The opinions expressed in this post are solely that of the author who, on occasion, had an out-of-body experience and was able to watch himself play.
Also, in order to keep some suspense about the 2007 season, when I provide a link to a player's page I shall link to the page that shows his 2006 stats.
Game 5: WVUCC versus Strikers
The 2006 Strikers team was an awe-inspiring one. The 2007 edition was not. The team went through a major overhaul, more so than any other team in the league, including the Mountaineers, and came out a pale shadow of the all-conquering (almost) 2005-06 editions. In 2006, the Strikers lost all 3 times to WVUCC. Would 2007 be any different?
Sohail Chaudhry won the toss and opted to bat first, as is his wont. With both regular openers - Arvind T. (gallivanting about in California) and C.S. Manish (torn hamstring) - unable to play Sohail reverted to his normal spot joining Ajay Nayak. Very quickly the duo put on 33 runs before Ajay's high backlift proved to be his undoing, unable to bring his bat down in time, out LBW to Mahesh Nanda.
Abishek Muralidharan and Sohail then took off, seemingly in a race to see who could score faster. Middling the ball from the start, Sohail played his best innings of the season, so far, effortlessly toying with everything the Strikers had to offer. All his trademark shots - the square drive over cover, the pull-flick over square-leg, and his own patented upside-down paddle sweep - were unfurled and he raced past 50 in little time. The bowling was causing no problems when he was adjudged LBW after missing a sweep shot. Normally very undemonstrative when given out, Sohail was extremely upset with this decision.
The other batsmen did not let the pace slacken and gave Abishek company. Ever since his debut in the 2006 season, Abishek has been the king of the 20-30 run cameo. This day, against the Strikers, he made the transition the WVUCC think-tank had been waiting for. Batting within himself (41 of his runs came in just 8 balls, the remaining 24 took 34 balls) he waited for the all-too-frequent easy picking to come along while otherwise biding his time. While batting with Sohail he also set a unique record that will be almost impossible to beat in the small-sized Edgebrook Field - an all-run 5. While completing a second run, an overthrow fetched an additional 2 runs, and a second overthrow took his tally to 5 runs. If Roger Costello had not stopped the ball on the fence with a one-handed grab, Abishek could have had 7 runs off one ball!
Batting serenely (Abishek is one of the most attractive batsmen to watch, especially when he goes on the backfoot to punch into the off-side) he finally perished in trying to increase the scoring rate in the slog overs. Ashok Varadarajan and Amol Bhavsar then finished the job scoring 45 runs between the two of them in just 27 balls to take WVUCC to an imposing 232 for 5 in 25 overs.
The outmatched Strikers had one hope - that Sanjeev Singh could fire with Tony Edmonstone or Mahesh Nanda in tow.
Venkata Sathi and Harshesh Patel, on debut, quickly accounted for the openers but were unable to dislodge Sanjeev or Tony. Batting quite cautiously, Tony and Sanjeev accumulated the runs without ever threatening to tear open the game. Tony looked very compact and looks like a player who could make a lot of noise in the years to come in the PCA.
One sensational piece of fielding turned the Strikers resistance to putty. Tony defended the ball towards Sumanth Dommaraju at cover and took a couple of steps in completing the stroke. Sumanth moved two paces to his left and fired an underarm laser to the keeper that stunned Tony - run out without even attempting a run! Many batsmen have underestimated the fielding prowess of the laconic Sumanth to their own dismay and Tony was no different.
Sumanth then turned his arm over and a desperate swing of the bat by Sanjeev did not connect and he was bowled, and with it the hopes of the Strikers were dealt a death blow. 63 for 2 quickly became 106 for 6 in 17 overs when Sohail decided to give another debutant, Abhijit Bhagavatula, a bowl. Meanwhile, the third debutant, Nishit Banuri, began to get ready to bowl the next over.
Abhijit started well, bowling a dot ball to start off. The next ball fetched him his maiden wicket when Sunny Patel lofted the ball to Abishek at deep long-off. The third ball was deflected for a single but on the fourth ball, Goutam dragged his outside the crease to be smartly stumped by Ashok. Off the fifth ball, Deepak Malhotra mistimed a drive and Amol Bhavsar pouched the simple catch to put Abhijit on a hat-trick. Roger Costello came up to the crease, surrounded by a bunch of jacked-up Mountaineers. His way of dealing with the hat-trick ball was to smash it as hard as he could. Unfortunately all he could do was find Harshesh Patel on the square-leg boundary and the second hat-trick in WVUCC history had been recorded!!! (The first was, naturally, by Sohail against Cleveland CC a few years ago). Abhijit finished with the incredible analysis of 1-0-1-4. Nishit Banuri did not get to bowl or bat on debut!!
WVUCC improved to 4-1 on the season and next up was a showdown with the undefeated Steelzags. With revenge on their minds the Mountaineers looked to put one over the 'Zags. Would they break the hoodoo of never defeating the 2006 regular season champs?