By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 44th Anniversary – (Match #1228):-
Antanio Rooplall struck a brilliant maiden century for Cosmos against Staten Island last Sunday at Walker Park, Staten Island when the two teams met in the New York National Cricket League Round Robin competition.

Rooplall stitched together an inning of quality under difficult conditions of heat and humidity, and at times, he appeared so drained that it looks like he wanted to fold. He did not; instead he persevered and found some much needed strength and encouragement from his partners at the wicket in Alex Chunilall and Kemar Cox.

The toss was an important one to win and Devindra Balgobin did just that in the absence of Ryan Ganesh. Rooplall and Shane Singh weathered the opening attack and were still together at the 15-over break with the score on 76 for 0. That opening stand was a far stretch from this team’s old habits of loosing early wickets. Though the inning began somewhat unsteadily and stuttered to the break, it was and excellent start by any measure, even though this opening pair were never quite able to pick up the scoring rate when required, but crucially, it never decelerated either.

Antanio Rooplall
Antanio Rooplall put together a brilliant 105 runs from 99 balls with 9 fours and 4 sixes. Photo by Sham Ali

On resumption, this pair had done most of the hard work, and the stage poised for a Cosmos predatorial middle order to pounce on this opposition bowing attack. Singh (38; 4-4’s, 2-6’s) went in the first over after the break when he chased a wide delivery and holed out at backward point. That ended an important 84 runs opening partnership. Alex Chunilall, the man with the big big van and a powerful willow, walked to the wicket and picked up from where he left off in his previous inning. He immediately gave the inning the impetus it needed as he and Rooplall posted a blistering 2nd wicket partnership of 90 runs in just 7 overs to propel the score to 174 runs in the 23rd over, before Chunilall holed out at deep extra-cover for with a quickfire 22-ball 43 runs.

Kemar Cox then joined Rooplall and the pair pounced on the Staten Island bowling attack like bees on honey as Cox switched into a hunting-leather mode in the closing overs. He couldn’t get enough, perhaps to paraphrase the lyrics in the Boney M song “Bang bang Lulu. Lulu’s going away. Lu is going to bang bang. Now Lulu’s going away.” He found the boundaries with regularity and then went ruthless on B. Krishna In the 28th over when he struck him powerfully over mid-wicket for a maximum, then bang 6! Bang 6! over mid-on that gave the Cosmos camp a much needed spark.

Rooplall who seems to have the most ideal temperament for playing a long inning had found ways to throw his wicket away in the last few matches. However, in this match he appeared to have redesigned his brain a little as he remained calm and anchored through the early July 4 fireworks from Chunilall and Cox. Through the fireworks, he had soaked up 51 balls for just 23 runs at the break and got to his half-century in the 22nd over off 71 balls. He strategically ignited his cylinders with three consecutive boundaries to remind the opposition that he too can wheel his willow, and has some of those predatorial instincts. He quickly moved into the nineties with constant signals for water while putting some much needed runs on Akash’s bat. He was clearly in some discomfort though, but teacher Cox schooled him through that crucial period of his inning where many batsmen falter, as he moved into the nineties (92 runs) with one over remaining and a monumental achievement in sight.

The partnership had swelled to 92 runs in just 30 balls, as this pair had clinically ransacked the opposition’s attack with Cox firing on all cylinders taking him to 40 runs off just 21 balls. Rooplall had been measured throughout, and had played an inning full of character thus far, and one that added a veneer of respectability to the Cosmos top order this season.

Blink and you will miss a blistering pull through mid-wicket that brought Rooplall to within one hit away from a landmark, and that was followed by a muscular (ok not muscular), but a power-pack pull through backward square that raced into the Cosmos camp with men clearing the way and took cover, to bring up a deserved century, 105 runs off 99 balls with 9-4’s, 4-6’s, and with that ton, he also ticked the box to register the 98th century for Cosmos.

That inning puts him in good company in the likes of two former Cosmos captains innings; Ashmul Ali 101 not out v Jsac in 1985, mixed with some of the belligerence of Dixeith Palmer 135 not out v Westbury at Floyd Bennett in 2008, or more recently Alex Chunilall 108 not out v Bronx cc at Randalls Island in 2021. A punch in the air and then one on the pitch on hard dirt, where bones (fine bones, or as some unkind souls would say, ‘pinetabroom can bore hian’), resulted in swollen finger. The Cosmos inning closed on an imposing 271 for 3 off their allotted 30 overs.

Staten Island had few answers to the Cosmos attack in their reply. Sham Ali and Gohan Gourdeen picked up a wicket each in their opening overs. Sohan Dass then sliced through the middle order with a controlled spell of swing bowling with 4 for 21 to leave Staten Island tottering to the end. Shane Singh held on to two splendid catches at deep mid-off while Cox seems to be making slip catching a habit when he attempted to leap but somehow he couldn’t get off the ground, but still managed to tap it and held onto it on the second attempt. The young Rashad Shaw, TT U15 player, should some resistance with a solid rearguard effort of 36 runs, before the inning closed on 152 all out. The day encapsulated a fantastic all-round performance from this Cosmos team, in a must win match to stay in playoffs contention, and that was highlighted by a gritty century from the man who led the day, Antanio Rooplall.

Cosmos will play Amazon Jaguars next Sunday at Beach-32 Far Rockaway.