New York Cricket Masters
By Sham Ali
In a nail biting finish that featured two unlikely heroes, Haseeb Sheriff (Feezo) and Saheed Amin, Everest Masters edged passed Village Rams at Floyd Bennett field last Saturday and into the Masters final.
The drama, most of which, unfolded in the last 5 overs with both teams weighing their chances of a victory with the game balanced on a razors edge. That resulted from an Everest Masters team that had left the gates wide open for Village Rams to run after them after they had failed to clutch onto some of the basics of the game in the early stages. With the score on 150 for 6, Everest Masters found themselves slipping slowly and then at 170 for 9, they had a mountain to climb on one leg as they held on for dear life. The 28 runs that were needed in the last 5 overs presented a very simple equation, but then factor in the last pair at the wicket, in rapidly fading light and you have a formula the length of eternity.
It was Cliff Roye’s (96) inning though which had threatened to take his team to a huge total of after he was fortunate enough to have survived a very confident lbw appeal from Trevor Walke when he attempted a sweep before he had scored. However, Everest Masters kept their focused and managed to restrict Village Rams to a reasonable 197 runs off their allotted 35 overs. A good partnership between G. Ramsingh and Royo Sankar (52) kept Everest Masters in sight of their target, however, things took a dramatic change within a few overs. Zamin Amin was overly ambitious in his effort to pull off a victory without much bother with Sham Ali, who couldn’t see a melon in bright sunshine, and Sohan Dass who would have difficulty to sliced butter with a hot knife. Amin succeeded, in part, in preparing the match for the final drama when he ran out Royo and Clem Thompson, before he departed on the 27th over. That left the Everest Masters tail to show their strength. They did, Lincoln Deonarine looked rather agricultural from a heave while Walke occupied the crease for about a brief minute. But this Masters team have chemistry, they could blend flour, sugar and salt into a tasty potion and a heart with a never say die attitude.
Feezo walked to the wicket neatly suited from his bag full of unused and perhaps expired gears – in 2012, he still has a bat that needs oil. Can he repeat the heroics of last season, against this team again, when he creamed the last ball for six to win that semi final? And Amin, well he had to borrow a bat, pads and a few other things from his brother Zamin; that is not surprising from these two seasoned opening bowlers who looked like accomplished batsmen on this day.
What was unpredictable though was the way they raise to the occasion, determined with an array of risky strokes, and basket full of hope. This pair was ready for showtime as if the rapidly fading light was a script written for them. Feezo was determined to take every ball to mid-wicket but most landed in the third man region, while Amin bat was narrow enough for the ball to miss the outside edge and those that did hit was caressed to fine leg.
By which time our eyes of perfection, Trevor Walke, had analytically pinned the methods of Royo Sankar and Sohan Dass’s (17) heavy legs down to a science, as the only reason why we were in this situation, period. A few tucks, wides and miscued hits from Feezo and Saheed took the score to 186 runs. It is now 12 runs needed off 12 balls and almost everyone were on the boundary ropes; Trevor still had Royo and Sohan under serious surveillance. Feezo swings, top edged to short mid wicket, Brown in hot pursuit, he has the safest pair of hands, he is under it, and Everest will lose now. Oh no! it went through his hands, he spilled a chance to the final, his team mates hands flying in all direction, feet stamping, dancing in the boundary edge, calamity and drama all happening at the same time while they ran two runs and both batsmen are now out of breath with Feezo limping, he wished now that he had his son, Faisal, legs and looks. Sohan and Cyril ran onto the field to give their boys water, Brown had some too. Sis (Zainul’s wife) danced onto the field and risk being fined, 6 runs needed off the last over.
Saheed growing in confidence at the non strikers end, playing a few imaginary shots, and waiting for his chance to unleash a sample of his willow on the red cherry. Lincoln Hinds will bowl the last over; he will either be villain or hero. Sam Belnavis at the boundary’s edge, almost out of breath but with no shortage of instructions – his legs gave out very early in the match; Everest’s peek is in sight. Debo is missing.
Feezo swings and missed, stumped, big appeal, out? No. Not out! Too dark the umpire cannot see. Somebody please bring my blood pressure pill, actually give it to Trevor. Another swing, that’s a wide, Lincoln checked his boots, nothing is wrong with it – villain for sure. Feezo winced in some discomfort, more drama. Another swing it flew to short third man, two fielders in encroaching, it falls between them, 2 runs. Sis on the edge and on the field again, Zainul in pursuit of her, more drama, and the umpire sees her this time, she waltz off innocently with a twist. Nazrine smiled the years away, 20 or so she had missed, her husband Feezo is the king today.
Amidst all the theatre there is a chill in the air and that does very little to the aging muscles. Another swing from Feezo, he is a swinger – old men can perform in the dark, lord knows - he connected this time it raced through extra cover, he sprinted towards his teammates – no limping now – field invasion, Everest Masters win and into the final.
What a match! Masters cricket in all its glory. Hutchy is missing this. These are the thrilling finishes that make the game glorious and memories that keeps ‘old men’ young at Christmas as they sipped on ginger beer. Yea right! More like Johnny-ginger-walker-beer as they reminisce on the nostalgic while contemplating their next big occasion, and waiting impatiently for the next season. And so it was scripted among the improbable, what is it, in addition to all the joys that make these men tick in fading light and cold weather that brings pleasure? For a start it’s CRICKET!
PS: We will try to bring you a live scorecard of the final on Saturday.