Irvine Premier League
February 17, 2014: The third edition of the Irvine Premier League (IPL T10) kicked off February 15, under Southern California’s blue skies, at the hallowed asphalt of Angel Stadium in Anaheim. This year, fourteen teams participated in what is now known as the most exciting and professional tape ball cricket tournament, this side of the Indus.

GROUP A
The group features tournament favorites, the Barranca Bulls. The two time defending champs did not disappoint, recording four victories, extending their win streak from last season to eight matches. The team is led by the talented Moh’d Sadiq, who has been phenomenal with the bat so far. Abba Ali, the local version of the famed tapeballer: Shehzad Kalia has had a quite start to the tournament, by his standards – look to him to pick things up as the Bulls go for a “three-peat.”

Photos from the opening week of Irvine Premier League T20 tournament. Photos by: Humayun Bilal.

The Harvard Hurricanes, under new owner, Imran Ashraf, welcomed in SCCA and USA cricket star, Timil Patel to the squad. His inclusion brought in a genuine leggie to the tapeball format – his impact was immediate, as very few batsmen were able to read him. The ‘Canes also feature Asad Khan, another talented SCCA star, as well as last year’s run machine, Ibrar Arshad, who has started well in this tournament with two match winning knocks. The team suffered its only loss from three games against the Bulls – the toughest match up the Bulls have faced so far.

Last year’s most powerful unit, the Lemongrass Lions,  have had a sub-par start with two forgettable losses, especially against the lower seeded Chargers team. While captain Farhan Rafique and his brother, Fawad Ahmad have shown flashes of brilliance with the bat, and some exceptional death bowling from Irfan “Flash” Anwar, the team is still waiting to on its most explosive weapon, Peshaan Wedanarachchi to fire up. The team sits in the middle of the pack with everything to do on March 1.

New entrants, the Von Karman Kings packed with youth have shown great energy in the field. While their bowling and fielding unit helps them stay tuned in, each match, the batting has been a disappointment, with only, all-rounder Moeed Abbassi, showing signs of life. The team faces an uphill task to stay in contention, but don’t count the youth out, just yet – after all, this is tapeball.

Muhammad Amin, a rising tapeball star along with Afghan pride, Hamid Popal have been the lone stars for the Culver Chargers, thus far. With one surprising win against the Lions, the Chargers remain in the hunt for a super six spot. Although they have a negative run rate and no bonus points, the Chargers have a chance to change that against the Jets and Kings on March 1.

The talented Walnut Warriors entered the 2014 tournament, winning all warm up fixtures. With a 2 – 2 start,and a couple  of bonus points, they may feel unsatisfied, especially with an inexplicable meltdown against the Lions. Captain Hammad Shahid, who is one of the fastest bowlers in Southern  California, has been sensational with the bat, averaging 50+ in  four matches. The Warriors feature a talented bowling unit  with Hammad, Babar Hashim, Junaid Bunday and wily SCCA  star, Mehul Dave. However they will look to SCCA’s stylish lefty Ali Shafi and power keg, Ali Mukadam, to shine with the bat as they  face two tough matches against the Hurricanes and the Bulls.

The minnows of group A, the Jeffrey Jets have had a rough  start to the tournament, and not just on the field – with player injuries and revolts, the side has barely been able to field a complete side. The highlight so far has been the fantastic power hitting from Hurera Muhammad, the team’s no 1 overall pick.

GROUP B
With three victories in the bag, the Red Hill Rockets – the other new entrant to the league, sit atop Group B standings. The team comprises SCCA and winter league stars from all over the globe. The united nations of talent has blended well together with future doctor and SCCA star Mrunal Patel leading the team with the bat. SCCA’s South African star, Theo Mavro showed his immense talent and adaptability helping the team register a win against bitter group rivals, the Colts. With a well-rounded bowling attack, the team will look to its tapeball trump card, all-rounder  Iran “Lanka” DeSilva to pick things up in the next three games.

The most explosive opening pairing in the league comes to us courtesy of the high octane Sand Canyon Colts. USA star, Abhimanyu Rajp who already has two fifties and over 200 runs in four matches, along with Shah Zeb have been battering bowlers with reckless disdain. The pair hit 40 boundaries in four matches as the team is averaging a shade over 13 runs an over. With the pair hogging the middle, the fear is lack of match practice for the other batters – this was evident during the high profile defeat against the Rockets. The Sand Canyon bowling attack is another worry for Captain Fauad Hasan, who’s bowlers have leaked 115+ in three of four matches so far. They will look to seasoned veteran and former USA star Ali Aijaz to provide some relief in the bowling department.

Last year’s finalists, the Turtle Rock Titans had a disastrous start, losing two straight, including one against a weak Jaguars team. A day later, and the return of Southern California’s fastest man, Aman Singh, the team’s fortune changed, as the Titans crushed both the Patriots and Angels. Reigning MVP, Usman Khan has been solid throughout for the Titans, with both bat and ball. He along with Aman Singh, will be key in helping this team compete – especially as the team is missing its most prolific batsmen; Zeeshan Khamisani.

A punching bag last year, the Trabuco Tigers have already sprung two surprises, with wins against the Patriots and the Jaguars. This, despite losing many key players to injury. The team features tapeball specialist, Rashid Ramzan who has been wrecking havoc on bowling attacks and sits second in total runs, behind Abhimanyu Rajp.  Siddharth Thakur, a new edition to the league has been a tapeball revelation and owns the record for the most monstrous hit, so far. If the Tigers topple the Titans, they may just find themselves in the Super Six.

Despite recruiting International and USA star Elmore Hutchinson, the Alton Angels have been unable to close out games, losing two of three contests. While the bowling has been consistent, Captain Hussain Mahmood must find a fix for his anemic batting lineup. The Angels will look to Masih Tukhi and Zafar Siddiqui to provide greater support to Hussain and Elmore.

The Jamboree Jaguars started well with a thunderous win over the 2013 runners up, the Titans. However since that game they have lost by a combined 98 runs in two encounters giving up two crucial bonus points. The team’s dependence on former USA U19 star, Shani Rehman is heavy, and with the absence of Atif Iqbal, the team will need others to step up, if they want to compete with the big boys.

Portola Patriots started the tournament as they did last year, armed with one of the leagues most dangerous players; Atiq Rehman. Yet, for the second year in a row, the team looks lost at the halfway point, having lost all three encounters. The Patriots will take comfort from the fact that despite having their attack blown away by the Colts openers, they nearly chased down 140, thanks largely to the Shahzad Allo show – a Northern California import. The Patriots will need to be as fierce in their remaining three encounters to even have a sniff at the Super Six stage.

With 24 matches gone and 18 to go, mathematically, all 14 teams are still in the hunt for a “Super Six” spot. The competition promises to be even more intense when Round 1 resumes on March 1 and through March 2.

And the award goes to…
Best batting performance goes to Siddharth Thakur (Tigers) for his blistering 46, that helped the Tigers register their first ever win in the IPL tournament in two years.

Best bowling performance goes to Irfan Flash Anwar for defending 2 runs in the final over against the Warriors.

Best non-catch taken goes to Mustafa Zahid for his one handed grab outside the boundary against the Hurricanes. Stunning but all in vein!

Most enthusiastic cricketer award goes to Portola’s owner; Mansoor Ali, who not only drives from San Diego, but has been known to talk IPL in his sleep.

Best sledge used goes to Fahad Ahmed (Portola) against umpire Farhan Rafique – something like “I’ll see your rubbish, and raise it, when I umpire your game.”

Most valuable asset goes to Idris Mohsin, for his consistent dedication to the IPL.

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