By Sham Ali
(Celebrating 29th Anniversary):- Cosmos delivered searing riposte to an otherwise truncated challenge from an overloaded powerhouse Queens Masters and subsequently punctuated an impressive performance when they lifted the Rana T20 trophy last Sunday at Floyd Bennett field. It was, by any measure, a brilliant team effort showcased by Cosmos as they sent the opposition packing for the cold winter. A determined cosmos team inspired by their leadership in their pre-match chat that this team today is a small number of cricketers with complementary skills, committed with a common purpose to lift this championship. Cosmos planned and executed their strategy on opposition to a “laser precision” from the first ball bowled to the last run scored. It was an invaluable lesson for this young inexperienced team who played with a purpose and stuck to their plan to outclass an opposition loaded with a wealth talent and experience.
When Sham Ali won the toss and offered the opposition the courtesy of taking first strike since they had arrived at the park very early and well prepared with perhaps a mission in mind. It was the beginning of a strategy that worked with marked success. A series of double strikes at crucial junctures helped cosmos limit the opposition to a below par total in good conditions on a placid pitch. Medium pacer Aun Merchant and left arm Ricky Kissoon orthodox spin delivered a tidy spell. They had managed to get the ball in the right areas to keep the two accomplished openers quiet before both struck in their last over. Dennis Evans (16) lobbed a return catch to Merchant and Kissoon had Donald Bennett (26) caught at deep mid-on by M. Noble.
At 40 for 2 in 8 overs, Cosmos with an arsenal of variation to call upon only had cause to utilize just the minimum. A probing spell of left arm orthodox spin from Barrington Barkley and Shaun George minced together with the right arm spin of Karan Ganesh asphyxiated the opposition middle order as Cosmos nimble legs within the 30-yds circle shut down the chances of singles and virtually choked the opposition innings in a sea of slogs and dot balls. Cosmos then missed a vital chance when George had Chambers, who went on to make 23, spilled at deep mid wicket, before he had scored. He then snare Gregory Anthony (2) into a fortuitous heave that was well taken by Terrance Maghamootoo at deep mid off. Dennison Thomas went for a duck when Noble held on to his second excellent catch again at deep mid on. Glen Lorrick then popped to point as cosmos double strike virtually buried the opposition listless top order batting leaving them in tatters at 70 for 6 in the 13th over with only the tail visible. With the top order looking from the outside along with their band of supporters who had perhaps bargained for a runs fest on Cosmos and a long day to “sip on something warm for the soul” suddenly found themselves intoxicated after sipping at regular intervals, at the fall of every wicket.
It was left to the veteran fighters, the tactical David Mohamed and the hard hitting Austin Hutchinson, to add some respectability to an already shoddy batting display. When Hutchinson went down the wicket and was stumped, cosmos tightened the screws a bit more. However, after Ganesh made a wild throw from point that almost floored wicket-keeper Tamesh Balwant off a run out opportunity with Mohamed stranded half way down the track very early in his inning, cosmos had missed a crucial chance. Mohamed resisted briefly but was forced to revert to a watchful approach, with no support left, at a time when he was expected to surge, but then the pressure and some wary legs resigned. At 95 for 8 in the 17th over, George Adams had a few swings before he left. When last man Shadi Khan took off after a desperate swing to midwicket that flew to the third slip region and Maghamootoo shy down the stumps on the second run, that left Khan struggling “a mile” down the wicket, that had virtually summed up the opposition effort of 114 all out – 6-runs short in cosmos plan – leaving Cosmos with a modest chase to secure a championship title.
