Cougars North vs South
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Michael Doig was at his best with his brilliant 115 that came in just 56 balls studded with 14 fours and 3 sixes. He also picked up 2 wickets for just 9 runs.
FORT COLLINS -- The day could not have started any differently, the back-end of a doubleheader weekend. Saturday’s chilly and windy weather was replaced with clear skies, warm weather with the gentlest of breezes. A perfect day for cricket it was, made all the more so with standout performances from Mike Doig and Afaan Sheriff.
Swadeep won the toss for the south team and elected to bat. Pradeep and Govind opened again, intent on starting in a positive note. However, Dipal struck first blood, getting a snick of Govind, bringing Ananth to the crease much earlier than expected. Unperturbed by this, Pradeep was intent on punishing any mistakes from the bowlers. Nadeem, still in pre-season form and fighting a knee injury, did not help his cause by drifting down the leg-side often. As the boundaries and runs piled up on that side, Nadeem moved first 1, then 2 and then 3 players in the arc from square leg to fine leg. This seemed to disturb Pradeep’s concentration as he tried one shot too many. A resulting top edge was taken smartly by Prasad at covers.
Ananth, on the other end, got into his groove quickly and was seemingly untroubled by anything thrown at him. The trademark extra-cover and straight drives were flowing easily. But, just as he was eyeing a big score, he lazily wafted at an outswinger and only managed to guide the ball to Vamshi at slips. However, if there was any jubilation in the part of the North team, it was tempered by the sight of Mike Doig walking to the crease. The apprehension was not unfounded as this was a batsman, in the form of his life, who had scored 3 astounding and unforgettable fifties in his last 5 innings in different conditions. Just a day before, he had scored 51 in just 18 balls to seal the match for the cougars against Fort Collins.
It would have been a tough act to upstage, but Doig did that with ease and plenty to spare. The 2nd ball of the innings was nonchalantly cut to the point boundary, 4th ball was hoisted over the mid-wicket for a six and so on. The score moved along at the rate of knots as boundaries came fast and furious. Doig reached his fifty in nary a time as he hoisted Rajesh for another boundary over long-off. Afaan, who had come in at the fall of Pradeep’s wicket, ably supported Doig with a gem of his own.
With Dipal running out of options, he turned to the less heralded bowlers in Vamshi and Nitin, who answered the call admirably. Both looked to keep a tight line outside the off-stump and slow the pace down. This seemed to do the trick as run-scoring became more difficult. With his strike rate slowing down to 200, Doig tried to hit out Nitin, but the resulting simple chance was put down at point. It would be a missed chance that the North fielders would rue for a long time. Afaan too received a life when a high, difficult catch was put down by Ravi at wide long-on. However, this was not as costly as he was trapped LBW to Nitin soon after.
Vamshi, with his steady leg-spin continued to trouble Doig, who was in unchartered territory when he reached the 80’s and 90’s. Few nervous hits only resulted in top-edges which either fell just wide of the fielders or over them. However, with Solanki smartly rotating the strike and lady luck smiling on him, Doig reached his maiden hundred with a beautiful drive to long-off. The dominance he had over the bowlers can be seen by the fact that even though he was slowed down a little at the end by Vamshi’s leg-spin, he ended up with 115 runs off a scarcely believable 56 balls.
Solanki, who had come in the fall of Afaan’s wicket, was also playing a nice, little cameo. He did everything to unsettle the bowlers, fielders, umpires, stumps and everything else, while trying to keep runs flowing and keeping the pressure off Doig. In between his reverse sweeps, dancing down the crease paddle sweeps, he played some crisp shots, helping the score rattle past 250. After the wicket of Doig, caught in the long-off boundary, Solanki assumed the role of senior batsman and kept the scoreboard ticking. South ended with 284 on the board, which looked more than North could handle.
The aspect of South’s batting which stood out was the way partnerships were constructed. Even when a wicket fell, the incoming batsmen quickly hit their strides, while the batsman who was still there took it upon himself to keep the scoreboard ticking. Partnerships of 51, 117, and 82 are testament to this fact. North bowlers, on the other hand bowled too many loose balls to maintain any sort of consistent pressure on the batsmen. Vamshi and Nitin stood out, but the rest failed to make an impression. It did not help that the bowling reserves were limited with a back injury to Mike Riley.
