School Cricket Season Opener
By Sam Sooppersaud
Cricket fans were treated to a gem of a Twenty20 cricket contest at Baisley Park, Queens, New York, on Thursday, April 3rd, when two former PSAL champions met in their 2014 season opener.

Two time champion Newcomers High School . Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The Public Schools Athletic League Cricket Program among New York City High Schools was started in 2009. In that first year, the championship was won by the Newcomers Lions. They repeated this feat in the 2010 season. In both of those finals, they defeated John Adams. In 2011, the William C. Bryant Owls defeated their finals opponents, Richmond Hill High School, to claim their PSAL championship.

On Thursday, the two former champions battled it out from the first ball bowled to 19.3 overs of the run chase, when Newcomers won the game on a wide ball. Spectators and players alike screamed their lungs out as the pendulum swung from one team to the other and then back again.  The noise at Baisley Park was deafening with supporters on both sides shouting and clapping their respective side on. There was excitement galore.

Mother Nature did not provide an ideal weather condition. A dark cloud hung over the skies throughout the match and with a cold breeze blowing across the field. Numerous folks at the ground who did not bring along a sweater was seen wrapping their hands around their body trying to keep warm. Nevertheless, they did not seem to mind too much as the action on the filed warmed their hearts and cricketing minds. They were too busy enjoying the nail-biting contest to take much notice of the adverse weather conditions.

Bryant won the coin toss and elected to take first strike. The first ball bowled, short-pitched, was viciously pulled to the square leg boundary. After a single, the next ball was sent flying over the ropes for a maximum. Eleven runs came in the first over. In two overs, Bryant had 20 runs on the board.

Newcomers put a stop to the run fest and restricted Bryant to only 23 runs from the next 8 overs.  Bryant bombarded the bowlers to the tune of 27 runs in the following 12 balls. The game was tight in the middle overs at 87 runs and 8 overs to be bowled and only 2 Bryant wickets down.  Anybody game now. However, a solid platform from which Bryant could launch an attack.  A projected total in excess of 150 runs was in the horizon.

The Newcomers bowlers would entertain no such thought on the part of Bryant. They conceded only 18 runs in 24 balls – the next 4 overs. Bryant struck back scoring 28 runs in 18 balls. 134 runs for 4 wickets and the final over to be bowled.  A final score of 145 to 150! Read on!

Fast medium bowler, Mohammed Hossin, put a quick end to Bryant’s progress. In his first 2 balls of the 20th over, he sent two Bryant’s batsmen to the showers. Three dot balls. The 6th ball of the over rattled the stumps. A 3-wicket maiden in the 20th over. Never been done in any form of Twenty 20 cricket. The Bryant inning ended at 133 runs. Saikot 45 and Taranjeet Singh 19 runs.

Bowling for Newcomers: Shafaat Choudhury 1 for 25, Wahidur Rahman 2 for 34, and Mohammed Hossin 4 for 9, each bowling 4 overs apiece.

Newcomers started their run chase in a sedate mood. First over, a maiden. Twelve runs in 18 balls. At the end of the 8th over the score was 36 runs.  Bryant was well poised for a victory run. In the 9th over Newcomers struck back with 15 runs.  Now 51 runs in 9 overs.  85 runs needed in 72 balls. A run a ball for the next 7 overs got them to 127 with 2 overs remaining. 7 runs needed in 12 balls for a Newcomers victory.

Five dot balls at the start of the 19th over. 7 still needed in 7 balls. Excitement mounted. Lots of praying. Periods of deafening quiet. The 6th ball of the 20th over. A slog to wide mid-on for a boundary. Two singles and a wide in the 20th over ensured a Newcomers victory.  134 runs for 2 wickets.  Newcomers had won the battle of the champions.

Skipper Fakrul Miah 27, Shafaat Choudhury 34 not out, and Refatul Islam 33 not out were the chief architects of the Newcomers runs chase and victory.

The Newcomers supporters stuck with their team throughout, even when it seemed that they were slipping towards defeat. They now felt that their team have gratefully rewarded them with the victory.

If this game were any indication of the kind of cricket the PSAL tournament would display, then I would advise cricket lovers to come out to the various parks and enjoy some exciting cricket.