After a month long layoff from cricket, East Coast Titians were finally facing a huge uphill task of playing the most dangerous and professional team in the league: Global CC, in the league Quarterfinal. If you look at ECT record and Global’s record it doesn’t seem too different, we lost 6 games and Global has lost 4. The only difference between that losing record is, Global managed to lose those 4 games in the last 5 years, whereas ECT managed that just this season. Also, Global had a spotless record in the playoffs, i.e. they have been unbeaten for the past 4 years. How did that record effect the outcome of the game, will be discussed a bit later in this piece.
Saturday morning, after the layoff, teams all pumped up and roaring to go. I, on the other hand, was sound asleep in my bed when my phone rang and I saw Kamil Shahab on my caller ID, I immediately knew that all my prayers have been answered! I answered the phone and waited for the sweet words to come out of Kamil bhai’s mouth, but he stopped short saying ‘there might be an opening, so head to the ground’. Without a moment of delay I was up and in the car heading to the ground. At the ground, we had our usual lions; Ahsan, Zahid Bhai, Kamil bhai, Shaheer and more, and soon others started trickling in. Soon enough it was time for the toss and as it turned out, we lost the toss and had to bowl first.
Irfan and Kamil bhai started the bowling attack, from the very start Global seemed a bit out of sorts. They kept edging and were unable to middle the bowl. There were a couple appeals in the beginning but all turned down. Soon enough, however, ECT had the first breakthrough when Irfan got Ahson Bukhari to top edge an attempted heave at a stifling delivery. Titan bowlers did a great job in keeping a check on their run rate, however, there were still quite a few dropped chances. Raheel Khan and Irfan, as usual, were brilliant with the ball who both picked up three wickets a piece. Saroosh and Rashed bowled with determination as well both picking a wicket each. The highlight of the first innings, however, was the immaculate wicket keeping by Syed. Just cannot praise his glove work enough, you had to see it to believe it, to witness his prowess. He was lightening swift, 2 stumpings (one of which was turned down, but it showed his focus and caliber on the day) are evidence enough of that. He was superb with three catches behind the stumps to add. Global ended the innings with 208 on the board.
Last time both team meet in the playoff was in the 2011 tournament final, wtih Global restricted to a meager 140 odd at the very same venue. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to chase a seemingly low total. Thoughts of that game lingered on the minds of the Titans . But that was then and this was now, and we had the belief and determination to change our destiny. Our innings got underway shortly and was started by our two stalwarts: Ahsan and Farrukh. Farrukh looked a little shaky at the start, especially after he got struck in the chest by a fast Colin Duke delivery. However, he recovered quickly from the blow as well as his slump as he started timing the ball nicely. Ahsan on the other hand was terrible, it seemed like he had lost all his form in this game. His dip in form first came into the fray when he pulled a Colin Duke short delivery to the third man boundary for the maximum. Later his lack of consistency became evident when he hit humungous sixes to Niel Mc Garrell in back to back overs, it continued with a creamed hit to the cover boundary or crisp shot to the on side. His abysmal form was such, that Colin Duke was taken out of the attack after just a few overs and Mc Garrell introduced slightly early, but we know what happened to that move. Unfortunately, though, a slight miss hit to the cover boundary ended Ahsan’s innings. Right after Ahsan’s departure, the first bowler to come back to the attack was! you guessed it! Colin Duke.
While Ahsan was boring us with crisp hits and pulls, Farrukh was chugging along as well with some immaculate strokes all around the park. Both of our openers partnered brilliantly and gave us a solid opening stand of some 70 odd runs. After Ahsan’s departure, however, Farrukh didn’t last for two long either. He nudged a quick bouncer to the third man boundary and flicked one to the midwicket region for 4s, then he got ambitious and tried another nudge to the similar bouncer but found the fielder. Salik replaced Ahsan and the hero of the day, Saroosh Nadeem replaced Farrukh. Salik and Saroosh started off nicely with both playing sensible and risk free cricket by rotating the strike at will. Salik however, got out early; top edging a shot straight to long on. Farhan went in next, both Saroosh and Farhan kept ticking the score board, keeping the run rate in check and frustrating the bowlers. However, for a brief period in the innings there was a time when our run rate fell slightly behind and Saroosh seemed adamant in changing that. An over or two before the second drinks break, Saroosh looked to break the shackles; he heaved at a delivery to straight boundary which landed a feet away from the fielder, that entire time all our hearts came up our throats. The next shot was even more heart stopping. Saroosh hit a delivery to the on side, the hit seemed slightly mistimed and was going straight towards Nandalal at the boundary. Nandalal ran towards it, got under it, dove and ‘dropped the tournament’. That was the first time I ever saw Global’s players’ shoulders and heads dropping and with panic.
Until around 30th over or so, Nandalal wasn’t introduced, but as soon as he was introduced the picture of the game changed drastically. In his first over he bowled, he got a well set Farhan bowled, Irfan went in next and was bowled in the similar fashion soon after. Then Shah went in next and was back in the hut in less time than it will take you to read this piece; out runout. Our star wicketkeeper went in next. Him and Saroosh looked perfect, a match made in heaven. Both taking quick singles and doubles, nudging the ball around and at times finding the boundary to calm the nerves. They brought the runs down a manageable target. In the 38th over, Saroosh hit a shot to the cover towards Colin Duke. Colin Duke – the kind of fielder who you would not want to take a single against, Saroosh and Syed dared to take two. Colin’s throw, however, was fast, straight and to the target, Syed was in the middle of the pitch, Nandalal fumbled the incoming throw and didn’t recover the ball again, giving Syed ample time to get back to the crease and our hearts to resume beating. A few singles here and there and the equation came down to 9 from 2.5 (ish) this is when Syed got out, caught at the boundary line.
The situation had now become severely tense. Raheel went in next, with Kamil bhai and Rashed padded up and holding their tasbees dearly near their hearts. Two overs now remain with 8 to get and Mc Garrell bowling to Saroosh. First ball hits Saroosh’s pads, a huge appeal, turned down. Second ball, misses the edge. Third ball, another one hitting Saroosh’s pads; another appeal, turned down again. Fourth ball, another dot. Now 8 deliveries remained with us still needing 8 more runs to win. Fifth ball, Saroosh takes a single to give Raheel the strike to face the final delivery, Raheel missed. The match has finally come down to the final over with us still needing 7 runs to win. Nandalal to bowl and Saroosh to face. First ball of the over, Saroosh nudges it and they scamper for two. 5 from 5 deliveries; second ball, another nudge and two more runs; 3 from 4 delivers. Third ball, Saroosh goes to his knees, sweeps the delivery to square leg, there is no fielder there, Raheel and Saroosh run for three and the entire ECT contingent and Stars contingent present at the ground rushes to the field and mob Saroosh for his immaculate and calculated assault! Saroosh has won us the game!
We managed to do what no other team in the past four years came close of doing; beat Global in the playoffs. It was our sheer belief and hard work that paid off. As mentioned earlier, Global’s spotless record amounted to nothing at the end. Records are meant to be broken by those who dare and believe, we did exactly that! Everyone chipped in and did their part, be it the fielders, the bowlers, the batsmen or the support we got from team members who were not even in the playing 11. Thanks must be given to the team Stars for staying in the field and supporting us. It was interesting to see Kashif being more tense than some of the ECT members :). At the end of the day, it was an amazing morale boosting win. However, the task is still not done, Titans still have two more games to go before it can be considered ‘mission accomplished’.