Metropolitan Cricket League
By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 29th Anniversary):- The battle lines were drawn between Cosmos and Progressive over the years in the MCL playoffs and finals. They were matches of high quality which brought out the best of both teams and resulted with some of the most memorable finishes in the league’s history. And on this occasion it more of the same with both teams in a fight to remain in contention for a spot in the Round Ribbon playoffs. It took a brilliant opening partnership that was fussed together by a percussive inning from FaisaL Taj and a gritty one from Hussain Riaz for Cosmos to have inched closer for a playoffs spot as they registered one of the most compelling victories against their arched rival last Sunday at Floyd Bennett field.
It was Cosmos youth-man though FaisaL Taj who was the consummate destroyer in this encounter. He struck a pugnacious 68-ball century against a formidable Progressive bowling attack that put Cosmos in cruise mode to a massive 10-wicket victory. The often cheerful and pleasant Taj who exudes the confidence of a self made millionaire got his blood boiling when he had to run a lap around the field before the match. It took his smile away, albeit temporarily, but it sparked a few other things in him.
It was a chanceless inning with an uncharacteristic mix of patience as he was contended to watch the ball through to the wicketkeeper as well as getting forward and quite defensive at times, but otherwise he is an explosive batsman who is unafraid to play his shots. He made the 85 yards Floyd Bennett boundary looked like a mini saucer as he struck 7 fours and 6 huge sixes, if anything he is rather courteously democratic in his savagery as his sixes had the thrust of a rocket booster as the ball sailed into orbit.
As Taj stole the spotlight blazing from one end, it was an opening partnership, that any team would thank the Gods for, one that was being stitched together, with fine thread, by two young enterprising players of contrasting styles. It fitted this Cosmos outfit to perfection. A partnership that was anchored at the other end by another teenage protégé Hussain Riaz, the diminutive left handed Riaz was quite circumspect in his approach; his solid defense was mixed with numerous misses of oohs to the wicketkeeper, along with a few tucks and nudges to fine leg and backward point that frustrated the opposition into submission.
He picked up his first boundary with Cosmos score on 129 runs in the 23rd over when he drove to the cover point boundary and then extended his arms with an eye opening pulled through mid wicket as the ball trickled to the boundary. His was an inning of character, though overshadowed by Taj’s power, as he remained unbeaten with a plucky but invaluable 35 runs off 65 balls that was built within his own limitations.
If the partnership between Taj and Riaz answered the opposition attack, it was a contrasting script to the barrage of questions that Cosmos spin variety delivered that kept the Progressive batsmen searching for answers. Right arm off spinner, Sajib Salam struck early when he bowled L. Woodbine in the 4th over. Progressive then raced to 50 runs by the 7th over and it appeared like a long hot day for Cosmos under the many shades of blazing sun and heat that was sweeping the city for days.
However, Cosmos boys rose the occasion. Rasheem James, after he went for three fours in one over, had some reprieve when T. Henry nicked one to the wicketkeeper Neil Lewis. The introduction of right arm leg spin googly bowler Taj and right arm leg spinner Cassius Burton suddenly changed the complexion of the match as this pair produced a clinical spell of spin bowling.
Taj removed John Sylvester and Kadeem Rowe in quick order when Cassius Burton held on to two sharp catches in the slip to finished with figures of 2 for 21 off 8 overs. Burton then disturbed the woodwork in his 2nd over as Progressive wobbled to 79 for 5 in the 15th over. The introduction of two left arm orthodox Ricky Kissoon and Ralston Levy served more brain teasers and only a few multiple choices questions to the opposition’s middle order with another probing spell.
However L. Rattary and C. Elliott resisted with a dogged 45 runs partnership taking Progressive total to 125 by the 30th over, before both Elliott and Rattary edged Levy to the wicketkeeper and Kissoon then held on to a good running catch at mid on to dismissed M. Gray as Levy finished with figures of 3 for 20 off 7 overs. When Kissoon (1 for 14 off 7 ov.) trapped D. Buchanan, Progressive was in serious trouble as they slumped to 141 for 9, and was eventually bowled out for 150 runs in 38.4 overs by a Cosmos team were simply brilliant in the field.
Cosmos could not have anticipated the sort of reply to the opposition’s total, however it was reply dominated by the Taj air show as this match will certainly be remembered for the brilliant century that glides off the face of his willow. He constructed his inning with utmost authority and resorted to a subdued mode when he reached the nineties, only then he was contended on picking up the singles, but not for long. On 96 he received an ill-advised bouncer which he creamed over the mid wicket for six to bring up his century and put his team to within three runs of victory. He then charged the next delivery and cleared the mid-on boundary for a huge six and a big win for Cosmos as they scaled their target by 10 wickets with 14 overs to spare with aplomb.
That stroke did not only left the partnership unbroken, it shattered the points table and created a big hole in it with a frenzy of probabilities and possibilities, ifs and what ifs for teams to stake their bid for a spot in the playoffs, hoping that the possible and impossible will happen all at once. It is one of those quiet, unwritten, and imaginary love affairs with cricket that only the die-hards can fathom.
Be that as it may, it was a keen contest fought by two highly competitive teams with highest respect for each other. However, on this day and in this match there was no better a display of how the game should be played, wrapped in the sportsmanship displayed when the opposition, Progressive, showed their appreciation to a young Cosmos team for a good performance and the response extended by a Cosmos team that was humble and respectful to an opposition that sported some fine first class players. The exchange is evidence of the true friendship that exists between these two teams and one that resides at the core of the gentleman’s game on a scintillating day of cricket.
And so, as fast as the sun sets on Floyd Bennett field, Progressive will want to forget this match before the birds wake up the next day like they did in the MCL Round ribbon finals in 1999 and 2011, and Cosmos would do well if they can wrapped this performance and tuck in their gear bag along with their boots and helmet and take it with them, like they did in 1999, into the 2012 playoffs. We shall see.
Cosmos will play Spice Island next Sunday at Floyd Bennett.