Round 12 – Team Work to the Core

Separated by a mere point in the current standings of the ongoing season, it would be appropriate to say the stakes were the same for both SSSCI Storm (Storm) and Seven Hills Toongabbie (SHT) going into this match. The equation was simple – the winning team takes the fourth position. SHT won the toss and put Storm into bat.

Opening Resistance – Short Lived
Avi and Roshit opened for Storm and both knew how crucial their partnership was going to be for the team. They seemed to keep it simple by not trying anything silly. Avi was rock solid in his textbook-esque defense while Roshit had the opportunity to rotate the strike whenever there were loose deliveries on offer. The runs were coming at a decent rate without any inventive shots from the openers. Just as the openers were about the dominate the entire first session, Roshit hit the self-destruction button and got out in his most famous fashion this season – chasing a delivery away from his body and offering a simple catch to the waiting slip fielder. The pair added 30 valuable runs.

Top Order Crumble
Subbu walked in next to join Avi and started the proceedings with a lofted boundary over long-on. Post break, Avi cut loose and hit few glorious shots over the infield – the best being the lofted pick up shot over mid-wicket. The pair looked settled and aimed to score runs at a brisk pace. Subbu, looking aggressive and wristy, was striking the ball well, until he bottom edged a short ball to the keeper. The partnership was worth 26 quick runs. The most dependent and consistent batsman for Storm this season, Suraj walked in next to join Avi in the middle. Suraj struck a crisp boundary upon his arrival and signalled his intentions straightaway. But unfortunately he got out to a one-handed blinder at mid-wicket. Score read 61/ 3.

Kannan Stands Tall
Kannan walked in next to join Avi in the middle. He was coming after a long break and did not show any signs of it. He kept the scoring rate at check with the occasional boundaries that kept coming. Kannan made up for the lapses of the other top order batsmen by exhibiting the right amount of temperament, patience and resilience. The loose deliveries were dispatched with disdain, while the good ones were worshiped and left alone. On the other end, Avi was caught plumb in front trying to play across, the one shot he did not want to play. He scored a patient 26, during which he diffused the confidence of the new ball bowlers completely. Murugs walked in next to join Kannan. With the kind of form he is in right now, Storm was expecting a show from these two. Unfortunately, Murugs was caught at mid-on, trying to clear him. Perhaps, the first time he mis-hit this season. Ram, the hero of the previous match, walked in next to join Kannan. Even at 5 down at 90, with Ram and Kannan in the middle, Storm was pretty confident. Soon after the second break, Ram was trapped in front to an in-swinging delivery and Storm was left tottering at 101/ 6.

Respectable Total
Vinod joined Kannan in the middle. Vinod walked in at number 9, this gives you an indication of the depth in the batting line-up of Storm. Second ball he faced was dispatched over the mid-wicket fielder for a boundary. Vinod started off by scoring 3 crisp boundaries. With Vinod and Kannan in the middle, the runs kept coming and in no time these two added 31. At the fag end of the third session, attempting to work a single on the on side, Kannan was stumped. He was back in the pavilion after adding 57 essential runs to the team’s cause. Another milestone in Kannan’s celebrated career. Well done Kannan! Varaprasad joined Vinod in the middle. Playing with the tail enders has become a habit for Vinod and something that he specializes in off late, however Prasad and Yuvi cannot be called tail-enders per se. He curbed his temptation to go over the cow corner with the intention of seeing through the session and was doing a wonderful job at it until an inviting short pitch delivery teased the little devil in him and forced his favourite shot from him. The shot was hit with such precision and power that the fielder did not have to move an inch. It was taken with glee marking the end of the third session.

Last Men Standing
“One Dollar” man Yuvi joined Prasad at the center and their motive was to see through the session. After spending some time in the middle, Prasad opened up and how! He played few shots that would measure up to any top order batsman. His lofted drive over mid-off was perhaps the best shot of the day! The perfection of the timing can be measured by the inches he hit it above the fielder’s head! Terrific to watch! Left handed elegance! Not to be outshone by Prasad’s brilliance, Yuvi got into the attack and hit few terrific shots over the infield. The lofted scoop over square leg was a treat to watch. Prasad trying to have another go was cleaned up by a sharp delivery that went through his defence. 25 runs and the third highest partnership for Storm was put together by these two! Monumental effort! Their partnership was the difference between an average score of 157 and a defend-able total of 182. Great effort guys! An example to illustrate that Storm bat deep!

Storm – Shaky Starters
Subbu and Varaprasad started the proceedings for Storm. Seven Hills started with two left handers and both are known powerful strikers of the ball. With just 6 overs to be bowled, they did not try anything fancy. Subbu, Prasad, Yuvi, Murugs and Ram had a bowl and Storm did not manage to threaten much. SHT saw through the day and were placed at 20/ 0, 11 of them coming in extras. SHT had bowled 11 extras in their entire innings.

