I assume everyone has been on a rollercoaster ride at one point in their lives. Now, imagine some of the worlds most thrilling roller coasters put together at various angles to each other, with the ability to switch between them at will. And given the current political realities, imagine the Republicans and Democrats being at the controls. Can you imagine how thrilling such a ride will be? You cant? Well no problem, just ask any of the 25 people about the details of the 1st SF game to decide one of the finalists for Champions Trophy 2011. No matter how hard I try, I wont be able to capture all the emotions from this high octane fixture, but here goes my attempt at one.
I do not want to test the patience of a select few who may actually read match reports for games not involving their teams by publishing the original, extralong report (of course, I forced my team mates to read it), so here is a condensed version. Eagles decided to chase after winning the toss and restricted us a very respectable 40 after the first 10 overs. Though they started very positively in the first part of the chase, they lost quick wickets after the first 5 overs to reach 34 for 5 after their 10 overs. With Jayesh and Karthik on strike for us, we were hoping to swell our lead and put the game beyond their reach. However, despite having raced to 80 by the end of the 17th over, some inspired bowling by Satish and Sai Kishore left us stuck at 86 after 20. With 53 to get from the last 10, Eagles kept chipping away until it came down to 13 required off the last over. We pick up the action from thereon.
If there was ever a prelude to a super over, then over #20 would take top honors. The usually reliable Vishnu started with a full toss which was not utilized fully by Satish. He did manage to pick up a couple and retain strike, and promptly dispatched the next ball to the long off boundary. 13 of 6 had become a more manageable 7 of 4. With the game balanced in such a fashion, there was little margin of error. The first sign of nerves was displayed by Vishnu when he overstepped to reduce the target to 6. He more than made amends by bowling a good free-hit delivery that fetched just a single. Senthil was back on strike with 5 to get from 3, and managed to get enough bat onto a fast full toss to pick up 2 crucial runs. After a subsequent wide, 2 were required of the last 2. Vishnu decided enough was enough and bowled the perfect toe crusher preventing Senthil from taking a single. 2 from 1, and the game was poised for a thrilling finish. Vishnu delivered another unplayable delivery to beat Senthils bat, but they decided to steal a single. Their desperation paid off as my throw missed the stumps by a whisker, resulting in a tied game. Given the way the momentum had swung back and forth, a tie was probably the most appropriate result. It was left to be seen if a super over would deliver a winner when 40 overs of entertaining cricket had failed to do so. If you had the patience to read through this far, the best part was yet to begin. Read on!!
Super Over #1: The toss favored Eagles again, and they did not hesitate to put us in again. Satish was the chosen one for Eagles, while Jayesh and Karthik went in to fetch as many runs as possible. Ball 1, Slightly short of length on middle and off, Jayesh went for the non-existent pull and was beaten. Ball 2, shorter in length than the 1st one to give enough time for Jayesh to make contact with the pull shot to fetch 2 vital runs. Ball 3, probably around good length but Jayesh was probably so deep into the "pull" mode that he somehow found enough time to swivel around and dispatch it between deep square leg and mid-wkt for an invaluable six. Ball #4, slightly fuller in length outside off, but Jayesh could not get bat onto ball. Ball #5, fuller in length again with some added room to free the arms, and Jayesh obliged by swatting it to deep mid-wkt. However, Sai K made no mistake in holding onto the offering without losing his balance. A potential six ultimately turned out to be a dot ball. Ball #6,the batsmen had crossed bringing Karthik on strike. He stepped out and drove to the cover region to fetch 2 more crucial runs.
With 11 to chase, Arvind and Senthil were sent out to seal the deal against Vishnu. Ball #1: Vishnu to Arvind, swatted to long on for a single. Ball #2, Senthil tried to free his arms but ended up getting an edge which Vinod took at short covers. Ball #3, the batsmen had crossed during the catch, which meant Arvind was on strike with new man Satish at the non-strikers end. Another peach from Vishnu meant Arvind could only advance the scorecard by a single. Ball #4, Satish could only manage a single, and the target was 8 from 2 balls. Ball #5, Vishnu was bowling at his best, but there is a reason why Arvind Sridhar is the second highest run getter in Cricbay. He got under a delivery that was almost in the block hole and tonked it over long-on. While the 10 dejected Challengers and 12 elated Eagles players thought it was a six, Cricbays own version of Gandalf the white (read Rohit) thought otherwise. He had stepped out of the boundary, and displaying immense presence of mind and unbelievable acrobatic ability, jumped up and swatted the ball back within the boundary while still in the air. The umpire had not noticed this and was signaling a six, and obviously Arvind and Satish did not complete any runs. Was this going to be the biggest twist of them all? If it was not a six, Eagles had 8 to get from the last ball, which was hopeless to say the least. on the other hand, if it was indeed a six, they would need 2 out of 1 (sound familiar!!!!!). After a lot of deliberations and reviewing of the laws, it was deemed to be a six. For the curious ones out there, I refer you to Law 19 on boundaries to further understand the situation. Rohit did exactly the same thing that the player in whites in the dramatized version of the video does. And also note that this new rule came into effect only in October 2010. While all the arguing by Challengers may have seemed overzealous, we were just trying to back up an inspiring fielding act by one of our own who refused to give it up easily. And of course, no one knew the exact rule until later. Ball #6, after close to 90 minutes of deliberations, the game resumed with Eagles needing 2 out of 1. Perfect enough for the next twist in the act? You bet!! Arvind had a word with Satish before the ball was delivered, and to the amazement of all of us, decided to pat down a relatively harmless delivery to the point region and play it safe by tying the game. We are not sure what was going on in his mind, but the game needed at least one more super over to decide the winner.
