This was a memorable match in many ways, being as it was a milestone marker game for a few of the key Washington players. There was the swansong of one long time spearhead, a first ever fifer by a bowler and a WCC debut fifty and a career-first six by the ex captain.
On a humid Saturday morning, Washington was to bat first. This being Anil's (Doc) final game for WCC (you never know though..) he was sent up to open the innings with Sameer, as a thank-you-for-everything gesture from the team and the captain. Doc continued with his hitting form from the week before and hit the Chantilly opening bowlers all round the field. Within no time he was in his 20s. Sam, back after a week's break from cricket, got a decent ball as nicked one to the slips. Sharath walked in at No. 3 and immediately looked fluent. Doc holed out to mid on after a blistering cameo (28). Shaunak joined Sharath and scoring did not seem difficult on the even bounced pitch and the fast outfield at Mark Twain. In the 10th over though, against the run of play, Sharath played a non-percentage shot and was bowled off the offspinner for 20.
Palash made his way to the pitch at No. 5. The attack had changed to spin completely and with two good practitioners at either end (an offie and a left armer), run scoring became difficult and attrition was the order of the moment. Palash started shakily but became increasingly assured as he stayed on at the crease. Shaunak missed out on a big score when he was caught for 14. Viral joined Palash and with good cameo partnerships, the score built steadily. We were losing wickets at intervals but not in clusters. Palash held the innings together as Viral perished to an arm ball from the left armer kid and he was soon followed by Sagar. Being 6 down at this stage, we were not in a good position. But again, we got a decent partnership from Palash and Rajiv, who smoked a biggie out of the park. Rajiv fell trying to haul one out for 16.
Then there was an incident which ought to be penned in gold in Washington's history. Palash, who had been rotating the strike and had put his head down admirably, smote one towards cow corner off the spinner. The ball made a sweet sound as it came off his bat and the trajectory was dipping as it reached the concrete boundary at midwicket. It hit the concrete on the nose and bounced back. The umpire raised both his hands towards the heavens..and voila! The 36 year old was no more a sixer-virgin. The cherry had been popped (pun very much intended). His teammates from the benches were on their feet hooting and hollering and whistling at this historic moment.Palash raised his bat even as the opponents were confused as to what was going on. Palash soon reached a most deserved half century, his first for WCC and one made under pressure and good bowling. From me and every single player from WCC, Kudos Palash Sarkar!
Jagga meanwhile, after having settled down, opened up with some big shots, particularly memorable being a flick of the seamer that landed way beyond the boundary. He and Palash had a fantastic partnership that enabled us to cross 200. In the hunt for quick runs at the death, Jagan was out caught to end an invaluable innings of 38 coming in at No. 9. So after 40 overs, WCC after having started well and slumped in the middle, recovered well to post 224 and Palash carried his bat to finish 62 n.o.
The new look Chantilly team had a task on their hands. They started briskly, with purpose and we did not bowl too well at the start of their innings. They did play some good shots and got value for them at MT. Within a short period, they had racked up 50 with no wickets down. With quite a few balls racing off the edges in the slips/gully/backward point areas, the field was adjusted well eventually which paid off with the first wicket. Jagga slanted one full and across the batsman who edged it to Ankit at forward gully. The left armer kid walked in and began smacking us as a right hander. The second wicket partnership was a considerable one and one that put WCC under pressure in the field. The score had passed hundred and with one down only, Chantilly had a great chance.
But it is not for nothing that WCC is a consistent winner of matches. Viral, though being attacked by the two batsmen, changed the course by beguiling two set batsman with flight and length and had them both stumped brilliantly as usual by Rajiv behind the stumps, but not before the opener Tanzir had stroked a well crafted 50. WCC sensed an opening and jumped into it. The back of the middle order was broken by our vicey, Ankit. Bowling accurately with good control of length, Ankit had No. 4 bowled trying to go after him. Nos. 5 and 6 were beaten in flight and length to be caught dead in front. No. 7 was accounted for courtesy Sagar at midwicket. Ankit bowled a rare loose ball, a full toss on leg stick which the batsmen promptly swatted just wide of square leg. Sagar was not sleeping though. He snared it just as the ball was just about past him just after we heard Ankit yelling "arre nahi..". Jagan accounted for the big hitting Qaizaar by bowling him clean. Jagan got No. 11 lbw to end with nice figures of 3/19. But the bowling honors were reserved for Ankit who bowled No. 9 to get his first five wicket haul for WCC. He has been our most consistent bowler apart from Doc this season and this was a great performance, again when put under pressure. It was all over for Chantilly at 165 off 32 overs.
A fantastic game to watch and be part of, not because it was nail biting or close but because of the way the individual players made a difference under pressure - Viral with those 2 crucial wickets, allround Jagan with 3 wickets and 38 with the bat, Ankit with a maiden fifer (8 over, 5/23) and Palash, 62 and carrying his bat. And that six.
P.S. Goodbye Doc and thanks for the memories. We will miss your throws to the longest end, your bowling of course and most of all, you yelling at yourself.