Monday, August 3, 2009

Game#11: Gladiators def. Monroeville United by 6 wkts

It was a game well played by both sides, but at the end Gladiators managed to snatch another victory to take their overall toll to 10 wins from 11 games so far. Imran lost the toss and we were put to field. The last minute news of a sad demise of a relative meant Yasir M could not play and we had to play with only 10 players. That robbed us of a bowler as well as a good middle order batsman.

It was a usual warm sunny Saturday afternoon of the first week of August, but Pittsburgh summers have been far too cool this year, or at least during the days we have played our games, making it a little tough for our bowlers to bowl with as much ease as they have for most part of the season. And then we were playing a game in Edgebrook after a number of games at Lynbrook which has a much faster and bouncier pitch that assists our bowlers (as well as most of our batsmen). The bowling lacked the kill that we have seen in many of the previous matches. Almost every spell was ordinary from our bowlers, except the 2nd spell of Mansoor who kept it really tight at the end and perhaps Yasir Bhatti, who was completely out of sorts in his two overs. Arpit, who along with Yasir Bhatti completed the quota of the fifth bowler, bowled some good deliveries but had some very ordinary ones too which were disdainfully dispatched for maximums. In the end, Monroeville showed a lot of spirit and commitment to take the score to 194/9 in 25 overs.

It was now up to the batsmen to take up the challenge and make up for one off day by the bowlers. The target of 195 meant nearly 8 per over and we had just 10 players. Imran went to open with Bhatti. Both played cautiously (perhaps a little too cautiuosly) and ensured we reached 50 without losing a wicket. When Imran got out run out trying to take a quick single, I went in to bat with the required rate ~ 9.5 per over. Bhatti and I tried to increase the run rate and by 12 overs we were ~80/1, which meant another ~115 runs in 13 overs @ 9/over was required. Sameer came in next when Bhatti was caught brilliantly by MU's captain Swamy. Sameer has been a little out of touch this season but because of the high required run rate, he just went for his shots from the very beginning. He missed a few of his trademark sweep shots but was fortunate to survive. But just when I was looking comfortable at the other end, hitting bad ones and taking singles of the rest, I got out bowled, inside edging one onto the wickets. Like numerous previous innings, I got out to another score of 35+ but below 45. Its already happened 5 times in 9 innings this year!

The man in form, Asghar joined Sameer but law of averages got the better of him and he got out cheaply. We needed another ~50 runs at almost 10 an over. This is when Sameer took the challenge onto himself. He played with great determination and intelligence. He swept MU bowlers (Anu and others) for sixes forcing them to bowl an outside off-stump line. He then easily dispatched those for more fours and sixes. Some big sixes and a lot of intelligent singles took him to 71* of only 34 balls, and in the process took Gladiators to their victory with 2 over to spare.

A good game in the end, giving us a good chasing experience and showing our bowlers that not all days will be perfect :D

My batsman of the match: Sameer
My bowler of the match: Mansoor (mainly for his 2nd spell)
My man of the match: Sameer

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Game #10: Gladiators def Chargers by 200 wkts !!!

It doesn't get any bigger than this. A victory margin of 200 runs! Wow !! And how about this for statistics - before this match, Gladiators had scored 200+ just 7 times ever in a PCA game. From 71 runs in 11 overs, the Asghar-powered Gladiator team reached a mammoth 288 in 25 overs - 217 in 14 overs, a run rate of 15.5 !!

And when people thought a strike rate of 205 with an average of 62 can't be bettered, the CA-12000 holder raised the bar once again. The Gladiator run (& fun) machine devastated the bowlers in just 39 balls, scoring a breath-taking 129 n.o. - an innings that included 13 sixes and 6 fours. Thats 19 balls in boundaries. I'll ask him why he wasted the other 20 balls! Rao.. Wow !! With a strike rate of 231 and an average of nearly 90, Asghar now stands at #2 in the whole league in terms of number of runs.

