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By Dr. Srikantan Nagarajan
During the last week of December, an U17 team from the California Cricket Academy (CCA) visited the Southern California Cricket Association (SCCA) to play three games against an U18 side. Recent rains ensured a lovely green turf wicket and a lush green outfield that was expected to be slow.
Pic (Right): CCA bowler Akhilesh Sridar bowling to SCCA batsman at Smith Murphy Park, Buena Park, CA.
The first was a 40 over game on Saturday morning. Conditions were perfect for a nice game of cricket. There was significant dew on the pitch and the outfield was wet.
CCA won the toss and decided to make use of the seemingly good bowling conditions and bowl first. However, the ball did not do as much as they predicted, and conditions were good for batting.
SCCA opened with Shakeel and Shikar who made use of the batting conditions and took their time for the first few overs. But after the fifth over, they made full use of the short boundary lines with a flurry of sixes and fours.
The seamers, Anirudh Srinivas and Arvind, had a good opening spell. Vibhav was the first change bowler and was unfortunately greeted with two sixers in his first over. Things quietened down only after the tenth over when spinners, Mihir and Brahmam, were brought into the attack.
Mihir struck immediately to get Suraj out. Brahmam bowled an excellent line in tandem and together they had a break through of six wickets and SCCA were 81 for six at the 14th over.
An unbeaten 71 run partnership for the seventh wicket between Andrew and Sampan followed and it was not until the second drinks break, when Shankara was brought on one end, that the partnership was broken. Andrew was caught behind by Neil. Akhilesh was brought on the other end, and he too got a wicket. The accurate bowling from these two paid dividends, and helped keep SCCA to a score of 158 which seemed like a par score for a forty over game.
CCA opened their innings with Neil and Srihari. It was clear that CCA was not used to batting on turf wicket as the ball was slowing down after pitching and the timing of the CCA batsmen was clearly off. Shakeel and Sahaj were bowling an excellent line and at yorker length which made batting very difficult. With Neil gone in the second over, Vibhav and Srihari had a mini partnership till the 10th over.
Srihari was bowled by an excellent delivery from Shakeel, which was repeated for Mihir and Brahmam with the same reward for the bowler. After the opening spell, Sahil was brought on, and CCA had no answer for his excellent off spin. Sahil got Vibhav out bowled with a beauty of a ball and cleaned up the rest of the batting finishing with a five wicket haul. Shakeel took four wickets as CCA was all out for 79. With two more games to go, the coach encouraged the boys to dig deeper and come back fresh the next day.
SCCA 158 all out (Shakeel 43, Sampan 40, Andrew 31, Brahmam 3-16, Mihir 3-28, Shankara 2-6) beat CCA 79 all out (Vibhav 24, Srihari 10, Anirudh Srinivas 9, Sahil 5-24, Shakeel 4-19, Suraj 1-0).
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Two 20-20 over games were planned for the second day of the tour. The CCA boys seemed refreshed and ready to go. Neil won the toss for Game 2 and decided to bat first this time. Srihari was bowled shortly after scoring a boundary. Neil and Vibhav had a nice partnership going till the 10th over with the score at 46. The fall of Neil triggerred yet another collapse - Vibhav was stumped off of Sahil, who was turning out to be his bogey, and Rohan was gone off a ball that stopped on him. Score was 48 for 4.
Anirudh and Mihir had a short cameo that included a cover drive six from Ani off Shakeel who was so upset that the next ball was an intended beamer on his face. But Mihir's unfortunate run out triggerred another collapse and CCA was all out for 82 with an over to spare while SCCA had some impressive catching from Dasith and others.
It was going to be a tricky total to defend but at least something for the bowlers. Alas that was not to be! Shikar and Shakeel took CCA to the cleaners with some impressive hitting. CCA started off with spin-pace combination of Brahmam and Anirudh Srinivas. Shakeel took on Brahmam in his second over for a six and in spite of a maiden on over 6 from Mihir, runs kept leaking and two sixes scored off Mihir's third over and Akhilesh's first over. Vibhav was brought on only on over 13 but couldn't turn the tide. SCCA won easily with no wickets lost and three overs to spare. CCA just could not hold onto a few difficult catching opportunities to make a dent.
CCA 82 a.o. (Neil 20, Anirudh Srinivas 20, Sahaj 3-13, Junaid 2-0, Andrew 2-17) lost to SCCA 84-0 (Shakeel 46*, Shikhar 29*).
Game 3 started shortly after. SCCA won the toss and decided to bat again. CCA had to dig deep into their reserves to come back into this game and series.
The spin-pace combo of Brahmam and Anirudh started again and things were fairly quiet until over 5 when Brahmam got Shakeel LBW with the score at 10. Shikar then started picking up the strike rate. At the 10th over the score was 32 for 2. But the bowling change of Rohan and Arvind did not work as they both went for 10 runs.
Vibhav came on only in the 13th over again, and took a wicket off his first ball and a run out followed in the next ball with the score at 53 for 4 at the end of the 13th. But a nice partnership between Sahaj and Andrew took the score to 98 by over 19. Shankara bowled an excellent double wicket maiden on over 20 that included a nice stumping from Neil to keep the score at 98 for 7 leaving CCA to chase a target of 99.
This was going to be a challenging one given their previous performances in this series although definitely chaseable. Unfortunately, the CCA top order failed once again. Srihari nicked one behind the wicket. Neil was given out LBW to a ball presumably was dying on him. Vibhav was cleaned bowled by Sahil who took him on all three games and Mihir was run out again on a close call and Anirudh was bowled by Shakeel, leaving CCA reeling at 30 for 6.
A short partnership betweene Arvind and Rohan took the score to 53 when Arvind was caught and bowled by Junaid at 10. Lights were fading and so was the CCA spirit. At this juncture, a nice partnership emerged between Rohan and Shankara. Rohan finally had his timing back. He took Sahil for a six off the 17th over leaving CCA at 75 for 7. With three overs and 24 runs to get, the target suddenly seemed within their reach. Shankara and Rohan kept things simple with five singles of the next over and then Rohan struck 11 runs off Andrew including two successive fours.
Unfortunately, Shankara was run out off the last ball leaving Anirudh Shankar facing the last over with 8 runs to win. Anirudh Shankar ran a leg bye off the first ball but Rohan could only score one run off the next ball. Ani then missed the next ball, collected a wide and then scrambled on the penultimate ball to get Rohan on strike. Four to win, Rohan swung but missed. Last ball Rohan had a beautiful on drive that was going to be a difficult three but almost came home for the tie but was run out by a whisker. Rohan's glorious innings came to an end with CCA losing by one run - but CCA could hold their chins up for their spirited performance in fading light to chase down the target.
SCCA 98 for 7 (Sahaj 36, Shikar 32, Shankara 2-10) beat CCA 97 for 9 (Rohan 39, Arvind 10, Shankara 8, Shakeel 2-13).
SCCA were the superior team and it showed in the 3-0 tally, but CCA deserved credit for successively improving their performance during the series and also got some valuable learning experience by playing on turf wickets.