Falcons have been playing in the DCL league for last 5 years and 5 years in the row, they reached the qtr finals (Final eight) and they never reached to the semi finals in last 4 years. Two teams in the league, GLCC and Brownstown knocked them out two times each in last four years. First GLCC in 2004, I still remember that game where the leg umpire from cougars gave out for a run out (Matta’s) at the non strikers end. Still remember few crucial catches missed by Falcons during the critical time. In 2005, it was Brownstone. We were close to win the game. It rained in the middle. We started again, we required 20-30 runs in 12-15 overs with 8 wickets in hand and still lost it. In 2006, it was GLCC again. It was a low scoring game, we scored around 60 runs and GLCC did have no problem scoring it. In 2007, it was Brownstown, we scored around 120 runs and they chased it.
It is a big relief that neither of the team is our opponent in the 2008 quarter final. Nonetheless, Indus is a strong team and it was the first team in the 2008 regular season challenged Falcons and we managed to win with Sudir C’s heroic efforts. Their fielding, in particular was exemplary in the league. They had few dangerous quick bowlers and strong depth in their batting.
Strategy against the Indus was very simple. If bat first, score 100+ or if we bowl first, restrict them below 65. We all know what we all gotta do. Our roles, batting order, bowling order, bowling strategy, batting strategy, fielding position, approach, tactics, all clear to every one. We can’t wait to execute the clearly defined plan on the game day.
Toss won by Falcons and as per the game plan, we decided to bat. Babu and I went to open the Falcon’s innings. Indus have their sharp, dangerous bowlers to start the innings. Babu scored a quick single and I was facing my first ball. The first ball was bowled at out side the off stump ball, little short to a good length ball. The ball to be punished. Their field setting had 5 players on off side and 3 of them very close. Went by the instinct, pulled the ball to fine leg (technically, a risky shot to play in the first over) and fetched two runs. The next ball was almost the same ball, this time, I hocked it (not a pull) and I thought it was going to get a six but fetched only a four. The next 3 balls were bowled at a very good length on on side and received the necessary respect from me. All those three balls could have been treated harshly but did not want to take a risk in the first over. In the second over, Babu again scored a quick single and I was facing this new bowler (Justin, I think his name is). It was a very good length ball, bowled to middle wicket, I paid my respect, went front foot and defended. The ball looped, raised 30 degree and due to its pace it traveled enough to reach the fielder at short cover. Azim took a simple catch. I could not believe what happened there. I knew there was 5 players on off side and 3 of them were close. That is the only reason I hocked and pulled in the first over. I should have driven the ball instead of defending it. I was out in the second over. I was kicking myself and what was point? No point. I was out.
Raj, the days are yet to come to see him scoring tons of boundaries in a match. He is a true pinch hitter. He does not take even a single ball to settle down. He plays by his instinct. He was unlucky again to be trapped before the wicket for a low kept ball. He scored just single in this game. Sudir P, another text book shot player from Falcons joined Babu. He not only supported Babu on the other end, he pulled few boundaries, made singles and doubles. The score board was ticking at a regular pace. Sudir P was bowled by a spinner. It was really a great ball. The ball pitched on off side, a good length ball. Sudir P, took front foot to block it. The ball took 25-30 degree turn and took his leg stump. Great ball. Bowler had a little bit of Abdual Qadir style. Matta, the super star of the league, joined Babu. He scored few furious boundaries before we was caught at the deep mid wicket. It was a splendid catch. Unbelievable to some extend. I never thought Indus was going to take that as the catch. They did and Matta was back to pavilion. Meantime, Babu was playing superbly, scoring singles and doubles. Sai joined Babu. It was the last over before break. Sai was asked to play cautiously. He was forcing himself to play defensively. The score board showed around 50+ during the break for the loss of 4 wickets. In the last but one ball, Sai was out, chasing a outside delivery and caught by the keeper. Keeper missed it but managed to grab it again. Sai was the fifth victim from Falcons and Piyush joined Babu. Both played really well. Had a good partnership. Piyush scored boundaries along with Babu before he was caught again by the surprise by Indus fielders. Babu exploded and got aggressive. He drove a long on shot and Indus took another impossible catch. Indus so far displayed how they could create opportunities in the ground. Keshav, Hari and Sudhir C all fell with slight modification to the score. Hari wanted to take a run when the non striker was not comfortable and ended losing his wicket. Sudhir C, who won the game for Falcons against Indus during the regular season also got out. Keshav’s shot in which he got made me to think. Srikanth scored pushed the scored board little before he left with no partners from the Falcons batting order. Falcons managed to score 94 when the likelihood of scoring 120+ was high at one point.
Indus started their innings really very well. They scored around 20 runs in 3 overs with out any lose of wicket. We were challenged and think tanks (Matta) quickly changed the bowling and brought Matta and Sudhir C to bowl. The first wicket was fallen in Sudhir C’s over. I was little puzzled how the wicket was fallen but I was told it was LBW. In next few overs, they scored few additional boundaries and Falcon’s bowlers also helped with adequate wides. The score board was moving faster than Falcons wanted. Suddenly, a little over pitched ball was bowled. The hard, powerful driven shot was offered and it sent the ball towards covers in the air above 1-2 feet above Matta’s head at the speed of atleast 60 mph. Matta, with his greatest reflex, quick jump, strong arm not only stopped the ball but also graped and stuck into his palm. Yes, the second wicket of Indus was fallen by the greatest catch made by a Falcon this year.
Nitya, one of the coolest, talented, smart cricketer in this league joined the batting. Matta and Sudhir C combination worked but didn’t continue to work. In some cases, the extras were flowing freely. Think tank again made the right decision to bring the trump card, Babu. Babu bowled unbelievable deliveries before Nitya was bowled by his ball. So much relief in everyone’s eyes after Nitya got out but we also know their batting depth is so deep. The next batsman walked in, Raj was telling before the game that he is literally scared of his batting. He can’t bowl when he bats. He is the danger man of Indus. He can change the course of a game in matter of minutes. He can clear the boundaries and true heavy hard hitter. Srikanth walked up to me and told me that I should stand up to Babu. There are bowlers like Babu, who claim they are spinners and they bowl faster than some of the medium pace bowlers. I told Srikanth, standing up to Babu will not help to take the catches and told him I will stand down for him.
Babu continued his bowling and the danger man was reading babu’s bowling by defending, pushing and missing it. He decided he read Babu’s bowling and went for his hard hit shot. He read it wrong and the ball was traveling to the short fine leg. I was just running beneath it and I took it. It was not a difficult catch but it was very crucial wicket. Our hopes increased. Meantime, Matta and Sai bowled two more batsmen. Sai (expect his wides) bowled excellent deliveries. Srikanth and Keshav were brought back and disturbed the batsmen periodically.
We had to get 3 wickets and Indus had to score around 40 runs. Likelihood of our win was high at that point. Suddenly we were losing the game by giving boundaries, wides, extra balls, not materializing the run outs. Made quick adjustment to the field and the ball was hit so high to Keshav. He took a beautiful, well judged match winning catch.
The last two batsmen still troubled Falcons and ticking the score board. They required 25 runs and we required 2 wickets. Sudhir C bowling fetched a caught behind and the last wicket was run out by an excellent throw by Raj.
Finally Falcons broke the jinx and moving to the semi finals.