In 2009, Ian Chappell floated the idea of a three seven-hour days Test match. It would be a full circle back to the late 1920s, when England played three-day contests. His logic was that it would still uphold the spirit of a true Test match, and give players more rest between engagements. It would also reduce the disparity between the various forms of the game, allowing for an easier flow from one version to another.
Well, as the summer winds down and cricket seasons come to an end, New York City Cricket Club (NYCCC) decided to follow in Ian Chappell’s ways, and toured the beautiful scenic city of Newport, Rhode Island, for a 3-day Test match. A Test match of any kind, 2, 3 or 5 days are extremely rare in the United States. The weather could not have been more perfect; it was bright, and sunny with a hint of a breeze.
A quick history about the clubs involved and for those hearing the names for the first time: Both of these clubs were founded in the early 1990s. Some of the key founders and earliest members of NYCCC played an instrumental role in shaping what is now the go to site for all cricketers, cricinfo.com. On the other hand St. Columbus’ Cricket Club (SCCC) has been the home of cricket in Rhode Island for decades.
The match was played at the pristine Dr. Arnos field; privately maintained by the Doctor himself. For those who have never heard of this place, it is a gem of a venue, with a tremendous pitch, resembling the hard flat decks seen in the Middle East, Pakistan’s home grounds. Having played here before, and making that connection, you get a first-hand feeling on how difficult it must be to take 10 wickets in the Middle East. There is almost zero lateral movement and nothing in it for the bowlers. But then again, it becomes an even bigger test for the batsmen, how long can the batsman remain patient, composed and focused.
On this occasion, both teams had quality players who showed the temperament to score centuries. A total of five centuries were scored in three days, and that must be a record in itself. Each day included a 90-over spell, starting at 11:00am and finishing at 6:30pm with a new ball available at the 70th over.
NYCCC fortunately won the toss, having driven four hours to the ground; batting first was the ideal choice. The first day’s play had all the excitement of a Test match; the field was in, with slips in place, and SCCC starting with their seamers would knock over the NYCCC captain in the second over of the inning. In came former Windward Islands national player Hyron Shallow. What seemed to be a perfect start for SCCC turned into a complete shocker as Shallow would blast away boundary after boundary. At one point, it seemed like Shallow would blast his way to a century before the end of the first session and lunch. However, a rash cut shot led to his departure but the damage had been done, Shallow finished with a quick fire 77 off only 55 balls.
Having captured two key wickets in the first session, SCCC was well positioned to make further inroads, but Bilal Shahid and Mark Audain had different plans. Both of these classy batsmen, very different in their own right complemented each other extremely well. Audain’s primary weapon was his pull/hook shot and Shahid enjoyed his drives and cuts. They would pile on a 250 run partnership, with both reaching their centuries with ease and at a good pace. The pain was not over for SCCC even after breaking this partnership, as Ashish Kumar would join Audain at the crease and continue in similar fashion, stroking four big sixes on his way to 67 not out. NYCCC would declare at 416 for 6 after 70 overs.
SCCC was put into bat for an hour at the end of Day 1 and the NYCCC pacers fired in trying to take a few scalps before the end of the day’s play. With only a few overs left in the day, Bilal Shahid would provide two breakthroughs with a possible third which was negated by the umpire. SCCC ended the day at 27 for 2, with a daunting task ahead to rebuild and put up a meaningful total on the board.
SCCC started the morning shaky, losing two quick wickets, however; their middle order didn’t let them down. Skipper Suman Kant, senior batsmen Zohaib Nawaz, and Binesh Prabhakar would put up strong partnerships. Kant went on to achieve his century off only 90 deliveries. His innings included beautifully timed drives and sweeps. NYCCC’s bowlers did extremely well even after a few dropped catches, to restrict SCCC to only 313 after 73 overs. The pick of the bowlers was Shallow who bowled his mystery leg-spinners, with the highlight of the innings being a googly which went through the gap of a set batsman who was on 89 and no doubt on his way to a century.
NYCCC went in to bat for the last session of the Day 2, with a lead of 102 runs. The intention was to accelerate as much as possible, therefore Shallow was sent up the order to open. Once again Shallow would not disappoint, entertaining the crowd and the opponent at times, with unbelievable shots. He would miss his century looking to hit one out of the park, getting dismissed at 98 off only 65 balls. The highlight of his inning was an over which included 5×4’s, seldom heard of in Test match cricket. At the end of Day 2 NYCCC would end with a lead of 230 runs and the loss of only one wicket.
The NYCCC camp planned the final day to bat as long as possible, and use the last session to win the match. Even with a 230 run lead, it wasn’t going to be enough, as they were missing two players. The lead meant that the batting lineup could be shaken up to give everyone a chance to spend time at the crease. However, a chaotic run out caused the end of a scrappy 51 by Umar Alizai, and gave SCCC early hope. The wickets would continue to tumble until 1st inning centurions Bilal Shahid and Mark Audain entered. These two seemed to enjoy batting together, every bit like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayewardene. They amassed another massive partnership, with each hitting five sixes during their respective innings. Shahid and Audain would once again raise their bats, as they would shatter NYCCC’s record for partnership and most centuries in a match. NYCCC would declare at 431 for 6.
SCCC was put into bat for the final session and NYCCC gave the new ball to Ashish Kumar, one of the top left-arm orthodox spin bowlers in the Commonwealth Cricket League in NY. However, the ask was different this time, he was given the new ball to bowl a few overs of medium pace. Knowing that he shapes the ball into the batsmen did the trick, and three wickets fell over quickly to make the match interesting. SCCC was in trouble with Bilal Shahid firing at one end with short stuff, zipping by the helmet and Ashish Kumar moving the ball around.
However, what took place in the next half hour was complete carnage from Suman Kant and Zohaib Nawaz. These two SCCC stalwarts brushed off the pressure with ease. They would pummel the NYCCC attack and amass 102 runs in just 15 overs. Anything on middle and leg or short was cracked for a boundary on the leg. Even Shallow and the spinners became less potent and the ball lost all its magic.
At this point, both captains agreed to call off the game with the result looking less and less likely. Man-of-the-Match went to Bilal Shahid for his two brilliant centuries and two wickets on Day 1.
New York City C.C. would like to thank SCCC for being such humble hosts and for giving us the opportunity. We look forward to battling it out every year on the Labor Day Weekend. The record remains at 0-0 with two draws thus far.