NY Centurions “Red Squad” was scheduled to take on Big Apple C.C. in the quarterfinals of the Eastern American Cricket Association Brian Singh T20 Competition on October 4, 2015. That is, weather permitting, as every single weatherman/woman in the tri-state was forecasting Hurricane Joaquin to bring heavy rain and winds to the area.
And so it was, one Raj Sewanan from NY Centurions finally used all the internet speed he was paying for and simultaneously connected the IPad, Kindle, Laptop, PC, Smart TV, Galaxy Tab and IPhone to track Joaquin on 7 different websites. By Saturday, the forecasts did a 180 and predicted that Joaquin would not be making an appearance, but with wind chills of 45 degrees F on a gloomy, overcast day it was hard to be optimistic. It seemed very likely that the meteorologists, who predicted their earlier predictions may be wrong, could well be wrong again!
On Sunday the sun rose exposing another gloomy overcast morning. All 7 websites said no rain for the day and so it was on to the famous Baisley Cage Oval in Queens, a venerable cricket ground in New York. Many epic battles have been fought on the field here, and some say off the field at times.
The Big Apple C.C. is a powerhouse and popular team in the league, with a few championships under their belts, and the ability to back up their on field reputation with matching vocal skills off the field.
The Red Squad, a relatively new team with lesser credentials, had been playing competitive cricket for the entire season and troubled all the teams with their impressive bowling unit, led by the double trouble Carlos Baker and Carlos “Rusty” Bachu. They were backed up by the impressive Vijay Persaud, the talented Shazam Ramjohn, teenage mystery spinner Nicholas Nandan and new kid on the block, Ritesh Bridgelal. However, Red Squad’s bowling smarts were not always complimented by their batsmen whose flair and impetuous shot making seemed more suited to the T20 format.
At the ground this morning, though, it appeared that Big Apple had the wrong weather channel and did not realize the Hurricane was heading off to the north, as they were not present at the scheduled start. Eventually they were ready an hour after the scheduled start and the game was reduced to 15 overs a side. Both captains agreed to Big Apple being docked 3 overs, much to the dismay of the Red Squad camp who felt it should have been at least double that.
Big Apple was inserted by Red Squad to bat on a wicket that played surprisingly well after several days of rain. The elegant Dominic Rikhi went first ball as Carlos Rusty Bachu induced him to drive over extra cover but the late swing on the ball and heavy air resulted in a skier to cover. Two balls later the feared Richard Ramdeen pushed to mid off and set off for a single but Mark Gomes picked up quickly and found Ramdeen short of his crease with a direct hit. Red Squad felt they were in the driver’s seat now but Donwell Hector had other ideas.
Well supported by Travis Ross, he set about repairing the damage. The two Big Apple players put on a partnership of 65 with Ross contributing a fluent 29, eventually going stumped to Nicholas Nandan. Rusty Bachu came back to pick up the wicket of the usually prolific Zaheer Saffie for just 3, but Hector continued merrily along, blasting 7 sixes and 5 fours in a blistering 88 enabling Big Apple to end with 121 after their allotted 12 overs. For once the Red Squad bowlers did not get it right, going for an average of 10 runs per over, but Rusty Bachu stood out with 2 wickets for 17 off 3 overs, while Carlos Baker, Nicholas Nandan and Vijay Persaud picked up 1 each.
High fences demarcated the boundaries at Baisley Cage, some of the sides appearing deceptively close. These high fences, like the Sirens of Greek mythology have lured many a batsmen, too eager to clear them, to their dismissal. It was in this manner that Red Squad lost their first wicket when Mark Gomes heeded the beckoning of the fences and chipped down the wicket looking for a maximum first ball, only to hear the death rattle of the stumps behind him.
The explosive Joel Boodhoo, a former USA U-15 Player, joined the little warrior, Naresh Rambharos, and the two teenagers mixed defense with aggression, adding some 45 runs for the second wicket. Ramdeen kept things tight in his 3 overs before Joel swung him for a huge six over square leg, but Shiv Raghubar had Joel caught driving to extra cover soon after. Naresh started to increase the tempo but was spectacularly caught one handed by Ramdeen on the edge of the boundary for a well made 35 including 2 sixes and 3 fours. Red Squad was then pegged back by an excellent over from Mark Chucky Gomes, bowling Troy Hayley and Carlos Baker in his first over. Meanwhile Steve Raghubar, whose younger sibling Shiv was giving him ample lip service, was quietly rotating the strike. Vijay Persaud joined him and they kept the scoreboard ticking. Aware of the mounting run rate, Steve then took the attack to his brother Shiv and drove him handsomely for 6 back over his head much to the delight of the Red Squad camp. Next over, Mark Gomes once again pulled it back for Big Apple by picking up both batsmen, as the Red Squad slumped to 79/7 in over 11.
Carlos Rusty Bachu, who was looking determined, was joined by the broad shouldered Mahendra “Tall Boy” Khusial. After running a few singles and doubles with Rusty, Tall Boy took a liking to Gomes’s off spinners and hit him for 2 consecutive sixes out of the Cage. As the blows resonated across the Cage, the crowd suddenly came alive and there was excitement in the air as they sensed an upset. Heeding the call of the fences once again Mahendra went for a third consecutive six, but Shiv Raghubar took an excellent catch to give Mark Gomes a 5 for. Mahendra went dejectedly but the momentum was back with the Red Squad and they were starting to believe.
Captain Raj Sewanan joined Rusty Bachu at the crease with 22 runs to get from 12 balls. Dominic Rikhi, entrusted with the crucial penultimate over, tried bowling back of the length, but Rusty batted like a man possessed and swung him over midwicket for a four and back over his head for 6 as 14 came of the over. Captain Saffie took the ball looking to defend 8 runs needed from the last over. A leg bye, single and dot ball left 6 runs to get from 3 balls. Raj cleared his front foot and swung the fourth ball to the midwicket for a boundary. The boys in Red were already dancing as Raj then lofted Saffie straight back and scampered two for the victory precipitating wild celebrations. Red Squad had finally taken a bite of the Big Apple. Nevertheless the two teams shook hands after the game as Big Apple graciously accepted the defeat. It was an entertaining game played in good spirit.
The Red Squad will now be contesting their first T20 Semi Finals scheduled for this Sunday October 11th at the famed Baisley Cage, starting at 10am.
Their opponents are the regular season Champions, Liberty Cricket Club “Blue Nation”. It promises to be another epic battle, Red Squad vs Blue Nation, with the winner contesting the Finals at 2.30 pm at the same ground.