By Sam Sooppersaud
Cricket fans, set aside this date, mark your calendar and make a reservation in your appointment book. Tell the roofer and the gardener to suspend the work for another day. The reason: you have to go and watch an important cricket game.

Richmond Hill High School one of the winner of the prestigious championship. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The day is Saturday, June 17, 2023. The game: the 2023 edition of the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) cricket finals. Venue: Baisley Pond Park, adjacent to Rockaway and Baisley Boulevards, in Jamaica, Queens. New York.

Started in 2008, the PSAL cricket program is among the Public High Schools in New York City (Staten Island is not yet involved). That was 16 years ago. The tournament was, however, suspended for the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the Coved-19 pandemic that ravaged the United in those two years. (Over half a million Americans lost their lives to the pandemic).

Initially, 20 High Schools participated in the tournament. This year 30 schools were vying for the coveted PSAL Cricket Championship Title. It is truly a testament to the hard work put in by PSAL Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson and his dedicated staff to pull off a 30-team schedule within a short two-month period. Considering that the student-athletes still had to attend their full day of classroom instructions, it is indeed a yeoman’s job; well done.

Now, back to cricket. PSAL’s criterion for qualifying to be in the playoff is a bit “Let’s say, relaxed. I will not get into the details of this. Anyway, 16 schools qualified for the playoffs. The Quarter Finals featured Lehman (158) vs. John Adams (120), Richmond Hill (49) vs. FDR (43), Thomas Edison (276) vs. Newcomers (83), Jamaica (50) Bronx HS of Science (49).

The qualifiers for the semi-finals were Richmond Hill, Lehman, Edison, and Jamaica. The semi-finals were played on Saturday, June 10. Jamaica met Edison at Baisley Pond Park, while Richmond Hill opposed Lehman at The Cage. The Richmond Hill vs. Lehman game flowed smoothly, with a few “ups and downs” in fortune. In the end, Lehman won the game. Lehman 162, Richmond Hill 147.

The Jamaica vs. Edison game was a low-scoring affair. But, towards the end, there were some “nail-biting moments,” according to the coach of Jamaica. Edison batted first and scored 132 runs. Jamaica, noted for their high-scoring propensity, started the run chase on a high note with high-level confidence of a victory. Runs came, but wickets fell.

With nine wickets down, 15 runs needed, and lots of overs remaining, Jamaica found themselves in a jam. After all, the last batsman walking to the middle had split the webbing on his hand earlier in the game, and it was heavily bandaged. Would he be able to withstand the pain? Would he be able to hold the bat properly? Would he be able to protect his wicket? Questions and more questions! Edison’s chance of carving out a place in the Finals seems inevitable. However, the 10th wicket pair would prod along, run after run, and eventually overtake the required total.

Sam Sooppersaud (left kneeling) who was the coach of Newcomers High School and wrote this story when they captured the title. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

So, on Finals Saturday, Lehman takes on Jamaica at Baisley Pond Park. Fans following PSAL games on a regular basis predict a win for Jamaica, who has a 13-wins-to-one-loss season record. But then, anything can happen in a T20 contest. It takes only one good play to swing fortunes. For instance, Richmond Hill has a far superior win-loss record than Lehman, yet they defeated Richmond Hill in the semi-finals. Hey, such is T20 cricket!

Judging from the past PSAL finals, I can safely predict that this 14th edition of the PSAL finals will be a humdinger. So, cricket fans, don’t miss out. Come on out and see the future stars of US cricket in action. I have seen them myself, and they have talent galore.

In addition, your favorite trio of commentators, Lenny Achaibar, Matt Achaibar, and Carl Bennett, will be on hand to call the ball-by-ball plays.