By Pirasanna Venugopal
The Bedessee New York Destroyers scored an upset victory in the finals of the Radiant Info USA Twenty20 against the well-established favorites Global Challengers of Greater NY. New York took home $5000 in cash and a glittering trophy courtesy of Radiant Info. Global Challengers took home $2000 for runners-up and the runners-up trophy for the second time.
Despite being a low-scoring affair, the final was a thriller in all respects and gave the fans and spectators every bit of entertainment in what has become something of a routine feature in the Twenty20 match format.
The Global Challengers are managed by Jaideep Reddy and captained by former West Indies international Neil McGarell. McGarrell told DreamCricket.com that he had spoken to the team Sunday night, and their ploy was to not tinker with the batting line-up that had put on 160 runs against the same team in an earlier league encounter. However, they did intend to deploy a different bowling package to keep the marauding Destroyers’ attack at bay. The Destroyers coach, Linden Fraser, revealed yesterday that he had formulated a different bowling strategy that he intended to use against the potent Challengers attack and he was confident that his players would execute the new plan to perfection.
NY skipper and Team USA international Barrington Bartley got 3 for 6
in his 3 overs! Courtesy: Shiek Mohamed, NewYorkCricket.com
The Challengers won the toss and elected to bat - hoping to put up another imposing total and put pressure on the talented but relatively green NY batting line-up.
Former Guyana opening batsman, Andrew (Kristoff) Gonzales, who also finished as the highest run maker in the tournament and Qayyam Farooq opened the innings for the Challengers and the Destroyers opened the attack with George Adams and Dwayne Walters - a pace-spin combo and the first surprise element in the Destroyers strategy was revealed.
This mixed-pace attack had a curtailing effect on the Challengers batsmen even though they did not lose any wickets. Their scoring rate was an anemic 5 runs an over for the first 4 overs. They finally managed to up the ante in the next couple of overs scoring 20 runs off it. However, George Adams extracted his revenge when he caught and bowled Qayaam Farooq for 27 off 22 balls.
Sudesh Dhaniram, a legend who has played for USA and Guyana, walked in next and his explosive power along with Gonzales offered a mouth-watering prospect for spectators. However, this was not to be as Dwayne Walters tempted Dhaniram into an ill-timed lofted drive to long on right into the arms of Akeem Dodson - a current USA player who is an alumnus of the 2006 U-19 World Cup campaign in Sri Lanka.
Tony Powell, a Jamaican international, came in at the fall of Dhaniram’s wicket and managed to keep up the run rate hovering at 6 along with Gonzalves. At the 10-over mark, the Challengers were comfortably placed at 60 for 2 with two in-form batsman and plenty of batting to come - a perfect launch pad for another massive total.
However, the Destroyers captain Barrington Bartley had other ideas. He brought himself on in tandem with Javain Thomas - a youngster with immense potential and Javain immediately repaid his captain’s faith in him when he accounted for Gonzalves leg-before for 25 runs off 30 balls - a slow scoring rate by his lofty standards.
Bartley removed the experienced Mookesh Sookram cheaply for 4 when he had him caught by Dodson - a repeat of the catch he had taken earlier to send off Dhaniram. Bowling the 16th over, the Destroyers captain scalped 2 more wickets - including the prized wicket of his counterpart Neil McGarrell for a mere 2 runs - caught brilliantly by Evans at mid-off and bowled danger man Tony Powell for 20.
Wicket-keeper Prasad Mahadeo was involved in a disastrous run-out to leave the Challengers teetering at 82 for 7 at the end of the 16th over. Dennis Evans kept up the intensity by removing Kumar Nandalal and Sean Stanislaus cheaply in the 17th over and the Challengers batting collapse was comprehensive. The last pair of Deryck McDonald and Sean Thomson eked out a few more runs and the Challengers were eventually all out for 94 with one over to spare - an unpardonable crime in a Twenty20 match scenario.
Picture above: Tournament Commissioner Gokul Chakravarthy (third from right) interviews Indian cricketing legend Balwinder Singh Sandhu (second from right) from the commentary box. Commentary feed from the Radiant Info USA Twenty20 final was carried live via EBC Radio 1170AM. (Courtesy: Shiek Mohamed, NewYorkCricket.com)
Meanwhile for the Destroyers, Captain Barrington Bartley, a Team USA player, led from the front returning an incredible 3 wickets for 6 runs in 3 overs. Dennis Evans with 2 wickets for 11 runs was the other notable contributor. In summary, Destroyers' plan worked to perfection and readers may recollect that this was the same strategy that was used in last year’s NJ T20 tournament with somewhat similar results.
