By Sam Sooppersaud
Under a cloud of the global COVID-19 pandemic, cricketers not wanting to miss out on an entire season of no cricket, and fans starving for fresh air and a chance to see some exciting cricket, the New York City T-2 Blast took to the fields with many spectators and players practicing social distancing.
It was Monday, September 7, 2020, and the day belonged to the Strikers! They struck, not once but twice, figuratively striking down their opponents. The first “attack” was perpetrated on the hapless New York Diamonds at the Baisley Park Cricket Field (The Cage) in Queens, New York. The second victim was “mauled” at the Roy Sweeney Cricket Oval at the Gateway complex in Brooklyn. NY.
After all, it was the Labor Day weekend, and the Strikers got down to doing some serious work, but it was a labor of love. At 9:30 AM, they faced the Diamonds in a semi-final of the 2020 New York City T20 Blast. A second semi-final was played simultaneously at the Baisley Pond Cricket Field adjacent to The Cage. Later in the afternoon, the two finalists clashed at the Roy Sweeney Cricket Oval, with a couple of thousands of cricket starved fans turning out to enjoy the day’s proceedings.
At The Cage, the Strikers faced off against the NY Diamonds, with the Strikers taking the first knock and rattling up 177 runs for the loss of seven wickets. At one stage, they were 99 for 6, but the 77-run seventh-wicket partnership of Trinson Carmichael (33) and Hemindra Ramdihal (37) put them right back in the contest. Skipper Gajanand Singh scored 38 runs. Bowling for NY Diamonds: Ali Nawaz 3/31 and Bilal Awan 3/24. The NY Diamonds were skittered out for 96 runs with Farhan Kiyani top-scoring with 27. Trinson Carmichael 2/16 and Christ Paladin 4/18 were the bowling architects of the losers’ demise.
Over at the Baisley Pond ground, United Xl was defeated by Pakistan First in a slugfest in the other semi-final game. Pakistan First scored 180/7 in their 20 overs. Umer Farooq, 55, hit 5X6’s and 5X4’s. Marvin Darlington 4/30. United XI fell short of the required total by 11 runs. The chase was scripted primarily by Gavan Brown, 71 (8x4s, 4x6s), assisted by Dino Chowenaam, 31 (3x4s, 2x6s); however, their efforts were not enough to secure a victory for their team, and a place in the final.
So now, the stage was set for the Final of the Labor Day NYC T20 Blast. The Finalists Strikers met Pakistan First later in the day at the Roy Sweeney Cricket Oval. The scheduled start was 3:00. PM, however, by 2:00 PM, hundreds of cricket fans had already set up their tents, picnic blankets, and beach chairs, ready to enjoy a T20 final.
At 2:55 PM, Umpires Steve Bucknor and Roan McFarlane walked out to the wicket, followed closely by the Pakistan First players. The Strikers took the first strike wit former West Indies Under-19 batsman, Richard Nixon Ramdeen, and Shiv Sangaleema opening the batting. With the score on 37 and only the fourth over, Sangaleema (23) was dispatched to the showers. Skipper Gaganand Singh then paired up with Ramdeen, 56 (1×4, 7x6s) for a second-wicket stand of 91 runs. Singh remained to the end on 112 not-out (5x4s, 10x6s). It was a magnificent inning of entertaining batting by Gajanand Singh, punctuated with 10X6’s and 6X4’s. The Strikers inning closed out at 230/7. Bowling for Pakistan First: Imran Raja Khan 2/37; Chiru Bhatia 3/33; Adil Nousherwan 2/59.
Pakistan First commenced their run-chase with a bang. The first ball sent down to Umer Farooq was dispatched about 20 yards beyond the long-on fence. A tumultuous noise went up from the Pakistan First supporters. Three balls later, the silence was deafening. Farooq slashed at a rising ball outside the off-stump and got a knick. The sound was audible enough to be heard by the fans, with the keeper Sangaleema taking the catch. All the fielders clustered on the on-side of the pitch in jubilance. The Strikers had gotten the big hitter out, but Umpire Bucknor was unmoved, as all the fielders stared at the umpire in disbelief. After all, the sound of the ball coming off the bat was audible even to the spectators. Precious seconds passed. Then a fielder shouted, “How’s that?” Umpire Bucknor then raised the dreaded finger signaling the batsman was out. It demonstrated the importance of appealing to the umpire unless the batsman opts to walk voluntarily. There was a sigh of relief on the faces of the Strikers’ players and supporters.
It was apparent that with the loss of Farooq’s wicket, the Pakistan First bubble had burst. The rest of the batsmen batted in a lackluster manner. The inning eventually ended tamely at 70 all out, the top-scorers Chiru Bhatia, 18, and Jaladh Dua, 13, the only two batsmen to post double-figures. The Strikers had won the Championship of the Labor Day NYC T20 Blast. Bowling for the Strikers: Navin Stewart 3/21, Trinson Carmichael 2/8, Hemindra Ramdihal 2/25.
With cricket fans starved for cricket, the three days of cricket was exciting and entertaining, making the Labor Day Weekend NYC T20 Blast a resounding success.
A summary of the highlights during the three-day tournament: 2X100’s, 21X50’s, 372X6’s, 264X4’s, 5,298 runs scored, 33 ducks, 39 no-balls, ten maidens, 167 catches, 156 wides, six four-wicket hauls, 164 players took part in the tournament.
usacricketers.com’s John Aaron contributed to this article.