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Zolon Challengers vs UMBC Match Report -- Playoff Game (replay) Round of 8 on 9/2/12
September 4, 2012
12:37 pm
anurag
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Zolon Challengers vs UMBC Match Report – Provided by Anurag Sharma

It had rained the previous night. When we got to the ground, the pitch was not in a good shape. It was wet and a lot of debris had washed onto it. It also had two holes in the middle of the pitch. We spent considerable time cleaning the pitch, getting sand and mud to fill up the holes and then another 15 minutes rolling it to help it bind. Then we went to get the matting, which was wet and heavy. We brought it to the pitch laid it out and then brushed it as much as possible as it also had a lot of debris on it. The reason for this was that last Sunday, the match was abandoned due to heavy rain and a lot of debris had washed onto the matting then. There is no broom at Bucklodge (which is a league ground), and we had to utilize other ways to remove the debris.

At 11:53 the matting had been nailed down and the wickets had been put on. The only thing missing was the crease marking. I went to the umpire to ask him if he had chalk, and he did (we had run out of chalk) and he gave us the chalk. As I was walking to the wicket to mark the crease, I was told by our captain that the opposition captain had requested one of the umpires for a 15 minute delay as the matting was wet. The umpires walked into the field at 12 noon and asked why the crease hadn’t been marked. I informed them that I was waiting for the batsman to come in and I will use their bat to measure the length and then mark it. To this the senior umpire said that he had a measuring tape in his bag and requested us to bring it in. Our 12th man brought the umpire’s bag in and then the umpire himself took the tape out and started to mark the crease. By the time he was finished marking, and he measured things very meticulously and took his time, it was around 12:15. All our players were standing around as the batting team’s openers had not yet come in to bat. At this point, the senior umpire called the other umpire and they had a two minute discussion about something. At the end of this, he asked our captain, Ankur and the UMBC captain, Gurnish, for a meeting. All of a sudden, I heard an animated Ankur saying something to the affect that “this isn’t fair and that this can’t be done”. When I approached the umpire and captain to find out what had happened, I learned that the umpire was informing the two captains that since we had not marked the crease, we had forfeited the toss and since it was now 12:17 or so, we had lost 4 overs.

We were completely stunned. To this Ankur mentioned that the opposition captain had requested a 15 minute delay and the umpire had agreed to this. To this, the umpire said that the matter was discussed but he had not made any decision on it. There was confusion all around. I went to the umpire and said, that I had informed you that all I was waiting on was for the batsman to come in so I could quickly draw the crease. The senior umpire said that not having the crease drawn is seemed as the “ground not being ready for play”. We were furious and informed the umpires that we will be filing a protest with the league about this and they said that we are free to do so. We had lost the toss and were charged with a 4 over penalty for a late beginning.

Here is what I have an issue with: Umpires are supposed to be there to help and guide the teams. When at 12 noon the umpire came to the wicket, he should have had the courtesy to inform us that if we do not mark the crease right away, we are in danger of forfeiting the toss and losing overs. If he had informed (warned) us of this, how long do you think it would have taken us to mark the crease? I would say we would have marked it in less than 15 seconds. The umpire’s job is not just to give decisions during the game, but to properly manage the game. In my view, the umpire miserably failed to properly communicate with us. I have umpired in this league for more than 10 years, including playoff games and D1 finals, and I have never ever seen anything like this.

Another noteworthy thing is that the opposition batsmen were not on the field ready to take strike at 12 noon either. In fact, they were not on the field even at 12:15. Obviously, because they were also under the impression that the game was starting 15 minutes late. This is a lesson that all teams should learn from our experience. Never to trust the umpires as they might do things in a whimsical way and may not properly communicate with you at the start of the game. Make sure you mark your crease before 12 noon and don’t suffer the way we did.

UMBC took advantage of the situation and since they were offered the toss now, they chose to field. We had to quickly leave the field and get ready to bat. Obviously, we were seething with anger after having worked so hard to get the ground ready under challenging conditions.

Zolon Challengers Innings:

With this being a long weekend, many of our players had plans or commitments that they couldn’t get out of. As a result, we only had 10 (eligible) players available at the start of the game. We had to play the game one man short against a very good UMBC team.

Anurag and Fahed opened the innings and did well under trying circumstances. After 7 overs, the score was in the 30s for no loss. Then in the 8th over, Fahed got out and then in the next over Anurag got out. From 35/0, Challengers were 42/2 in 9. Fahed had scored 9 and Anurag 24. Raghav and Digant were at the crease but Raghav didn’t last long and Challengers were down 3 wickets. Digant and Julius stedied the innings and rebuilt the innings very well. After 25 overs, we were 130+ for 3. Then Digant got out (57 runs) and soon after Julius (25 runs) did too. At the 28 over mark, we were 5 down for 141. We knew we only had 8 overs left, as we were batting 4 less overs and perhaps tried to accelerate a little too early and as a result, lots of poor shots were played against good balls. One after another, wickets started to fall and we were bundled out for 163. We had lost our last 6 wickets for 20 odd runs. It was quite stunning. We would like to give credit to UMBC as they really worked hard. Even when we were in good flow these guys never gave up and worked very hard. UMBC is a very resilient team and they showed us on this day why they are one of the top teams in D2. It is no co-incidence that they had lost only 2 games during the season and had dominated so much. The one game they lost was partially due to reduced overs when they arrived late to the game due to an accident which resulted in 4 of their players arriving late.

