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the first two defeats of the season, our captain had to change his mantra from
"Let's keep the winning streak going, guys!" to "We need to win
more matches to be in a better position ourselves in the play-offs".
Regardless of the fact that the latter will not gain entry into a "Sports
cliches of the century" list this or any other century, the team did
deliver on the request this past Sunday.
A hungry - in more ways than one - CUCC team arrived on VCP3 a full thirty minutes before the scheduled start of play. This was a first of its own kind, at least in the years that the author has been part of the goings on in CUCC. A few bowling and fielding drills later, the toss was flipped and CUCC won it riding on "Luck"smanan's record at the event.
As things seemed to be in order for a punctual start in a markedly atypical fashion, reality struck as it was realized the boundaries weren't marked. Fast on the trails of this realization came another rude awakening - the cooler was nowhere to be found!!! For the sake of those few logical minds who might be expecting a relationship between conical objects and coolers, allow me to let you in on a secret - the ever-so-improvisational bunch that is CUCC transports one inside the other. Well, at least most of the time. So as resources were dispatched to rope in some boundary cones, some members of the team snuck out to participate in more fielding drills, even as the umpire and the opposition seemed to be getting more anxious by the minute. Siva ran back a few minutes later and bowled over a few of us with his own improvisational skills as dished out the next best thing to ropes, cones or flags for marking boundaries - well, dishes ... paper bowls!!! At least one of us was literally hungry for runs!!
The match got underway soon after that as Prabu and Gokul strode out confidently. It was not much longer before Gokul started stroking the new ball beyond the ... ahem .... bowls. But soon thereafter, Prabu fell to a peach of a delivery that just moved away after pitching and clipped the off-stump leaving Prabu playing for the one that would have stayed its normal course, and missing. The run-rate had climbed up to seven runs an over before Gokul fell against the flow of things as he timed a ball right into the hands of an unorthodox mid-on. That was Salman's second wicket for Parson's. This brought together one of the more productive partnerships of the day for CUCC between Michael and Lakshmanan. Michael began in his normal accumulator mode but switched gears very soon and the boundaries started appearing in the scorecard again. The highlight of his innings came when he chased a wide ball and made good contact through a topspin forehand version of the square cut as the ball soared over what would have been deep point, even as his bottom hand let go of the bat in his effort to reach out. Michael's wicket fell in a fashion similar to Gokul's although the problem here was not placement but that of timing. Looking to give Siva an opportunity to spend time in the middle and get some runs, Venu promoted - compared to previous outings this season - Siva up the order to # 5. Siva obliged with a cautious start and then timed the ball well to pick up some much needed runs for himself and the team. All this while, Lakshmanan had been playing with ease at the other end putting the bad balls away and pushing the balls into the gaps. It started becoming clear that he would be the one whom the rest of the team had to "bat around" to pile up a good score. Siva was the next to depart, again to an ill-timed shot while self-admittedly trying to up the run rate. This brought one of our heroes of the previous weekend, Suraj, to the crease who started in a manner indicative of his good nick. By now, Parson's off-spinner, Adnan, had gotten into his own rhythm as evidenced by the well-set Lakshmanan's inability to time his shots against said bowler and their first change bowler, Mudassar, had also gotten into his groove and was troubling all the batsmen who faced him, some less occasionally than the others.
It didn't take long for Adnan to dismiss Suraj who was caught off yet another mistimed shot. Even as Arvind walked in to join Lakshmanan, it was noticed by many that Lakshmanan had mysteriously lost his timeless ability to time the cricket ball with utmost ease and elegance. What resulted was a few overs of nervous swipes, swings, and slashes from both batsmen, not too many of which were followed by the sound of ball hitting bat. Lakshmanan went past a batsman's first major milestone in a match, a fifty, an uncharacteristic, yet extremely valuable one. Lakshmanan confirmed what many had feared would happen anytime then as he fell trying to pull a short-pitched delivery and was bowled in the bargain by Mudassar, This was only one half of a double-blow by the bowler as he ended Arvind's stay at the crease with a caught and bowled effort. The wickets were quite well-deserved to a bowler who had been bowling a good line and length and was miserly in his sundries column.
The skipper, Venu, started rather timidly, but didn't take very long to get a good measure of the bowling as the ball started flying to all ends of the park. Four fours, and three sixers were hit from his bat in almost no time as he single-handedly made a mess of Adnan's figures as he ended up giving more than a run-a-ball in his quote of seven overs after threatening to have put the brakes on CUCC's innings. Venu was assisted adamantly by Monty and "pad"amantly by Dileep, who inspite of his claims of "I do just that" to suggestions of batting out the rest of the overs by Michael, forgot to use his bat along the way and was out LBW causing a rarity to occur as Venu walked back as the last man standing, although the pain in his foot meant he could hardly remain standing for too long. CUCC ended up with a more than defendable score of 236, thanks largely to a resolute innings from Lakshmanan up the order and a blitzkrieg by Venu further down, needless to mention the myriad two-digit contributions by a few others.
CUCC started their bowling rather nervously with Sunil not being able to find one-tenth of his usual rhythm or line and was being stroked away to runs square on the off-side. Dileep, on the contrary, started very well, beating the bat on certain occasions and leaving the batsmen with no option but to defend the ball on others. Venu brought himself on from the "Stables end" replacing a Sunil, but had his own problems in hitting the right line as he gave away too many wides. Dileep continued to peg away from the other end, bowling an immaculate line, but only managing to induce desperate "oohs" and "aahs" from the close in fielders at best. While the batsmen were not running away with the match at any point, they were not being tested at one end either, until Venu found a semblance of rhythm coming around the wickets and came back from a fiercely struck boundary to claim the wicket of Mudassar, who also ended up being the best batsman for Parson's by far. Pretty soon, Dileep's anguish was to end as well as he finally found the edge of their other opener, Usman after numerous previous attempts. The wicket was also the result of an excellent catch taken by Lakshmanan, who showed great slip catching skills in allowing a rather low and fast approaching ball to come to him as he merely stayed low and held on to it, even as one of his hands slipped off the ball. The openers departed, not just having opened the innings in coming in to bat but also the proverbial floodgates as they left the middle as each Parson's batsman seemed intent upon out-outing the next. Wickets fell with atomic clock regularity as Venu first and Prabu later claimed three a piece and Dileep ended up with two. All the CUCC fielders held onto their catches, none more so than the only two to have dropped catches during the earlier drills, Dileep and Monty, both judging very high skiers to perfection with Dileep doing so to a very well-hit ball just a yard inside the long off boundary and above his head as well. Another highlight of CUCC's innings on the field was a rare run-out effected by the combination of Suraj at point and Dileep the bowler. Suraj, who has been as brilliant in the square position on the off-side on the field as he is there with the bat, stopped a well struck ball to the astonishment of the non-striker who had jumped the gun too early and found himself within smooching distance of the striker as Suraj heeded his teammates' calls for throwing to the bowler's end with a measure and relaxed throw to Dileep who made no mistake in doing the rest. With many of the CUCC fielders breathing down their captain's neck to allow them to roll their arms from the bowler's crease, the captain almost conceded but the Parsons' batsmen had had enough and thwarted any such attempts by getting themselves all out in the twentieth over which was only Prabhu's third.
All in all, a much needed win for CUCC to get back to their winning ways through a very professional batting and fielding performance. The mood was great in the team throughout the match. The opposing team being a bunch of young guys who went about doing their jobs without any complaints or unsportsmanly behavior went a long way toward that as well. Something that is becoming more and more improbable by the weekend.
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