Thursday, July 23, 2009

TMC: Episode 7 - Pleading the fifth

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
To some, an obstacle is an excuse to quit.
To others it is an opportunity to grow stronger
- Anonymous
A week after getting too many things wrong, NCC regrouped to play the Knight's Cricket Club, of Des Moines, IA. The nets session on Thursday featured never-before-seen levels of activity as bowlers tried to curb their wides and fielders practiced all kinds of catches. Did it help? Read on and find out.

KCC won the toss and elected to bat first on a historic day (it was the coolest weekend for this time of the year in Nebraska since the late 1800's). This suited Captain Ozone's plans just fine as he wanted to chase anyway. But he maintained his record of never winning the toss. You'd think a guy who has lost so many tosses would win one just by accident. *sigh*

Energizer began the proceedings but was missing some of his usual fire. True, he was still bowling from his long run-up, but the zing that he had obtained in the past few weeks was missing. His first spell was steady without ever looking threatening. At the other end, Ozone began with Warnie. Through his spell Warnie was threatening when he remembered to flight the ball. On occasion he has a tendency to zip it through and, invariably, bowls wide. However, against the run, Warnie induced a tentative cut shot from Amit, the KCC captain, to a ball that was destined to be a wide and Hercules flung himself forward at gully to take a catch in front of him (if only Andrew Strauss had been as keen in the Lord's Test).

While the breach had been made, the run rate did not slacker and interspersed with the great deliveries were some not-so-good ones. Energizer doled up a wide or two down the leg-side while Warnie was spinning it viciously outside the edge of the pitch. Ozone continued with Warnie and it paid off when, totally unnecessarily when you consider how easily the runs were flowing, Johnnie cross-batted a long hop to deep midwicket where Sandeep took a smart catch. (Oh no! New guy Sandeep U. has no nickname yet. I promise I will have one for him before the report is done, as he has a major role to play in the second half of the match).

The final over bowled by Warnie would prove to be his best. Four fully flighted balls on the leg-stump were parried away by the batsman and the increasing pressure got to him. The fifth ball was another Mamu-special and the batsmen lunged down the wicket, missed the ball and was comprehensively bowled.

At the drinks break, KCC was 89 for 3 in 15 overs.

Ozone turned to Kamikaze and Hercules to control the scoring. Kamikaze bowled his traditional wicket-to-wicket line and Hercules looked good as long as he stayed under control. If wickets are not falling, Hercules develops the urge to blow the batsmen away with pace. Unfortunately, his attempts to speed up the ball only result in easy pickings for the batsmen. When the man just concentrates on bowling to his field he is quite good.

Normally a firebrand who lets loose with some of the choicest expletives when things are not going well, Kamikaze was unusually quiet on this day. When he bowled, he gave the batsmen too many easy pickings on the leg-side, but he saved his masterclass for his fielding. A top-edged pull went high in the air and, to Kamikaze's horror, he found himself under the ball waiting for it to come down with no one else claiming the catch as theirs. The easiest of high catches possible was dropped by him and for the rest of the day he had a sheepish grin on his face. Even before the opposition could begin to sledge the poor soul, his unforgiving teammates were at it. A week has gone by and Kamikaze has still not lived down this moment of ignominy!

Ozone turned to his favorite mid-innings bowler but even U-Turn, for the first time this season, could not live up to his name. It is times like this that unexpected diamonds shine through. Ozone found one in the Fifth Element (Quintas). Fifth Element is one of those hard-working fellows who flies under the radar. A constant presence at every practice, he is probably the only guy who bats, bowls, and fields during the sessions. During the games he is always smiling and reminds all of us jaded fellows what we really should care about. As the season has gone by, Fifth has been biding his time, waiting for a chance to show what he can do. When Ozone turned to him, Fifth seized the opening with both hands and more!

Fifth has a very simple run-up and a straight, open-chested action which he uses to put the ball in the spot that he aims at. Behind the stumps, Bob Loblaw provided the target and Fifth fired away at it ball after ball. Combined with this accuracy was some new found swing, of the dibbly-dobbly kind. The first wicket he got was a gift. for over a season, Ozone has been putting down catches left, right, and center. On this day, when the ball went up, all the players' thoughts turned towards damage control. To the surprise of many, most of all himself, Ozone clung onto the ball and, suddenly, anything seemed possible. Soon after, Fifth got the batsman to hang his bat out for a regulation caught behind. Two more batsmen followed in quick succession, trying to force Fifth out of the attack and only succeeding in getting their stumps splattered.

