By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 40th Anniversary – Match #1095):- If a cricket match is sometimes referred to as being won single-handedly by a player, then Kevin Balgobin can safely take that title for an explosive inning last Sunday against Staten Island at Walker park, and his teammates wouldn’t flinch an inch to give him full credit for the performance of the season.
Staten Island must have felt comfortable after they posted a challenging 164 for 9 in their allotted 25 overs with Anil getting an aggressive 42 runs with four maximums. Shane Grant and Devon McCarthy marked their run-up for Cosmos the first time and had a feel of the ‘cherry’ when the captain offered. The expectations were not too high for tidy overs but it was backed up by some excellent fielding as Cosmos boys kept getting better. Suren Singh got into the mix as well when he held on to a stinger at cover point on his second attempt as he dived one-handed hit the ground (it registered 3.0 on the richter scale), and came up with a brilliant catch. Khamraj Conyers then held on to another diving catch while Balgobin snapped up three which included two brilliant attempts while running back on the mid-on boundary. He surprised himself that he held on to both. All these actions were happening while Alex Chunilall was growing a beard. Balgobin though had done much of the work earlier picking up 3 for 10 in his spell while Alex Chunilall, Shane Singh and Khamraj Conyers bagged two wickets each.
In reply, Cosmos was Steering down the barrel at 51 for 1 in the 15th over chasing 164 runs. That prompted a bold, brave, but calculated move from Conyers in his first match as captain to retire opening batsman Shane Grant. Grant had safely negotiated the ‘first session’ of play and perhaps hoping to go to lunch with the moisture fully dried up and then bat until tea. But Conyers had waited long enough, and Grant had a reality check; it was a 25 overs match and not a five day test match. He looked a bit perplexed at the signal when he saw Conyers waving him to come in. He made his way in the general direction, as a good sport, to make room for the slightly burly, hard-hitting Balgobin.
Balgobin had shown in earlier games that he has the propensity for these late overs heroics, he did not fail to deliver, and rose to the challenge. With the score on 81 in the 19th over Balgobin was just getting warmed-up, however, he had declared his intentions two overs earlier when he cleared the mid-on and mid-off boundaries. The strategy, if you can call it that, appeared to be on course. He then shifted gears from 1st to 5th, stepped on the accelerator and didn’t release it until the 24th over. His pal, the ever dependable, Devon McCarthy, who was stung by a bee earlier, but wish it had happened to Grant, absorbed the fireworks at the non-strikers end. McCarty though with his old school techniques chiseled away at a dogged 26 runs as the pair post a match-winning 3rd wicket partnership of 80 runs in seven overs before McCarthy went when he drove upishly to deep extra cover.
At 130 for 2 in the 22nd over, Conyers, in his first stint as captain, walked to the wicket looking rather nervous, but with a whiff of a victory flashing across his nose. He had his hopes on his man in the middle, as he joined an out of breath Balgobin whose his shirt was happy to break out of his pants under immense pressure from his seven or eight pack depending on your angle of view. But Balgobin, like all good soldiers, remained unfazed of his GQ style, and proceeded to blast sixteen runs in the 23rd over and called for a much needed gallon of water. He then finished the fireworks with three massive sixes over the mid-wicket boundary to stake his claim as an all-rounder to be reckoned with as he sealed an emphatic victory for his team, and chalked up his personal best; a belligerent 69 off only 25 ball that included 8 sixes and a solitary four.
It was an inning full of character if only we had a few more during the season, however, one of the defining features of good club is that you go through the years constantly growing and learning with a knack of disguising your deficiencies. But like most other things you have the good moments, and this match was certainly one of them with Kevin Balgobin written all over it. His inning added a veneer of respectability to an otherwise quiet season from Cosmos and it fittingly received a hearty celebration from his teammates.