By Sam Sooppersaud | Scorecard | Photo Gallery
The Richmond Hill High School Lions dethroned the mighty John Adams High School Spartans to own the title New York City Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) “Co-ed Varsity Cricket Champions” for 2015, in the final played on Sunday, June 14, 2015, at the Baisley Pond Cricket Field, Jamaica, New York.
A small, but boisterous crowd was on hand and they cheered their favorite team all the way “down to the wire.” You could hear the shouts “let’s go Spartans” and “keep the pressure on, Richmond Hill”, or “Yeah, let’s get another one.” whenever a wicket fell. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. After all, it was a game of Twenty20cricket played between two of the most exciting high school cricket teams in New York City.
The weather cooperated nicely, with the temperature being in the upper 80’s, as was correctly forecast. The lush green grass of the cricket field was well manicured. The center strip was prepared “play friendly.” PSAL’s Lorna Austin, Bassett Thompson, Ricky Kissoon, and their support staff had made all the other incidental preparations (administrative), including providing tents, seating, and tables adorned with the trophies for various team and individual awards, etc. Commentators Leonard Achaibar and Carl Bennett were at the mike ever ready to call the ball by ball plays and give their in depth descriptions and comments, and history of the PSAL cricket tournament. The excitement was building.
The crescendo was raised a few decibels when the two captains along with Umpire Milford Lewis walked out to the center to spin the toss. John Adams called correctly and immediately informed the officials that they would take first strike. The crowd was becoming restless. The fans once again were screaming, when the players from each side were introduced, along with the coaches, Lomarshan Persaud of Richmond Hill and Alex Naverette of John Adams. The PSAL officials in attendance were then introduced: Deputy Director Diane Parente, Sports Coordinator Lorna Austin, Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson, and Assistant Cricket Commissioner Ricky Kissoon. The cheers were deafening and you could have felt the excitement and tension building, in the players, and the spectators. They wanted the contest to begin!
The Umpires Milford Lewis and Wilton Ricketts, walked out to the middle to more cheers. The contest was about to begin. Richmond Hill walked on to the field followed closely by the Adams opening pair Amran Ahmed and Tazul Uddin. Opening bowler, Keeran Krishna fired the fired ball to Ahmad, which went through harmlessly to wicket-keeper Naresh Rambharose. The 2015 PSAL Cricket Final was underway.
The batsmen were watchful, resorting to taking the comfortable singles, interspersed with a boundary, here and there. The score was “creeping along” much to the dislike of the Adams supporters. Ahmed answered the fans with some aggression, hitting two consecutive boundaries. Just when it seemed that Ahmed (20) was getting into his characteristic bellicose batting style, Richmond Hill struck. The batsman got back to a full length ball from Takur Racktoo and lost his off stump. Adams now at 36 for 1 in 7.2 overs, a run rate of a mere 5 runs per over. They needed to step up the batting tempo.
John Adams in attempting to increase the run rate, lost key wickets at regular intervals. They slipped to 42 for 3 by the end of the 10th over. They were in deep trouble and needed badly to do some “damage control.” Alix Husain (21) and Richie Balkarran (39) came to the rescue. Their fourth-wicket stand added an invaluable 25 runs. Then Husain held out to Skipper Krishna at deep long on. Sajedhur Khan was next man in. He was “a man in a hurry.” Together with Balkarran, they moved the score from 67 for 4 to 125 for 5, by the end of the 18th over, a fifth wicket partnership of 61 runs.
Both Balkarran and Khan struck the ball cleanly, and forcefully, and found the boundary at regular intervals. Khan’s 30 Not Out includes 4x4s and 1×6. Balkarran hit 4x4s and 3x6s in his 39. The Adams innings closed at 142 for 6 wickets. A defendable total; when at one stage it appeared that they would have a score just above the 100 mark.
The Richmond Hill boys must be commended for their ground fielding and catching. Only once was a catch not taken. They applied pressure on the batting side from the start to the end of their innings. In the bowling department Takur Racktoo was 1 for 9, Parmeshwar Etwaru, 2 for 11, and the pick of the bowler, Mohammad Chaudhary, 3 for 13. A complete team effort had restricted the powerful Adams batting to 142 runs.
