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A local tournament provides the thrills even as India’s stars fail, reports SUJITH KRISHNAN
Strikers test Rocks in riveting stalemate
Melbourne Strikers and Southern Rocks played out an absorbing tie in the ongoing Amba Bazaar MPCL cricket tournament. Batting first, Rocks posted a decent 108 runs on the board with useful contributions from Senthil (13 runs), Raghu (12 runs), Kranti (17 runs) and Harsha (20 runs). The Strikers did a pretty good job with skipper Mihir once again playing an influential role capturing four wickets. In pursuit of the target of 109 runs, the Strikers seemed to be on course to record their first win in the competition, but the resilient Rocks fought back and eventually bowled them out off the last ball of the innings. Despite being out of contention, the Strikers have valiantly rallied to play some fine cricket and stood up to other teams.
Rocks ‘Mandared’ by Tuskers
Melbourne Tuskers improved their chances of qualifying for the final after comprehensively trouncing the resourceful Southern Rocks by six wickets. Captain Madan made the bold decision of opting to field first upon winning the toss and that’s an indication of a team high on confidence, particularly against a team that has beaten all and sundry in the competition.
The Rocks’ batsmen played one shot too many and while Senthil (20 runs) and Subbu (12 runs) kept the runs flowing, Vignesh and Amit bowled competently in tandem for ten overs – a masterstroke that resulted in twin dismissals in quick succession; Ameya, Kunal, Mandar and Sriram also chipped in to snare wickets at regular intervals. Captain Shafi walked out to bat with his side in dire straits, astutely absorbed the pressure and played a masterly unbeaten 42 runs, thereby, helping his team post 122/9 in 25 overs which was a respectable score considering how they floundered early on in the innings.
Vignesh (16 runs), Nitin (14 runs), Sholly (14 runs) and Kunal (17 runs) provided ample support to man-of-the-match Mandar who executed the chase to perfection with a commanding unbeaten 46 runs; a prime feature of his innings being his ability to exploit the gaps in the field with proficient ease. The Rocks’ progress in the competition has been built around Pradeep’s heroics with the ball but as he was struggling with an aching back, none of the bowlers were able to get the measure of the batsmen who were in cruise control all the way. One of the reasons for the Rocks’ recent stuttering form has been their redundant experimentation with the batting order which they have to sort out quickly.
As the Rocks fell short by one man in the field, I was more than happy to volunteer to fill in and would like to thank everyone for allowing me to play a small part in this exciting tournament.
Apoorva’s heroics send Tuskers packing
It was a memorable moment for all present as former top Indian leg-spinner BS Chandrashekhar (currently visiting the city) was kind enough to have a chat with the players prior to the game, wherein he shared some valuable thoughts about cricket with us.
However, the Tuskers were whipped by Jai Hind by 70 runs in a must-win encounter, and thereby, snuffing out any hopes of qualifying for the finals. Opting to field first, the Tuskers bowlers were put to the sword by Apoorva who bludgeoned his way to a glorious century (103 not out) studded with nine boundaries and three massive sixes. Ulhas was amongst the runs yet again (36 runs) and the pair combined for a century stand for the fourth wicket that took the match away from the opposition. With temperatures soaring, Apoorva, with his unique baseball-like stance, gathered greater momentum as he hammered the bowling to all ends of the park in an exhibition of exquisite strokeplay. Jai Hind piled on a colossal 168/4 in 25 overs.
A lot depended on the flamboyant Vignesh to provide the impetus in the chase to get anywhere close to the target, but that was not to be as he failed to capitalize on a start (18 runs) along with Ameya (17 runs) and Sriram (12 runs). The innings folded in the 23rd over as Tuskers were skittled out for just 98 runs. Spinner Mukund seemed to be inspired by the presence of Chandrashekhar earlier in the day as he drew the batsmen into errors with his probing flighted deliveries. Jai Hind were ruthless yet clinical in the field, latching on to difficult catches and are now red hot favourites to win the competition.