Well, coming back to the game, Imran won the toss and sent Mansoor (awarded batting opening slot for his outstanding bowling in the last match) and Zoheb to open. It started at a reasonable rate (nearly 6 an over), snail pace in hindsight. The scoring rate went a notch higher when I went to the crease and got treated with some short balls which were dispatched to some 4s and 6s. When Bhatti got out to a good running catch just short of a well compiled half-century, Asghar came in to bat. And the massacre started. It was such a one-man show - the last wicket unbeaten partnership of 98 had a contribution of just 12 runs from Ahsan. But to be fair to him, he wasnt given much balls to face by Asghar.

Defending 288 isn't the toughest job on earth. But keeping the focus and intensity was. But Gladiators, for most part ensured that it wasnt lost and kept it tight and within plans. Mansoor was good as usual but the most unplayable that day was Mohsin. He hit the deck hard, with fast swinging balls - too good to kiss the bat. Zoheb did a nice job with the keeping gloves. It'll be interesting to see who gets to keep when Sameer is back. Any bets? All day I felt the ball kept following me. Four successful catches and 2 misses.

It was one of the most one-sided matches where we completely dominated in all aspects of the game. The challenge was to keep the intensity high, in which we succeeded.

Toss: Gladiators won, elected to bat
Gladiators- 288/6 in 25.0 overs
Chargers - 88/10 in 20.3 overs

My batsman of the match: CA-1200 Rao
My bowler of the day: Mohsin
My fielder of the day: Zoheb
My man of the match: The centurion.. Rao Asghar

Monday, July 20, 2009

Game #9: Gladiators def WVUCC by 86 runs

A much awaited game. It was a contest between Sohail and Gladiator's bowlers, or perhaps a mind game within the heads of Gladiators. We've lost to WVUCC 3 times in the last 2 years and it was back in 2006 when Zeeshan's whirlwind 63 of 26 balls gave Gladiators their only victory over WV in PCA tournaments. And strangely, in none of the matches did Sohail play a crazy knock. It was mainly Gladiators losing their nerve and giving away an easy win. But not this time. This time, we were a lot better prepared and a lot more determined. And riding on the confidence due to our successes since the middle of last season, we truly were the favorites.

Sohail won the toss and asked us to bat. We scored 191 in 25 overs. But against WVUCC, you never know what score it good till you get Sohail out. And it was one of those days when Mansoor put his hand up and his first bowl turned out to be the most important delivery of the game. And Arpit, phew... I can imagine what was going on in his head in the 5 seconds after the ball hit the upper edge of Sohail's bat and landed in his safe hands. With Sohail out and score reading 0/1 in 0.1 overs, you know who would win the match.

Earlier, Gladiators posted a healthy 191. I scored my first fifty in 3 years (Arpit had just challenged me a few days back to score a 50+ score and that he would make a nice dinner for me if I did. I will keep you updated on what he makes and how it turned out to be :) ). Asghar continued his golden touch and scored 23 with 3 glorious out-of-the-park hits in no time before getting out at long on off Sohail's bowling. After I got out, Ahsan took charge of the scoring and make a healthy and brisk 40 (5 sixes). Good to see him in action after a string of low scores and strange dismissals. He is too good to be out of action for so long. After reaching around 170ish, it was another near collapse at the end and we got out in 24.2 overs. And Sameer, yet another failure. Ok.. I believe in the law of averages. And I just pity the team who would first bear the brunt.

When we took the field, well most of the interesting stuff was over after 0.1 overs. Mansoor was at his firy best and eventually took 4 wickets in his 5 overs. Add to this a brilliant run out by Yasir-Sameer, and WVUCC were 5 down in the first 9 overs. The rest was regulation. Imran, YasirM and I bowled sensibly and shared the remaining wickets. Mohsin had a day off with the bowl and I am sure he will be back with a bang in the next match.