The Richmond Hill Lions are not known for their very big scores, at least, not like the Adams Spartans, but instead, their batsmen possess the necessary patience. They approach whatever score set against them in a methodical fashion. As for their running between the wickets, I call them “rabbits.” They are always running, forcing fielders to make mistakes, turning singles into doubles and doubles in to triples. They play each ball according to its merit. Their shot selection is done very carefully.
The architect of the Richmond Hill “run building block,” Naresh Rambharose, was his usual self when he opened the batting with Takur Racktoo. They started off on a watchful tone, realizing that they must set a platform for the later batsman. After all a bit over seven runs per over was required for the victory. The Adams bowlers contributed to the cause by sending down 26 wides. I suppose it was nerves, as the Adams bowlers rarely sent down double-figure wides during the preliminaries. Pressure, I suppose!
The openers, Racktoo and Rambharose etched away at the required total. They scampered through for quick singles. Like I said before, they were “rabbits” in the middle. Scoring at the rate of more than eight runs per over, with the Lions looking at the foregone conclusion. All they had to do was bat the way they did during the regular season, with patience and purpose. Naresh Rambharose led in this department. He was a model of patience. The doubles came frequently, dotted by 4’s, as the score moved along.
John Adams got their first bowling success, but not until the 11th over, when Racktoo was caught off the bowling of Alix Husain, for 22. Richmond Hill, 82 for 1 was definitely in the driver’s seat. Now 61 runs was required for victory in 58 balls. Seemed at this stage that for Adams to snatch victory they would have to bowl out Richmond Hill. On the other hand, Richmond Hill Lions needed to merely take the singles and doubles to secure the win.
What did John Adams do to help the Richmond Hill cause? They kept firing wide balls after wide balls. Of the 11 runs that came in the 14th over, there were seven wides. The Spartans were contributing big time to their own demise. By the 15th over, the “writing was on the wall.” Adams were slowly relinquishing the championship crown to Richmond Hill. Rambharose was caught one short of a well-deserved half century. But, it was too late for Adams. He fell with the score on 117 for 3. 25 runs was needed in 30 balls. A mere eight balls later it was all over, with not out batsman W. Balkarran clubbing 2x6s and 1×4 in the 17th over. He was 20 not out along with Ronoldo Sookoo, 17, not out.
The Richmond Hill players and the coach ran onto the field and lifted the two batsmen shoulder high. The Adams boys were devastated, with a few simply sitting on the outfield grass with their heads bent or gazing into space. The powerful #1 seed (12-1) had been defeated by the #8 seed. Three wickets fell for the Richmond Hill Lions, with the Spartans’ bowlers Alix Husain getting 1 for 27 and Pranta Palit, 1 for 15.
Throughout the regular season, and in the playoffs, Richmond Hill had shown patience and perseverance. They appeared to be a team that jelled together for the sole purpose of winning the top prize. And, they did. Congratulations to Coach Lomarshan Persaud for a job, well done!
At the presentation ceremony after the game several awards were presented for individual performances during the regular season. For the final, the MVP was awarded to Naresh Rambharose for his ‘keeping and his 49 runs. Best Batsman Award, to Richie Balkarran for his 39. Best Bowling Award went to M. Chaudhary for his bowling figures of 4 for 13 in 4 overs.
It was the conclusion of yet another successful year of PSAL Varsity Cricket. It was disappointing that a larger crowd was not on hand to witness the final. This is due, not to disinterest, but the fact that the senior leagues were having games and the fans were split between the PSAL finals and the league games. In the past, the PSAL finals was held on Saturdays, but the 2015 final was played on a Sunday, because on the Saturday before, the high school students were writing their SAT’s. After all, schools are about education!
The New York Public Schools Athletic League would like to thank everyone, who in any way, contributed to the success of the 2015 season; the schools, and A.D’s, the coaches, the players, the fans, and a special thanks to the umpires for a job well done.
See you at next year’s at PSAL games.