They roared into the Washington DC region like a wolfpack…actually they are the Wolfpack, of North Carolina State University!

New to American College Cricket they faced the best of the Mid Atlantic area and came out the Champions of the American College Cricket Mid Atlantic Championship!Michael J Fox’s Teen Wolf came to mind as the athletic cricketers of North Carolina State pounced on every ball with a dynamic team chemistry that proved overpowering! It was awesome to watch! VP Nino DiLoreto said “They look like a pro team!”

NCSU Captain Hardik Parekh receiving the trophy from Shanae Strachan, Ms Teen Bahamas 2008.

Along the way NCSU defeated 2009 national Champions, the USA’s most well-known cricket team, Montgomery College, then eliminated University of Maryland (Baltimore County), which came into the tournament ranked # 3 in the country. The Wolfpack then faced George Mason University in the regional Finals – Mason had defeated the Montgomery Knights in March 2010, but North Carolina State defeated the confident Virginia boys and clearly established the NCSU Wolfpack as a team to watch at next March’s American College Cricket Spring Break Championship!

INVASION OF THE WOLFPACK
Early Sunday outside the nation’s capital, as the rising sun burned golden in the morning sky, UMBC in their blues, and North Carolina State in red took to the field, NCSU batting first. Runs were hard to come by, as all of Maryland’s bowlers, Sumeet Chordiya, Raghav Bharadwarj, Austin Aluvathingal, Gurnish Singh and Faisal Maniar kept it tight. Only Nikhil Talpallikar 28 got the ball away. A middle order flurry by Ankit Mehta 18* and Sethu Gopal 16* took the Wolfpack to 113 for 7 at the end of their 20 overs. Watching, Shanae Strachan (Ms Teen Bahamas 2008) was thrilled, “This is exciting! These 2 teams are great!”

UMBC smelled blood and closed in for the kill sending 2 of their best batsmen out to open Raghav Bharadwarj and Eraj Abidi. But Gopal swung one in from leg, and surprised Abidi by bowling him for a first ball duck! Bharadwarj had flown in from Portland, Oregon for the Championship, having just graduated and moved to the West Coast (the eligibility rules allowed recent grads to play).

Champions, the North Carolina State University team celebrating!

Gopal took 2 more quick wickets, Malegonkar 1, and UMBC was 26 for 4. Anand Patel 30 and Gurnish Singh 14 stopped the batting slide and for a while it looked as if UMBC would pull off the win! Bhavani Hegde and Suhas Kumar struck back though with 2 wickets each to finish off UMBC for 99 runs in 19.2 overs ! Hiren Patel NCSU was game MVP.

TAKING ON MASON DOMINATION
An hour later North Carolina State batted first against George Mason University in the Finals of the 2010 American College Cricket Mid Atlantic Championship, Swapnil Gupta 15 and Talpallikar 11  opened the batting for North Carolina.

Then Hashim Khan and Hamaad struck for George Mason, each taking 2 wickets and NCSU was 58 for 5 after 12 overs ! 100 seemed an elusive target ! Brilliant fielding and accurate throws by GMU resulted in 2 run outs, and the batsmen had to be cautious in attempting runs. Nikhil Rao 7, Ankit Mehta 15 and Hiren Patel 17 batted intelligently though, taking singles and North Carolina State was able to reach 115 off their 20 overs.

MAYBE IT WAS THE FULL MOON
The NCSU bowling attack had shown their depth and strength so whilst George Mason began confidently, they were soon losing wickets ! Hashim Khan,14 looked dangerous before Ankit Mehta clean bowled him. Anoop Nair came in at # 7 but batted like a specialist batsman, and looked as though he was going to win it for Mason. Then Mehta struck, bowling Nair ! a run out helped NCSU wrap up Mason for 97 runs and the North Carolina State University Wolfpack were the first Champions of the Mid Atlantic Conference !

Shanae Strachan (Ms Teen Bahamas 2008) presented the Trophy to the Champions North Carolina State University as College and USA star Adrian Gordon looked on. American College Cricket President Lloyd Jodah praised the Champions and the participating teams, saying,
“It’s great to have all the teams that participated as partners in the college cricket movement, bringing cricket-the original American and Canadian sport, back into the mainstream. Together with our strategic partners, BIG League USA we will keep it up – the innings has only just begun!

Purdue University won the E Gordon Gee Trophy at the Midwest Championship, Rutgers won the Northeast Championship now, congratulations to North Carolina State for winning the Mid Atlantic Championship!”

Adrian Gordon, Lloyd Jodah and Nino DiLoreto selected Ankit Mehta as the Finals MVP. Mehta took 3 wickets and top scored for the Champions.

Sheldon Ellis, President of the Washington Cricket League (one of the oldest and largest leagues in the USA) had heart surgery a couple of days before, but called America College Cricket President Lloyd Jodah to say “I wish I could have been there….what American College Cricket is doing is extremely important, it’s really great for USA cricket. On behalf of the WCL, keep up the great work.”
All the members of American College Cricket wish Sheldon Ellis the best for a speedy recovery. Mr Ellis facilitated the fields used for the Mid Atlantic Championship.

