John Adams Spartans poses with winning trophy. Photos by Shiek Mohamed

School Cricket
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By Sam Sooppersaud
A large crowd was on hand at Gateway Cricket Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday, June 14, 2014, as John Adams Spartans defeated the Hillcrest Hawks to become the champions of the Public Schools Athletic League 2014 Cricket tournament.

John Adams skipper Derrick Narine during his knock of 49.

The champions literally outplayed their opponents. Hillcrest contributed to their loss with poor ground fielding and catching and helped Adams’ cause further by four of their batsmen getting out by the Run-Out route.  Hillcrest literally ran themselves out of the game. On the other hand, Adams played a disciplined game with just a few lapses.

An hour ahead of the start, the players were in their pre-game workouts. The standing umpires, Steve Kalloo and Mohamed Baksh, along with third umpire, Carl Patrick, were busy supervising the final preparation of the wicket and the field.  The coaches were having final discussions with various players. The PSAL staff, Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson, Cricket Coordinator Lorna Austin, and Assistant Commissioner Ricky Kissoon, and their assistants had set up the white tarpaulin tents. Under these were tables on which the various glittering trophies were displayed.

It was a beautiful “cricketing day”. The temperature at game time was in the mid 70’s. The sun was shining brightly through a cloudless sky. That invigorating south breeze was blowing in from the Jamaica Bay.

A bit of history on the two teams. John Adams had gone to the finals on three previous seasons. In 2008 and 2009 they lost the finals to Newcomers High School. In 2012 they were beaten by Long Island City H.S. The Hillcrest Hawks had made it to the finals once before, in 2013, and they were defeated LIC, Both teams having tasted disappointments previously were determined to walk away with the spoils this time around.

Runners-up Hillcrest Hawks.

At the start of the game, Coach Hunter Brett of Hillcrest said: “We have been working up for this day for four years now. We have been in the quarter final, the semi-final, and the final, before. I respect Adams, whoever win, they deserve it”.  On his discussions with his boys: “I told the boys to relax; be mentally and physically prepared. If you make a mistake, forget it and go on”.  Hunter said that his boys were excited, but admitted that “they have some butterflies in their stomachs.”

John Adams’ Assistant Coach, Mark Wilson said: “We went to the finals three times before and lost. We don’t want to focus on history. We are focusing on today. We are a balanced, all-round team. We have improved our batting. We will win. We are confident”. Coach Alex Navarette had this to say: “Three losses are lingering in my mind.  But I advised my boys not to think of the past. None of them were on the losing finals teams in the past, so this should not affect them.”

Derrick Narine collects one of his many awards from PSAL Cricket Coordinator Lorna Austin.

Both captains expressed confidence that their players ‘can do the job’.

Jason Rooney of Hillcrest said, “We worked hard to get here, It will be a tough game. We are going to play and fight hard to bring the cup home.”

Derrick Narine, the skipper of Adams said, “We lost three (finals). We do not want that to happen again.”  On his strategy, he said “We decided to bat first if we should win the toss and put on around 160 runs on the board. We can defend that total.”  When reminded that it may be difficult to defend 160 on such a small field, he replied, “Yes, it is a small field, but the grass is heavy and the outfield would be slow. 160 is enough.”

Hillcrest won the toss and inserted Adams to bat. Many in the crowd felt that this was a tactical error on the part of Hillcrest. On the second ball of the Adams innings, Hillcrest put down a catch offered by Adrian Persaud. He eventually went on to make 22 runs. Adams lost their first wicket on 20, their second on 31.

Third wicket stand of 74 runs between Skipper Derrick Narine (49) and Adrian Persaud (22) put them on a more solid ground. Hillcrest facilitated this by grassing no less than three possible catches. Narine, as is his modus operandi, were severe on all the bowlers. Narine blasted shots at will all around the square. Some loose bowling also accounted for 22 wides. Adams innings ended at 156 runs. Farkruzzaman Syed claimed 2 wickets for 19 runs. Javed Shakoor, 1 for 37 and Nicholas Harripersaud, 1 for 18.

John Adams coach Alex Navarette (right) collects the winning trophy from PSAL Commissioner Bassett Thompson.

Hillcrest spaced their innings well. The first wicket fell at 20, the second at 39, and the third at 72 runs. From 82 for 4 in the 12th over, Hillcrest were all out in 19.4 overs for 119 runs. Only Javed Shakoor (37) and Abul Juwel (20) were able to negotiate the pace and bounce of Narine (2 for 12) and the wily turns of Mervin Heywood (3 for 28).  They were well supported in the field. Yes, they spilled a few, but the crucial ones were taken.

John Adams Spartans had finally become the PSAL Cricket Champions.

At the presentation ceremony that followed trophies were presented to the players from various schools who performed well in different categories during the season. Derrick Narine “needed a truck” to take home his share of the trophies.  Then came the moment that Adams had waited three years for. The moment when they would actually “feel the touch of the Championship Trophy.”