Arpit showed some exceptional fielding throughout the innings. Apart from the the first ball catch-of-the-match, he dived around to keep the energy in the field high throughout. And did I mention he played a handy knock of 15 with a clean straight 6 and a stunning grounded 4.

Well, in the end.. a great all-round performance by Gladiators. We now have 8 victories in 9 games (aah.. that Blitzers game) and 6 of them with bonus points (aah... the first of the non-bonus victories was 1-run away from that bonus point). :) Ok.. lets not be too greedy!

My batsman of the day: Mudit (holding the innings at the top)
My bowler of the day: MANSOOR... no 2nd thoughts on that
My fielder of the day: Arpit
My man of the match: Mansoor... 4 wickets in 5 firy overs and that ball-of-the-match :)
My ball of the match: you know it right ...

Game#8: Gladiators def Yorkers by 96 runs

Another good day of cricket for Gladiators, displaying their lethal bowling attack once again. Sent in to bat first, Gladiators posted a modest 166 with a danger of getting all out below 150. A sensible unbroken last wicket partnership of 20 took the score to a more respectable one. Earlier, Sameer and to some extent Imran were the only players making any impact with the bat. The highlight of the innings was the spell by the Yorkers' leggie Sandeep. It was a spell which despite being on the opposition, you had to stand and appreciate. He contained runs as well as took wickets and his spell of 4/18 in his 5 overs and was the main reason why most Gladiators could not get some easy runs. I must also mention their opening bowlers - Ravi and Rajesh who bowled with great heart in their opening spell.

Sameer batted extremely sensibly till he was Sandeeped. And yet again, another 40ish score. Its amazing that a batsman of his class hasn't really made a great impact in this tournament so far (averaging only 28 and not 50+ score!). Not that he has looked out of touch.. but he's got out to some strange shots, strange dismissals and strange umpiring decisions. Imran too played a handy knock to bail us out of a near collapse. But then, of course, we are better at averting dramatic collapses than our national teams back home.

Yorkers' batting lineup isn't the one to give shivers in your spine, but the bowlers still had to bowl well to contain them. M&M (you ought to know who I am talking about) bowled a super opening spell, yet again. The batsmen played and missed on a regular basis. Mohsin took one but Mansoor was unlucky to be wicketless. The bowlers that followed - YasirM, Imran, Mudit and Arpit - all bowled well and shared the remaining wickets. Oops.. not Arpit, who was unlucky to have 3 dropped catches in 1 over! And I was the criminal in 2 such occasions :D

In the end, a convincing victory as the entire Yorkers' team collapsed at a score of 70 making even 166 look like a very good score.

My bowlers of the day: No single one. Mohsin/Mansoor provided a great start and all of the remaining 4 bowled quite well too. So laurels shared.
My batsman of the day: Sameer (though I am seriously looking fwd to some more runs from him. But if you believe in the law of averages, then its good for us).
My fielder of the day: Ok, time for some fun : Mansoor (he dropped an easy one of Arpit's bowling, but took 2 good catches)
My man of the match: Imran (20 runs & bowling figures of 2.4-0-3-8)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Game #7: Gladiators def Wildcards by 60 runs

The junoon to play cricket in the two teams on ground was commendable. Wet outfield, overcast conditions - it would have been a fair decision to call off the match. But instead, players from both teams tried their level best to steal a game out. Fortunately the outfield was playable but the major problem was the pitch. The pitch was checked for bounce and it wasn't pathetic and hence acceptable :) . Krish from Wildcards use a coffee cup to pour water out of the pools of water around the pitch. Guys went to buy cat litter to pour and fill the pools around the pitch. Once that was done, and as soon as it seemed possible that bowlers can just somehow run in and ball, we had a toss. Sameer going in to toss in the absence of Imran (gone to buy cat litter) proudly lost it yet again. As expected, Wildcards elected to field. The match was reduced to 20 overs a side.

