On the surface, this was an excellent cricket match. Very few mistakes were made by either side. On a tough surface, both teams approached the game with batting and bowling discipline. The difference came down to a captain’s innings played by the Columbia captain who managed to keep his nerve as early wickets fell, and helped their team through nervy middle overs and to the end. 

Such games often come down to fine margins and what-ifs:

  • What if we had won the toss? (we’d have chosen to bat so maybe not that)
  • What if it had rained at exactly the 26 over mark when we were marginally ahead on run-rate?
  • What if Nischint hadn’t been erroneously given out caught behind?
  • What if the umpire wasn’t easily swayed by the loudest team and stayed consistent throughout?
  • What if we assembled in a circle before the match and engaged in pre-game calisthenics led by our captain? The psychological boost to our own morale and simultaneous show off solidarity could be devastating for opposing teams

As it turns out, we lost the toss and were put in to bat. Our batsmen started patient and effective against some quality swing bowling from their opening bowler. The other bowler leaking runs allowed the runs to keep ticking. 35/1 at the 10 over mark felt like par for this surface. Especially since it was coupled with two gorgeous extra cover shots for 6 and 4 from Andy. They then brought in their two quality spinners – Silu and Ougni who colluded with the 4-feet VCP grass to be miserly. By over 20, we were 55/3 with Dhruv out LBW getting frustrated with the tight bowling. Adarsh after playing a circumspect innings so far started opening up, first hitting Silu for a boundary and then took their fifth bowler Raj for 11 runs in his opening over. Just when he looked set, he played across the line to be out LBW. 

In his only moment of brilliance for the day, Amit B suggested that Mark go in next and Harshan agreed. That turned out to be inspired as Mark provided the counter attack we needed to get past 100. Right away Mark got a boundary off his fourth ball and went on to hit a scintillating 23 of 17 balls with 2 sixes. The rest of the innings was uneventful except for a very nicely hit boundary by Abhishek. 

When Adarsh got out to Raj, their very awful looking 5th bowler, I joked to him that he did us a favor since it meant Raj would get more overs to bowl. He ended up taking five wickets. What do I know!

Seeing our innings play out and with a hint of rain in the air, Columbia came out with a very clear plan. One batsmen was going to counter-attack from the get go. Right in the first two overs, they went after Harshan. Rohan started really well in his first over but then Prashanth went after him as well. Both quickly found their length and first Harshan got the dangerous Prashant bowled and then Rohan got Rohan Singh stumped with some sharp work from Adarsh. That prompted the best line of the match from Andy who turned to Rohan to ask “how does it feel as a seam bowler to have a wicket from a stumping”?

Neil joined the attack in over 11 and immediately got Owais out thanks to a really well judged catch in the deep from Dhruv. Adarsh then cemented his role as our new wicket keeper with a sharp catch from the dangerous Silu off Neil. Dhruv bowled a couple of tidy overs and then Amit came on. Columbia started especially circumspect off Amit’s bowling but as they got comfortable, they started rotating strike. It became clear that wickets were our only hope to win and a large C&B by Dhruv gave some hope. With 11 runs to get, Neil came in and bowled a spectacular hail Mary over, starting with getting Parikshit bowled for 51, and then nearly getting a Dheeraj caught at Gully and then nearly getting Ougni caught behind. 

A lot of positives came out of this game:

  • Sherry and Andy put up a solid opening partnership. We avoided batting collapses and batted through the innings and put up a decent score
  • We found a keeper (pun intended) in Adarsh who did all the things you want a great keeper to do – bat long, take sharp catches, knock down stumps at every opportunity regardless of where the batter’s foot is, and fight with the square leg umpire
  • We unearthed Mark’s beast mode where for a while it felt like we might even get to 150 with his power hitting. Hopefully Columbia puts up their match footage on Youtube so Mark’s other Viral Video gets less attention
  • We saw Abhishek’s batting and fielding potential which we hope to see much more of in days to come
  • Despite them going after our bowling from the very first over, we kept our cool and hunted throughout. Neil and Harshan were exceptional and well supported by other bowlers and fielders
  • We were all (generally) on time
  • The first innings scoring on the app was – dare I say – delightful (opposing teams need to stop phoning this in)

On this day, the better team won. Columbia having lost their first few games admitted to me that they had stacked this team to win one. Not only that, they played with a discipline and maturity that isn’t always seen at our league level. Parikshit’s innings was very reminiscent of Nischint’s similar innings the game earlier at Staten Island where he and Rohan put up a disciplined partnership to bring us home. 

If we play to this level consistently through the season, we’ll win more than we lose and give ourselves a shot at the playoffs. 

Until then, maybe we should consider pre-game group calisthenics?