By Sam Sooppersaud | Scorecard
Sunday September 8, 2013 was a glorious day for a cricket match at Baisley Pond Park, known as The Cage, in Queens, New York, as well as, I’m sure, the numerous cricket parks around the NY Metropolitan area. The sun was shining brightly, its rays piercing the clear blue skies. The temperature was in the upper 70’s, and a slight cooling and invigorating breeze was blowing across the green lush grass. The cricket pitch was dry and hard, the matting overlying it looked like a well-made bed, nice and smooth. Not a sign of a pebbled hump. The players were bedecked in their bright colored uniform; the umpires in their traditional black pants and sporting a light blue (sky-blue) jersey with the USACUA logo emblazoned across the left pocket.
The stands and ground accommodation along the boundary fences adjacent to the cricket field was packed with cricket fans, talking what else, but cricket! They were eagerly awaiting the start of a cricket match. By the end of the day there were close to 3000 cricket fans noisily encouraging their team on.
There were the ever-present picnic baskets and shopping bags packed with delectable treats. Many brought along their pots and Karahi with delicious fried rice or the favorite, cook-up rice. Boxes of fried cricket were in abundance. Not to mention the coolers packed with iced-cold invigorating beverages. What a setting for a cage (cricket) match! And that’s exactly what we had, an exciting game of cricket.
The game was the culmination of the Eastern American Cricket Association’s Power40 Competition. It was the Finals of the Power40, with Richmond Hill Cricket Club doing battle with the Big Apple Cricket Club. Both teams earned their berth in the Finals by handily defeating their respective semi-finals opponents two weeks earlier. Richmond Hill took care of Atlantis Cricket Club while Big Apple pulled out an upset by overcoming the reigning champions, Everest/ACS Cricket Club.
At 11:45 A.M. veteran umpire, Steve Kalloo, accompanied by EACA President, Rudy Persaud, myself, and the two captains, S. Sadloo of RHCC and S. Thompson, filling in for captain, Z. Saffie, of BACC, walked out to the middle for the coin toss. Sadloo flipped the coin and Thompson called “head”. The quarter obliged. BACC won the toss and Thompson immediately informed Umpire Kalloo that “we will bat”.
In the pre-game interview Shawn Thompson of BACC, when asked what score he had in mind, he audaciously replied, “close to 280, even 300, and then bowl them out”. S. Sadloo, the skipper of RHCC, was more realistic -so it appeared at that time- “we would try to restrict them to about 240 to 260 and then go in and knock it off”. How did it all play out, let’s see!
Openers Romeo Dean and a former West Indies Under-19 opener, Richard Ramdeen gave BACC a resounding start. Kevin Darlington, former Guyana National pacer took the new ball for RHCC. He was abused by Dean who in Darlington’s second over blasted him for a maximum, followed by four 4’s, and a 2 from the last ball; 24 runs from the over. The scoreboard at this stage read: 3 overs, 41 runs, 0 wicket, Dean 32, Ramdeen 6. In the fourth Dean attempted yet another big hit, was unable to clear the boundary and was taken by Imran Ali patrolling along the long-off fence. Skipper Zaheer Saffie walked out to the wicket. Two runs later Ramdeen offered the simplest chance to second slip. Saffie stood at the non-striker’s end and watched helplessly as four of his teammates fell. From 41 without loss at the end of the 3rd over BACC was in dire trouble, the score slumping to 67 for 5 in the 8th over. Many spectators wondered as to whether they would be going home early; whether BACC would even reach 100 runs. But Skipper Saffie and new man in, the hard hitting Andre Kirton had other ideas.
Together Kirton and Saffie resorted to major damage control. They were meticulous in their shot selection. They played very watchfully and cautiously to the good balls and punished the bad ones to the maximum. Once Saffie was settled in he began to craft a gem of an innings, a match saving innings; the proverbial captain’s innings. Rusty was his own belligerent self with the bat from the first ball he received dispatching it to the fence. He bats one way regardless of the situation of the game; he punishes the bowlers. Their sixth wicket partnership put on an invaluable 67 runs. Rusty Kirton went for 44 when he top-edged to cover, attempting to go over the head of the fieldsman.
It is now 134 for 6 and 17.3 overs having been bowled. Quite a recovery from BACC, but lots of work more to be done. Eighth man in, Telston Johnson took up the task. He complimented his skipper’s efforts by rotating the strike, allowing Saffie to do the damage with the bat. By this time Saffie was playing fluently, timing the ball and dispatching it with precision to the boundary. In the meantime Johnson settled in and began playing his shots and scoring runs more freely.
The pair of Zaheer Saffie and Telston Johnson prevented the fall of another wicket for 17.3 overs. Their partnership was worth 109 runs when Saffie having hit two 4’s in the over attempted unsuccessfully to pull a short straight ball and lost his middle stump. He played a gem of an innings for 117 runs. He entertained the large crowd that was on hand to watch the game. The BACC put on another 35 runs before their innings came to a close. 278 for 9 wickets. Shawn Thompson’s prediction of 280 to 300 was, as they say “on the money”.
