By Kaushik Rangaraj (17S06P)
Photo Credits: Akshay Babu (17S06O)
ACS (I): 95/8 in 20 overs (Shikhar – 37, Anirudh – 13, Dineru 2-13, Sushmit 2-19)
RI: 87/10 in 19.2 overs (Sushmit – 17, Laavanya – 17, Anirudh 3-12, Somil 3-12)
It was an early start, unlike the previous matches of the tournament, starting off at 9.15am. Due to rain last week, the match had been postponed from the 19th to 24th. Hence, players from both sides were raring to go and play the match. Despite early signs of foul weather, the match went on without a hitch. The long history of rivalry between the schools also added some spice to the build-up to the finals.
First up, ACS(I) won the toss and elected to bat first. ACS(I) openers Anish Srinivasan (#50) and Shikhar Verma (#04) walked in ready to set a strong base for the rest to capitalise on. But it was not to be. Raffles Bowlers were outstanding, turning in their best performance in the tournament to date. This surpassed even their semi-finals performance where they had dismissed SJI(I) for 24 as this time they were pitted against a much superior batting unit. Thirumoorthy Divagar, (#36, 16S06B) started off with a tight first over, conceding just a single and almost creating several chances. His spell of 3-0-9-0 upfront set the tone for the innings and was unlucky to go unrewarded as a few catches were dropped off his bowling.
At the other end, the other bowlers fed off his excellent line and length with their own pressure building bowling. Many chances continued to come but most were not taken. The opposition batsmen were twitchy and were taking risky singles to try and rotate strike so that they could start gathering momentum as well keep the scoreboard ticking. Though wickets fell here and there, they were not really frequent due to several missed chances. At the halfway mark, the score stood 37-2.
At this stage, the bowlers seemed to release the pressure briefly as for the next 6 overs, the batsmen started scoring freely, especially taking advantage of Mohammad Ameen Bhadelia, (#8, 16S06M), sweeping him for 2 fours. But once Shikhar was dismissed for 37 by Ameen, the tide turned again. ACS(I) gave away a strong base, scoring just 22 runs and losing 5 wickets in the last 4 overs, bowled by Sushmit Sharma (#2, 16S06P), Aahan Gopinath Achar (#3, 17S03J) and Dineru Priyalal Premasinghe (#11, 17S06C). RI bowlers returned strongly through some impressive death bowling and allowed RI to finish on a strong note. Restricting an imposing batting line-up to below par total of 95-8 is no mean feat. Ameen took a few blinders while wicketkeeper Harish Thiyagarajan (#07, 16S03F) took a high catch off the last ball of the innings emulating last year’s match by effecting a wicket off the last ball.
Laavanya Kejriwal (#13, 17S07B) and Tom Joju (#6, 16S03G) started off calmly, not taking any unnecessary risks as the total was not too difficult. But disaster struck next over, as Tom was dismissed by Anirudh (#07). Anirudh proved to be the bane of RI’s top order as both Harish and Laavanya got out in his next 2 overs respectively. Laavanya did manage to entertain the RI supporters with a sweetly timed six off Vikas (#74) before he got out the next over.
The quick fall of wickets led to a period of consolidation by captain Ameen and vice-captain Sushmit as they combined for one last time to do the job for Raffles once again. But it was not to be as Sushmit got out for a quick 17 with the team on 47. New batsman Aahan and Ameen again consolidated but their lack of strike rotation increased the required run rate (runs needed per 6 balls). Once Aahan got out caught and bowled off an excellent reflex catch by Somil (#08), pressure piled up on Ameen as he was running out of partners and the high run-rate forced him to take a risk and this lead to his dismissal, ending his innings prematurely as he was caught on the boundary going for a big shot. Raghupathy Jaivikash (#10, 16S03N), Divagar and Dineru tried their best along with C Vignesh Subramaniam (#01, 16S06R) to score the remaining runs but lost their wickets going for quick runs. Soon enough, at the start of the final over, 13 runs were required with the last pair at the crease. The match had come to its thrilling finale.
The responsibility of delivering the high-stakes final over was handed to Siddiqui (#10). Vignesh was on strike. Supporters from both sides were on their feet, eagerly cheering for their team to bring home the trophy. The first ball was a wide, and quick-thinking from Mustafa Kaedjohare Chechatwala (#14, 17S03J) led to a quick single. This pressured the wicketkeeper who with a wayward throw let batsmen pinch another run. Vignesh was on strike again to the good luck of Raffles. Next ball Vignesh hit it down the ground and again the batsmen stole another run. But trying to sneak in another run to let Vignesh face again, he was run out thereby ending the match in a dramatic manner. Raffles had lost a hard-fought match by 9 runs.
Captain Ameen felt that “it was a shame to give it away so easily” as “(w)e were in the driving seat the whole way”. He felt that the team was in the best of form as they went into the finals. “We started the game really well restricting ACS to a modest total of 95 and with our batting lineup, we should be chasing that day in day out,” He said. “I feel that the batsmen took it lightly and did not take responsibility when they batted.”
Vice-captain Sushmit had this to say about the whole season, “Apart from training two to three times every week, and even more frequently towards the end of the season, we’ve played a total of 18 matches. I’m glad to say that even after making mistakes, each and every player has acknowledged his weaknesses and trained hard to overcome them. Overall, I’m very proud of the lads for coming so far since the start of the season.”
All in all, it was a terrific performance by the team, with each and every player putting in their best for all the matches over the season no matter who the opposition was. The team tried its hardest but hard luck to them, they did not manage to cross the line. Let’s congratulate the team on its effort and hope they can go one step further next year.
Team (according to batting order)
Laavanya Kejriwal, 13, 17S07B
Tom Joju, 6, 16S03G
Harish Thiyagarajan, 7 , 16S03F
Mohammad Ameen Bhadelia, 8, 16S06M
Sushmit Sharma, 2, 16S06P
Aahan Gopinath Achar, 3, 17S03J
C Vignesh Subramaniam, 1, 16S06R
Raghupathy Jaivikash, 10, 16S03N
Thirumoorthy Divagar, 36, 16S06B
Dineru Priyalal Premasinghe, 11, 17S06C
Mustafa Kaedjohare Chechatwala, 14, 17S03J
Sukkrivaa Vijayan, 12, 16S05A
Ashish Jayaprasad, 11, 16S03K
Akshay Babu, 99, 17S06O
M Muhammad Muhsin, 16,17S06R
Lakshminarayanan Kaushik Rangaraj, 25, 17S06P
*Scorecard format: [School]: [Runs]/[Wickets], (Top batsmen – runs scored, Top opposing bowler, wickets claimed – Runs given away)