It was Championship Day for the Maryland Youth Cricket Association tournament on 18 June 2017. After playing 6 first round matches, the two top teams out of seven at each age group battled for the 2017 title. Both matches were played simultaneously at Strawberry Knoll Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
At the 11U level, the Bowie Bulldogs were set to play against the Washington Cricket Academy (WCA). From the start of the 2014 season to now, Bowie has lost only 1 game, which was the 2014 Championship Game to Germantown Kids Cricket Club (GKCC). That was a close game with the final score being 39 to 41 in favor of GKCC. In 2015, it was Bowie and GKCC again. Bowie surpassed GKCC’s 39 runs in the 11th over to win their first title. In 2016, it was another Bowie/GKCC final with Bowie winning in the 9th over 51 – 50. The 2017 final was by far the highest scoring and most exciting.
This was the WCA’s first year participating in the tournament, and they certainly raised the level of play in the tournament. Their players were used to playing with the hardball and bowling from the full 22- yard distance. It was an adjustment for them to switch to the vinyl ball and bowl from 16 yards at the 11U level. Their head coach, Raj Damaraju, has done an amazing job getting the players ready to play at a high level and make the team very competitive. Since WCA is based in Virginia, special permission was granted for the team to participate in a Maryland tournament. This meant that all their matches were played away making it tougher on the team. But, that did not prevent the team from getting to the Championship Game.
Bowie won the coin toss and elected to field first. The WCA opening batsman showed good form and technique. Amit Damaraju hit a beautiful straight drive for 4 runs off Arjun Prabhala’s bowling. The Bowie team did not look as sharp as they normally do. All the players were feeling the big game jitters. WCA made it worst for Bowie by taking advantage of bad bowling. After 3 overs, the score was 24 runs. David Ochaita got the breakthrough for Bowie bowling Amit for 13 runs. Shawn Mathias came in next and gave a textbook display of good batting. His forward defensive matched the quality of his power hitting. It did not take him long to get to 20 runs. Suchit Kopade joined Shawn and played a good supporting role. Tiny Atharva Kaushal, whose bat is almost as tall as him, pulled Bowie’s pace bowler, Alvin Kanapilly, for 4 runs. Alvin got the better of him and got Atharva out hit wicket for 8 runs. At the end of their first 8 overs, WCA scored 59 runs.
Bowie started off strong with opening batsman Michael Finch hitting a six off the second ball. But a bad decision to go for the second run had Michael run out for 7 runs. The other opening batsman, Joshua Njoku, had his best game ever. He batted for more than 12 overs adding stability to Bowie’s inning. He created a wall with his bat and pad to fend off the excellent bowling while picking up the one and two runs to keep the scoreboard ticking. Joshua Chotoo and Joshua Njoku kept taking the quick singles to frustrate the WCA fielders. Atharva finally got Joshua Chotoo to edge a catch to wicketkeeper Shawn Mathias for 6 runs. On the very next ball Atharva bowled Arjun Prabhala for a duck. These were two big wickets for Atharva because Joshua and Arjun scored the most runs in the elementary school cricket league. With some Bowie players too nervous to go in to bat, Coach William (a native of Guatemala) had to send in Alvin Kanapilly earlier than he wanted to. Alvin and Joshua Njoku took the Bowie score to 42 runs at the end of 8 overs, trailing WCA by 17 runs.
It was now WCA’s turn to bat their second 8 overs. The Bowie bowlers still seemed to be struggling to hold a tight line, but the WCA batsmen did not take advantage of that. Douglas Hinton finally bowled a beauty of a delivery to bowl Anvith Kakkera for 1 run. Coach Raj then brought back Shawn and Suchit to increase the run rate. Shawn blasted two 4s off Cole Johnson and had to retire at 27 runs since he passed the 25 run limit. Suchit kept the score going by dispatching the loose deliveries to the boundary. Suchit ended on a well-deserved 24 runs. WCA’s final total was 114 runs, 72 runs ahead of Bowie.
