By Jonathan Lee (13A01A)
On an overcast day, RI won a low-scoring match against perennial rivals ACS(I) to emerge as A-Division champions once again, successfully defending their title. Having bowled well to restrict ACS to 70 all out, RI started well in the run-chase, before wobbling a bit but eventually clinching a 6 wicket win in the 14th over. Varun Honnavalli and Rohan George bowled well for RI, taking 3 wickets apiece and conceding only 16 runs off their 4 overs.
Due to the rain earlier in the day, the outfield was slow and both teams found scoring difficult. RI won the toss, and captain for the day Abhiraj Singh put ACS(I) in to bat first. Starting with the medium pace of Sanat Deshpande (3-0-16-1) and Honnavalli, the team got off to a good start when both claimed wickets in their first overs, leaving ACS(I) struggling at the end of the second over. Wickets then continued to fall at regular intervals, as the spinners Abhiraj Singh (4-0-10-1) and Navin Param (4-0-10-2), stars of the Singapore team in the ACC U-16 Elite Cup 2010, strangled the run flow. Rohan George then finished off the game in style by claiming 3 wickets in his last two overs, bowling 2 batsmen and inducing one to edge to short leg. The team also fielded well to stop quite a few boundaries, although there were certain lapses in concentration when the fielders missed clear run-out opportunities. The team spirit, however, was evident through the way the team celebrated their wickets and how they congratulated individual fielders for good stops. ACS(I) were eventually bowled out in the 19th over for 70 runs.
Given that RI had actually beaten ACS(I) in the preliminaries by 81 runs (189 to 108), one might be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be over quickly. However, the outfield again made shot-making a difficult exercise. Coupled with the great grit and heart shown by the ACS(I) bowlers, who bowled a nagging line and length, the chase was not that straightforward.
RI began cautiously, with the opening pair of outgoing captain Dhivesh Dadlani (22, 2×4) and Nishanth Thiagarajan (11) playing out 3 overs for 9 runs, with Dhivesh playing out a maiden over in the 3rd. The 4th over brought the first boundary of the innings, with Dhivesh playing a good on-drive to score 4 runs. He then smashed another boundary to deep midwicket before getting bowled at the end of the 6th over for a run-a-ball 22, having looked in good touch.
Navin was the next batsman, facing his old teammates from ACS(I). Having bowled well earlier, he sought to propel his team to victory but was dismissed for a 3-ball duck, the ball hitting the splice of the bat and lobbing up for an easy catch. Sreekar Reddy (1) came in at 4 but was adjudged leg-before-wicket, leaving RI 39/3 but still with a good chance of winning. Abhiraj (14*) came in and immediately looked to finish the run chase off quickly, cutting hard but for few runs. Nishanth, who had played the anchor role through the innings, was then controversially run-out in the next over for a 23-ball 11. Having run one, a misfield allowed the batsmen to judge a second run possible, and Nishanth looked to have made his ground just as the bails were taken off but was harshly judged to have been run out.
Coming in at number 6 was Sidharth Sikka (19*, 1×4 2×6), who again looked to finish it off quickly, smashing past long-on for another boundary. Playing out yet another maiden over (the 12th over of the innings), Sidharth then proceeded to take the attack to the ACS(I) bowlers, first mowing a 6 over midwicket, then crashing another into the sightscreen. This was effectively the end of the match for ACS(I), as those two shots meant that RI had only 5 runs to get off the next 7 overs. The batsmen duly obliged, finishing off the match in the next over and sparking wild celebrations from the team.
“The win was really incredible, thank you so much for coming down to support us!” said captain Abhiraj after the match. Coach Goh Swee Heng said that the team bowled well, but the batting did not perform up to expectations, despite having promoted as many Year 6s up the batting order as he could as it was their last match for the team. Despite this, he felt that this year’s team was very different from those of previous seasons, citing the high unity and bonding in the team that made it feel like a family. “This resulted in more effort this season as compared to the past,” said Mr Goh. “The family atmosphere meant that they understood the importance of the team and they played very well together as a team, which is a rare occurrence but a good sign. This allowed them to succeed throughout the season.”
Perhaps the overall feeling in the team was summed up by team member Chiraag Thadani’s tweet after the match: “Most retarded, dysfunctional, amazingly, awesome cricket team and second family I’ve had the pleasure of being in. LOVE THEM TTM!” (sic)
Indeed, it was a great team performance from RI and a well-deserved win, capping another great season for our cricketers. Bravo!