By Sam Sooppersaud
In the 2010 Eastern American Cricket Association cricket season the Everest/ACS club had defeated the Meten-Meer-Zorg (MMZ) club in the T/20 Final. They also had knocked off MMZ in the Semi-Final of the 40-Over Tournament. So the youngsters in the MMZ organization were set in turning things around whenever these two clubs meet (weather permits) for the Finals of the 40-Over Tournament for the 2011 cricket season. The Everest/ACS outfit had not lost a playoff game in past nine years.
By virtue of both teams winning their respective game in the playoffs, they were scheduled to meet each other three (3) weeks ago for the coveted trophy. However, Mother Nature dictated otherwise. First it was Hurricane Irene which lashed out on the east coast with drenching rains that necessitated a postponement of the finals. It was then rescheduled for the next weekend. But once again Mother Nature did not permit this to happen.
However, on Sunday, September 11, 2011 (the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade center attack) Mother Nature gave the go ahead for the finals by giving us good weather.
The game as scheduled, was played at the Baisley Park Field (The Cage), located at Foch Boulevard and Long Street, in Jamaica, Queens, New York, before a large crowd of screaming cricket fans.
Everest/ACS won the coin toss and inserted MMZ to take the first strike. Opening the batting for MMZ were 20 year old USA National all-rounder Andy Mohammed and his partner Ken Nandkumar. Much was expected of Andy as during the regular he had reached the peak of his batting form and was always in the runs. They walked out to the middle to the roar of the large contingent of MMZ supporters who turned out to back their favorite club.
The statuesque and broad shouldered Aun Merchant and the “Senior” warhorse, Trevor Walke, shared the new ball for the Everest/ACS team. Trevor immediately struck pay day when he had Andy Mohammed caught by another “Senior” warhorse, Zamin Amin, for a lone run. Nandkumar followed shortly afterward, again the offering of a catch taken by Zamin Amin. With the score not yet 20 runs and MMZ two wickets down, Everest/ACS were in the driver’s seat. The raucous MMZ supporters seemed to have lost their voices as an eerie quiet was evident in their section of the stands. The Everest/ACS players and their supporters were jubilant at getting the backs of their opponents against the wall. Vision of the 2010 defeats must have flashed in the heads of the MMZ players.
A third wicket stand between Deonauth Baksh and 16-year-old USA National Under-19 all-rounder Amarnauth Persaud gave MMZ hopes of staging some sort of damage control. Just when it seemed that MMZ were on the verge of a comeback they lost two quick wickets in succession. At 55 for 4 MMZ were in dire need of a partnership to once again attempt a rescue them from total annihilation.
Taking up this challenge were 21 year old Zaaid Majeed and the “almost twice his age” partner, the 41 year old skipper of MMZ, Ajaz Asgarally, the former Guyana National Under-19 batsman/wicketkeeper. Asgar, as he is fondly known, was eventually caught off the bowling of Zamin Amin for an invaluable 20 runs. MMZ had staged a temporary recovery, but much more was required of the incoming batsmen.
That task was accepted by 20-year-old Shahid Bilal, who along with Majeed brought back some smiles on the faces of the MMZ supporters, and helped them to find their voices once more. Shouts of encouragement prodded the batsmen on. Then, disaster struck. In fact, disaster struck twice. Both Bilal (33 runs) and Majeed (36 runs) were sent back to the showers via the run out route. A third run out helped Everest/ACS to dismiss their opponents for a defendable score of 177 runs, which included 25 extras. Bowling for Everest/ACS: Aun Merchant 2 for 33, Trevor Walke 1 for 17, Shaun Mehta 1 for 33, Karan Ganesh 3 for 24, Zamin Amin 2 for 38, Terry Hastoo 1 for 24.
Considering the fact that the outfield grass was a bit long, and the field itself damp, the MMZ total seemed unbeatable. But then, Everest/ACS had some batsmen who can “hit a cricket ball”. Walking out to the middle to commence the Everest/ACS runs chase were Aun Merchant and Steve Norengilall, two batsmen with a reputed appetite for runs.
