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Challengers arrest the Renegades run. Enter finals of the NuWare NJT20 Championship. 
Oct 14, 2008

After starting the tournament with a washed out game followed by a loss to the NY Knights, the Global Challengers had not lived up to their pre-tournament status as the group favorites. The close win against the Holmdel Hurricanes seemed to ignite the missing spark and they followed up that win with an emphatic 20 run victory over the NJ Royals and survived a nail-biter with the Tri-state Argonauts on Day 4 to enter the semi-finals against North Jersey Renegades - the winner of Group A. The Renegades on the other hand had pummeled their way through the contest on the basis of their superior batting attack and all that stood in their way to the final spot was the inconsistent Challengers.

The Challengers won the toss and choose to bat on the Weston-2 ground - a questionable decision given the heavy outfield and the fact that that they had just survived an emotional roller-coaster win over the Argonauts.

The Challengers opened with West Indian first class cricketer Vishal Nagamotoo and Salman Sheikh and Wahab Munir opened the attack for the Renegades. The opening over was an indicator of things to come as Wahad kept an extremely tight line and length allowing Vishal and Salman no chance to free their arms. Vishal was the first to go, yorked off a perfect delivery from the other opening bowler -Waseem Arif. Salman soon followed with the score on 19 - bowled by Wahab Munir after trying to slog every ball that he faced. Captain Neil McGarell walked in at this point and went about consolidating the innings - playing delicate cuts and finding the gaps with ease. Sean Stanislaus departed on 29 caught by Asad off Munir, who was bowling an incredible spell.

Andrae Hooper joined his captain and exacerbated affairs by involving himself in a suicidal run-out. With the score on 35 at the loss of 4 wickets, Neil desperately needed a partner to keep watch on the other end as he went about his business. Rudy Naraine played that role to perfection as he nudged around ones and twos and ensured that the skipper got the majority of the strike. Wahab Munir finished off his spell with an impressive figure of 4-0-11-2. Saqib Salemi and Asad Hussain handled the middle overs for the Renegades and ensured that the run rate did not climb over 5. Salemi was finally rewarded for his hard work with the wicket of Rudy - caught by Shahid Shezhad while trying to up the ante. He followed it up with the crucial wicket of McGarrell - gone for 35 of 27 balls - a vital innings for the Challengers replete with 5 fours. Santhosh Dani (20 off 16 balls) and the other tail-enders threw their bat around to take the Challengers to 115 of the allocated 20 overs. Munir, Salemi and Hussain were the most successful bowlers with 2 wickets each.

At the outset, the chase of 115 was going to be a joke for the Renegades - given their batting exploits in the tournament so far. Speaking to the press before the second innings, the Renegades captain was ruing the fact that there were not enough runs on board for them to fully display their awesome batting power. But Neil McGarrell and the Challengers had other ideas. Openers Shahid Shehzad and Rajinder Ivan faced up to the ever-dependable Deryk McDonald and Rudy Naraine. McDonald kept things tight as always - ensuring that there were no freebies and taking the pace off the ball - forcing the free-hitting Renegades batsmen to go for risky hits. The first wicket was against the run of mill when an alert Nagamotoo stumped Rajinder Ivan (4 off 9 balls) with the score on 13. Former Guyanese international Vijay 'Nap' Seonarine came to the crease at the fall of the first wicket. The Challengers fielders had meanwhile dropped three easy chances and it felt as if the Challengers were gifting the game away. However, McGarrell was not disheartned and kept egging his players to increase their intensity.

Deryk's consistent nagging line accounted for Shahid as he was caught and bowled by McDonald after he tempted Shahid to mis-hit a slower ball. Shahid's fall brought Waheed Akhtar to the crease and the possibility of these 2 big-hitting batsmen going berserk sent a buzz across the field. Former Karnataka player Santhosh Dani came on to bowl along with Neil on first change and delivered the first shock when he had Waheed Akhtar out leg before for a measly 7 runs of 8 balls.

Sensing the pressure on the new batsmen, Neil brought on Kumar Nandhlal and the spinner tempted Asad to go for an airy drive, spooning the ball towards backward point - right towards him. Neil took the catch running backwards - a catch a la Kapil Dev in the 1983 World Cup finals. Kapil's catch in that match off Viv Richards turned out to be the turning point of the game and this case it was no different.

Every Renegade batsman after that struggled to cope up with the pressure exerted by the Challengers spin attack except Hunain Munir.

Dot balls and failed swooshes were aplenty and the only constant was the loss of wickets around Hunain Munir. Hunain, meanwhile, had compiled an invaluable 31 of 27 balls and threatened to take the game away from the Challengers. Taking on the challenge upon himself, skipper McGarell returned to have Hunain bowled and to add insult to the injury also accounted for his brother Wahab Munir. Nandhlal accounted for a couple of tail-ender wickets including a repeat of the "caught-at-point-by-McGarrell" sequence. The Renegades finally folded in 19.3 overs - all out for 101 runs - 14 runs short of the target.

The man of the match award for the contest rightfully belonged to Challengers captain who almost single-handedly willed his team to victory, despite putting on a small total. The Challengers will take on the winner of the Knights-Terminators semi-finals on Saturday, Oct 18th at Mercer County Park.