The main agenda for the second day of the game was to ensure we get the first innings lead. The bowlers were ready for the show amid bad weather threatening to call off the match. In the end, it was a commendable act from SHT to continue to play on and what a game it turned out to be!

Conquering the Lead First
With 182 to defend and the rain gods picking the match day to show up, chances of a full day’s play looked bleak. Nevertheless, SSSCI Storm arrived early to inspect the pitch and work out the math to get the much needed 7 points which would place them a little more comfortably at number 4.The umpires and captains had a good look and decided the conditions were good enough to start play without any delay. The forecast was for showers though.

Seven Hills Toongabbie (SHT) needed another 163 runs while Storm needed 10 wickets to secure the 7 points that would mean the difference between the two teams. Wet conditions prevailed, which was good as the ball hurried off the pitch to the batsman, but equally bad as the ball was losing its shape soaking in the wetness. Seven Hills were in a hurry as they tried to get aggressive but Ram’s pace was too much to handle as one of the openers top edged a rising delivery to Kannan, who had to manoeuvre few steps to catch a ball going away from him. One down and nine more to go. The captain brought in Yuvi as soon as the new man walked in, and what an ace of a move that was! The captain of SHT was caught in front plumb! Yuvi’s bunny thus far whenever SHT and Storm have met. Yuvi was in his element today, as he accounted for the other opener too by crashing his stumps through his defence. Oh, what a sight! The batsman had no clue where he erred and had a stymied look on his face, so did everyone around him, including the umpire! Unplayable! The umpire exclaimed, re-adjusting the stumps.

Murugs brought himself on to finish things quickly as the next pair started consolidating a bit. Murugs was treated by the batsman with a flat six over long off and a wild slog over mid-wicket for a couple of runs. Not the one to give up, Murugs fired a beautiful rising delivery to the batsman who had no choice but to hold his bat out, only to edge it to the waiting palms of Subbu at second slip. A fumble but the catch was taken. The next batsman came in with the intention of hitting and started chasing almost all the deliveries without any success. He came in a hurry and left in a hurry missing a full delivery aimed at the stumps. And another followed in the same fashion. Six down, not much runs on the board, what does the batsman do? Suicide by two more batsmen! Couple of catches were offered and suddenly the score read 53/ 8.

Storm wound up the tail of SHT for 70 to enforce the follow on. Kannan and Sivakumar bowled a strict line to get a wicket each. With a healthy lead of 112 runs, Storm enforced the follow on and put in SHT to bat again.

And the Outright Next
As mentioned earlier, the weather was deteriorating since the start of play. The showers were beginning to increase but luckily, it wasn’t too much to stop play. Ram and Varaprasad started the proceedings for Storm and both of them bowled a very tight line. Especially Ram bowled a frightening line that scared the batsmen. Varaprasad used his cricketing brains when the batsman walked down the pitch. He bowled a wide delivery to force a shot that carried to gully and Avi completed the catch quite easily. At the other end Ram continued to steam it in with the batsman struggling to even spot the ball. He accounted for the next wicket, which more or less looked like a surrender to the pace that Ram generated.

Yuvi came in next to swing the ball like a snake charmer makes his snake dance. The batsman carefully played him out without inflicting any insulting damages. SHT seemed to have resorted to defensive tactics, as they stopped bothering about runs and concentrated on playing out the day. Murugs brought in Kannan and himself to force the batsmen to commit mistakes. Murugs invited the batsman to hit him over the top and the batsman obliged duly, but little did he know that Vinod would cover the ground all the way from long on to cow corner and take the catch overhead. Undoubtedly the catch of the day! Few of us were waiting for the replay! At this stage SHT were still at 49/3 which was not so bad. Kannan bowled his slower ones through the air and accounted for four of SHT’s clueless batsmen. All of them set-up to a plan and executed with precision. Sivakumar and Vinod bowled in tandem for a while and both of them stuck to the team’s tradition of drying up the runs. Vinod almost took a wicket of his first ball when the batsman returned a low full toss just over his head. He got his hands to it, but could not hold it in. After a brief period of resistance and the showers getting a bit heavy, SHT were running out of ideas to play out the day. From 49/3, they lost quick wickets to be reeling at 99/8 – courtesy some tight bowling.

Murugs came in to finish the tail and he needed only 10 balls to account for the last couple of wickets. SHT were bundled out for 105. Victory by an innings and 7 runs. More importantly, the 10 points.

Overall a very good match for Storm. The team looks in good shape and spirit to progress well from here. Suraj did a commendable job as the stand-in wicket-keeper, while Subbu bowled some excellent in swingers at the start. Kannan was adjudged the Man of the Match without a doubt. It was a match where the batsman did a decent job (considering the line up, they should have done much better), the bowlers did excellent (as always) and the fielders supported in full capacity (two drops for the match).

Scorecard Summary

Player of the match – Kannan (For his brilliant all-round performance, 57 runs and 5