Global Challengers after having won 3 games in convincing fashion were facing the prospect of losing another final and their hopes lay in their experienced spin attack of Neil McGarrell and USA international Kumar Nandalal - both of whom had grounded several potent batting lineups in the past.
The Destroyers opened with Dennis Evans and Donald Bennett - instead of Akeem Dodson - thus revealing the second element of surprise and the Challengers responded with a spin attack of Sean Stanislaus and Sudesh Dhaniram - hoping to take a leaf out of the Destroyers playbook.
However, the two NY batsmen made runs effortlessly - finding gaps with ease and running sharp singles. Donald Bennett was the more adventurous of the two and Dennis Evans played a conservative innings rotating the strike to ensure that Bennett had all the opportunities. Desperate for a breakthrough, skipper Neil McGarrell brought himself and Kumar Nandalal on in as early as the 6th over. Though Nandalal gave up just 1 run in his 2 overs, the Destroyers batsmen took their chances with the rest of the attack and easily notched up 60 of the required 95 in 12 overs.
At this stage, McGarrell brought back Dhaniram and he immediately struck in the first ball - accounting for Evans leg-before for a sedate 24 off 32 balls. McGarrell accounted for Bennett 2 runs later foxing him leg-before for 34 runs off 35 balls (inclusive of 3 fours and a six). Karan Ganesh soon followed for a duck bowled by McGarrell and the Destroyers had quickly lost 3 wickets and leaving the door slightly open for the Challengers to make an unbelievable comeback.
Skipper Barrington Bartley and Zaheer Saffie steadied the innings with a 22-run stand - an immense contribution considering the small total that they were chasing.
Neil McGarrell made the next breakthrough when he tempted Bartley to launch one straight down substitute Rudy Narine’s throat at long on in the last ball of the 18th over. The Destroyers at this stage needed 10 runs off the remaining 12 balls. Sean Stanislaus came on to bowl the 19th over and he had the new batsman Ron Andrews caught brilliantly ion th gully by Sudesh Dhaniram.
Picture (left): Barrington Bartley steadied the New York innings at a crucial juncture.
Courtesy: Shiek Mohamed, NewYorkCricket.com
Zaheer Saffie was next to go - run out while attempting the impossible - challenging Skipper McGarell’s arm. George Adams attempted another silly run and was out in the process - leaving the Destroyers precariously placed at 89 for 7 still requiring 6 runs in 7 balls. Akeem Dodson - a current USA player walked in at this pressure-filled stage and immediately revealed his class by sweeping Stanislaus’ last ball for four thus driving the final nail in the coffin.
Javain Thomas square drove the first ball of the 20th over for a boundary to score the winning runs. As the Destroyers players jumped around in celebration, the vanquished Challengers gathered in the sober huddle in the center of the pitch. Skipper Bartley was awarded the Reebok Man of the Match for his brilliant bowling and his steady batting during the chase.
Though the Destroyers made a hash of the simple run-chase, it does not take away from the fact that the Challengers lost the game in the second half of their innings with an inexplicable batting collapse, especially since their roster was stronger in the batting department in the second avatar of this tournament.
The Bedessee NY Destroyers, gathered momentum as the tournament progressed and despite a small hiccup in the preliminary stage, they kept increasing the intensity. Coach Fraser highlighted the team bonding aspect of this group that contributed to the team success. (Their manager even delivered home cooked food at the hotel on Saturday!). A reminder that regardless of individual talent, cricket is still a team sport.
The nail-biter finish brought an end to the Radiant Info USA Twenty20 2009 - the first of it’s kind in the annals of US cricket history featuring teams from six different regions of the East Coast - providing spectators and cricket fans a feast of cricketing talent never on display in the same ground on three consecutive days!
[Award ceremony and Radiant Info Moments of the tournament coming soon.... Watch this space!]
Pic above: Cricket in the foreground. Spectators cheer from behind sponsor banners at the Radiant Info USA Twenty20 final at Watsessing Park.