TIED GAME AMONG EXCITING MATCHES

The first game at Metro field featured Penn State vs University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).The outfield at Metro was rough, and would prove difficult to score on.

UMBC had built up a reputation, winning the Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board Twenty20 title 2 years in a row. The heavy air and moist wicket favored the UMBC bowlers who seemed eager to get back to breakfast, dismissing the Penn State Nitany Lions batsmen for just 73 runs. UMBC took just 9.4 overs to win, losing only 3 wickets. Game MVP was Raghav Bharadwarj who scored 63* and took 4 wickets!

However the Penn State Nitany Lions roared back to an exciting tie in their next game, against the strong Virginia Tech team! Both teams scored 127 runs in their 20 overs with Anirugh Roy and Raja Bhagavathula giving the Hokies a good start, and the game had to be decided in a Super Over! Penn State Captain Vikram Kumar struck a boundary to win it for Penn State. The tall Akhil Kumar bowled with pace and bounce as he filled in for Rahul Sarnobat (who had to travel elsewhere for a job interview). Kumar so impressed that speedster Adrian Gordon took him aside to offer compliments and a few pointers.

Virginia Tech then featured in another excruciating heartbreaker, narrowly losing to George Mason in the final over of their match ! Chasing 132 in 12 overs the VT batsmen proved nearly equal to the task of scoring at 13 runs an over. Sixes flew all over the ground, as they got to the final over, needing just 15 to win. But George Mason was able to hold off the challenge and take the victory! The Hokies had come close once again!

At Hyatsville field Anirudh Roy led the George Mason University club team to a victory over a rebuilding George Washington University club team. George Mason scored 165 for 4. Hammad Rafique made 51 (4 fours & 2 sixes), Anirudh Roy 31 (4 fours), Imran Amin 28* (4 fours), Anoop Nair 24* (1 four,1 six). George Washington batsmen could have used more coffee as they were bowled out for just 57 runs. GWU Captain Shaan Mehta was not discouraged however, telling Shanae Strachan that “we are building a new team, and expect that we’ll be much better prepared for the national Championship in March 2011.”

GWU fast bowler Mehta showed his batting class against Montgomery however, making 35* (3 fours) to take George Washington to 105 for 7 off their 20 overs. British import Douglas Jacobi was match rusty he admitted and only made 7. Jacobi later told Shanae that “when I came to attend College in the US I was pleasantly surprised to find I could get to play cricket -it’s wonderful !” Former GW Cricket President Hugo Scheckter later claimed to have “recruited” Jacobi.
Montgomery made short work of chasing the total however, Danish Ashgar, the stylish left-handed opener, stroking 9 fours in his 45*.  whilst Captain Adil Bhatti smashed 4 fours in 19*.

The North Carolina State University (NCSU) cricket team was tall and extremely athletic-looking. They seemed to be models for their new uniforms. NCSU batted first, and the tight Montgomery bowling kept the scoring down. The NCSU batsmen showed occasional shots of quality but the bowling of Adil Bhatti, Adil Latiwala and Wali Syed in particular kept the NCSU batting from really taking off. Swapnil Gupta, a PhD candidate, scored 32, with 3 fours.

NCSU took the field, and shocked the Montgomery batting. Perfect line and length, with pace and movement, made the MC batsmen return to the stands as though they were merely out to inspect the pitch ! At 3 runs for the loss of 4 wickets Montgomery was rocked ! and reeling, when Bhatti walked purposefully to the wicket. Two pulls off the backfoot for 2′s,an ondrive for 4 and a glorious off-drive along the ground for 2 and Bhatti was making the bowlers look different! A miscued pull however off a short ball, and Bhatti was walking back to the stands, MC on the ropes at 25 for 5 ! Who would have thought?

The North Carolina State bowling of Sethu Gopal, Hiren Patel, Suhas Ramesh, Sami Syed and Ankit Mehta was keeping even the big hitting Ankit Sehgal playing defensively. Eventually however Sehgal extended his left leg, and drove over mid-off for 6! Sehgal struck a 4 to give MC hope before he too went and MC’s hopes of winning was like the fading light….almost gone as Hiren Patel kept getting wickets. The game MVP, Patel took 5 wickets for 8 runs !

An amazing series of matches had taken place, as the college cricket movement shapes cricket in the USA, and moves it forward. The players were ecstatic:
Hardik Parekh (North Carolina State) gushed “Great work…super awesome!”
Gurnish Singh (UMBC) declared “Excellent Mid Atlantic Championship…awesome show!”
Anirudh Roy (VT) said: “The VT team really enjoyed playing this tournament. Your mission is a great one, and our team will always support this cause.”
Sridhar Ranganathan (Penn State): “Thank you for organizing a high-quality tournament last weekend.”