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Austin scores big against Houston - Lifts the Intercity Cup 2-0
Anyone who has played league cricket in this region is well aware that the 'big daddy' out here is actually HCL, given their quality of players, and of course the results over the past few years. So, any chance you might get to compete with them is sure to get the barometer hitting the roof and to imagine a win against such an opponent has been a far-fetched dream until now. As they say, a well-scripted story always has an astonishing twist in the end that leaves the audience gaping! To say that the past couple of months have been something similar for Austin cricket would be an understatement!! Hail the script-writer!
To quote Walter Peyton:
"I want to be remembered as the guy who gave his all whenever he was on the field."
That pretty much sums up the Austin camp right at the start of this game. The captain, Satish's words pretty much reflected the same approach. Inspite of leading 1-0 in the series, we never underestimated the strength of the opponent, nor were we over-confident. So, the day started with the Austin players arriving on their "home turf" early enough to squeeze in a few volunteer hours and some moments running through the practice drills. Houston camp arrived on time and were also eager to start the day and get it rolling. Austin won the toss and chose to bat. We decided to use the same balls that were used in the CW cup 2008. So, the Austin players were as much alien to the ball as some of the Houston players.
Austin bolstered its batting by including Humayun and Amit Desai while Houston had some re-inforcements in their bowling department with the inclusion of Omar Malik and Majad Rizvi. Jay and Rohit opened the innings for Austin and were throughly tested by the bowlers. Some 'oohs' and 'aahs' were constantly heard from the middle and Austin openers seemed to be a bit nervous and edgy trying to counter the late movement the bowlers were getting. There were some edges that went through the gap in the slip quadron and at times even through the hands of the slip fielders!! It was pretty tense out there.
In the midst of all these, Jay tried to pull a ball but skied it high in the air towards mid-on. It was an absolute sitter, but the fielder floored it! We heaved a sigh of relief since a wicket at that time could have opened the flood gates with the bowlers bowling a nagging line! As lady luck smiled at us, Jay struck a big six of the next over and Rohit struck one soon after to start the proceedings. They kept the bowlers interested by getting beaten at times, but overall were slowly starting to come to grips with the situation. Jay creamed through point for a boundary and Rohit was driving crisply through the field. They were picking ones and twos regularly. We were nervous, but the scoreline was decent - 53 off 9 overs and most importantly, no wickets lost! Over no 10 actually turned the corner for us through some forceful hits to pick up a total of 19. The scorecard read 72 for no loss off 10. We were happy we won the first battle and crossed the dangerous waters without any casualty. Things were settling down a bit, but Jay soon found his bails dislodged by Majad. Majad was penetrative and was unlucky for the most part, to tell the truth. Houston was also unlucky in a way because they did grass a few chances, bowled Jay off a no-ball, and you could see them getting a bit flustered mentally cursing their ill-fortune.
Amit joined Rohit, who by the way, was playing a matured hand in the middle. Amit was playing the fast bowlers comfortably, until his attempted pull off Madhu, the leg spinner, ended up at the waiting hands of the square-leg fielder on the boundary. Two quick wickets fell right before the drinks break and Austin camp was a bit concerned. But, Humayun was the next man to join Rohit. Humayun has played against these bowlers quite a bit and is also one of the most-respected cricketers in the Austin circuit. His maturity was an important aspect in the partnership he built with Rohit, who was going from strength to strength. Strike was rotated well, boundaries were hit regularly, and the score board resembled a slot machine in full-flow! Rohit was starting to meddle everything. Humayun aptly played second fiddle, but never missed out on a brutal pull or hoick himself when the opportunities presented themselves. We did not lose any more wickets in that session and Rohit meanwhile reached his century. The score at drinks read 231 for 2 off 30 overs. That was a great launching pad. We were hoping for a score around 320 or 330 with 8 wickets in hand, but the Houston bowlers, Majad especially, along with Ankit started to pull things back and gain control. Austin were never able to get on with the acceleration and we somehow scampered through and reached 302/9 off 40 overs. A huge score, but knowing Houston's batting and the fact that the 'stevenson screen' might need a few coolers itself, we knew there was a long way to go.
Houston opened with Charan and Majad. We knew Majad is a very positive batsman and Charan was an orthodox player who plays to the merit of the ball. Rohit started the bowling for us and with the fourth ball of the innings scalped the wicket of Charan, caught behind. He got a good ball to face first up and the Austin camp was glad to see him go, since we knew from the previous game's knock by Ghulam, what an orthodox batter might do. In-walked Owen Brown, who had no interest in hanging around. He was belting the ball from the word-go. He was also talking back to us. Ram's first over was pelted for 16 and Rohit's next over was not spared either. Runs were starting to come in bundles and his merciless batting did send a few disconcerting moments in our camp. However, to be frank, as a bowling side, you always back yourselves against such batters who like to hit almost anything that comes their way. Given the fact that he was over-eager to talk to us after almost every shot, we knew it was a matter of time. But the question is: who would do it? Satish gambled with the left-arm spinner in over no 4 itself and duly put a couple of fielders on the boundary line. Brown hit his first ball for a mighty blow through the point region and was looking to dismiss him. Amit persisted with his flight and Brown pulled a skier right to Zubair at deep-midwicket for 29 runs (5 fours and a six) He paid the price for his over-eagerness. While chasing a total in excess of 300, no batter should be content with a few boundary hits, because in a big chase, the real problem begins in the middle overs when the field is spread out a bit. But yeah, we were definitely relieved to see him return to the huddle.
Ankit, the captain, walked to the crease and started in his usual style. Nice flowing drives and a calming presence in the middle. Majad was also looking to settle. Ram was brought back into the attack replacing Amit Jejurekar who did more than his fair share with that wicket. Ram bowled an off-stump line and kept things quiet at his end and Rohit was rushing in, and getting the ball to talk. He bowled a shorted one to Majad which he pulled right to deep square-leg. The temptation for big hits consumed another batter. We were thrilled. Kishen joined Ankit and was lbw rightaway. Double-strike and Austin camp was ecstatic. We knew now that we just have to keep it tight and pull back the run-rate and pry on their mistakes. Ankit had a rush of blood and inside edged a pull onto his stumps. Man of the moment - Rohit Chawla. He couldnt do anything wrong on this day. Houston were reeling at 60/5 off 6 overs. Rohit picked up four big wickets and went inside due to the cramps that he had while batting. After that point onwards, we knew it was a matter of maintaining discipline and the end would be near. Ram kept it tight at one end and Amit was varying his flight. Satish and Zubair had a brief stint too. There were some late order sensible batting from Houston, but with the score at 87/8 chasing 303, I am pretty sure they were futile innings that even the batters themselves would like to forget, as with the rest of Houston.
BTW, both the teams played with great spirit and camaraderie, and on behalf of the Austin team, special thanks goes to Surya along with all the players and organizers from Houston for supporting Austin, a much smaller league in comparison. This was indeed a memorable event for so many worthy reasons beyond just the result for us. Thank you Houston and well played Austin.
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