Bowling for RHCC, K. Darlington, I for 79 in 8 overs; D. McDonald, 2 for 45 in 6 overs; S. Dhaniram, none for 53 in 8 overs, R. Bactowar, none for 28 in 5 overs; K. Nandalall, 2 for 46 in 7 overs, and S. Sadloo, 2 for 24 in 6 overs.
During the halftime break Sudesh Dhaniram from the RHCC was asked what he thought of the 278 runs scored by BACC. He acknowledged that it was a good score, but “beatable”. He told interviewer Ravello that the wicket was a good batting strip and his batsman would just have to score just 7 runs per over to surpass the required 279 needed for victory.
RHCC sent out their regular openers, Z. Sadloo and Debo Sankar. Immediately Sankar signaled his intention that he was going to play his shots. The first ball of the inning he received from Telston Johnson was driven to extra-cover for 3 runs. He was in excellent form for during the season and his club looked to him for runs. He did not disappoint. While Debo Sankar was hitting the boundaries, Z. Sadloo was stroking the ball for 1’so and 2’s. The score climbed steadily. Sankar was striking the ball fluently through the cover; the short balls were viciously pulled to the mid-wicket of square-leg boundaries.
The opening pair stayed together at the wicket for 16 overs, Sadloo was the first to go, undone by a brilliant diving catch by Rusty Kirton off the bowling of Mark Gomes, for 34 runs. At 100 for 1 in the 16th over, RHCC was in the driver’s seat. With the fall of Sadloo, Sudesh Dhaniram walked out to the middle to a resounding cheer from the partisan RH crowd. Dhani’s reputation for punishing bowlers is well known. He is a destructive batsman. He’s entertaining, a spectator’s delight.
Dhaniram started off cautiously, as is his trademark. But, once he gets going the bowlers felt his wrath. He did not spare the BA bowlers. They did feel his wrath to the tune of 68 runs, including 6-4’s and 5-6’s. Anything short was pulled viciously; overpitched, and the ball was put over the high, 18 foot fence for the maximum. Sankar and Dhaniram battered the bowlers around the cricket field.
With the score on 120 Debo Sankar departed via the run out route, due to one’s fault. He backed up at the non-striker’s end when a ball driven by Dhaniram fiercely back to bowler Z. Saffie ricocheted from his hand onto the stumps. Needless to say, Sankar was caught in no man’s land! 120 for the loss of 2 wickets and 21 overs to go. 158 runs to get in 126 balls, for victory. Quite an ask, but considering that Dhaniram was at the wicket, not impossible.
The third wicket, that of Imran Ali fell with the score at 164 runs. Wahid Ward came and went for 14 runs. 193 for 4 wickets in 28 overs. Dhaniram is still at the wicket keeping RHCC’s hope riding high. Prashad Mahadeo, an elegant left-handed batsman noted for his high scoring ways joined Dhaniram in the run chase. 85 runs needed in 72 balls. With Dhaniram and Mahadeo, no sweat! Not a difficult ask.
The voices of the RHCC supporters became mute when Dhaniram mistimed a lofty drive and skied a catch to Mark Gomes in the covers. Their hero was gone and with his departure the confidence level of the RHCC abated a bit. But they still had some very capable batsmen in the shed. 216 runs for 5 wickets. 63 runs to get in 48 balls. The pendulum has swung in BACC’s favor.
Skipper of the Richmond Hill club, S. Sadloo, joined Mahadeo and together they ate away at the required total. With the score on 223 Mahadeo jumped out to a ball from off-spinner Mark Gomes, was beaten in flight and left stranded. Wicketkeeper Clain Williams whipped off the bails. Derek McDonald went first ball and Kumar Nandalall holed out to Richard Ramdeen at long-on. RHCC had slipped from 223 for 5 to 224 for 8. Lost 3 wickets while scoring 1 run. With 54 runs needed and only bowlers Darlington and R. Bactowar to bat, the writing was on the wall. 26 runs late, at 250 the innings folded when S. Sadloo was stumped for 20. RHCC were left 28 runs short. It was a valiant effort from the Richmond Hill club.
Bowling for BACC: T. Johnson, 23 runs in 2 overs: A. Kirton, 7 overs, 1 wicket, 46 runs; R. Balram, 5 overs, 37runs: S. Ragubar, 7.3 overs, 43 runs, 4 wickets; Z. Saffie, 6 overs, 1 for 37, H. Ramdihall, 0 for 25 in 3 overs.
Throughout, the match pendulum from one club to the other. The over 3000 fans who turned out to watch the game got their “money’s worth”. It was an exciting Power 40 Finals with Big Apple Cricket Club the 2013 EACA Power40 Champions.
Congratulations to the sponsors, management and players of BACC, especially Telston Johnson who worked so hard, and selflessly to build and maintain the club.