Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TMC: Episode 6 - A tale of two weathers

Welcome to The Midwest Chronicles (TMC). These are the accounts of the exploits of the Nebraska Cricket Club in the 2009 season. To spice up what would otherwise be a routine match report of runs scored, wickets taken, and catches snaffled (or spilled) these posts are being written with a tongue firmly in cheek but with the facts completely in the true. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the meandering show.

Here's a complete guide to the cast of characters and their nicknames. The cast will be updated as players are added or dropped or nicknames changed as the season progresses
The only way I'd worry about the weather is if it rains on our side of the field and not theirs.
- Tommy Lasorda
A day after bidding goodbye to a long-time cricket tragic (good luck, Gundappa, we all hope you find lots of opportunities to play cricket in Dallas), NCC traveled across the plains to Ames, Iowa for the next installment against their toughest rivals in the CLIA - Elite Cricket Club. The first meeting of the season was a success for the home team, behind Thin Man's coruscating performance.

When the game started the conditions were overcast, low clouds were periodically spitting out drizzles, and the ground was wet enough to be tricky for proper footing. The toss was a very crucial one, and bucking recent trends, Captain Ozone sent in Little Boy for the toss. Sure enough, he lost the toss and NCC was asked to bat.

U-Turn watched in horror as the second ball of the innings produced the worst possible start as Thin Man's extravagant swipe resulted in a thick edge that was barely snaffled one-handed by the keeper who trapped the ball in the webbing between thumb and index finger. A few more inches...

The Shadow was promoted to the #3 spot and played a cautious knock as Prakash and Saravannan, the opening bowlers, kept a tight line and length. U-Turn produced a couple of pleasing cuts and drives but the wet grass was stopping every ball sooner than it would under dry conditions. Shashank, the ECC captain, spent all inning drying the ball with a towel and doing as fine a job as possible. There is no truth to the rumor that he has been contracted by the producers of Baywatch to work as a as a towel boy.

After playing out a few overs, The Shadow and U-Turn both perished trying to force the ball in the air over the infield. With very fun runs on the board and the innings going astray, Ozone shuffled the batting order and sent the Energizer Bunny in. Soon, he was joined by Doctor Kamikaze. True to his nature, Kamikaze swung as hard as he could to the first ball he faced, but to his horror he only managed to send it spiraling high into the air. Shashank and the bowler twirled around as if in a ballet but somehow managed to not even get a hand on the ball which landed between them. Not content with that life, Kamikaze tempted the gods time and again. Five lives later, Kamikaze perished. But before that he and Energizer ran like....well....bunnies between the wicket. Runs came in singles and doubles. If the ball hit the bat a run was made. This was frantic running of the most frenetic variety and provided some energy to the innings. But like all good things, this came to an end with Kamikaze's dismissal.

In between all this two breaks were taken as the rain picked up in intensity making the turf pitch very slippery and difficult to run on. However, when the rain subsided play was resumed. With each over the ball got heavier, negating any chance of swing for the bowlers but making it harder for the batsmen to hit it far, too. A ball change with a few overs to go near the end of the innings alleviated it but not by much.

Chikna Slater looked comfortable for a few minutes but a short-pitched ball by Sunil induced a pull that was under-edged by him to the keeper and a vital breakthrough had been made. Soul Patch (Devkanth) stepped into the breach. Playing straight in the V is his strength and he produced a few pleasing drives, but paid the price for stepping too far down the wicket for an attempted run. When turned back by Energizer, Soul Patch slipped and could not recover his footing. Sunil came charging down the wicket and kicked the ball onto the stumps to run him out, Denis Compton-style.

Captain Ozone went in and, in his typical bustling style, looked to hustle the scoring along. But for the first time in his career (and a long one it has been...he has been playing proper cricket since before Kapil Dev's career even began) he was out stumped off a spinner.

With wickets drying up at the other end, Energizer took over, nurdling the strike and ensuring that he played out a majority of the overs. While the bowling was there to be hit, the situation demanded some prudence and Energizer bid his time till the 26th over came around. At that point, he began a systematic attack on the ECC bowlers and the run-rate began to take an upward turn.Energizer finally got out for an even 50 (in 60 balls) with just 1 four. It was, by far, his best innings of the year, and on par with some of his best ones from last year. In fact, his score would have been much more if the ground had not been so wet. Sure boundaries were just eaten up by the wet turf on multiple occasions. In fact, in the whole innings there were just three boundaries and no sixes, a testament to the wet ground and the heavy ball.

Keeping Energizer cmpany for the last third of the innings was Bob Loblaw. With so many wickets down and Sunil breathing fire, ENergizer monopolized the strike and Bob was content to help him along. After Energizer departed in the 29th over, Bob turned on the pace and hit Deep for a 4 and then, helped by Sudhakar at the non-striker's end, scrambled 4 two's and a final ball bye to end the innings with some momentum prodding the score to a respectable 143 for 8 in 30 overs. Coincidentally, this was the same score, on the same ground, last year when NCC won, lost, and tied a match - all on the final ball of the innings (a story for some other day).

Our regular feature - the mid-inning fact break - is here again as we wait out the bad weather...
  • Emus and kangaroos cannot walk backwards, and are on the Australian coat of arms for that reason.
  • In the last 4000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
  • More people use blue toothbrushes, than red ones.
  • Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing. (Poor Bill Lawry).
  • "Stewardesses" is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand.
  • The Boston University Bridge (on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts) is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train driving under a car driving under an airplane.
  • The Earth weighs around 6,588,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons.
  • The only two days of the year in which there are no professional sports games in the US (MLB, NBA, NHL, or NFL) are the day before and the day after the Major League All-Star Game. (Wait...that would be today and the day before yesterday!).
During the break, the sun finally made its appearance and by the time the players were back on the field, the ground was bathed in full sunshine. Conditions got better, the ball stayed drier, and traveled further as the afternoon progressed, further favoring the batting side.

Ozone sprung a surprise by electing to begin the innings with the leg-spin of King Warnie first up. A bold move designed to get the batsman to take chances did just that. Unafraid to charge down the wicket, Prakash took a couple of boundaries to get the innings off to a quick start.

Enengizer took up proceedings at the other end and kept the openers quiet with his outswingers. However, in an ominous note, both bowlers found it unavoidable to bowl wides. In the 6th over Prakash looked to slog-sweep a fuller ball from Warnie and U-Turn calmly settled under the catch at deep midwicket.

Ozone then held back Energizer and brought on The Shadow, Chikna, U-Turn and Kamikaze in quick succession. But a general trend began to appear. As the overs went by, the number of wides began to accumulate, a cardinal sin when bowling, magnified even more when defending a small total. Not helping matters was the sloppy and unreliable effort of the keeper behind the stumps.

When Sunil came in to bat, NCC appeared charged up and Energizer, Chikna, and U-Turn provided a stern test to the masterful all-rounder. 11 runs in 27 balls later, Sunil could not resist trying to flick U-Turn to deep midwicket, where Chikna (after some adventures in locating the trajectory of the swirling ball) took a nice catch, to the immense relief of his teammates and himself.

Things began to get tight as NCC chipped away at the wickets, while ECC slowly but surely inched towards the target. A pulled six by Babu was a big stress reliever and even a spectacular run-out of Babu by Energizer was not sufficient to pull things back. ECC crossed the target with 2 overs to spare and pulled even with NCC on the points table in the league.

No one can accuse NCC of not being generous guests - in all the bowlers gave away 41 wides. The drive back to Omaha was a long one, made even longer by the post-mortem that inevitably accompanies a loss. Luckily, less than a week later the team will have a chance to redeem itself when it hosts KCC.

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