By now, Fifth was on fire. Not content with taking wickets with his bowling, he revealed another weapon in his armory. A flick to long leg should normally have been an easy double for any player. But this day was no ordinary day. Fifth's throw from the fine-leg boundary zeroed in onto the stumps and the direct hit was enough to run out the batsman! However, as if show that the run-out was an event that should be celebrated as unique one and not as a common occurrence, his next throw was about 25 yards wide of the mark, and order was restored in the galaxy!

A fifth wicket for, yes, Fifth followed soon after with Hercules taking a simple catch and showing Kamikaze how it should be done. Fittingly, Fifth ended the innings by getting the last batsman to hit a square-drive right into Energizer's hands. A good thing, too, since Energizer was unprepared for it and had the ball been 6 inches in either direction he probably would not have caught it.

Fifth's heroics - 6 wickets and a run-out - are important when you consider that in spite of all that KCC put up 182 runs on the board!

The teams then rested for a while and while they did, your chronicler was able to pull up some more interesting facts:
  • Molecularly speaking, water is actually much drier than sand.
  • The word "queue" is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.
  • Earth is the only planet not named after a god.
  • You can't kill yourself by holding your breath.
  • Coca-Cola would be green if colouring weren’t added to it.
  • It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
The OCC innings began with a bang when U-Turn smashed the first ball straight over the bowler's head for a brace. Unusually for him, U-Turn seemed in a belligerent mood and, sure enough, tried to manufacture a pull shot to a ball pitched outside the off-stump and gave a simple catch to the square-leg fielder.

Unperturbed by this, Thin Man went about batting the only way he can. Slamming three sixes and two fours in a span of 4 overs, he threw the KCC bowlers onto the backfoot. Seemingly in desperation, Amit gave the ball to Kaylen, a gentle spinner. Thin Man got out to the first ball, unable to decide whether to smash or place an upper cut. Instead he simply gifted gully with the easiest of catches (36 runs, 22 balls, 2 fours, 3 sixes).

Sandeep U (damn! I still cannot think of an apt nickname for him. Help!) slipped into the breach and played within himself. A tall, slim(ish) batsman who likes to play in the V, Sandeep impressed thoroughly with his temperament. Midway through his innings he began to cramp badly, but continued on through the pain with U-Turn as his runner. Initially, Sandeep had a tough time adjusting to the beautiful outswing that Amit was generating, repeatedly playing and missing. To his immese credit, Sandeep did not throw his wicket away and bided his time. Keeping him company was a subdued Energizer. Without taking any risks the duo added 86 runs at an even pace. Sandeep found the cover boundary with periodic precision, while Energizer was more open-minded and took 4 boundaries to four different areas. In between they took singles and twos but did not rush anything.

Energizer stepped down the wicket and looked to punch the ball to long-off for another routine single when the ball hung in the air a bit too long, and KCC's best fielder Johnny came haring in from long-off and took a diving catch to tilt the balance of the game just a little. Energizer's contribution was 33 runs in 22 balls, with 4 fours. Kamikaze came in, swing the first ball he faced to the deep midwicket fence, and then took the game along in his inimitable style. A slasher born to slash, Kamikaze would have been happy in the good old days when the grass in the prairie was 10 feet tall and the only way to get through it was with a machete. In spite of his one-dimensional attacking style, Kamikaze makes up for it with a keen eye. 25 runs in 22 balls, with 2 fours attest to that. No prizes for guessing how he got out.

At this juncture, Bob Loblaw went in and eased whatever tension there was by batting in a Test match mode, blocking out Amit's last over and, with it, the last roll of the KCC dice. Inching the innings along with smartly placed drives, Bob ensured that no more wickets were lost, even finding time to drive-flick a four to deep midwicket. With 2 runs to get for the win, Sandeep hit a fluent cover drive to the fence to bring up the win and achieve a personal milestone (52 not out, 65 balls, 5 fours). Bob remained not out on 11 in 18 balls with that single four.

The man of the match, and the day, was Fifth Element. He convinced the rest of the team that there were hidden depths to his talent. Now, if only it was as easy to convince his skeptical wife! Maybe this report will help...

(You can pay me later, Fifth!)

No comments: