By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 32nd Anniversary):- The day was hot and sunny and Cosmos top order batsmen buckled down for a five day a test match. However, by the time they realized that it was a 40 overs encounter they had already dug a hole in their reply to Lucas’s 185 all out. Cosmos eventually stumbled and fell over in their chase as Lucas sealed a convincing 29 runs victory in the semi final at Floyd Bennett Field last Sunday and booked a spot in the Metropolitan Cricket League final.
This match-up was an opportunity for redemption after Lucas had gunned the 291 runs posted by Cosmos two weeks ago in the preliminary rounds of the competition. And not much have changed on this occasion as the pitch at Floyd Bennett remained a featherbed to the end; hard and flat with a fast outfield. It was a perfect day for cricket, but this was semis and player’s nerves are over charged with an increased heart rate. Tactical moves balanced on hope and nerves with certainty coming only when the result is achieved perhaps by catches plucked out of thin air.
On a pitch that had proven to be bountiful for 585 runs when these two teams met two week ago, it was a surprise to some but a tactical gamble nevertheless by Cosmos to insert Lucas to bat after winning the toss. The decision appeared erroneous as Lucas openers Z. Fowler and A. Thomas got off to a flyer with the scoreboard ticking along at a healthy 60 runs without loss by the 8th over.
That forced an early change and in the 9th over Tegana Mckenzie floored A. Thomas at deep mid-on and Faisal Taj floored Z. Fowler at first slip off Ricky Kissoon. When Rasheem James held on to Fowler (35) at cover point in Kissoon’s next over there was a sigh of relief. Fowler allowed the dismissal to get the “better of him” when he turned around and hit the stumps down. He admitted later that he was “less” than himself and genuinely offered his regret at the break. Unfortunately, the penalty for that behavior is clearly outlined in the MCL Playing Rules. Rule 8, section g states: “Any player who shows dissent by hitting down the wicket will be automatically suspended for the next two (2) games…” Thomas and J. Campbell then posted a 44-run partnership for the second wicket before David Mohamed disturbed Thomas’s (44) woodwork, 103 for 2 in the 19th over. Ralston Levy then ran around from wide mid on leaped and plucked a magnificent catch off a straight hit from Campbell off Keith Edie that was clearly heading over the ropes, brilliant stuff! Cyril Choy then picked off a neat stumping off Mohamed, and at 110 for 4 Lucas had some concern as Cosmos had opened the gates for an attack on the opposition middle order. Sham Ali then held on to a sharp catch (a rarity these days) at backward point, 129 for 5 in the 30th over.
Mohamed and Edie had made an important incision into the middle order with two excellent spells of 2 for 25, and 2 for 19 respectively to orchestrate a Cosmos fight back. However, Cosmos continue to find it difficult to free themselves of error. Choy missed a sharp throw from Ali (another rarity) and Dass to run out R. Leverage, and James shelled a simple catch off S. Henry in the vicinity of mid wicket in the same over off Levy. The pair of Liverage and Henry then posted a crucial 40-run partnership in 4 overs that breathe new life into the Lucas’s inning. Andy Mohamed then put an end to the charge with 4 for 6 as Lucas inning closed on 185 all out off 38.2 overs.
With that fight back Cosmos had opened the gates for a look at a possible victory, However, that look turned out to be only a teaser since the gears of Cosmos top order batsmen were froze for about 23 overs, and they had very few answers against a relatively average bowling attack. However, that attach proved to be just what was required as Lucas was beginning to slowly make inroads into the Cosmos’s inning by pushing them further back with every over. It was a testing toil for Cosmos as the opposition stuck to their plan of attack outside off stump and held on to it for dear life and in the process it sucked the air out of Cosmos’s inning with Taj, Edie and James at sea.
Not much has gone right for Taj this season since he has decided to trade-in his usual explosive style that yielded him runs over the years for a more patient occupation at the wicket. He suffered as a result and will be advised to revert to his style. He fanned repeatedly outside off-stump to Lucas opening bowlers of Leverage and Whittaker as they delivered a thorough interrogation of his technique until he eventually poked at Liverage outside the off stump and wicket-keeper Thomas waited no longer.
