Playoffs are finally here and if there was any lack of context and/or drama then the recent on field controversies and the subsequent activity on the facebook has provided the necessary ingredients to engage the otherwise indifferent WCL audience. Congratulations to all the teams who made it thus far as it’s no mean feat to land in the top 6, given the ever increasing quality of competition in the Premier Division. As a keen follower of the sport it is indeed heartwarming to see the growing prestige around Washington Cricket League’s reputation as a real competitive league. This is not limited to Premier Division only as the level of competition has increased in the lower divisions as well. But for this article’s scope let’s examine the matchups of the two quarter finals in Premier Division. As of now, grounds are not decided for the quarter finals (QF) so most of the analysis will be based on the performance so far with some minor factors from other aspects of the game.

Titans vs 22 Yards

These two teams just recently played in their last league match where 22 Yards convincingly came out on top. Titans were missing a few of their key players and got a chance to test their bench strength with mixed results. Only time will tell how effective this strategy is just before the playoffs, as it can throw off the momentum Titans had acquired in last few games. 22 Yards apparently went in with their almost first choice line up and got a good win under their belt. They have played excellent cricket throughout the season and would like to go far into the knockout stages.

I would like to mention key players from both teams not because they are better players than the others but because they have done well overall this season and are more likely to influence the game result.

Key Players Titans: Agha Sabir, Ameeq Khan, Shiraz Ali Khan, Christopher Powell, Muhammad Saqib.

Titans have done well when they were cornered and won some crucial games to make it to playoffs. Ameeq, Christopher Powell, Saqib and Sheraz have been cornerstones of this turnaround. Move to open with Ameeq was long overdue as he is a fearless hitter and can really throw opposition off their bowling plans. He is also a very decent spinner (though could change his pace with that runup). Saqib’s lack of form was hurting the team and the opposite happened when he came back to form with some good attacking innings. His partnerships with Sheraz really solidified Titans’ middle order. Agha sabir has also lived upto his reputation as a genuine all-rounder and it’s no surprise that he is their top batsman and bowler. And finally the spark that was so often missing from Titans previous teams, was provided by Christopher Powell. His bowling, batting, fielding and active presence on the field has given the wings to this underperforming but otherwise talented Titans lineup and who knows this could prove to be the required recipe to go deeper into playoffs.

Key Players 22 Yards: Sunny Patel, Shahid Hanif, Farhat brothers, Samuel Lalzare, Kamran Sheikh, Rameez Raja, Dishant parikh, Pavan Kahar, Usman Shahid.

Shahid Hanif is a genuine all-rounder and his stats reflect that. Pavan and Usman have been among wickets and would test Titans batting again. In the absence of Farhat brothers; Sunny, Shahid and Samuel have done well to keep posting decent scores or chase totals. Word on the street is that one of the Farhat brothers will be available for playoffs and that will crucial for 22 Yards chances.

Who might win:

Playoffs are usually a contest of closely matched teams but sometimes it can be one sided as well. In this matchup, I am expecting a hard fought battle as both teams are loaded with talent. With overall consistent performance throughout the season and more in form players, I believe 22 Yards would prevail in this encounter by the odds of (60%-40%).

 

Virginia Wolves vs Virginia Lions:

Fourth and Fifth seeded teams will be locking horns in this crucial encounter. The league match between these two teams was abandoned with Wolves having a slight upper hand in that game when the game was called off. Lions are experienced campaigners and take pride in their record in this format whereas Wolves (formerly Zolon) can brag about being the only other team with similar successes and that too in the recent past. An interesting thing about Wolves is that their losses are by very narrow margins whereas most of their wins are by a decent margin. Kind of shows that they like to gain and ride the momentum but can also be put under pressure. Lions’ wins have been utterly dominating and their losses are a mixed bag of careless batting and mistakes.

Key Players Wolves: Milind Kumar, Kaushal Raman, Gourav Bajaj, Waleed karimullah

There are pros and cons in this regard for Wolves. Pros first, these key players have done so well that they feature in the top batting and bowling charts for their team. Usually that is a good sign but it masks the fact that others in the team have not stepped up and contributed enough. Oppositions will definitely look into such facets and devise plans accordingly. But these four have had a stellar season thus far.

Key Players Lions:

Gowkaran Roopnarine (Juicy), Waleed, Cassius Burton, Najaf Shah, Naseer Islam

Juicy has been in the form of his life and he seems to be getting better with age. A 1000 runs milestone across formats is no mean feat and he can single handedly win games for VCC. VCC has a potent bowling attack with Najaf and Ramkishan leading the attack followed by Naseer’s wily spin and Zaheer’s economical strangle. Junaid and Waleed are more than handy with the bat and are livewires in the field. Cassius has played some really good innings in his short number of appearances so far this season.

Who might win:

This one is too tough to call but my gut feeling says that Virginia Lions would come out on top by the odds of (55%-45%) based on their in form squad and the type of margins they have dished out. It will be a cracker of a game nonetheless and hopefully gets played in the right spirit given the positive rivalry of the two teams.


 

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