By Sam Sooppersaud
It was somewhat delightful to walk in to The Cage last Sunday, September 26th, and watched a game of cricket being played by the game’s “rightful” participants – the youths. After all, what is the saying! Oh, yeh, “Cricket in a young man’s game”. This is not to imply that the senior guys, and the “more” senior guys – like me, still playing the game, are slouches or walkovers for the younger guys. No, the older players still” give their pound of flesh”

Whereas the Twenty/20 format of the game encourages the type of “slam-bang-thank-you ma’am” diet of batting, where players are inventing new shots everyday. In this format of the game we see batsmen executing the ASHRAFUL- the namesake shot of Bangladesh’s Mohammed Ashraful- where the batsman steps all the way across the wicket and helps the ball to the opposite side of the cricket field. We see them playing the DILSCOOP – patented by exciting Sri Lanka batting star Tillakaratne Dilshan.  This is a shot where the batsman scoops the ball over his head and the wicketkeeper’s head, steering it behind the keeper. Then again we see the invention of the REVERSE SWEEP, where the batsman turns around and slams the ball to the point or backward point position, but using the sweeping motion. (You would enjoy seeing England’s Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan playing the reverse sweep).

Imdad Khan of Meten-Meer-Zorg struck 21 from 9 deliveries. Photos by Shiek Mohamed.

The more senior batsmen (in age) may not resort to the cavalier style of batting exhibited by the younger guys, but they are still productive.  They are able to rotate the strike and be productive by using their experience. They use the (orthodox) square-cut, the late-cut, the classic cover drive. They are classier. They manipulate the bowling and place the ball.  They complement the younger batting partner by resorting to the supporting roll, milking the ball while the more agile, youthful partner executes the bombs.

Back to the game.  It was the Eastern American Cricket Association Twenty/20 Semifinals game – one of two played that Sunday. Meter-Meer-Zorg was doing battle with Atlantis. MMZ is a relatively new cricket organization, while the classy Atlantis organization has been around the metropolitan area cricket scene for close to fifty years.
In fact, the Atlantis club’s management had provided coffee, and donuts, and bagels, and bread, etc, with juices, et al, seeing that the game had an early start. John Aaron and his guys are real classy. Thanks guys, I enjoyed the breakfast, and later on the fish and bread lunch (Guyana style).

A huge crowd was on hand to cheer the players. Considering this was a Sunday morning, when most people sleep late, the crowd watching an early morning cricket game was commendable. Cricket fanatics, I call them! The spectators brought along their ‘brown bag” with their breakfast. They could be seen sipping their coffee from Styrofoam cups. Some even brought along “more spirited” drinks! They were sitting or standing in groups, associating with their acquaintances, eating and drinking and talking cricket. A festive mood pervaded the park.

Although it was a low scoring game, by 20/20 standard, the crowd was not disappointed. They were kept on their toes carefully watching each play and wondering what would happen next. The pendulum of advantage swung from one team to the other over and over again. The game was balanced throughout its entirety. Talk about predicting the results! No one dared making one! Supporters and players on each side were “sitting on the edge of their seats” figuratively speaking. Until one side ran away with the game.

MMZ took first strike. They did not loose a wicket until the score was 48. But, then this was in the 8th over with a run rate of 6.  Not too good for this format of the game. But yet the advantage was that they still had 9 wickets in hand and 72 deliveries to go. A platform which to build on.  The Atlantis boys felt they had the advantage at this stage of the game. A projected score of 120 runs at this scoring rate. Atlantis would take this anytime! By the halfway point, 10 overs, MMZ had scored 57 runs while loosing 3 wickets.  The scoring rate had dropped to below 6 runs per over. Atlantis was putting the pressure on the MMZ boys. Five more wickets fell while they added only 26 runs to their score. It is now the end of the 15th over and MMZ were 83 runs for the loss of 8 wickets.  Heads began to sag on the MMZ side. Five overs to go, two wickets in hand -tail enders at the crease- MMZ were precariously poised!  But then awoke the sleeping giant, sort of!  PSAL and Aviation High School all rounder, Imdad Khan came to the rescue of his side. He scored a quick fire 21 runs in 9 balls, hitting 14 runs in the 19th over.  The innings ended on the first ball of the 20th over. Final score for MMZ, 113 runs. Azrudeen Mohammed 25, Imdad Khan 21 not out, Ken Nandkumar 14.

Among the wickets for Atlantis were Prashant Nair 3 for 15, Jermaine Horatio 2 for 21, and Zaheer Saffie 2 for 10.

Having to chase 114 runs for victory in a Twenty/20 game should be “no sweat”, to put it in simple terms.  In fact, the Atlantis players and management also felt that the score required for victory was certainly manageable, considering the depth of the Atlantis batting machine. They were in a positive state of mind when they commenced the run chase.

Things did not go well for Atlantis. By the end of the 6th over they had lost 3 wickets and with the score on 30 runs. They needed to maintain a run rate of 5.7 runs per over. They were batting at 5.0 per over. Still anybody’s game to win. A 4th wicket partnership of 40 runs between Ryan Sukdeo and Zaheer Saffie rekindled the fire in the Atlantis batting and in their hearts. Now it is 70 runs for 4 wickets and the end of the 14th over. Atlantis has 36 balls to score 44 runs for victory, and with 6 wickets in hand.  In the context of 20/20 cricket this is a winning formula. But MMZ were determined to take the fight to Atlantis. They kept up the pressure with tight bowling and excellent fielding.

Stuart Mills led Everest/ACS to victory with an unbeaten 46.

Once the 4th wicket partnership was broken Atlantis embarked on a downward spiral. The last 6 wickets fell for a paltry 29 runs. They had squandered away a golden opportunity to run away with the game. Atlantis, all out for 99 runs. Bowling honors, Rocky Kowchoi 2 for 25, Samuil Gandhi 2 for 8, Raul Hoyte 2 for 6.

In the second semi finals played the same day, ACS/Everest defeated Hillside Sports Club. Hillside batted first and were bundled out for 89 runs. Everest knocked off the runs and in the process lost 3 wickets. Stuart Mills was 46 not out. Meter-Mere-Zorg and Everest will clash in the finals on Sunday, October 3rd, in The Cage, Foch Boulevard and Barron Street, Queens. Be there and enjoy a day of entertaining cricket.