Needing 9 runs per over in their next 8 overs, Bowie started off well with Alvin and Joshua getting 11 runs off Shawn’s first over. They then got 7 runs off the next over, so things were looking good. But then Shawn bowled a wicked second over and both batsmen were just thinking survival than trying to score. Bowie fell behind in scoring and needed 47 runs to win in the last 4 overs. At that point, Bowie’s Cricket Commissioner, Sham Chotoo, had already conceded the game to WCA in his mind and was mentally preparing his speech to the team after the eventual loss.
That is when the little big man, Cole Johnson, came to bat. He got off the mark with 2 runs, and played cautiously to settle in after that. With 2 overs to go and 29 runs needed to win, Aaryan was up to bowl. The Bowie batsmen had trouble with him earlier on. But not this time. Cole took him for a ride with 3 consecutive sixes as Aaryan gave up 24 runs in that over. The Bowie players were going crazy on the sidelines and the parents and spectators could not believe their eyes. Now Bowie had to score 4 runs to tie and 5 runs to win in the last over. Cole had to retire since he passed 25 runs. It was now up to Alvin and Joshua Njoku to get the 5 runs.
Shawn was brought back to bowl the last over.
First ball: 1 run to Alvin.
Second ball: Joshua swings and misses, no run. Third ball: Joshua swings and misses, no run. Joshua switched for Cooper Baltimore.
Fourth ball: Cooper swings and misses, no run.
Fifth ball: Cooper swings and misses, wicketkeeper has the ball, batsmen successfully score a suicide run.
Shawn twisted his ankle in the chaos of the quick run and has difficulty walking. Nurse Kim Finch (Michael’s mom) checked Shawn’s ankle to verify that there was no serious damage and Shawn elected to bowl the last ball. Bowie now needed 2 runs to tie or 3 to win.
Sixth ball: Shawn runs up slowly and bowls the ball off the pitch, the batsman take a single. The wide ball plus the single means 2 runs, so game is now tied.
Still one ball left and 1 run to win. Cooper could not make contact and Alvin is run out on the last ball going for the win.
A Super Over is now needed to decide the game. Each team will bat one over (6 pitches) and whichever team has more runs after that one over will win the game. Each team has to nominate 3 batsmen and one bowler for the Super Over. For Bowie, Cole, Alvin and Michael were the batsmen and Cole the bowler. For WCA, Shawn, Amit and Suchit were the batsmen and Amit the bowler.
Bowie batted first and Cole knocked 15 runs including two sixes off Amit to put Bowie ahead.
With everyone on pins and needles and heart palpitations rampant in the crowd, Cole then bowled to Shawn with Amit as the runner. The deliveries were:
No run, wide ball, no run, no run, wide ball, 4 runs, wide ball, 6 runs. So with 1 good ball left, WCA needed 2 runs to tie or 3 runs to win.
Cole bowls the last ball, Shawn misses the ball, it goes down the leg-side, wicket-keeper Cooper stops the ball, no run is scored. Everyone is now waiting to see if the umpire will call a wide ball, but he does not since the ball was inside the 24-inch marker. It is a fair ball. Game over. Bowie wins by two runs. And the Bowie fans go crazy.
What a game!
At the end of the game, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind (teammates, opponents, and spectators) on who was getting the MVP award. The vote was unanimous for Cole Johnson.
Washington Cricket Academy: 114 runs for 3 wickets (outs) in 16 overs. Shawn Mathias 27 runs, Suchit Kopade 24 runs, Amit Damaraju 13 runs, Atharva Kaushal 2 wickets (outs), Amit Damaraju 2 wickets.
Bowie: 114 runs for 6 wickets in 16 overs. Cole Johnson 27 runs, Joshua Njoku 19 runs, Alvin Kanapilly 16 runs, David Ochaita 1 wicket, Douglas Hinton 1 wicket, Alvin Kanapilly 1 wicket.
Super Over: Bowie 15 runs. Cole Johnson 15 runs off Amit Damaraju’s bowling.
Super Over: Washington Cricket Academy: 13 runs. Shawn Mathias 10 runs and 3 wides off Cole Johnson’s bowling.
Bowie won by 2 runs.