Semi-Final – Perfectly Scripted Win

Investing their heart and soul up until now and having qualified for the semifinals, Storm was facing their old rivals Rouse Hill Rams in their first kill or perish match of the tournament. The last time these two teams met, Ram and Varaprasad set the home team’s suburb on fire with their performances. It would’ve taken any team a few sessions of therapy to recover from that drubbing!

After quickly remembering history and sharing a smile, Storm were on the field to bowl as Rouse Hills won the toss and opted to bat on a slightly overcast day. One got the feeling that either openers weren’t comfortable looking at Varaprasad starting the proceedings for Storm. Shaky, Slithery and bam! Varaprasad struck. The opener misread the line, the ball came in sharply to dislocate the right thumb of the batsman. A harsh sight for the eye, unintentionally though. He had no option but to take the long walk back to the pavilion. Taking advantage of the momentum, Ram bowled few sharp deliveries to the other opening batsman. There was no length offered to the batsmen to get comfortable. Varaprasad continued his good form and got the better of the other opening batsman too, bowling him around his legs. The next two deliveries that invited the new batsman to the crease could easily have been the best follow-up deliveries out of the fiery southpaw’s mighty hands since he was born. Both beautiful rising deliveries leaving the batsman just at the last second. The second one managed to get a faint edge but deviated just enough to move Padma Siva a bit to the wrong side, resulting in a drop. A tough one though.

With the ball losing its shine, the batsmen tried to generate runs, albeit cautiously. The runs were not easy to score as the field was laid out like a Turkish carpet, thick and grippy. Yuvi came into the attack and almost immediately got the breakthrough. Suraj was set up at deep mid-wicket as Yuvi bowled the perfect slower delivery. Catching practice for Suraj, and mistakes were none. A well-judged catch unsettling the opposition yet again. With another two runs added to the total, Yuvi produced the ball of the match. Penetrating the back foot defence of the well set batsman, the ball uprooted the middle stump! What a sight! Terrific stuff!

The next pair frustrated the bowling unit by staying put and did not attempt anything fancy. They played out ball after ball and scored runs at snail’s pace, with an odd boundary. Kannan came into the attack and dried up the runs. Finally, there was a breakthrough after about 20 runs when Kannan bemused the batsman to let one crash onto the off stump. Top stuff from Kannan! At 44/5, their next batsman perhaps came in to push the tempo and was onto the job straightaway by hoisting a six and a four. There were few shots hit in the air but none close to the fielders. Murugs and Vinod Reddy had started operating in tandem. Murugs came around the wicket and bowled a fuller delivery to the batsman who was sticking around for quite some time now. He checked the shot at the last second offering a simple catch to Varaprasad at mid-wicket, who also had a terrific day on the field and saved few runs for the team with his useful stops. An important breakthrough for the team provided by none other than the skipper himself! Excellent stuff!

The very next ball Vinod Reddy bowled a sharp one and caught the explosive batsman plumb in front. Two from two. From a comfortable 80/5, RHR were suddenly pulled down to 80/7. Murugs took another wicket to further dent the progress of RHR. Ram took a sharp catch at mid-off. The 9th wicket stand frustrated Storm as they added a massive 30 runs to the total. After 54 overs, Storm took the new ball and Yuvi was immediately brought into the attack. He struck straightaway by forcing a drive, and Murugs completed the formalities by taking the catch at first slip. At 118/9 and a batsman retired hurt, it looked like it was all over for RHR until the retired batsman walked back in to equal admiration from both the teams. But his partner refused to spend time with him in the middle as he edged one to the waiting gloves of Padma Siva. Number four for Yuvi. Outstanding figures of 4/9. Top job! Storm bowled 60 overs in total and let RHR score only 119 runs. A remarkable achievement.

Storm went into bat for the last half hour. Avi and Roshit played positive cricket by taking singles and punishing the bad deliveries. Avi was rattled by a short and quick one but bounced back by pulling the next one to the square leg boundary. But he was to depart soon as a sharp in-swinger caught him in front. The decision could be disputed but it is best left to the on field umpire who did a terrific job the entire day. Padma Siva came in to see off the day and yet again did the task that was asked off him. Storm finished the day at 12/1.

