Kunaal Kapoor stood, frozen in the spot, with a look of sheer disbelief clearly visible after being bamboozled by what could easily have been the ball of the championship. It was almost as if it was impossible for him to be bowled in such a comprehensive manner. That ball, bowled by Manish Gandhi, broke the Lions back and with that wicket, their path to the championship title was no longer visible.
It was a wonderful day for cricket with perfect weather for the Grand Finale of the Commonwealth Cricket League’s 2018 Morning Division. The LI Titans led by Ajith Bhaskar basked in the glory of winning the 2018 Championship, beating LI Lions by six wickets.
After being put in to bat by the Titans, the Lions could only manage 130 all out in 28 overs which the Titans chased like seasoned campaigners, and with five overs to spare. The Lions never recovered from being down 14 for 2 by the third over. The first wicket falling after a superb catch by Rohan Tendulkar at deep cover-point, and the second wicket coming after a superb run-out by Tejas Ahlawat, to get rid of Rishi Rawat. Ironically, Rishi was run-out in the previous match between the two teams as well. And then it got worse for the Lions. From 12 for 2, they were 23 for 4 now with Manish Gandhi doing the damage by removing Mohammed Tanim and Kunaal Kapoor off successive deliveries.
It was not turning out to be a thriller as was expected. For the top team in the league, having lost only one match all season to you-know-who, someone was needed to steady the ship and it came in the form of the duo Karan Sachdeva and Manpreet Gulati. Amidst some tight bowling by the likes of Manpreet (Sam), Joji and Vamshi, Lions finally reached their 50 in the 14th over. That underscores why capturing wickets is crucial in a cricket match. The next to go was Abhishek Gulati who was caught by Ankur Mody off a brilliant Sam delivery. The match was slipping out of Lions’ hands and then Tejas Ahlawat did exactly that by taking the last five wickets. Ashish Kumar and Karan Sachdeva, who played an incredible inning of 38, were out in successive overs. Tanvir S played a small cameo role scoring 26 at a strike rate of 152.94.
And then it was all over. Tejas Ahlawat, feeling confident in his ability, bowled Dabbu Singh on the first delivery, next to go was Tanvir S, a superb catch taken by Ajith Bhaskar running backwards. And then they were all out when captain Sachin Mohan was bowled, bringing the inning to a close. Lions were all out for 130 and they must have felt they scored well below their expectation.
For LI Titans, it was a different story altogether with its batting wicket and fast outfield, the pitch at Heckscher State Park is a batsman’s paradise. Their openers Dhananjay Gulia and Janpreet Singh however, had struggled for runs in the last few matches, but showing that class is permanent, they took the match by the scruff of its neck. By the eighth over the Titans had reached their 50 with the highlight being Janpreet’s six off Kunaal Kapoor over mid-on. What a magnificent hit! But then against the run of play, they lost two quick wickets. Janpreet Singh was out first, caught in the deep by Dabbu Singh, but his next catch off Tejas Ahlawat at deep mid-on was an absolute blinder. At 55 years old, he can give a young lad a run for his money. The next batsman to come in was Rohan Tendulkar, who hit an unbeaten 90 in the semi-finals, with 54 still needed in 15 overs.
On the other hand, Dhananjay Gulia was looking in good nick after hitting Dabbu Singh over his head for a fine six. The score read 100 when Rohan Tendulkar fell and that brought in skipper Ajith Bhaskar eager to win the championship for the Titans after the sad demise of his father. Ajith, who is also a US Cricket Board Director fell with Titans needing just four runs. However, that was duly accomplished off the next delivery by Charandeep Singh Nanda. With that, LI Titans had beaten the defending champions. It was a great contest between the two top teams and at the end Cricket had won.
It was a welcome sight to see friends and relatives from both sides who showed up to support their teams. After all, the game is nothing without spectators. Chief guest Mohinder Singh Taneja presented the championship trophy to the LI Titans.