by Shikhar Gupta (15S06M)
Photos by Shikhar Gupta (15S06M) and Choo Shuen Ming (16A01E)
Right from the very start, this had been RI’s game to lose. Having defeated ACS (I) in the group stages previously, the mood was buoyant in the pavilion of an RI victory. Even then, ACS (I) showed an initial spark of fighting fire as the first four balls saw three boundaries off Vinay Gupta’s (15S03J) spin. Not much happened after that, with ACS(I) generally restricted to a run-rate below 6 runs per over (RPO) – a par score for the ‘A’ Division level – and wickets falling at a steady rate.
Following the 12 runs conceded from the first over, ACS (I) found the spin-pace duo of Vinay and Himanshu Kubal (15S06G) difficult to hit, and lost their first wicket on the first ball of the 3rd over to a sharp catch at slip by Vivek Tadikamalla (15S06M). Even with the fast outfield aiding them, the boundaries for ACS dried up, leaving them with just a single boundary outside the six fours that the openers shared between them.
RI did have lapses of concentration in their fielding, with a missed run-out, two dropped catches and a couple of overthrows, but the tight bowling kept the runs from bleeding and the wickets falling. Eventually, ACS (I) were bundled out for 88 runs, losing a wicket to a run-out on the last ball.
Striding out to bat, Ameen (16S06M) and Kaushik (15S06G) plundered 20 runs off the first over with three 4s and a 6. The next over saw another 16 runs, and by 2.4 overs, RI had brought up their fifty score. Balls were continually peppered down leg-side by the ACS (I) bowlers, and the fact that they were short of length just gave Ameen and Kaushik every excuse to send them screaming over the leg-side boundary.
Occasionally, ACS (I) bowled deliveries on the middle and off-stump, but the deliveries hardly gave the RI openers any trouble, with Ameen clobbering one ball over cover for 4. There were also a few deliveries stopped well by point and short third man, but it hardly did anything to stem the tide of runs. By the end of the fourth over, RI had been blasting away at 14.75 RPO, and the required runs had fallen to a mere 20 off 96 balls.
Sixes were aplenty in the RI innings, with Kaushik blasting the first one off the second delivery he faced, pulled strongly over fine leg. Ameen did not hold back either, with a strong pull giving him his first 6 of the day. The poor ACS (I) bowling also conceded 15 extras, propelling RI even more quickly towards the 89-run total.
Throughout the match, Kaushik was firmly in control of the RI innings, and provided a steady anchor with ones and twos. Over at the other end, Ameen unleashed a flurry of attacking strokes to bring up his 50 in just 20 balls, reaching the landmark through two consecutive sixes on the leg-side. There was a minor bit of drama, as the ball could not be recovered after one of Ameen’s sixes. This situation, coupled with the impending rain, raised fears that all of RI’s efforts would be for naught if the game was washed out with just 7 runs to win. Soon after, play resumed, but after bringing up his 50, Ameen defended the next four balls to give Kaushik the chance to hit the winning runs.
In a bit of an anti-climax, ACS (I) managed to claim the wicket of Kaushik on the first ball of the 6th over as he tried to slam the ball over long-on, but found himself clean bowled. It was a wicket for ACS (I), but a completely inconsequential one, for the game ended two deliveries later with a bye.
RI displayed complete dominance, in both bowling and batting. Deservedly, Kaushik and Ameen were the stars of the day, scoring 74 runs and taking 6 wickets between them. Even the coach was effusive in his praise, calling their performance “splendid”.
Even with his brilliant innings, Ameen was modest after the match, pointing out that “doing it for the team is more important than the individual achievement”, but added that all his shots were being pleasantly hit by the middle of the bat, allowing him to race to 52 off 20 balls.
As the rest of the team strode onto the pitch in a boisterous manner to celebrate, Kaushik had tears in his eyes and hugged Ameen tightly, citing the fact that in the past few seasons he had “let [the team] down, and this [game] was a good send-off”. Evidently, his plan to bowl dot-balls to build up pressure had worked very well and had snared him 4 wickets.
Sidanta Gunasinghe (15S03K), the Captain of the RI team, gave credit to ACS (I) for putting RI “on the back-foot right at the start” with 12 runs off the first over. However, he showed faith in his bowlers’ ability to “take on any opponent” and was rewarded handsomely with all ten wickets.
The game was a one-sided affair, but had plenty of action to satisfy neutrals and the RI support. For a team to be cruising at a run rate just below 17 RPO is tremendous any way you put it, and it is now up to next year’s team to pick up the mantle from where it has been placed. The win is even sweeter as it sees the title return to RI after the loss last year. In the meantime, let’s congratulate the RI side and join them in celebration.
RI 89 for 1 (Ameen 52*, Kaushik 22) beat ACS (I) 88 all-out (Santosh 15, Kaushik 4-16, Ameen 2-18)