By Sam Sooppersaud
This million-dollar question will be answered on Saturday, June 14, 2014, when these two dominant forces in youth cricket clash at Gateway Cricket Field, Erskine Street, Brooklyn, New York. They will do battle for the right to be called “The King of the Hill” in cricket among New York City high schools. The John Adams Spartans have made the trip to the finals in three of the past six years, but are still without a Championship Banner. In 2008 and 2009, they were denied by The Newcomers Lions and in 2012, Long Island City gave them their third loss in the Finals. On the other hand, The Hillcrest Hawks have never been involved in a PSAL Final.
Both teams played excellent cricket in both the preliminaries and the playoff eliminations. They have deservedly earned their spot on this Twenty20 Cricket Extravaganza. Especially Adams, who, at the end of the preliminary rounds, was the #1 with Hillcrest, seeded # 6. In the playoffs, Adams had to go through Newtown, Franklin Lane, and in the Semi-final, Midwood. Hillcrest defeated Springfield, Jamaica, and then Brooklyn International, in the semi-final.
The semi-finals were hard-fought battles. The first, Hillcrest vs Brooklyn International took place at Marine Park, in Brooklyn, on Tuesday, June 10th. The game pendulum from one team to the next throughout its entirety with Hillcrest finally gaining a narrow victory. BI took first knock and scored 141 runs. Hillcrest squeezed past that total with just two balls remaining. BI was considered by many to be the team to go all the way. However, this was not to be.
On Wednesday, June 11th, the second semi-final game was played at Baisley Park, Queens. The much-lauded John Adams Spartans took on Midwood. At the end of their 20 overs of batting Adams scored 157 runs. Midwood gave chase so well that at one juncture it seemed that they would easily surpass the required runs for victory. I was at the park watching the game. You could have sensed alarm in the Adams’ supporters. I am sure that the Adams players must have felt the same. However, Midwood literally ran themselves out of the game. Five of their batsmen were out via Run Out route. For most of the game, they were above the required run rate. Then, misjudged runs and run outs contributed to their defeat. However, Midwood should be commended for playing an entertaining game of cricket. They are truly, championship material.
Now back to the Spartans and the Hawks. Let us take a close look at the performances that propelled them to the finals.
Adams/Batting: In the preliminaries, 13 games, they scored 1,973 runs, and average of 151.8 runs per game. Twice they scored over 200 runs in a game. In another three games they scored 175 and above. In addition, in three other games they scored 150 runs and above. Only twice did the score under 100 runs. In one of these, the runs required for victory were below 100. In one, they were bowled out by their finals opponents, the Hillcrest Hawks for 56 runs.
It is said that Adams have a “one man wrecking crew” in their batting lineup. He is that hard-hitting batsman, Derrick Narine. He has scored 858 runs in the preliminaries, hitting 4 centuries and 4 fifties, accounting for 43 percent of Adams’ aggregate runs. In the games where Narine scored in the single digit, Adams scored less than their average runs per game (151.8). The “one man wrecking crew” tag is misleading. There are several other batsmen in the Adams lineup that have picked up the slack when Narine did not come off.
In the bowling department, Adams has, at least, 5 bowlers who are potential match winners. Each has taken 3 wickets or more in more than one game. Derrick Narine and Randy Perumal have each taken 4 wickets in a match. They have 8 bowlers whom they can call upon and who could do the job. The average runs per wicket is a mere 5.1, excellent for the Twenty20 format of the game.
Let us take a look at the Hillcrest Hawks’ performances.
Batting: They were bowled out in only 4 games. In these games, they scored a total of 530 runs, an average of 132.5 runs per game. In the other games played, they were able to knock off the required runs for victory, comfortably. Four times they scored above 125 runs per game with two of those scores being above 150. Only once were they bowled out below 100 runs. Hillcrest has no “heavy” hitter: a hitter who dominates any bowler (as in Narine’s case for Adams). However, there are several batsmen who have scored consistently in the 30’s.
Bowling for Hillcrest is a cumulative effort, shared by 7 bowlers: 5 regulars and 2 part-timers. Three of their bowlers have nailed 3 wickets in a game while one has a 4-wicket bag in a game. Altogether the bowling unit has an average runs per wicket of 5.5. Again, excellent for a Twenty20 game.
The Adams Spartans and the Hillcrest Hawks have each played 3 playoff games. Adams have scored 350 runs. They averaged 146 runs per game in the two games when they batted out. Hillcrest, in their 3 games, have scored a total of 284 runs. They score 135 runs in the only game when they batted out.
The ground fielding on both teams are good; not super good, but good. The catching on both sides is a bit shaky. I have seen difficult catches taken and sitters, put down.
The coaches, Alex Navarette, of the Spartans and Hunter Brett, of the Hawks have both done an excellent job with their kids. Adams are reputed for having good players, as evidenced by them being in the finals in three of the past 6 PSAL cricket season. On the other hand, I have seen the improvement of the Hillcrest boys over the three months. For instance, in their first game they were rattled out for a mere 87 runs. They worked hard, under the watchful eyes of Coach Brett and were able to build a formidable unit. So good, that Hillcrest is now in the finals. Both of these gentlemen are “cool as a cucumber”. Nothing seems to rattle them. Regardless what is the situation in a game, they maintain their composure. Good luck to both of you.
Once again, I must extend my congratulations to the people at PSAL for yet another successful PSAL Cricket Tournament. I feel I have to extend special kudos to Ms. Lorna Austin and Mr. Bassett Thompson for their hard work in putting together and maintain such an exciting cricket program for our youths. As always Mr. Ricky Kissoon is there to see that the finer details are taken care of.
Well folks, here you have it. In the past years all those who have come out to watch the finals have expressed satisfaction on the fun they had. You would not want to be the one who miss out this time. So come out and enjoy our cricket talents of tomorrow. Several of our PSAL cricket “graduates” have gone on to represent the United States of America in ICC tournaments. Come out and watch these future stars.
Directions to Gateway Park. Belt Parkway, exit 15, Erskine street. Make first left (Home Depot is next) and drive to the park which is on your left.