By Sam Soopersaud
The Richmond Hill Mighty Lions (RH High School) wrested away the coveted PSAL Cricket Championship from the John Adam Spartans (JA High School) when the two finalists met in the decider at the Baisley Pond Cricket Park, in Queens, on Sunday, June 18, 2017. The final was scheduled for Saturday, June 17th, but inclement weather caused the game to be postponed for a day later.
The Lions now joined the ranks of the High Schools that have won the PSAL Cricket Championship twice: Newcomers (2008, 2009), Long Island City (2011, 2012), and John Adams (2014, 2016) Richmond Hill won the championship for the first time in 2015 and now repeated the feat in 2017.
Considering the torrents of rain the day before, the field was in immaculate playing condition. Grounds men Joe and Nate did a splendid job getting the wicket and the outfield ready for this most important game of the two schools. The grass was closely cut; the small puddles of water were sapped up. The bowlers’ run-ups, damp and muddy from the rains the day before, were dried out and fresh layer of red sandy soil was spread throughout the entire length of the bowlers’ tracks. A small crowd was on hand at the start of the game, but by halftime, over three (300) cricket fans were there, cheering for their favorite team, or just cheering for good cricket.
Although a low scoring contest, it was not without its share of excitement. In fact, towards the end of the game, with two overs remaining, fans were shouting “Super Over”, “Super Over”. So tight was the game that the fans were hoping to see the game “go all the way to the ropes”. They nearly had their wishes. The game hung in Richmond Hill’s favor throughout the first half and well in to about the 14th over of the second half. This is when the Spartans tightened the screw on the Mighty Lions.
John Adams occupied the crease first. They ran in to trouble in the second over when one of the openers, Minhajul Rafe, was adjudged LBW. Their highest scorer, Alix Husain, with over 700 runs for the season, walked out to the middle, But, he soon made his exit, bowled, attempting to hit the ball back over the bowler’s head. Two wickets down, two of the Spartans’ highest scorers. Needless to say, the Richmond Hill players and their supporters were elated to see the back of Alix Husain.
Wickets fell in rapid succession. Only two batsmen were able to reach double figures: Avin Gangadin (21) and Skipper, Richie Balkarran (59), caught off the last ball of the inning. Numerous batsmen fell through poor shot selection. It appeared that no one except the two double-figure scorers had any clue as to how to consolidate the inning. They just flailed their bats loosely and were either caught or were bowled. John Adams was able to muster only 118 runs in their 20 overs of batting.
The Richmond Hill showed their jubilation by putting on some “hot chatnee” music and were very vocal about their chances of overtaking the low score posted by the Spartans. Some were even seen making some of those “dance moves”. Joyous expectancy was in the air. Looking across to the Spartans bench, I could not help but see many hanging their heads. A few of their best batsmen, I will not use names, appeared visibly shocked at having been rooted out for such a low score. In the two games that the two teams met each other during the preliminary round, John Adams had scored heavily against the Mighty Lions. The apparent dejection was understandable.
In reply Richmond Hill lost their first wicket in the third over. A second wicket partnership of 65 runs between Namit Chatoorang and Brandon Pydanna put the Lions solidly in the driver’s seat. Pydanna was eventually run out for 50, a game saving, in this case, winning score. He was awarded the MVP of the game having also taken 3 wickets.
With the introduction of the slow bowlers, Adams was able to reduce the scoring rate to about 6 runs per over. Slowly the Spartans tightened the screw. The scoring rate dropped to 5 runs per over. Adams definitely had the upper hand. With 6 overs to bowl, 36 balls left, Richmond Hill needed 41 runs to win. 18 balls to bowl, 24 runs needed for a Richmond Hill victory. The Richmond Hill batsmen were like rabbits, running on every touch of the ball. Then a 10- run 18th over put back some of the sparks back on the Richmond Hill’s bench. The excitement around the ground was evident by the shouting of encouragement by the fans to their team. This is when the chant of “Super Over” reverberated around the ground.
At this stage of the game, the scoring rate was 6.5 runs per over. A scoring rate of 7.0 was needed. But, judging from the trend of the Twenty20 format of cricket, this was a winning formula for the Richmond Hill Mighty Lions. Then skipper Richie Balkarran was miserly in the 19th over, conceding only 5 runs. This required Richmond Hill to score 9 runs in 6 balls.
“Super Over, Super Over”. The fans were restless. Excitement was in the air. Would they see a Super Over! The body language of the Adams players suggested that they were now on top. Richmond Hill had scored an average of 6 runs per over for the past 6 overs. Having to get 9 runs for victory would be a daunting task for the Mighty Lions. Let’s see what happened next! Unbelievable!
With the taste of victory on their lips, Adams’ skipper called on Alix Husain to bowl the final over of the inning. He had given up an average of only 5 runs for the three previous overs he had bowled in the inning. Could this be a third championship for John Adams! Could this be a second championship for Richmond Hill!
Alix walked to his mark. Then the flood gates opened. He and John Adams simply gifted the victory away to Richmond Hill. This is how it went. 9 runs needed in 6 balls. First ball, a wide which eluded the wicketkeeper. The batsmen scampered through for a single. Resulting in 2 wides. 7 runs to get in 6 balls. Next a skier to extra cover. A sitter of a catch. The ball was grassed. The batsmen ran for 2. 5 runs needed from 5 balls. A dot ball. Piece of gold! 5 runs to win in 4 balls. The bowler fired a wide which passed the ‘keeper. The batsmen ran, crossed each other twice. The result: 3 wides. 2 runs needed, 3 balls to come. The batsmen took a quick single. 1 run needed, in 2 balls. Let me take a breadth here!
A Super Over was in the horizon! Richmond Hill Mighty Lions need 1 run in 2 balls for the 2017 PSAL Championship. The John Adams need to prevent the scoring of that run to give the fans what they want, a Super Over. What happened next would baffle the minds of the knowledge cricket fans, forever. But, I would simply chalk this up to inexperience. With 1 run needed in 2 balls, the batsman played the ball back to the bowler. The non-striker was backing up too far. Rather than holding on to the ball and get another opportunity for a Super Over, the bowler fired the ball at the wicket. Guess what! He missed. The ball rolled to the outfield and the batsmen crossed with the winning run with 1 ball to spare. Hey, so much excitement here in writing this article, I am out of breadth. Just imagine the excitement at the game!.
Why did Alix fire that fateful ball at the wicket trying for a run out! After all, only 4 wickets were down. Even if he had run out the non-striker, there was still batting to come. I would say it was just inexperience on the part of the bowler. It could have been flow of adrenaline, also.
After the game a brief presentation ceremony was held. The administrators presented trophies to those who had performed well during the season. The categories: scoring a century, taking most wickets, 5 wickets haul, best wicketkeeper, MVP for the finals. The 2017 PSAL Cricket Championship was then presented to coach Lomarshan Persaud of the Richmond Hill Mighty Lions. PSAL then feasted on a delicious lunch of fried rice, fried chicken, jerk chicken, and chowmein. I must say, everyone had a great time.
On Saturday June 24th, PSAL will feature the Mayor’s Trophy Game. This game will be played at the Spring Creek, Gateway cricket facility in Brooklyn, N.Y. adjacent to the Home Depot; Belt Parkway, Exit 15 (Erskine Street). Cricket fans, come out and see the best high school cricket players in New York City go at it to determine the Best in the City.