We were now required to defend our lowest total of the year against a high scoring team.

UMBC innings:
UMBC knew all it had to do was bat sensibly and the game was theirs. There wasn’t much pressure as far as the run rate was concerned. They had 40 overs to score 164. It was essentially 4 runs an over requirement. The UMBC batsmen started well and very positively getting 7 runs in the first over. After 4 overs, they were around 16+ runs or so. Essentially on target. Anurag got the first breakthrough in the 5th over with Anand’s wicket. Shahid replaced Rocy and the two batted quite well for the next 5 overs before Rocy got bowled. This was followed up by a good run-out of Shahid and all of a sudden, UMBC was under some pressure. We knew that our only chance at winning this game was to get them all out. It became a battle of wills. Sam and Gurnish were batting well and we had to bowl well to somewhat contain them. These are two very good batsman and it took considerable effort on our part to keep them from going beserk on us. Our bowlers bowled reasonably well but with the one less fielder, we were unable to stop some runs. There were gaps and these guys found them. They had a very good partnership and were threatening to take the game away. But this game was destined to have many more ups and downs. Neither team was giving an inch and both were working hard to get the upper hand. The breakthrough came in the form of Gurnish’s wicket when he tried to charge down the wicket to hit the ball hard but missed it completely and got bowled. This brought the dangerous Rikin to the crease but luckily for us, he didn’t last long as Mahesh claimed him. To be honest, Rikin was a bit unlucky. He played a good shot, just a bit uppishly and unfortunately, for him, close enough to a fielder to claim the catch. UMBC was now under some pressure as they had lost 5 wickets and still had around 80+ runs to get in 16 or so overs.

Shahid Minhaj came in to support Sam, who was batting incredibly well and making sure that he keeps his end secure while scoring at the same time. Shahid started with a couple of positive shots but soon played a shot too many and was out caught at mid-on. At the 28 over break, UMBC was down 6 wickets. They had 12 overs to bat and needed to score 68 runs. Faisal joined Sam and the two batted very well. They absorbed the pressure and started scoring well. They managed to keep up with the run-rate and put together a good partnership. It again appeared, that UMBC was on top. However, Zolon kept working hard to get another breakthrough and it came in the form of Sam’s wicket. Now UMBC required around 44 runs with 3 wickets in hand. Faizal was playing very well and making sure that he rotates the strike well. Faizal’s partner Mohsin was trying to score quickly and a couple of his shots went just a few feet away from the fielders. Then with UMBC still needing 30+ runs, Mohsin played the ball in the air to cover, straight to the fielder, who dropped, what was the easiest catch of the day. I believe, had this catch been taken, the game would have ended a lot sooner. However, that was not to be. This game was destined for greater drama. Mohsin made us pay for this costly mistake and went on to hit 3 boundaries. The equation was quickly turning in UMBC’s favor and with 13 balls to go, they required 11 runs with 3 wickets. This is when Mohsin played a shot too many and was out bowled. Austin walked in to support Faizal who was playing a brilliant innings. Faizal got a single on the first ball and then Ankur bowled a beautiful ball to get through Austin’s defense and knocking the stumps over. It was still anybody’s game with UMBC requiring 10 runs from 10 balls. Ankur bowled 4 dot balls and gave Fahed some cushion to bowl the final over. Faizal knew that he had to keep strike in order for them to win. The power play was on and we could only have 3 fielders out. Faizal knew he had to pierce the field and somehow get a boundary. Fahed needed to keep his cool and nerve and not give a boundary ball. Faizal got an opportunity for a single on the 1st ball, which he did not take as he wanted to keep strike. On the next ball he hit it well enough to get 2 runs. The next ball he charged down the wicket and missed it, unfortunately, so did our keeper who had a chance at an easy stumping. This resulted in two runs for Faizal. The next ball was a dot ball. And on the next ball he again managed to get two runs. The equation was 2 balls 6 runs. He got another 2 and now needed to hit a boundary to win the game. Even a tie would result in UMBCs win as we had lost all our wickets. Fahed kept his cool and bowled a gem of a ball which could get Faizal only one run. Dhaval tried to go back for the second but was run-out on the keeper’s end and Zolon Challengers won the game by 2 runs.

This is our closest playoff win ever and obviously, our closest game this season. We had to overcome several odds today but we somehow did. However, I would say that UMBC is a very high quality team and they made us work harder than we had all year in any game. There were no losers in this game. Both teams fought hard and in the end, we made one more play than they did and that was the only difference.

The game certainly had the atmosphere of a playoff game. There were several spectators, including the entire Sri Lankan team, who had come here to see who their next opponent would be. All the spectators were treated to a very exciting, tense finish and we hope it was worth their while to come out to the game.

During our lifetime, there are certain games that remain with you -- sometimes because you win, and sometimes because you lose. I strongly believe, both Zolon Challengers players and the UMBC players will remember this game for a long time.

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