It was a cloudy, cool day with a damp, drying cricket field at Whitehall Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland. Whitehall was getting ready to take on Hollywood Elementary School from College Park in the Gold Division Championship Game in the BEST Cricket League. Hollywood is the first non-Bowie team to make it to the Gold Division Championship Game. Whitehall has been in all 4 finals winning it all in 2015 and now in 2017, both times with undefeated seasons.
Whitehall and Hollywood lost their pre-season matches – Hollywood to University Park and Whitehall to Cora Rice. Those losses were wake-up calls. It sparked the fire in their players to become more focused and play hard every time. Hollywood and Whitehall knocked off their opponents one by one on their way to the final, which became a battle of the undefeated.
Umpire Paul Zacharski spun the coin, and Hollywood won the toss and elected to field first. On the very first ball of the game, the versatile Arjun Prabhala delivered an unplayable, Yorker length ball to Whitehall’s experienced left-handed batsman, Gilberto Frederick. Gilberto could only look back to see his wicket disturbed with the ball. The diminutive and eager Tanmay Desai then joined his teammate Aaron Edwards at the crease. A bad call by Aaron and hesitation by both batsmen caused Tanmay to get run out for a duck (zero runs). After the first over things were not looking good for Whitehall with 2 wickets (outs) down. Grant Christiansen then came to bat. Not long after, Aaron was out bowled by Mohammed Aljohani digging a deeper hole for Whitehall. Coach Julia Chotoo tried to stop the bleeding by sending in her big-boy, Matthew Brown. Grant’s bat soon came alive hitting two consecutive 4’s. However, Matthew was only able to score a couple runs before he got out by a beauty of a delivery from Juri Aljohani. Whitehall’s mood was turning gloomy and dark, just like the weather, but the coaches still had a few tricks up their sleeve.
Then came Andy Christiansen to join his brother, Grant. Both boys’ self-confidence was pretty low after not scoring any runs in the past 2 games. Andy’s first ball was dispatched to the cover boundary for 4 runs. Both boys then started raining down 4’s and 6’s on Hollywood bowlers to the cheers of the Whitehall supporters. A quick double by the boys almost had Andy run out by Hollywood’s Shihab Rahman. But square-leg umpire, Nathan Zacharski, said not out, which was validated after the game by a photo from the league’s photographer, Susan D. Chotoo (see below).
Coach Roxroy Anderson and Coach Dave Pfeiffer were caught off guard by these two American boys, who had never played before this season. Andy and Grant had a 30 run partnership and were looking unstoppable. Coach Roxroy brought back Mohammed into the attack and that paid dividends immediately. Mohammed bowled Grant for a well- earned 19 runs. Mohammed was on fire and picked-up his second wicket by bowling out Noah Hopes the very next ball. Whitehall ended their first 6 overs with 51 runs for 6 wickets.
It was Hollywood’s turn to bat now. Two of the best batsmen in the entire league, Rosa Blanco and Michael Hubbard, opened the batting for Hollywood. The league’s leading bowler, paceman Alvin Kanapilly, started off the bowling for Whitehall. Rosa popped up a quick delivery from Alvin, and Cole Johnson made a nice catch to get Rosa out for a duck (zero runs). Whitehall was relieved to see her go. Juri then joined Michael, and they kept the scoreboard ticking. Andy bowled a tight over only allowing 3 runs. Michael belted a loose delivery to the boundary for 4 runs from Grant. Cole Johnson bowled next and made it difficult for the batsmen to score. With Hollywood falling behind the required run- rate, Coach Dave and Roxroy switched out Juri for Arjun. Whitehall’s ace bowler, Joshua Chotoo, was stingy with the runs as well. But Arjun managed to hit a boundary past the fielders off Joshua. At the end of their first 6 overs, Hollywood had 24 runs for 1 wicket.
It was Whitehall’s turn now to bat their second 6 overs. Andy and Cole started off with a little more confidence as Whitehall was ahead by 27 runs. Michael Hubbard started off the bowling for Hollywood. Even though he is new to cricket, Michael has the 3rd highest number of runs in the league and is one of the best bowlers. However, the big game jitters got to him for the first few balls, which were not accurate. With Andy on 20 runs, he hit Arjun for huge 6 causing him to retire since he passed 25 runs. Alvin was up to bat next. Alvin and Cole rotated the strike to keep the score going.
Looking to break that partnership, Mohammed was brought back into the attack. Mohammed bowled 4 consecutive fast accurate balls that would have bowled any other batsman, but not Cole Johnson. Cole got behind each delivery with a solid defense. The fifth ball was pitch up outside the off-stump, and Cole dispatched it to the boundary for 4. The 6th ball had to be defended by Cole. What awesome bowling from Mohammed and excellent defending by Cole, which is a rarity in this league.
Rachel Salazar was next to bowl. Her slow gentle lobs had both batsmen’s eyes opened wide. Cole smashed a 6 from the first ball he got. However, he mistimed the second ball and swung past the ball, which bowled him for a well-deserved 14 runs. Cole played his part for the team beautifully defending all of Mohammed’s balls which used up his third and final over. Joshua Chotoo did not make the same mistake and blasted the first two balls he faced to the boundary for 4 runs each. Arjun then bowled his third and final over. Alvin and Joshua were content to defend the accurate bowling from Arjun and pick-up the quick singles in the process. Michael bowled a good last over restricting the batmen to only 4 runs. Whitehall’s total score was now 94 runs for 7 wickets (outs), ahead by 70 runs.
Hollywood needed 71 runs to win the game in their second 6 overs. This meant that they had to score about 2 runs every ball or 12 runs per over. Andy started the bowling to Arjun and Michael. The batsmen took Andy for a ride and scored 11 runs off the over, which is what Hollywood needed. Cole bowled next and gave up 5 runs – 4 Wides and a No Ball. Arjun hit one ball to the cover area and called Michael for a quick single. Andy swooped in, picked-up the ball, and made a direct hit to the wicket running out Michael for 13 runs (see photo below).
With 4 overs left to be bowled by the two best bowlers in the league, Alvin Kanapilly and Joshua Chotoo, and Hollywood needing 50 runs to win, Whitehall could sense victory. Alvin immediately bowled out Mohammed, Rachel and Juri in quick order. Next Joshua got the prized wicket of Arjun for 15 runs. Alvin then bowled out Nilla Smartt and Shihab Rahman bringing his total to impressive 6 wickets (outs). Joshua bowled the last over and got the wicket of Liam Williams. Brooke Sharp and Andrea Vidal remained not out. Hollywood’s final score was 52 runs for 9 wickets.
Whitehall won the game by 42 runs.
Joshua ended the season with the most runs in the entire league, 119 runs. Alvin shattered the record for the most wickets in the season with his 23 wickets. Joshua had 18 wickets. The previous record was 15 wickets, which was set by Joseph Zacharski from Whitehall in 2014. Arjun, Michael, and Rosa took the top 2nd, 3rd, and 4th spots for the most runs in the league. Alvin, Cole, Grant, and Andy finished in the top ten for most runs in the league. Arjun and Mohammed earned top ten spots for bowling (see tables below).