Skipper Asgarally handed the new ball to speedster Shahid Bilal. The skipper then took a page from the book of Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who at times used off spinner Ravicahndra Ashwini to open the ball for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. He gave the task of sharing the new ball to off-spinner Zaaid Majeed. This tactic almost paid immediate dividends as Aun Merchant miss hit a pull shot and offered a simple catch to backward square leg. The catch went a begging.
Merchant had survived. It was a chance which the MMZ boys regretted for the entire time that Merchant spent in the middle. He unleashed a barrage of shots, dispatching the cricket ball to the boundary and on three (3) occasions over the boundary in the adjacent baseball field across Foch Boulevard. In the meantime, his partner played a supporting roll, steering the ball for a single here and there and relegating the strike to Merchant.
Then Everest/ACS lost two quick wickets, Norengilall and the stylish Tamesh Balwant. Karan Ganesh joined Merchant at the crease and together they propelled the Everest/ACS score onward. With just 70 runs needed for victory and Merchant and Ganesh at their punishing best it appeared that Everest/ACS would remain undefeated in a playoff game for the tenth year in a row. Victory for them was in the horizon.
The MMZ skipper, Asgar counteracted by switching his bowlers frequently, not wanting the batsmen to get settled down against any one bowler. This paid off as the run rate was slowed down. But then Andy Mohammed was introduced into the bowling and Aun Merchant went berserk with the bat against him. He hit Andy for two towering 6′s and a 4. But then Andy got his revenge by knocking back Merchant’s off stump.
Hastoo came in and went for 6 runs. This brought “Mr. Dependable”, Zamin Amin to the crease. With him and Ganesh at bat MMZ were in danger of a third playoff defeat at the hands of Everest/ACS. But this was not to be. MMZ wrote a different script. First Ganesh was removed; caught playing a “non shot”, and then Zamin followed him. The hope of an Everest/ACS victory vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The remaining batsmen were able to muster only 16 runs. Their innings folded at 151 runs in 35.2 overs, falling short of the MMZ total by 27 runs. Bowling for MMZ: Shahid Bilal 3 for 15, Andy Mohammed 1 for 40, Saumil Gandhi 3 for 22, Rocky Kowchai 1 for 17, and Deonauth Baksh 1 for 16.
The MMZ supporters ran onto the field screaming with joy. The MMZ players hugged each other while a couple of them grabbed the stumps in a symbolic gesture of victory. The players lifted their skipper, Asgar, on their shoulders and brought him off the field. The Everest/ACS players offered their handshakes in congratulations to the elated MMZ players.
Once in the stands skipper Asgarally was doused with a pitcher of drinks, another symbolic gesture in celebration of victory. There were hugs and handshakes, and a few tears of joy, among the MMZ diehard supporters. As one blurted out, “for three years we worked hard, now we deserve the win”.
It was a well deserved victory for the MMZ youngsters who for the past three (3) years were inspired by skipper Asgarally, who put the team together. He had turned to the various youth cricket programs and carefully put together some promising young talent. Andy Mohammed and Shahid Bilal came from the NY Cricket School run out of Baisley Park, by Glynne Hurley, Joe Siewharak, and Coach Rampersaud. Amar Persaud and Rocky Kowchai are from the PSAL, while a few of the other youngsters are from the PAL cricket program. Shaun Mehta who played for the Everest/ACS club is also from the NY Cricket School program. It is evident, then, that the youth programs are doing a fine job preparing the youngsters for senior cricket tournaments.
Special “thank you” must go out to Asgar for his untiring dedication and work among the youths, not only for the MMZ club, but also for the NY Cricket Region. He is always present at seminars, practice sessions, and trials, not to mention coaching a team in the PAL cricket program.
Officiating in the Finals were USA Senior umpire with ICC credentials, Steve Kalloo and United States of America Cricket Umpires Association (USACUA) trained, umpire Jankie. The over fans at the park were entertained with some exciting cricket.
The EACA 2011 cricket season continues next week Sunday at the various park used by the EACA with the continuation of the T/20 Tournament. The cold weather is on its way. Cricket fans, come out now and watch some exciting cricket while the sun is shining.