Some members of the 2009 Van Buren team. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Move over IPL, PSAL Twenty/20 is on the block!
Cricket fans who think that it is not worth the time and effort to go and watch a PSAL Twenty/20 game, should have been at Baisley Pond Park – The Cage – to witness an exciting game of cricket when two high schools clashed in in the PSAL 2010 tournament.

It was Thursday, May 6th. The sun shone brightly. The temperature was in the lower 70’s, a vast improvement from the cold and wintry weather we experienced just a few days ago. The pitch at the Cage was smooth and appeared hard and compact. However, the outfield grass needed some manicuring. A small crowd was initially on hand to watch the game. By the time the game had ended, the crowd had grown to over 150 screaming fans lending their support to their favorite team.

This was the second meeting between the two teams for this present season. In their first clash, Martin Van Buren totally annihilated The Newcomers Lions, who were completely outplayed. Newcomers were the PSAL champions for both, 2008 and 2009, the two years that this exciting program have been in place. Newcomers batted first and were skittle out for a paltry 75 runs. Van Buren knocked off the required runs in 10 overs while losing only 1 wicket in the space of 10 overs. The Newcomers guys came into the second meeting wanting to avenge their loss to Van Buren, in their first match. But this was not to be.

Both sides played very good cricket and ensured that it was worth the spectators’ “time and effort:” to come out and watch a PSAL sponsored high school cricket game. However, a few suspected umpiring decisions put a bit of a damper on which was, otherwise, an exciting cricket match. Spectators vociferously expressed their dismay. (I will address the umpiring indiscretions in another article, soon to follow).

Van Buren won the toss and predictably chose to take first knock. In the third over of the innings one of the opening batsmen was bowled moving out of his crease and attempting to pull a full toss to the on side. The ruling umpire thereby signaled and called a “no-ball. I was standing on the fence along with two spectators (one plays in the Eastern American League, the other in the Garden State League, NJ). Their immediate reaction was, “what, how can that be a no-ball, it hit the wicket. Dah was below the waist.”  Moments later, the square leg umpire disallowed an appeal for a “run out”, when it was vividly clear that the runner’s bat was still in the air; nearly a foot away from the batting crease. The sparse crown was loud in their protest to the umpire. They accused the umpire of reprisal, getting even- with the Newcomers’ coach who had questioned the no-ball decision. (Like I said above, I will address this in another article).

To continue on a more positive note….. the first Van Buren wicket fell with the score on 29, that of USA Under-15 opening batsman, Amar Persaud. He made 15 runs.  By the end of the 12th over Van Buren was 54 runs with 5 wickets down. At this stage it appears that Newcomers had the upper hand and they pressed on to tighten their stranglehold. But a sixth wicket partnership once again put Van Buren in the driver’s seat. They were helped by the Newcomers’ fielders who put down a possible four catches. Dave Seegobin and Sanjay Singh saw the Van Buren score to 98 runs before the partnership was broken. With 6 wickets down, 98 runs on the scoreboard, and 2 overs left, the game once again pendulum in Newcomers’ favor. Some lusty hitting by Sanjay added an invaluable 18 runs to the score. The innings ended at 116 run, and considering the heavy outfield, this gave the Van Buren’s bowlers something that they could defend.

Newcomers started their reply disastrously loosing a wicket in the fourth ball of the innings and with 2 runs on the books. Skipper Saiful Islam joined the other opener, Rayhan Ahmed, and together they resorted to damage control. With the score on 40 runs and 7 overs bowled, Saiful was adjudged LBW, having scored 28 runs.  With 76 runs to get in 78 balls, in the context of Twenty/20 cricket, the game was tilted in Newcomers’ favor.

By the end of the 11th over the score was 57 runs for the loss of 5 wickets. Van Buren had once again seized the initiative. It is now the end of the 18th over, 103 runs on the board, 3 wickets in hand; 14 runs to win in 12 balls. Still a winning formula for any batting side in 20/20 cricket.

The crescendo of noise from the crowd, which by this time had swelled to over 150 excited spectators, and the players themselves, had been raised a few decibels. How about 5 runs to win in 6 balls! The batting side, a virtual winner! Not so fast! Not a foregone conclusion! 2 dot balls. 5 runs needed in 4 balls. A single, 4 runs in 3 balls. A double and a batter run out attempting a third run. 2 runs needed, 2 balls to go. A dot ball, a single.  2 runs needed, last ball.  The crowd shouting, “tie, tie, tie”. Sure enough the score was tied as the batsmen were only able to get a single in the last ball. What excitement!

In a Twenty/20 game of cricket where there is a tie, the two teams get in to a “bowl-out”. In a bowl-out, each team nominates 5 bowlers. Each bowler bowls a delivery, alternating from one team to the next. The team with the most hits in the end gets the points for the game.  At the end of the bowl-out, Van Buren had 2 hits, Newcomers 0. Pandemonium broke out from the players and supporters from Van Buren, in celebration. The Newcomers players and their supporters were dejected. But everyone agreed that it was an exciting finish.