By Sudharsan Ramarao
June 9th, 2018 is a day the JETs won’t forget in their lives. For they were coasting along to a comfortable win in their league game against the defending champions Knights. Having dismissed the Knights for a paltry 81 and then having them on the mat while chasing, the JETs needed just 3 runs with 5 wickets in hand and an eternity of overs left to win the game. But quite unexpectedly, to the surprise of even the Knights, the JETS managed to find a way. Not to win, but to lose the game in an embarrassing fashion.
They surrendered their last 5 wickets for just 1 run and were all out for 80. Every one of the JETS players who played the game were shattered. More so their champion allrounder Pardha Phani. Pardha who was still at the crease when they just needed 2 runs to win committed the cardinal sin of lofting the ball to the only fielder outside the inner circle, just like how the Bangladeshi batsman Mahmudullah gifted his wicket to India in the famous 2016 T20 world cup game. That single game stung them. It stung them so hard that it also became the turning point for Pardha and the whole of JETS team.
They got the lesson learnt that to never take anything for granted and that to stay till the end and finish the business. The JETS sailed to the playoffs irrespective of that loss while Pardha became the team’s top scorer across all leagues with over 300 runs that included 5 not outs. But there was still one unfinished business and that was the Knights. Like every great sporting rivalry that produces vintage moments that can be told for ages, the JETS rivalry with the Knights got one more chapter as they both locked horns for the prestigious Maurice Persaud Memorial Empire league trophy. JETS had a point to prove while the Knights looked to continue their domination.
Knights skipper Raj Ardham won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first. Raj Ardham and the centurion in previous game Nandakishore Krishna opened the innings for the JETS. JETS skipper Vishva opened the bowling with a maiden over first up. Chakri Reddy, the man who has been picking wickets like picking apples in an orchard, took the ball from the other end. And as usual picked up wicket on the very first over by cleaning up the inform Nanda. He then cleaned up Raj in his next over thereby putting the Knights on to the backfoot straight away. The Knights, to play the waiting game, reshuffled the batting order and sent in Arun Ghanta and Srinivas Reddy Gunna to consolidate the innings.
That moved paved off as they both battled for more than 15 overs without losing any wicket. They mostly played safe. Vishva then got Arun trapped in front for 21 while Srinivas got cleaned up by Anand Kalukuluri for 19. Joseph Gali and Jayaram Manukonda then played the same game taking the innings closer to 100. But the allrounder duo of Pardha and Chakri Reddy got back to back wickets and broke any kind of momentum the Knights had. The innings was going nowhere and that’s when their athletic allrounder Ranadheer Sammetta, who has had a very quiet year due to injuries, came into the crease. Rana took the situation head on and played attacking cricket. He hit 2 huge sixes and complemented that with brisk running to take the Knights past the 150. He remained unbeaten on 40 off just 34 balls. The Knights finished their innings at 156. Chakri Reddy and Pardha claimed 3 wickets each.
Chasing 157 to win, the JETS lost their top 3 wickets within the first 12 overs. Anand Kalukuluri and Chakri Reddy then got together to prolong the chase. Their first intent was to not give any more wickets and take the game as deep as possible. That made the JETS scorecard crawl slowly. The JETS made 52 for 3 at the end of 20 overs. They still needed 105 runs from the remaining 20. Anand was stuck on 5 off 40 balls. That’s when the pair decided to move on. Anand started to play more freely taking numerous singles and doubles while Chakri responded with the same from the other end.
Just when the chase was gaining steam, Chakri Reddy got out for 18. But perhaps that was because this sporting story that started with a collapse had to end the right way. And the man who did the wrong at the first place had to be there to do the right. The stage was set for Pardha Phani to win it for the JETS. He and Anand then took the attack to the Knights with Anand making up for all the dot balls he consumed at the start of the innings. While Pardha played his usual self-rotating the strike with 1s and 2s and an occasional big hit. The JETS needed 50 from the last 10. But the pair just needed 8 overs to take them over the line. Anand stood like a rock scoring 78 off 103 balls while Pardha remained not out on 24 off just 28 balls.
The JETS remarkably became the champions of Maurice Persaud Memorial Empire League by beating the very team that gave them a lesson. Perhaps this is what a comeback story looks like.