Ahsan failed yet again as an opener, this time finding the strangest of ways to get out - hit-wicket. He slipped trying to pull a ball and lost his balance on a completely muddy pitch, and hit the wicket with his bat. Mudit and Yasir played sensibly to see out their opening bowlers - Irshad (a former Gladiator) and Owais (a former Ranji player for J&K). Both gave a few loose balls but were tight in general. Both the bowlers completed their quota at a stretch and after 8 overs, Gladiators were a healthy 45/1 with Yasir doing the bulk of the scoring till then.

The quality of bowling dipped a little after the first spell by Irshad and Owais. Sensing this, Gladiators looked to up the scoring rate. YasirB got out trying this and Sameer joined Mudit. Mudit got out yet again to a 35+ (but below 50 score) immediately after scoring a couple of sixes over covers. The beauty of Gladiators' innings was that always one of the batsmen at the crease was taking the responsibility to keep the runs flowing. First it was YasirB's hits, then Mudit hit out a few shots when Sameer was getting set at the crease. When Asghar joined Sameer at Mudit's dismissal, we witnessed a small (from Sameer's standard) butchering of the bowlers - 5 sixes and racing to 40 in just 16 balls. Then when he got out and Imran went in, Asghar continued from where he left on the previous inning's bowler-killing spree. He too scored a good 40 of 15 balls before getting out caught at the right at the boundary - a good catch by Owais, who looked like the only player in their team who could have taken the catch. Earlier, Wildcards had spilled 4 catches, all regulation, in a wild display of fielding. Finally Imran played sensibly till the end to ensure the score reaches a strong 186/7 in 20 overs. It was a good total considering the wet pitch and the outfield. A good team effort, with three scores of 40 in the middle order and two 20s. But I must give due (dis)credit to the bowlers who consistently bowled either fulltosses or short to help our batsmen reach the total. Again, it just required our bowlers to not screw up too badly to reach the 6th win of the tournament.

Ankur and Owais opened for Wildcards and they used the pace of M&M to play some shots. Both the pacers had some problems in their runup because of the wet pitch. Despite this they bowled at a lively pace, but the deadly accuracy that they have shown in the last few matches was missing. After 6 overs, Wildcards were nearly 45/0. Imran made the first bowling change and it worked immediately. Imran took a juggling catch at long-off of Mudit's bowling to get rid of Ankur. Mudit took another wicket (c&b) in his next over and put a brake on the runrate. Imran brought himself next and took the wicket of the dangerous Vinod in his over, thanks to a fine catch by Afzal at midwicket. While wickets were tumbling at one end, Owais continued to keep hitting at one end. Eventually, he got out to Imran but only after a good 60+ with few good out of the park hits over mid-wicket and resulting in a few lost balls. Arpit got his first chance at bowling, and bowled the 18th and 20th over. After a couple of balls, he found his line and length with the wet and hard-to-grip ball. He bowled some beautiful leggie stuff, and got two wickets for his efforts.

In the end, it was a good team effort yet again. A collective batting effort followed by some good fielding and good collective bowling sealed the 6th victory for Gladiators. The fielding was good throughout too, despite a slippery outfield.

My Bowler of the day: Imran (taking 3 wickets including the dangerous Vinod and Owais)
My Fielder of the day: Sameer (wonderful keeping despite the slippery ground and uneven bounce from the wet pitch)
My Batsmen of the day: Sameer (40 of 17 balls) & Asghar (40 of 16 balls) -play a little faster guys!!
My Man of the match: (close one) Sameer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Game #6: Gladiators def Tigers by 6 wkts

Back form a vacation, I was craving for some cricket. There were several changes in the team from when I left 3 games back. Zeeshan, Sameer and Saad were not playing. Arpit was playing his first game for Gladiators. MeghDutt (MD) was in town and available for a short time and was playing for Gladiators again.

Tigers, or Gujju XI, are a reasonably strong team but we knew we had to play strong to win the game. Imran lost the toss again and Tigers CC elected to bat. I believe he should practice tossing at home before coming for the match. Losing tosses was one of the main reasons why Sameer was dropped from his captaincy ;).