Super Over #2: The toss finally favored us finally, and we decided to put Eagles out of their comfort zone by inviting them to bat first. Arvind and Senthil came out for the third time to bat, while Vishnu did not offer a slightest hint of complaint when the ball was thrown to him again.
Ball #1: Vishnu to Arvind was a low full toss, but Arvind could only manage a single out of it. Ball #2, Vishnu to Senthil, good length delivery outside off which Senthil could not connect resulted in a rare dot ball. Ball #3, Senthil drove it to long off and collected another single. Ball #4, Vishnu to Arvind, was slightly shorter in length but quick enough for Arvind to miss the intended pull shot. He did however get enough bat on ball to manage another single. Ball #5, With just 3 runs from 4 balls, we were starting to feel the upper hand and Senthil felt the pressure. He obliged by going for a fuller one outside off with all his might, and heaved it to the deep midwkt area. Vidya now got into the act of providing twists as he maintained his balance right on the line to take a well judged catch. Mirroring Jayeshs dismissal in the first super over (off the 5th ball too), Senthils departure left Eagles with just 3 runs with Arvind on strike. Ball #6, Vishnu to Arvind. If you thought for even a moment that after all the drama, this game was going to be handed over on a platter by Eagles, think again. Starting from over #20, Vishnu had bowled 17 deliveries under tremendous pressure. Anyone else would have wilted far earlier, but Vishnu had pulled into his deep reserves everytime Eagles got their nose ahead. As superhuman as his performance was to that point, the physical and mental strain caught up as his pace dropped and he gave just enough room for Arvind to free his arms one last time. No heroics from Rohit this time around as the ball comfortably sailed over the long on boundary for a valuable 6. Eagles had pulled themselves to a more threatening 9.
Jayesh and Karthik took to the chase against Satish, who was himself bowling the 3rd over under pressure. The only difference was that Karthik took strike. Ball 1, Karthik stepped out and drove through covers for a tame single. Ball 2, in a rare display of average bowling, Satish dropped one short and perfect for a pull shot, but Jayesh failed to capitalize in another rare display of average batting. Satish had flinched under pressure, but we failed to capitalize. Would this prove to be the decisive nail in the coffin? What do you think??? Ball 3, Jayesh managed enough contact to place the ball behind the bowler for another single. Ball 4, Karthik could not free his arms and managed another single to bring Jayesh back on strike. Ball 5, Jayeshs timing for another pull shot was off and he managed to play it wide of fine leg. The shot had enough for a 2, but when the batsmen pushed for a non-existent 3rd, Jayesh got run out. This left Karthik on strike and with 5 for a win and 4 for another tie, a boundary was desperately needed. Ball 6, Although all 3 possibilities alive, given the bowling form of Satish, the Challenger dug out went silent. It is hard to say (and admit) that our spirits were sagging a bit, but hey, based on the proceedings so far, the only certain thing was uncertainty. I swear I had run out of courage to watch as Satish started his run up to bowl the potentially decisive final delivery, and I am told that some of the others were watching with one eye closed. But Karthik had both his eyes wide open when he stepped out and got under a delivery that pitched near good length. I was following the flight of the ball and as it started its descent, had no idea where it was relative to Arvind at the long on boundary. A nervous couple of seconds later, I was relieved to see Arvind look up at the ball in depair as it sailed over his head for the final nail in the coffin for the Eagles. Man to man, everyone from Challengers would have beaten Usain Bolt if it was a race to reach the fist pumping Karthik, who had just achieved the impossible!!!! An exciting game deserves an exciting finish, and this game was beyond exciting!!!
We have said "good game, hard luck or well played" to our opponents on numerous occasions before. But it meant a lot more when we shook hands with every Eagles player after the game. They deserved to win as much as we did and probably took some time to forget the loss. But what they should not forget is how they fought their way back with both bat and ball at multiple stages during the game. But for their talents and never-say-die attitude, the game would not have been anywhere near as competitive as it turned out to be.
Karthik was the MOM for his allround contribution that included a stunning one handed catch in the slips. But this report would be incomplete without special mention about some other individual contributions. Jayesh as usual ensured a respectable total to defend. Sai Kishore and Satish were the pick of the bowlers for Eagles, and Satish was highly unlucky to go wicketless. Out of the 5 powerplay overs, Satish bowled 3 and gave away just 3 runs, while the remaining 2 bowled by Sai Kishore yielded just 6 runs. Impressive bowling performance or what??? Senthil and Arvind were the pick of the batsmen for Eagles, and they somehow pulled out a six out of nowhere whenever Eagles fell behind. Vishnu led from the front with his bowling and Diveshs spell was another key ingredient for our success. Finally, one of these days I hope to pose just one question to people like Karthik, Jayesh, Vishnu, Arvind, Satish etc. The question is "What in f***** hell goes through your mind when batting and bowling under such situations"?
Last but not the least; did you notice that there was not even a single mention about any questionable calls during the game? Thats because there were none!!!! Amidst all the complaints about the standard of umpiring these days, we were extremely fortunate to have Sandeep and Sravan from Mavericks officiating an incredibly tense and close game. With their consistent calls through the game, they kept things under control and made sure the game was not marred by any unnecessary controversies or arguments. Many thanks to them!!!