Metropolitan Cricket League
By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 30th Anniversary):-On the way to a championship the semi finals often ignite the nerves and tensions  and high expectations from every other angle; cricketers want to engage and compete at a high level and spectators no less enjoy a few refreshing sips and hoped for a thriller. Well Cosmos and Villagers delivered just that last Sunday in the Roy Sweeney Challenge Cup played at the “Flying Saucer’ Gateway Park. Cosmos delivered a disciplined performance but it was not enough as they went down fighting to the end and in the process they committed two crucial mistakes in the closing overs that did little justice to a dogged inning from young Abrar Ali and a searing opening spell from Sohan Dass in this semi finals encounter.

Sohan Dass of Cosmos. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Dass operating from the Beltway end sliced through the Villagers top order with a testing spell of medium swing bowling while his partner Sham Ali held a probing line in defense of Cosmos 188 all out. Dass struck a few telling blows to give Cosmos the early inroads into the opposition batting. He passed Melroy Kingston’s outside edge with a good out-swinger and then drew him tentatively on the front foot and whiz through the opening in the ‘gate’ with a japer of an in-swinger that comprehensively cart-wheeled Kingston’s mid-stump. Kingston (0) stood and replayed the stroke somewhat differently; it wouldn’t have a difference, Mel, as that was just too good a japer of a delivery. Mervin Simms (0) was the next man and he appeared at sea to Dass’s out-swinger before he attempted a forced pull and Iqbal Aown ran around from square-leg to short fine-leg and held onto a good catch inches from the ground.

But the danger man Richard Staple was still there watchful as ever.  Dass then delivered another beauty in his 4th over that drew Staple (7) forward and clipped his outside edge, Faisal Taj leaped to his right at first slip and out of thin air he plucked a one-handed blinder as Villagers’ card read a worried 15 for 3 in 8 overs.  For the next six overs Ali and Dass continue to ask a few probing  questions of Cliff Roye and Tallisman Gordon as they attempted to repair the damage done by Dass. Roye had played and missed at a few outside the off-stump, and with the score on 39 for 3 in the 13th over Ali, with the last ball of his spell, got one to break off Cliff Roy edge from a flash only to find a motionless umpire as the wind took the sound beyond the boundary and a decision that was everything but informed. It was obvious then that with that reprieve the battle lines were drawn and the playing field reflected that of others in the area, everything but level and Cosmos must toil.

They did, and at the stroke of the drinks that opening spell between Ali and Dass (3 for 22) had shaped the Cosmos a fight back and added some muscle to their total. But it was a total that resulted from an unusually pitiable from Cosmos top order. Taj (16), Siddique (12), Lesporis (16), and Iqbal (2) faltered terribly in their shot selection as they took undue risks by going airborne with frequency. Siddique went via lbw after he attempted to heave over mid wicket for the eighth time in three overs, Taj was caught at mid-off in his attempt to repeat his previous stroke that went for the maximum, Lesporis skied to mid-on after he dragged a raising short delivery from outside off-stump, and Iqbal missed an extravagant drive and lost his off stump. George Adams, Tallisman Gordon and E. Gayle had kept a tidy line and waited for Cosmos batsmen to commit the errors. It was a batting display that lacked the temperament for a semi final encounter and they were back in the pavilion by the 10th with the score on 56 for 4.

At that juncture the Cosmos camp had a gloomy look but historically ‘give up’ has not been page of the catalog of the Cosmos team. They needed a strong rearguard effort from their middle order to dig themselves out of trouble and it came from the most improbable player, young Abrar Ali, was the one who took the lead. Ali walked to the wicket with Cosmos on in dire straits at 78 for 5 in the 14th over after Cyril Choy (14) missed an ambitious pull and lost his stump.

The middle order dug in with young Abrar Ali with a mature inning lead the recovery as it came in patches. It was built around a few crucial mini partnerships; a 26-runs with Dindyal Soodeen (28) , a 27-runs with Dass (7), a 22-runs with Sham (4), an 11-runs with Ahsan Riaz (2). Ali’s inning was crafty and quite measured in his approach as he played within his limitations. He nudged and tucked for the most part and stroked the occasional boundary.  he timed his aggression and dispatched the ball for the maximum taking 16 runs from Rashard Marshal in the in the 33rd over before he holed out in the 35th for a brilliant 68 runs that included 3 4’s and 5 6’s. That late burst from Ali posted a vital 10th wicket partnership worth 24-runs with Ricky Kissoon (3), and it gave Cosmos some much needed oxygen and a required dose of adrenaline.

But that adrenaline was sapped somewhat after the Roye’s reprieve as he went on to play a cameo inning that yielded a vital 83-runs. But Cosmos bowlers had kept pushing Villagers back throughout the match but had to work hard for a wicket. Off spinner Abrar Ali’s had send down 4 overs for just ten runs when his action came into question. It was another one of those unfortunate dramas of the day as the ’15 degrees’ elbow angle was most likely the officials concern. Gordon meanwhile was on the receiving end had difficulty getting the ball passed the infield and with the required asking rate climbing he asked for a bathroom break, another drama, and that made room for Rashard Marshal (10) to enter the wicket. He did not last long and neither did Gordon (19) on his return as Cosmos kept the pressure lid on this match.

With the score on 140 for 6 in the 30th over and another 49 runs needed for  the pendulum had swung Cosmos’s way, but Adams was still there and he is noted to wheel a heavy bat. This match produced another twist that would have certainty altered the equation dramatically when Adams had a crucial let off on the mid-on boundary as Taj misjudged a head high catch that went for six. Ironically, it was in the Challenge Cup semi in 2007 when Shafiq Jadavji plucked a similar catch in that position against this opposition and this batsman, with Cosmos defending 156 runs, but this was a different day and Cosmos chance to button-up this match appeared to have slipped ever so slightly.

Abrar Ali was having his best match of the season when in the 32nd over, 151 for 6, he produced one that grabbed Adams’s edge it registered a 10 on the snick-o-meter and the umpire claimed that his line of sight was impaired by the bowler. Talked about predictable circumstances, twists, turns, and uncertainty that surfaced in a cricket match to carve a thriller, but Cosmos held their tongue and kept their standards high. Ali had extracted the maximum from his team and marshaled the boys well as another chance to button-up this match slipped ever so slightly, again!

It is the kind of high drama that makes these semi finals ‘worthy’. Mohan had read this match from the start as he paced the sidelines with a never ending encouragement to the boys to keep on fighting. Venelda Wallace, by this time, had transformed into more colors than a rainbow and at times talking to the fence looking for answers but she had faith in Adams. In the 34th over Taj had R. Mowat (20), who had done his job, stumped off his third ball, 7 down, Adams then swung at the 4th it flew high to mid-on with Taj, Lesporis and Soodeen encircled in silence, someone please say something, like leave!!

Their indecision was numbing as the ball hit the ground hard and knocked the wind out of Cosmos.  Taj then trapped a visibly shaken Cuthbert Mendonca with the last ball of the over. A dot ball from Ricky Kissoon to start the 35th added to the drama and a single resulted from an irrelevant run out in the next ball, Adams on 39 not out and cannot wait, its 9 down, he got what he was looking for, a juicy half volley and creamed it out of the park to give the Villagers a deserved victory. Amidst a frosty reception Cosmos boys left this match behind satisfied that they had delivered a disciplined performance that embodied the true spirit of the game.

Good luck to Westbury and Villagers in the final.