By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 42nd Anniversary – Match #1177):- A vintage Alex Chunilall stroked his way to a maiden century against Bronx Cricket Club at Randall’s Island last Sunday. Chunilall, the boy protégé in Cosmos has shown glimpses of his ability from the beginning of the season, and he confirmed it with a chanceless inning last Sunday and much to the exuberance and delight of his teammates as he was celebrated, and rightly so; it was an inning for perpetuity, and one of pure guts and determination.
It was tough and testing conditions in which to bat in high humidity and with the temperature soaring to the upper nineties, but Chunilall battled the conditions bravely after he lost his opening partner Shane Grant, who appeared to be running on ice, lost his footing after he was sent back from a poorly judged run in the 5th over. But Cosmos boys were up to the task when Yudesh Shivpersaud, fresh off his half century against Galaxy, joined Chunilall. Shivpersaud looked organized as he began to stroke the ball comfortably around the wicket picking up the occasional boundary. He temporarily farmed the strike early in the inning to give his partner a breather, who after spending 35 overs in the field under the heat and humidity was clearly in some discomfort and appeared uncomfortable at times.
Though his discomfort was evident, it did not marred his concentration, he negotiated the opening spell as the swing new ball posed a thorough interrogation of his technique. But he was equal to the task and quite circumspect at crucial stages as he fought his way back to strength and soldiered on. He received good support and encouragement from his senior partner as they buckled down to put Cosmos in a commanding position at 145 for 1 by the 19th over chasing a huge 272 in 35 overs posted by Bronx CC courtesy of a controlled 91 from Tanvir Ahmed and a belligerent 20-ball 52 (3-4’s, 5-6’s) from Jahingir Alam as Bronx cc blasted 80 runs in the last six overs.
Cosmos had a hill to climb, and the partnership brought a sense of calm to the proceedings as the pair looked composed against the opposition’s attack. However, Bronx struck blood at a crucial time and made lethal incision the partnership in the 20th over when Shivpersaud lost his concentration and miscued a tired pull to offer a simple chance back to the bowler. He went for a crafty 44 runs off 47 balls with 4-4’s and 1-6’s. The pair had given Cosmos a solid platform with a crucial 89-ball 2nd wicket partnership of 131 runs with young Chunilall peerless in a stony occupation at the crease amassing a majority of the runs.
That partnership became the 9th highest in thirty-two 2nd wicket partnerships, and ranked 46th in a total of 147 century partnership for Cosmos; tied with that of 131 between Paul Culff 86 not out and Dennison Thomas 72 not out for the 4th wicket against River Valley in Poughkeepsie in 2007. The only century partnership for Cosmos at Randall’s Island was as far back as 1983 when Ashmul Ali scored his first century for Cosmos (107 not out) and Sham Ali (54 not out) posted a winning 3rd wicket partnership of 107 runs against Lucas. Chunilall who would have captained Ogle U15 team in Guyana with Ashmul Ali as his coach; who, incidentally, had scored his first century for Cosmos at Randall Island. If there is any merit in that similarity, given the 14000 plus runs Ali would have scored for Cosmos, then with young Chunilall now getting started Cosmos will be buzzing in seasons to come. This though is a very different time and a different Cosmos breed with a huge challenge ahead of them, and this match, as much as it showcased the wealth of talent, it also revealed the challenges for a team on the move.
At 145 for 2, Cosmos needed 125 in 15 overs. The hard-hitting Kevin Balgobin was promoted up the order to partner his buddy ‘young solder’ Chunilall who was in full command of the opposition’s bowling attack and eying a century. Chunilall cuffed one with impudence over the point region for six and then executed an imperious drive over extra cover for another. Two other maximums went effortlessly straight back and far; a telling hit for a diminutive Alex Chunilall. Perhaps the shot or rather shots of the day were two thumping straight drives that torpedo back passed the bowler into the boundary.
The power in his stroke-play is in quite contrast to his nashy physique. Calm and calibrated, he brought up his century with a scorching straight drive which had a mark of superiority written all over it. He appeared oblivious of how close he was in achieving his feat, similarly to that when he brought up his half-century with a thumping six over mid-off. With that stroke of authority, Alex Chunilall, became the 37th centurion for Cosmos and a man on a mission. TAKE A BOW SON! He was greeted with a big teddy bear hug from his boy-hood friend Balgobin, and a voice-mail from ?(according to source), as he calmly raised his bat to acknowledge a huge applause from his teammates, by which time the senior Chunilall, Daniel, had lost his voice in encouragement of his brother.
And just like that, Alex announced himself as Cosmos New Poster Boy and penciled his name among some very good company of centurions in Cosmos, the likes of former national players in Dixeith Palmer, Ashmul Ali, Livingston Puckering, and Keith Semple all of whom had graced the club. Chunilall’s century is among one of the best for Cosmos; it mirrored that by Ashmul Ali, of a 100 run out, against JSAC at Floyd Bennett in 1993, and by Dixeith Palmer, a 135 not out, against Westbury at Floyd Bennett in an MCL Semi Final in 2008, memories that would warm one’s recollection.
However, Cosmos cannot rely on memories, but can certainly use the experience. They needed another partnership from their middle-order but could not fuse one together courtesy of some injudicious shots after being in a good position by the halfway mark. In just ten overs and sixty runs later, the Cosmos inning entered a rapid decelerated with the loss of six wickets at a crucial stage as the middle-order panicked and stumbled. Balgobin got started with two consecutive boundaries; a neat flick to the mid-wicket boundary, he then helped a full-toss for a maximum in the same region, but then for some shocking reason he took off for an ill-advised single after Chunilall pushed to point, and was run out. Naresh Persaud played an ill-fated pull, cramped for room as the ball ballooned back to the bowler. Chunilall then holed out on the mid-on boundary for 108 of 79 balls with 13-4’s and 4-6’s in an inning that was a mixture of composure and uniformity blended together with majority of his runs coming in the arc between mid-on and mid-off.
Daniel Chunilall made his way to the wicket, but wasn’t even in the shadows of his younger brother, Alex, when he attempted a cross-batted swipe, got a thick edge where short-third-man waited. Akash Rahim, the last recognized batsman who has the ability to play an explosive inning. He needed to bat to the end if Cosmos were to be in with a chance of getting over the line, but he failed to deliver on this occasion when his attempted heave across the line and got a thin edge to the wicketkeeper. Dooneshwar Dayanand and Togeshwar Thakoordeen made another push to the finish line with Dayanand finding the point boundary and Thakoordeen aiming for mid-wicket. It was a good rearguard effort from this young Cosmos team as the inning closed on 248 for 9 in 35 overs as Bronx cc sealed a hard fought victory by 24 runs.
The day though belongs to young Alex Chunilall, the baby in Cosmos, for a brilliant century. He became the youngest member in Cosmos to score a century and much to be proud of as the boys celebrated his performance while they feasted on the BBQ which Akash had on the grill.