An unusually cold summer morning greeted us when we arrived in Toledo. The weather forecast suggestin a 3 in 10 chance of rain that PM. As for the ground conditions, the mowers probably took grass cutting seriously, as we could see earth exposed in some areas of the outfield. And more importantly it left the outfield uneven. Not all that conducive for fielding but fast paced to assist batsmen.
Ani called right at the toss and we elected to bat. Goldy and I taking first strike. There was a steady breeze around. Although I was opening for the first time this season and have been quite eager to do so, all anxiety was settled as soon as we went to the middle. We got some singles going but soon Goldy picked a wrong ball to cut over the infield. He could not clear and had to walk back allowing our pratik and friends in the doughout to get their daggers out quite early :).
Ani walked in one drop and we played out the next 4-5 overs watchfully. Some nice length and swing especially from bowler 2. The fun of batting alongside good players is that you pick tips from them right on the job. And playing with Ani is exactly that. He immediately points out and suggests to get this or that right.
We got some runs (with me unintentionally keeping most of the strike:). and was enjoying my stay. And then up went the finger for the umpteenth time on an LBW call. The ball hit high on my left leg and was going well outside the leg. I dont understand why they give LBW decisions when there is easily a doubt. But the reality is unfortunately in this form of the game it almost feels like the umpire has to give one out once he has denied or called bad on previous occasions..... anyways, in the spirit of the game, I did walk but thoroughly felt robbed on the highway for not being able to continue. Most agreed that was not out but nevertheless we were 17 for 2!
Devin Patel was in next and I have to say he is one of the nicest, most passionate cricketers I have seen. He drives for hours to get to the ground. In Ani and Devin, we had a promising pair in the middle but disaster struck immediately, as Devin played one to point and Ani backed up too fast. A hurting run out claims Ani. 17/3!
Devin is joined by another long range traveller :) Anand (Patel)... these two guys had an important role to play and they did just that. The scoreboard started to tick around and we got to 50/3 in about 12 overs or so.. with Anand and Devin looking all set, but against the run of play Anand mistimed a flick which took the upper edge and went straight to the bowler. Cleveland was in trouble with a lot of overs still remaining but not a big partnership in sight yet.
Kranthi joined Devin. With Devin striking well and Kranthi giving him good support, slowly but steadily we motored to 80 odd. Devin played some delightful shots to both sides and reached his half-century in style with a six over square-leg. The good thing about Devin's batting is the 'awe' factor he presents on the opposition. He likes to dominate the bowlers and picks the right balls to go fetch. Kranthi played some good shots too but ended up skying too often. We took a further slide as we lost Devin (caught), Pratik (caught mistiming a slower ball) and Bala (stumped) in quick time.
At 120 for 8 we were staring at a total well below par. But thats when Gaurav joined hands with Deepak to present one of the best counter-attack efforts. They started off watchfully but grew in strength. Gaurav (with some admiring friends and family members on watch) and Deepak played some excellent shots all over the park and we moved from 120 to 150 to 190! This partnership stunned the opposition and we enjoyed probably one of the best 9th wicket partnerships ever. They scored boundaries freely and ran hard to suck out the game from Troys grasp.
Our innings came to an end in the last over and we got to 212. Gaurav remained unbeaten on 60. At one point we were hoping if we could go past 150. So 212 was certainly an amazing story.
Chasing 213 Troy needed to show a lot of character especially after seeing us turnaround the way we did. Talking of character, I think one of the factors that has kept Cleveland on the top this season is the character and discipline shown individually and as a team whenever the situation demaned it. We have this can-do attitude in whatever we attempt.
Here is an example of how seriously we take our cricket :) - there was a bet going around that Goldy could get the new ball, but for that he had to score more than Pratik. Well, he couldnt have asked for a better deal today (pratik gone for ducky:) !. And so it was Goldy who got to bowl first up. Just so you know, we dont decide opening bowlers this way every time :) .. but we do try to have as much fun as we can.
The Troy openers got to a start but Goldy and Deepak bowled good spells to keep them in check. I had a tough time collecting down leg today especially when Deepak drifted and later when Anand was bowling the ones that turn and bounce away.... nevertheless I need to buck up on that.
Ani brought Anand for an over of spin so he could switch ends for Deepak. Anand ended up getting the wicket of one of the openers to a good catch by Bala in the deep. Honestly this opener did more staring or cursing himself than actually playing ball :). So he got his earful and we were happy to break. Then Deepak showed what a danger he is, with an unplayable ball that took out the middle stump of the new batsman. We got another couple of quick wickets and Troy was around 50 for 4. Not the best fielding day for us with a couple of dropped catches, we kind of let Troy to be in the game. Troy got some good partnerships going.
At second break (28 overs) they needed 90 odd with 4 wickets remaining.
The next 40 odd runs came quick with some good batting by Uday and Dinesh. The left-right partnership did cause some headaches and we were honestly drained as the conditions became humid. But not losing our ground, we continued to toil.
Devin, Ani, Anand and Pratik combined well to slowly clamp them down and we knocked them out with 45 odd runs. Bala (2 catches) and Anand Nadar (2 catches) did well in the field.
With that we keep the win column busy with 6 in a row!!
MOM - Gaurav for a match saving knock of 60 n.o.
PICS from the game (courtesy Gaurav and his friend)
Next week we play Greater Detroit CC. If there is a team that we want to face upto and test, this is it. They have won the league 5 out of the past 6 times. They are aware of how we are doing. So its a contest to look out for...