There was a repeat of the same order after Taj’s dismissal that turned a hill into a mountain in this semi final, and a few frets and fuss began to silently emerge from the spectators and a fidgety look in the camp. Keith Edie was brilliant with the ball earlier and quite opposite with the bat. He shifted into a boys club mode with more dots than runs as he poked his way from over #9 thru #23. He was “on fire” and smoked one short of a baker’s dozen before he pushed Henry softly to Walfall at extra cover. Andy (10) has been in good nick and looked the part again; however, he too allowed the occasion to keep him quiet within the 30-yards. Unfortunately, he became the victim of a rather dubious stump out decision; one that can be perceived as palpably poor and sad and will further smear the codes of conduct of umpiring unless those codes have been redefined and we were not informed. Conversely, that decision either succeeded in making a clear distinction between two colors (white and “light-white”) or was one of those cerebral malfunctioning moments that we have become accustomed to on a regular basis. Mohamed was so perplexed that he remained at the wicket longer than he should trying to process what has just occurred. There will be NO withdrawal of that decision SON!
On an occasion such as the semi finals, that was one of those unfortunate reminders of the gradual deterioration of officiating, and a cricket culture that seemed to eerily embrace the notion that “foul is fair”. As such, once that continue to play out we will have those unfortunate episodes, and cricket will remain comfortably parked in its rightful place, on the bottom shelf, in these parts.
James looked a distance of himself and somewhat circumspect until he eventually freed his hands with a cracking punch to the extra cover boundary. In the next ball he attempted a vainglorious heave and lost his hair style, his furniture and even his way back to the pavilion. That stroke captured the Cosmos story; they been notorious in their chase this season and you could feel the breeze as Sohan Dass passed James on his way to join David Mohamed at the wicket.
Mohamed has the temperament suited for these occasions and with a century earlier in the season and a swashbuckling 89 runs against this opposition recently, he and Dass had some repairs to do at 74 for 4 in 23 overs. They are two seasoned campaigners who needed to combine their experiences as Cosmos was limping along. With some basic batting they immediately began to put some life into the inning and moving the rate along quietly at seven per over. And just when it appeared that Cosmos had found the resuscitation that they needed David (21) played a “short-fuse” stroke outside off stump only to find Campbell leaping at backward point and plucked a blinder out of thin air. Dass (10) then experienced the same shortage and fell to a tumbling one-handed catch by the veteran L. Williamson at mid on. Cosmos slipped again and with no tools in the box that left a captain to ponder on the course of treatment of what went so terribly wrong that converted a scratch into a gaping wound.
The usually reticent Ralston Levy appeared to have the cure; a positive attitude. He displayed the temperament and determination needed for a big occasion. His inning came so close to redemption when he latched on to paceman Liverage for 15 runs in one over with two huge maximum over mid wicket as he raced to 39 runs before he holed out on the deep mid-on boundary off Whittaker. His inning left the pendulum motionless as he pushed Cosmos to within striking range at 150 for 7 in the 34th over.
But this match would be redefined once again and not directly by cricketers but officiating. Cosmos was at the mercy and interpretation of the finger in a run out decision that was shocking. It may have reduced the match from playing out as a thriller, instead into mediocrity. That left a captain again to ponder the need after Cosmos played only 3 matches in 2 months from July to August (so much for that) and now this. Lucas though wouldn’t mind as they had Cosmos in a corner and did not let up. That decision extracted an unhealthy outburst from the crowd and evokes memories of very similar occurrences that have been the bane which Cosmos have encountered on other occasions, and now this in a semi final. The inning then petered out to 156 all out in 36.5 overs in a manner sadly unfamiliar to those who have watched Cosmos over the years, but for how long. Well in a cricket culture that appeared to have glamorized the notion where “foul is fair” the stage is set for Act II Scene II. In all earnest, it was just a ‘fish-up” decision, plain and simple.
That, however, will not prevent Cosmos from keeping their dignity irrevocably intact. Cricket can be cruel at times and gloriously pleasing on others. Blame can go around in volumes, however, there was none on this day as the two teams fought hard to the end until Lucas sealed the win. Cosmos has had a successful season and performed well throughout to earn a spot in the semi, but just didn’t have that little extra fuel, or did they, to ride over the hill.
Good luck to Lucas in the Final they have had an excellent season so far.