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An increasingly rampant CUCC Sunday XI took the bull by
the horns and never let go this past Sunday, albeit being one weapon short. On
what developed into a beautiful day for cricket, the ten-member side turned up
early (relative to earlier seasons as well as earlier this season) and had the
mat laid down well before the scheduled start time of 1 PM, although our captain
demanded even earlier arrivals from his team and rightly so, considering his
goal of better preparing the team for these combats. The fact that his
propensity for C.I. - continuous improvement - was making it more and more
difficult for him to see eye to eye with some members of the team did not deter
him one bit.
As winning habits go, Lakshmanan called right yet again and walked back from the pitch with a spring in his steps fit enough for a pogo-stick entrant into Limca Book of Records. The fielding drills were called to an abrupt halt as focus shifted to batting. The opposition, the Middletown Bullets, seemed to be a sprightly bunch of young guns, looking eager and anxious to cross swords with, or should we say point muzzles at, their rivals. CUCC, trying out a new opening pair to give everyone sometime in the middle, brought back Arvind to open with Gokul. The match started amidst concerns over the authenticity of one of the two umpires, especially considering the fact that the other umpire came in Half way through the first over, there were early indications that the match might not be much unlike a bullet train headed for its destination at many times its own normal, frantic velocity. It was as if the 21 cricketers had heard a gunshot as opposed to the usual and more stoic call of "Play" from the umpire. As Gokul seemed to be continuing from where he left off the previous day, unleashing a flurry of strokes on both sides of the wicket, Arvind fell attempting to cut a ball square and only managing to hit it straight into the hands of a very valid point. In walked Siva, custom bat in hand. But there was certainly nothing customary about the way he met the ball with middle of his bat, almost as soon as he joined Gokul in the middle. He soon found himself walking back, adjudged LBW, as he missed a ball that pitched on middle stump and was headed toward the middle of his fifth stump. This brought Lakshmanan to the pitch and a bowling change saw Ali bringing his stay at the crease to a very premature end. Lakshmanan was caught- in more ways than one - in his crease as he displayed a very rare tentative and even rarer inelegant, push which ensured that the ball caught the edge of the bat. So far, three wickets had fallen from a mere eight overs with the score at fifty six. Gokul at the other end kept attacking the opposition with a brace of fours and looking good for another big score. But the madness continued with Gokul falling soon thereafter, to yet another dubious LBW decision, to another change in bowling that brought Zahid, the left handed bowler, to the battle. 65/4 in nine. Prabhu's two-over long vigil with Vishnu, who had just witnessed two of his team mates perish, was rudely disturbed by the sound of the ball breaking Prabhu’s wicket. Things were moving at such a frantic pace that it seemed to many as if runs were falling and wickets were pouring. The captain, Venu, got on this speed train with the score reading 73/5 in twelve. Was he to continue operating under haste or impose a sense of sanity to the proceedings! The answer came very soon as he managed the unmanageable ... a perfect marriage of the two approaches. What followed was a measured assault on most of the bowlers he faced, except Ali. Ali bowled irritatingly accurately and emerged as the single Bullets bowler who had "to be seen off" on the day. But a combination of a bizarre bowling change that took him out of the attack prematurely, one of the most mature batting performances CUCC has experienced in its ranks in while was exhibited by Vishnu, and Venu's usual flamboyance meant that CUCC was beginning to turn the barrel pointed to their face away from it. By the time Venu was through, the partnership had almost doubled CUCC's total from seventy three to a hundred and forty one. Suraj, who seems to have found a long-lost friend in his lower order batting spot, had a tailor-made situation welcoming him to just do what he has become adept at doing very well this season. And that he did!! But not before Vishnu fell trying to up the ante with a fiercely attempted pull at a rare short ball which only resulted in a top-edge followed by a well-called and judged catch by the wicket keeper, Iftikar. Vishnu missed what would have been an extremely well-deserved fifty that was worth a lot more that its "score-card value" to CUCC in this match and beyond. Suraj (remained unbeaten on a very well made 46 as he made sure CUCC went home with a good total) and Sriram continued the onslaught to take their team to 232/7 in the allotted thirty five overs, a total that by all means qualifies as defendable on VCP3.
The Bullets opened their batting with Moid and Sunny, with the latter seemingly using Russian roulette as an inspiration for his batting. While Venu managed to hit Moid's pad in front of the wicket before he had a say in the matter, Dileep acted as the solitary bullet in Sunny's pistol that was destined to fire any moment. Sunny did manage to connect two lusty blows over long on in the process that accounted for 89% of his score. This double blow first brought Iftikar, a.k.a. "Iffi" to the crease to merciless sledges suggesting that his nickname suited his batting style, who was soon joined by Aman. The two seemed intent on playing risk less cricket and managed to do so for three overs until Venu, in a fashion that is so indicative of one of the many reasons why we all have come to love this sport so much, managed to produce that one magic ball that would bounce on the off stump and cut just enough to beat the bat of a top order batsman. Half a second later, one could not have been blamed for wondering if they were part of a cricket match happening in the 18th century as only two stumps stood on the ground with a solitary bail still majestically perched on top of them. This wicket opened up the proverbial floodgates that eventually damned the Bullets, for what followed was a deluge of wickets taken by Dileep clarifying for one and all the etymology of the word spell used in the context of bowling. His left-arm in-swingers, though not as potent as they were during the previous weekend, mesmerized batsmen enough this time around to give him wickets even off his other variations. It was also worth mentioning that his pace had picked up a few yards, as evident from Gokul attempting to stand up to his bowling in order to prevent the well-set Iffi from leaving his crease only to head back after one ball that bounced and took off before he had an opportunity to get his gloves behind it. Much as one six-fer is hard to come by, two of them in back-to-back matches is an achievement at any level. Interestingly between these two performances Dileep has been on a hat-trick thrice, needless to say he is still on a hat-trick for three consecutive six-fers. Dileep's seven overs - with ample assistance from Sriram who "squeezed" three good catches - ensured that the Middletown Bullets' batting scorecard was effectively reduced to little more than a telephone directory specializing in displaying toll-free numbers. Iffi was the only one to even reach double digits and scored more than half of his team's total tally of ninety one. His fifty was a personal consolation for having played sensibly and skillfully.
With only a match or two of regular season to go, CUCC is looking better than most times to not just enter the playoffs but also make a firm statement therein.
On this occasion, though, the Bullets failed to hit the mark with "Matrix"-like inaccuracy even as their targets more than just dodged them with Neo-esque martialism.
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