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