By Hardik Patel
For the first time in Chicago’s cricket history, Bolingbrook Premier League (BPL) hosted the finals of the 50/50 overs Pepsi Cup 2018 on a proper turf wicket. Under very challenging October weather conditions (rain and a mix of light snow the previous day) of -3F/-19C and frosty grass, the turf wicket and most of the inner boundary was well protected for the final heavy roll. BPL vision for quality cricket was reflected well with a perfectly curated wicket for the grand finale between star studded Northern Gymkhana (NG) and the mighty ‘Men in Red’ Chicago United (CU). NG had their full squad, while CU’s strike batsman Yaseen Bahmaid and strike bowler Murtaza Vohra (both national level/First class players from India) were unavailable for the finals.
The live video with a built in score broadcast crew ironed out the glitches, while in the dug outs of both teams, lots of excitement hovered around the heated tents as the teams awaited the start of the match under sunny clear blue skies.
Typical, wind-chill at 40F/5C welcomed NG batsmen Salman Syed and Shaheer Hassan. Reading the bouncy wicket, CU opened their bowling attack with the pacer duo of Ahmed Askari and Koti Vanga. NG made several attempts to stabilize the score after Shaheer’s run-out in the fourth over at 18 runs. Askari’s pace variation with the ball limited the runs while Koti’s smart and lethal bowling picked up wickets for CU at regular intervals. Salman Ahmad’s bowled, Shayan Ali was brilliantly caught behind by Venky Naidu. and a strategic bouncer at Abir Chippa for a catch at gully region were some stand out wickets for Koti’s pace (8-1-22-5). The pace attack was complimented with CU’s spin squad of Altaf Quadri, Niraj Patel, Umari Ghani, and the skipper Mohammed Sami. At one-point NG was 6-43 in 15 overs. Umair spun the ball very well to clock 6-0-19-3. However, NG’s Ali Agha (25), Skipper Bilal Nasir (11), and Talah Mohsin (17 not out), contributed to the ticking of the scoreboard to 111 all out.
Batters Abhijit Joshi and Umair Ghani opened the batting for CU. This was the first time Umair opened the batting for CU and seemed very confident with his U-19 Karachi background, and cricket genetics in general. Abhijit Joshi, former U-19 USA captain showed his usual calmness before entering the boundary line to bat. The experienced NG pacer Qasim Khan bowled a bouncer to edge Abhijit to keeper Ashar Mehdi in the first over at two runs. NG picked up two quick CU wickets, 2-5 runs in the second over. Although, CU had very deep batting; they seemed to be startled. Donieke Perrin (19) joined Umair to stabilize the innings by fearlessly scoring runs before being bowled, to bring in Niraj Patel (former India U-19, India ‘A’, IPL, 100 First class, etc.,). Ali Agha picked up two quick wickets. However, Umair and Niraj marvelously built the innings setting a stage for Ranjan Gandi and Niraj to cross the 112 runs target in the 30th over leading to a four-wicket victory!
In the closing ceremony, Koti Vanga picked up the finals MVP award for his outstanding performance with the ball (8-1-22-5). In recognition of Donieke Perrin’s cricket tenure and Koti’s brilliant performance, they receive the historic Pepsi Cup 50/50 Champions trophy on behalf of Chicago United and were joined by rest of the CU squad. This was a crescendo for Chicago United’s 2018 season!
All of the performance and recognition awards will be presented to players and officials at a fully loaded BPL Awards and Gala Dinner to be held at the beautiful Bolingbrook Golf Club.
As always, let’s play better cricket – TOGETHER!