Metropolitan Cricket League
By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 29th Anniversary):- The stage was set for the match-up between Cosmos and Progressive in the MCL Round Ribbon semi final at Floyd Bennett Field last Sunday. Cosmos might be forgiven for considering themselves unlucky after they had blown away Progressive with a huge 10-wicket victory two weeks ago in the preliminary round. And they may grumble about the drop chances and the inconsistencies that they were dealt from officials, and when they thought that the clouds would bring rain and they attempted to up the run-rate the sun came out shortly after, and just when they had hoped, by the stroke of lightening, that they would receive an extra terrestrial help, but didn’t, is what made this semi final lost a tough one to swallow.
It is one of those storied endings that on an occasion when Cosmos was expected to be at their best, they delivered one of their poorest performances of the season in a match that included too many self inflected wounds along with some exposed nerves, and ultimately they were left to rue their chances of a 5th championship and a bout in the final for the 6th time.
It was under overcast conditions on a humid day where the sun and clouds traded places that Cosmos decided to field after they had won the toss. The early opportunity for a breakthrough went begging when Rasheem James and Cassius Burton indecision resulted in ball watching at mid-off off Sham Ali in the 5th over with the score on 22. That was the beginning of a series of missed chances and Cosmos was made to work as the progressive opening pair began to build a partnership.
Cosmos held on to their next chance when Faisal Taj picked off a blinder at first slip to dismissed T. Henry(18) slash off Sajib Salam with the score on 62 in the 12th over. Taj then trapped D. Mourant (40), 75 for 2, and bowled K. Rowe (5) before the break, 80 for 3 off 15 overs. All square now?
With three quick wickets falling at the break, Cosmos had worked themselves back into a good position, but then they missed the crucial opportunity the make further inroads into the opposition middle order with a disastrous five overs spell after the break. Four catching blunders compounded by a below par officiating would change the entire scope of the match. Burton spilled John Sylvester at first slip and in the next ball James just made a meal of a simple chance on the mid-on boundary off Sajib Salam. In the next over, when Ralston Levy broke the edge of Sylvester bat and the umpire ruled not out. Luck for Cosmos on this day had a very different spelling. Snick-o-meter point got dulled with not enough vertical room to maneuver and hot-spot was blazing so much that it would have melted an iceberg, how was that not out? Sylvester had chalked up four chances in six balls and it was time for him to play the lottery.
When Haraldo Marshal, an over later, spilled Captain Kevil George on the mid wicket boundary off Levy, Cosmos fielding for once looked terrible, really terrible. George then nicked Sajib to the wicketkeeper only for that appeal to be turned down again. By this time snick-o- meter and hot-spot were so hot that ‘they’ needed a fire truck to cool down. They confronted the umpire to make an appointment with the optometrist in the event that the ball was ever hit straight back to him. It was all happening in this semi final, and Cosmos sensed that a long day was in progress.
By this time, however, Sylvester and George – two former Grenada national players, appeared oblivious of the happenings around them. They remained focused on a big occasion and proceeded to capitalized on every opportunity that was given and in the process they constructed a huge 127 runs partnership that included just 6-4’s. On good batting pitch and a fast outfield as Cosmos bowlers toiled relentlessly for a breakthrough but just couldn’t create another opportunity soon enough. George went in the 39th over for 57 with the score on 207, and Sylvester went for a dogged 64 with five balls remaining in the inning. Cosmos, despite their early blunders in the field, had recovered well enough to keep the runs within their grasp. And with the game just about balance the drop catches may be dismissed as an anomaly. However, the hard hitting Mikey Alexis gave progressive a psychological edge with 16 runs coming off the final three balls to finish the inning on a respectable 224 for 5 off their allotted 40 overs.
Cosmos needed a good start and the man who blast Cosmos into the semi, Faisal Taj, was in charge. However, paceman Alexis got one to swing appreciably from outside off stump to cleaned up taj’s mid stump with the score on 19. Adrian Ali and Ashan Riaz dug in for a 39-runs partnership taking cosmos to 60 in the 12th over. And just as the pair was beginning to command their runs with some fluent strokes and good running between the wickets, Ali’s inning was cut short when he was given out, run out off a direct hit. Out? That is if the pitch was 50-yds long instead of 22-yds, and even then Ali may have been safe. It was Mark Twain who said that “Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough. “ Twain was not present and that was one of those revealing moments of inconsistencies that rendered all that went on before more frustrating and often provoked cricketers into failures.
It was one of those decisions which confirmed that the officiating had tainted this semi final match and turned this contest between two formidable opponents, on a day where the MCL is expected to be in its glory, into a comedy of errors which furthermore suggested that not much has changed even with umpires exams and training, but ‘who’ is in authority at the time on the day. Despite the many questions that were asked in this match both teams held their challenge to just questions and within the proper spirit of the game, however, the ‘proper spirit of the game’ is what was lacking from behind the stumps.
But cosmos continue to fight and believe since they had chalked up scores in excess of 240 runs in 35 overs in their last two matches on this ground. The sun disappeared and the clouds rolled in with a few drops and that shift the equation on a day that has already had its share fluctuating fortunes. An attempt to maintain the required run rate proved disastrous for Cosmos as the sun peaked through again as if it had never disappeared. By which time the balance of the match had swung dramatically as Cosmos slumped from 76 for 2 in the 16th over to 99 for 5 by the 23rd over. Progressive held their nerves and ceased the opportunity to squeeze Cosmos in a corner with sweetened revenge. Cosmos last two recognized batsmen, Sohan Dass and Ralston Levy, paired briefly before both of them throw their wickets away on the deep extra cover boundary, 132 for 7. Cosmos tail then wobbled to 159 all out in the 36th over and the much anticipated contest between these two teams turned out to be a one-sided affair.
In the final analysis, it was a battle between youth and experience and experience won over this Cosmos team, for now. Cosmos boys gave an excellent account of themselves throughout the season and to rank in the 2nd place on the points table was, by any measure, a major achievement for a burgeoning team. After a solid run in the last six games, the reversal of fortunes in this semi final and a missed bout in the final is a disappointment, however, this Cosmos team is one that will not give up and will a force to be reckoned with. The margin of victory however was the result of a Progressive team that fought hard from the beginning and grabbed onto every opportunity while cosmos gave up too many.
Best of luck to Progressive and Westbury in the final.
Please Note: We will try to bring you a live scorecard of the Metropolitan Cricket League final which takes place on Sunday at 12 noon.