo.
However opening batsman Bilal was still there batting himself into form after two previous poor outings. He was particularly brutal on anything slightly over pitched and an inexperience Cosmos bowling attack appeared willing to serve him a full course and appetizers for free. He willingly accepted the offer and did not hesitate taking full advantage of the short boundary. Cosmos attack of Chunilall, Conyers, Gangoo and Sookhoo had some sparks of consistency, but for the most part it looked rather pedestrian. The drop catches only compounded the effort eventhough captain Chunilall who tried to lead by example on the field search for more but just could not find it in his men on this day.
In the mean while Ahmed, who benefited most from the sloppiness, was constructing an eventful inning thanks to Cosmos generosity. He relished all six opportunities handed to him in the field at five, thirty, eighty, hundred, and twice on 115. The Cosmos fielding appeared so criminal at times that the ‘local police’ (Ronaldo) might have had an interest before wicketkeeper Jason Hall held on to a skier off Shane Singh to put an end to the carnage in the 34th over as he went for a belligerent 172 runs which included 19 fours and 10 sixes.
Khamraj Conyers had to somehow get into the mix and he did with some humorous dramatics in the closing stages of the inning. It virtually summed up the day for Cosmos when he made a gallant diving effort to cut off a boundary and ended up in the four feet high bushes on the extra cover boundary. He couldn’t be found thereafter since he decided to take a two minute nap. Some were worried that he may have sustained an injury, however, on inquiry he just decided to lay there out of sight to put a pause to the run fest. Naeem Arif had flurry in the end with 42 runs coming off just 25 balls to take Punjab to an imposing 347 for 6 off their allotted 35 overs. D. Chunilall 2 for 54, K. Conyers 2 for 56, and S. Singh 1 for 34.
And after a bruising first inning from Punjab, Cosmos needed their top order batsmen to rise to challenge with a few good inning if they were to challenge the opposition total that seemed a distance away. Cosmos response fluctuated between dismal and classy as it got off to a tame start with the loss of two early wickets. Daniel Chunilall went via lbw in the first over when he played across the line to a full delivery while Shane Singh followed soon after. However, Jason Hall and Justin Gangoo, who looked poised for a big score, appeared composed as they took the score to 65 before Hall played around a slow delivery from leg spinner Rizwan Akram soon after the break. With the fall of Hall’s wicket the Cosmos inning never recovered as wickets kept falling at regular intervals with only Gangoo (35) showing some purpose with the bat playing a lone hand. Devindra Balgobin had his usual lower order spark with a huge six or six and a half before the Cosmos inning closed on a paltry 115 all out. Umer Hanif took 2 for 23, Rizwan Akram 2 for 15, Adnan Khan 2 for 8.
Cosmos will play Jazba Sunday at Beach 32, Bayswater Park.