As Padma Siva took guard to face the first ball of second day’s play, Storm required another 108 runs. With an imminent downpour later in the day, Storm had to get the required target before the start of rain, if it were to stop play. If that happens, RHR automatically qualifies for the finals owing to their better position than us in the table at the end of second round. Storm seemed to start well when Roshit slashed one hard through point area for a couple. But, Storm had a big setback early on when Roshit perished poking at a delivery that was well outside the off-stump and Padma Siva, who was looking rock solid, was castled by a well-directed in-swinging Yorker, in quick succession. Suraj walked in next to be joined by Vinod, who was sent up the order to disturb bowlers rhythm who had to bowl to left and right combination at the crease.

Vinod and Suraj started nervously with couple of close calls which were turned down by the umpire. Vinod looked like he was getting into his zone until he had a heave at a ball that was slow through the air. A gentle nick to the keeper ended his innings. Visibly disappointed, he trudged back to the pavilion thus paving way for Kannan to take guard. At 25 for 4, both the seniors had a huge task at hand in guiding us across the line. Kannan was coming after a disappointing outing against Greystanes in the previous match and looked determined to take Storm over the line this time around. Suraj looked much more composed in the company of Kannan.

Kannan and Suraj put on a show and exhibited what they are made of for the next hour and a half. Their temperament, maturity, skill, patience and mental strength were in full display for everyone to watch and take notes. They assessed the conditions to the tee, took stock of the speed of the field, measured their approach initially and cut loose whenever there was an opportunity. The quick singles were a treat to watch especially. On a pitch where everyone in the top order failed, Kannan and Suraj’s cricket were so effortless and productive. They played through an entire session and brought down the equation to 33 runs within the target. One of the main aspect of Kannan’s batting was that he dismantled one of their strike bowlers with a calculated assault. A boundary in pretty much every over of his was enough for the opposition to take him out of attack which was one of the key moments that turned the match in our favor. This meant that the opposition had to rely on only two bowlers to win the game which obviously added immense pressure on them. Well played Kannan.

With dark clouds looming large over the ground and 33 runs to go, the plan of attack was to get to the target before the rain came down pouring. The very first over after break, Kannan tried to break loose and picked a ball outside off and tried it to deposit over mid-wicket. Unfortunately, it hit the bottom of the bat and carried straight to the fielder at mid-wicket. Kannan scored 40 valuable runs in the process, clearly one of his best innings considering the situation of the match. Ram walked in to join Suraj, who by now had started to take the lead once Kannan departed. Suraj and Ram brought down the target to 17 runs and that is when the rain gods decided to bless us in all abundance. The umpires assured everyone that the game will be back on as and when the conditions allow for it. A good half hour’s play was lost due to rain.

Play resumed after the umpires inspected the ground conditions and advised both the teams that the conditions were good enough to resume play. With another 17 runs needed and the conditions being wet, Suraj and Ram took guard to get to the target without losing anymore wickets. But that wasn’t the case to be as Suraj, who started off from where he left before the break edged one to the keeper. But what a gem of an innings his was. A battling 39 when the top order crumbled. The whole of this season Suraj has been at one task primarily – pull the team up! What a champ! Proving his worth yet again! The way he shifted gears after Kannan departed was instrumental in us getting closer to the victory target when rain interrupted. Brilliant stroke making and excellent temperament  which was well acknowledged by the opposition at the end of the match. Superb effort Suraj!

Vinod Reddy joined Ram in the middle with another 11 runs needed to seal a berth in the finals. A gentle push that was a touch early resulted in a simple return catch to the bowler thus ending Vinod Reddy’s short stay in the middle. Storm entered the nervous territory with the fall of Vinod Reddy and the team was getting a bit anxious. That is when Subbu walked in next. The skipper was relieved with Subbu in the middle, as he was confident that Subbu will be able to support Ram ably and settle down Ram’s nerve, considering the quick wickets. Finally Ram glided one towards third man which hit the football poles planted within the boundary. Hitting the poles meant four runs and that took Storm closer to the target by 4 runs. Ram cut loose and ended the chase in a flourish by finishing the formalities with 4, 4, 6. What a find he has been for Storm. Amazing talent!

Thus, Storm qualified for their first finals in B6 – PDCA. Having finished this game on a high, Storm face Greystanes in the final. This team looks much better than ever to go all the way. If every single player in the team understands his position, role and plays in a responsible manner, there is no reason why Storm cannot go all the way!

Scorecard Summary

Player(s) of the match – Kannan, Suraj & Yuva
(Kannan – for his scintillating performance with 40 valuable runs)
(Suraj – for his breathtaking innings of 39 runs)
(Yuva – for his match winning spell of 4 for 9)