Washington CC took on United CC last Sunday at a new ground.
What we heard: It is called the Web Center. Small ground, small ground, small ground.
What we found out: It could also have been called "Cow grazing meadow". Small ground yes, but you could play hide and seek in the grass. No place to sit or hide from the sun/rain and you needed 4-5 balls as backup as one side of the ground was a ball gobbling black hole.
What is to be noted is that the above is not a complaint list but an observation about the state of the ground. It can be better.
Anyways, as we found a spot to put our kits on, Ankit (who stepped up as Captain since Viraal was indisposed with his back injury) called right and correctly opted to bat first. No one knew what a good score was on the ground, though conventional thinking is that smaller the ground, higher the score ought to be. WCC had a new opening pair with Sameer and Raj both not playing on Sunday. Sharath and Pradeep (debutant for WCC but a very experienced and accomplished cricketer) strode out to take strike.
Pradeep (2) got a rough one IMO as the ball was swinging quite a bit and it seemed headed down leg when it struck Pradeep. The umpire thought otherwise and we were a wicket down in the 3rd over. Tarun joined Sharath and the pair who have had crucial partnerships before hunkered down to deny the exuberant United bowlers and fielders. Neither bogging down nor swinging wildly, the duo found a middle way of running well, keeping the good ones out and scoring freely when the opportunity was presented. Tarun who was always strong on the leg side seems to have added another dimension to his batting by striking boundaries on the offside as well. The firm of TC&S unhinged the bowling attack gradually and by the first break, taken at 14 overs, WCC were 68/1.
Post break, TC&S stepped on the accelerator and went hard at the bowlers. Tarun struck a couple of one bouncers on the off and as usual, punished severely anything on middle and leg, including a six or two. Sharath continued his run of form by scoring boundaries and a couple of sixes straight down the ground. Sharath (54) went on to complete his second fifty of the series and WCC was looking well in command when he pushed hard at a ball that stopped and spooned a simple return catch to Tushar. Thus ended a top order worthy partnership of 92 runs.
The key was to not lose wickets in clusters after a good partnership and Kalyan, who joined TC did not let that happen. They kept upping the rate as Kal smashed 3 biggies out and beyond the boundary and TC kept his game going. The second break was taken at 29 and WCC were at 147/2. This was again an important 3rd wicket partnership of 50 plus runs which ended post break when Kal lofted on to extra cover. The fielder made good ground and pulled off a really good catch to end an entertaining innings at 24. TC, who was 2 runs short of what would have been a deserving fifty, perished in attempting to up the rate, caught at cover for 48. Though two quick wickets had fallen, there was no respite for the opposition. Our batsmen kept going hard at them in the form of Ravi Teja and Jagan. This was a period of relentless clean striking of the ball. Ravi batted in an intimidating fashion leaving very little room for error, smoking sixes in all directions. An absolute treat to watch that kind of clean hitting. Jagan wasn't to be left behind. He enjoyed his promotion up the order by smoting a huge six and a delicious cut shot over point. As Jagga (13) fell to a yorker, Sagar joined Ravi for the last 5 overs and the battering continued. Ravi fell short of his half century by 5 runs going for big runs and Sagar (26*) pulled off 15 runs from the last over to end at a formidable 239/6 off 40.
We needed this kind of a batting performance to bounce back from the suicidal batting against Trindies. Proud of the batters to have come to the party in this fashion.
However, United CC is a top heavy batting side with some renowned hitters. They have always chased well against us, falling short two years ago and chasing successfully last year. We needed a focused effort in the field and with the ball.
Jagan and Murali started proceedings, Murali in particular bowled brilliantly making good of his form this season. An ugly shot by the opener off him resulted in a simple skier for Taran at mid on to catch. Their big name batsmen were at the crease and breaking the back of the top order was what we needed. Murali did that for us by deceiving Anoop with swing. Having it taken it away from him all the time, he brought one back in creating a gate between bat and pad. The batsman heard the death rattle behind him. United, to their credit, did not stop coming at us and they kept up the RR of 6 an over until the first break taken at 15. They were 86/2 and on course.
Back from the break, Ankit took over and lead from the front by going through their middle order. He had Raj who was a run short of fifty, pull, miss and be struck in front of middle to get rid of the danger man. He trapped No. 5 in front as well and then had Tushar who was going well, caught at long off (a good catch by Sagar) and we were into the lower middle. The run flow had been reduced to a trickle and wickets were picked up so that at 30 overs, United stood at 128/7.
At the other end, Ravi was bowling quick and straight and he was rewarded for his insistence by picking up two wickets. He picked up the 8th when the batsman slogged him to mid off where Murali safely pouched it. Ankit came back to get his four-fer courtesy the catch of the day by Pradeep. The ball was lofted high and wide towards extra cover and Pradeep ran full tilt from long off and made the catch. Great result for a great effort. Ravi Teja finished it off by inducing a mistimed slog which Pradeep caught easily at short midwicket and victory was secured by 91 runs.
A thoroughly satisfying day's cricket for Washington. The batsmen stepped up, the bowlers delivered and the fielders backed them up all the way.
Special mention to Viraal and Palash for coming to the ground inspite of not playing, Viraal for bringing the balls we thought we would need and Palash for hanging around till we won.