Chasing 280 in 40 overs was going to be a tall order on any given day, and with a perked up Afaan using the new ball, it was going to be nearly impossible. The first ball of the innings showed the devastating mood that Afaan was in. A fast incutting missile thudded into Nadeem’s pads before he had a chance to react. A loud, confident appeal was turned down, presumably because Nadeem had just managed to get outside the line of offstump. But, it was immediately apparent that it was going to be a long day (or a short day, depending on the way you look at it) for the North batsmen.
With Doig also bowling a tight over at the other end to Ganesh, Nadeem was forced to take chances against Afaan. However, it was not going to be Nadeem’s weekend and he managed to only scoop it up to Swadeep at short covers. Vijay and Prasad, who had been the bright spots of North’s fielding during the 1st innings, were promoted up the order. However, they could not come good as they fell to the wiles of Doig. Vijay was lured into a lofted extra-cover drive while Prasad was surprised with a straight delivery on offstump after two well directed outswingers. Vamshi was cleaned up by an Afaan special off his very first ball. Within no time, the scorecard read 18/4 and the fat lady started clearing her throat.
Dipal joined Ganesh and this seemed to be the last hope for the North team. A day earlier, they had joined together for a defying stand of 118 runs. Ganesh was batting assuredly, but struggled to hit the gaps. Moreover, Afaan, bowling with a purpose was too good for any lineup today. A bouncer directed at the throat was followed by a sharp outcutter. The next ball was a perfect full pitched incutter and caught Ganesh plumb in front. It was a classic fast bowler’s wicket and the 50 inch vertical leap after the umpire’s verdict showed it.
Ravi fell soon after, unable to cope with the express speed that Afaan was generating. However, Dipal stood tall among the ruins and shepherded the rest of the batting. With an assured technique, he managed to get behind the line and on the rare occasion that he got a loose ball, he managed to put it away to the boundary. He was ably assisted by the higly underrated Vamshi M. Vamshi batted with a purpose against all bowlers. A fine flick to the boundary of Afaan showed his intent.
The 50 run partnership only delayed the inevitable. Kervyn managed to sneak one through Dipal’s defenses, who seems to harboring some hopes of an upset. The rest of the batting fell soon after and North collapsed to less than 100 runs. Afaan ended with 4 wickets, while Kervyn and Doig ended with 2 apiece. For North, Dipal was the standout batsman for the 2nd day with 34 runs, while Mugutha made a polished 26 runs.
Cougars South R B 4 6
Govind c Ganesh b Dipal 0 3 - -
Pradeep c Prasad b Nadeem 23 20 2 -
Ananth c Vamshi K b Mike R 34 45 4 -
Afan lbw Nitin 40 38 1 2
Michael c Mike R b Nitin 115 56 14 3
Solanki c Nadeem b Vamshi M 46 37 5 -
Swadeep notout 13 10 1 -
Kervyn runout (Dipal) 5 4 - -
Extras (b1, lb2, w5) 8
Total (7 wickets, 40 overs) 284
Bowling O M R W
Dipal 6 1 24 1 (w 2)
Nadeem 8 - 58 1
Mike R 4 - 26 1
Idate 4 - 30 -
Nitin 7 - 54 2 (w 2)
Vamshi K 7 - 54 -
Vamshi M 2 - 9 1
Ravi 2 - 23 - (w 1)
Cougars North R B 4 6
Nadeem c Swadeep b Afan 2 8 - -
Ganesh lbw Afan 5 19 - -
Vijay c Afan b Michael 3 11 - -
Prasad b Michael 0 4 - -
Vamshi K b Afan 0 1 - -
Dipal b Kervyn 34 34 1 2
Ravi b Afan 0 2 - -
Vamshi M c Afan b Kervyn 26 28 4 -
Idate c Afan b Solanki 8 16 1 -
Nitin notout 3 2 - -
Mike R runout (Afan) 0 3 - -
Extras (b3, lb2, w9, nb2) 16
Total (10 wickets, 22.3 overs) 97
Bowling O M R W
Afan 8 - 34 4 (w 4, nb 2)
Michael 4 1 9 2 (w 1)
Andrew 4 - 22 -
Kervyn 3.3 - 15 2 (w 3)
Solanki 3 - 11 1
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