It was probably the first time in my life that I reached the ground before anyone else. By that you can tell how excited or nervous I was to get on with it. I sat on the pitch (like a hayden or a dravid :) -- just enjoying the calmness before the men in white would come running around disturbing the silence for the upcoming part of the day..
After some delay which allowed for good warm ups, Canton won the toss and decided to bat. Their openers went about the business rather comfortably. Harinder played some good lofted drives. And they were cruising along with around 40 for no loss at around the 10 over mark.
Ani brought in Chirag - who was making his debut for Cleveland - and he immediately responded by getting Harinder to mistime a hit taken by Ani. That same over we affected a run out (Puru to Suhail to Chirag) . Chirag was laughing yet again when he had their captain (Maulesh) LBW.
So Canton , after a good start were 5 down for 70 plus and Cleveland was on top. Then came a good partnership of 50 plus by the Canton sixth wicket pair. Especially we saw some good hitting by Manpreet who played quite well for his 37. During this time Puru and Ani combined to bowl some good overs and eventually the Canton innings folded at 164.
Cleveland chasing 165...
These kind of scores are always tricky in this form of the game. We started quite well. Gaurav and Goldy played sensibly and we had 30 plus for no loss. Goldy was the first to depart to a stunning one handed catch at long off. Gaurav played some nice shots. But Cleveland lost 3 wickets (Gaurav , Puru and Kranthi) rather quicky and were 55/4. The comforting factor being that Ani was at the crease and Pratik, Chandu, Suhail etc still to follow.
With 4 wickets down, Ani called in Chandu, and the pair batted along for a good 30 run partnership. Chandu showed signs to set free but unfortunately we could not see those familiar huge hits.
Ani shows his class...
At the other end, Ani was playing an excellent inning. Calm and assured, he set the tone of the chase with quick singles and twos with the odd boundary. As we touched the halfway mark (82), we lost Chandu. Pratik joined Ani and we entered a crucial stage of the game. Cleveland played sensible cricket and kept the score ticking along with Pratik providing good support to Ani. We crossed the 100 run mark, which is - in such chase - a morale booster. The game was in good balance with 60 odd runs to get in around 15 overs.
Just when we were crusing, Pratik got bowled by an inswinger. With 45 odd runs remaining, I joined Ani and we went about our business without any risks. Ani brought up his well deserved fifty. We were motoring along well and stitched together a quick 25 odd runs with smart ones and twos, until a direct hit got me, attempting a second run.
20 more runs needed with 3 wickets in hand and 6 overs remaining. It was quite tantalizing. And to make it worse, we lost another wicket (Deepak), with 18 or so more to get.
Ani had to farm the strike, which he had been doing quite well all along, but it became even more important now. We were on our toes in the doughout and we witnessed one of the finest batting displays within that short span. As the fielders came in, Ani unleashed some excellent shots over the fielders or in the gaps, taking us close to the target. At the other end Anand played out some nerve-cracking deliveries. Finally, it came, Ani hit the winning runs!! CLCC wins and makes it 3 in a row!
We seem to find a way to make an easy target challenging :). We are playing to be the champion and cannot be putting ourselves in such situations. This is an immensely talented bunch of players and I am sure we will step up and show the way going forward. We know we will..
But for now take a bow Ani, here is to an excellent captains knock!!
Our next game is June 28 against MICC (Carribean) at Toledo....