Cosmos, in their reply, then provided a glimmer of hope through the only window of opportunity created by the to the opposition when M. Noble did the noble thing of running himself out as he turned for an impossible two to square leg off the first ball. Noble though had made his contributions though with two good catches earlier and had batted through the inning in the semi final win. That was cosmos minor hiccup before their batsmen settled down and chiseled away at their target, and scoring with the fluency that had been visible only in patches from the opposition, but not before Hutchison who had produced, perhaps his best spell of the season(1 for 22), to keep Cosmos watchful. At 50 for 3, Ganesh (39) made his way to the crease and played the sheet-anchor role, as he grew in confidence he began striking the ball with consummate authority. When he nonchalantly flicked L. St Louis high and hard over the mid wicket boundary and the umpire signaled four, an overly ambitious cosmos camp wanted the maximum to a ball that appeared to have had legs and wings, he then repeated the stroke and proceeded to take 14 runs off the over keeping the target well within Cosmos’s grasp. That was the defining feature of Cosmos performance in this tournament; the fluidity of their run scoring and the versatility required to adapt to the conditions as they once again had placed themselves well on course with vital contributions coming from Merchant, Bartley, Balwant, and Madramootoo at crucial times in the match.
At 78 for 5 in the 14th over, Cosmos had been there before and looked anything but wobbled as they were still drenched from the well of confidence garnered from their previous victories and that of the semi final, and growing from strength to strength. When the irrepressible Zamin Amin, one of the most disciplined cricketers on the scene, got the nod from Sham and walked to the crease, ahead of the already padded batsmen, he didn’t needed an invitation to score runs. He immediately shifted gears to ensure that there was no extended period of silence as Cosmos total raced to 102 runs by the 17th over. The opposition was now powerless to react to Cosmos’s march. And long before the final indignity the opposition had already blow their chances to salvage some pride from this final as the gaps in their field were picked at will. When Amin tapped Dennison Thomas for six over mid wicket with a stroke of superior dismissiveness, cosmos boys had delivered a shocking retort and suddenly looked invincible. However, there appeared to be plenty of needles in this match with about eight or so x-cosmos on the opposition, but the final result was trouncing blow to the mid section that knocked the final winds out of a stunned opposition and practically dismissed the entire pre match touting. It was hard to envisage that such a transformation was taking place in front of an opposition that sported a wealth of talent and experience, but that was not enough to match the sum of Cosmos parts.
Cosmos camp was few but strong, and just like that in just one season; Cosmos has rewritten its history and managed to regain their reputation as a team and not just a collection of players. Two patented expressions, in particular, filled Cosmos camp; that of Cosmos hardworking cricket manager Nathan Henderson who proudly wore his trademark smile. While the Metropolitan Cricket League Challenge Cup Champions Progressive manager, Jeff James, was an inspiration to the youngsters as he stood in Cosmos’s corner from the beginning of the tournament. He told the boys that he will be at the park before the “birds wake up.” He sported his usual sober expression to the end, even though, he had pepped the boys with “there is no way that that team can beat Cosmos the way we are playing.” Cosmos turn to Rudyard Kipling as he once nourished the mind “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Cosmos was at home turf under gathering clouds, and the once contemptuous dominance that the opposition enjoyed in early summer was now reversed and has faded faster than the setting sun under the brilliance of a well knitted Cosmos team.
Cosmos camp was buzzing although they were without the services of their two belligerent opening batsmen, Dehan Siddique and Faizal Taj. Shaun George had padded to bat at #4, but was still in waiting. The hard hitting Rasheem tapping his bat on his pads but couldn’t to get a piece of the action after his heroics in the preliminary nail bitters, and the experience finisher Sham was waiting in the wings, as always. While Ricky Kissoon, who had done his job with the new ball, had already packed his bag knowing that it will be over soon, even though, Haraldo Marshall and Keith Edie was eager to run for him. Ganesh then went via lbw and George finally made his way to the crease and immediately celebrated his first ball with a savage carve to the extra cover boundary the high fives, hugs and congratulations came from all around, Hussain Rana came over and hugged the boys, “you boys played well.” When Amin (25 n.o.) leveled the score with the first ball of the 19th over and then blazed the point boundary Cosmos boys had picked off their target with aplomb. It was clear that this was a momentous achievement for Cosmos with 8 balls to spare. And on this occasion the underdogs were all class and gracious as they packed their bags, sported their colors and lifted the crown with an unflappable portrait that COSMOS BOYS ARE CHAMPIONS.