Mansoor and Mohsin opened the bowling for Gladiators. The outfield was quite wet and required our fielders to go in with towels to keep the ball dry. The first 6 overs from the M&M opening pair was one of the best exhibition of fast attacking bowling I have seen. Although they just lost 1 wicket, both Mohsin and Mansoor were bang on target. The pace was lively and the combination of line and length on most occasions was unplayable. Afzal, keeping in place of Sameer had big shoes to fill (well literally too- give him any teammates shoes and it will be big for him). And he did a wonderful job. I am sure keeping to bowlers at that pace must have resulted in sore hands.
The next few spells from other bowlers were tight too, with some relatively loose overs in the middle. The Tigers were never allowed to score freely. The last few overs again saw exceptional bowling from Mohsin and Imran. Mohsin took 3 more wickets (all clean bowled) in his 2nd spell and Imran proved too cunning to be scored off. In the end it was a very professional display of bowling that restricted Tigers to 129 in 25 overs. For once, I saw Mohsin bowling to his potential after a long time. He had the pace and the control, and very deservedly he is at the top of the bowling rankings in the entire PCA league as of now. Imran too bowled one of the best spells I have seen from him.

Ok, just for gags. There were 2 separate incidents of auditory confusions during this period. The first one involved Mansoor and myself. He had one of the towels to wipe the ball before passing it on to the bowler. I was at short-covers and he was at mid-wicket. Whenever the ball would go to the bowler through him, I would loudly tell him to wipe the ball before passing it. And I could only see him walking towards the bowler and passing him the ball without wiping it. I thought maybe I wasn't loud enough, but despite all my efforts at loudness, he wouldn't do it. We later realized that the confusion was because of a communication gap. I was telling him " bowler ko ponch ke ball do". He being a Punjabi of the hardest core, understood ponch (wipe) as pahuch (going near). And so he would just go nearer to the bowler every time.
The other one was involving Arpit. During my spell I noticed him calling me (he calls me Bhaiya or big brother) from the outfield every time after my delivery. I looked at him and he would either turn away or look as if he never called me. I just continued bowling. Later he was shouting Bhaiya even when others were bowling and I was just fielding somewhere. This time he wasn't even looking at me at times. Later I realized he was always shouting Badiya (well done) all this while.

Anyways, after all these confusions, we started the chase. The target was tricky but with our Asghar-powered lineup, we were confident of chasing it down easily.
Y. Bhatti went to open with Ahsan. After a couple of glorious shots, Bhatti got out to a strange chip shot. I joined Ahsan and we took the score to nearly 60ish before Ahsan too got out. MD came in at 2-down but got out almost immediately. Arpit was sent 3-down and both of us played for some time. I was hitting the ball nicely but after a knock of another 35+ but (below 50), I yorked myself on a loopy legspin ball. The man, the Asghar went next but the bowler did not seem too worried and kept bowling similar loopy balls. Ignorance does cost a lot at times. A few hits from the in-form batsman and the game was over in a couple of minutes.

A good overall performance, strong with both bat and the ball gave Gladiators their 5th win in 6 matches.

My batsman of the match: Mudit/Asghar
My fielder of the match: Afzal (when you don't notice a keeper, you know its a job well done)
My bowler of the match: Mohsin
My man of the match: Mohsin

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Game #5: Gladiators def Strikers by 3 wkts

The second match that I missed because of my vacation. And what a match it was. I missed one of the the most devastating and demoralizing innings ever played in PCA tournaments. Chasing 186, Gladiators slumped to 64/6 in some 15 overs. And then 95/7.
But it was a 34 ball unbeated century by the man in form - Asghar with good support from Mohsin at the other end, which took the score past 185 with 2 overs to spare.
Details later...

My bowler of the match: Mohsin/Mansoor/Imran
My batsman of the day: Asghar
My man of the match: The centurion for his 100* of 34 balls