One would not know how to describe the cricket match which took place at Clyde Fisher school on Sunday, October 18 1998, between Valley Cricket Club and San Jose Cricket Club. The former was the champion of the league and the latter a powerful challenger. The best way is to start at the very beginning. The day was perfect for a good day's cricket and it was made better when lady luck smiled on Abrar for the second consecutive time when the coin was tossed. Now Abrar had a serious problem facing him. He has 11 excellent batsmen in his team with few of them who could bowl. So he decided on the batting line-up on the basis of the performance of the players during the previous day's "nets". Simple enough! Ali had an uncharacteristic rush of blood with the second ball of the match and he lobbed a simple catch into the hands of the extra cover fielder. Nadeem who looked good during "nets" went in next. But his innings met a premature end when he to played one into the hands of Peeyush off the bowling of Srikanth. Naeem was the next batsman in. Both Naeem and Abrar maintained patient vigil at the crease with both of them getting a crack at the boundary on several occasions. Nadeem looked set for a big one when he played a full blooded shot straight into the hands of deep extra cover. Nisar was getting his timing right when an LBW appeal against him was upheld. Nisar's eyeballs flew out of their sockets and he walked back in total disbelief. All this time Abrar looked solid and was making batting look easy. And with Altaful for company, SJCC looked all set for a huge total with a healthy run-rate. But Abrar perished to the first mistake he made, spooning a catch to Peeyush. Abrar walked back having made a neat 28. Rajesh walked in to calm things down a bit but another ridiculous LBW decision claimed him. He walked back with the same mindset as that of Nisar. Altaf knew what the situation demanded and was trying to restrict himself to just fours(he spanked 2 of them) but his patience wore thin after a while. He went for a huge one and was gleefully caught in the covers. Although the runrate was good, SJCC found itself in a precarious position by losing too many wickets in quick succession. Harmeet and Niranjan tried to repair the damage by taking ones and twos and the occasional four. Harmeet tried to flick one through square and was adjudged LBW. The batsman walked out without a word. Niranjan was trying to make inroads into the Valley attack but he was the last SJCC victim of the infectious "LBW disease". Four LBW dismissals in a single inning? Phew! Ten out of eleven of the SJCC players knew that Rubel is a champion batsman. The trouble is the person whose opinion counts most did not agree; that person being Rubel himself. When he went in all his teammates prayed that he should put that thought behind him. And he did. 9/112 in the 28th. The stage was set. Valley wanted to go for the kill little realising that they were up against a team with 11 batsmen capable of opening the innings. Sultan and Rubel had other ideas. Both started sending the Valley fielders on a leather hunt. From then on, at any given point of time one could see a valley fielder desperately trying to stop the ball from reaching the boundary or to prevent a two. Such was the dominance of these two spirited batsmen over the opposition. The brilliance of the partnership was in the fact that the runrate was intact as both batsmen played genuine shots. The witnesses of this unique phenomenon were watching with their jaws dropped(this included the Valley fielders). If Rubel scored the twos and threes Sultan scored the timely four. Sultan capped his fine stay at the crease with a lovely pull off the last ball of the innings for a four and the scoreboard read 9/176. Out walked the SJCC heroes holding the entire set of people in the field speechless in wonder. No words would suffice to praise the contribution of Rubel and Sultan. The valley cricketers walked out trying to make sense out of what hit them.
SJCC began its bowling attack neatly, keeping the batsmen at bay. Rajesh claimed the first wicket when he had Vamsi held behind by Abrar. Sriram who came in next hobbled back to the pavilion when a vicious yorker from Ali struck him on his toes. Satish tried to make his prescence felt by playing a couple of big shots but perished when he tried it once too often. He was held by Altaf at the boundary off Nadeem. Aswin's troubles at the crease were ended by Harmeet with a beauty of a ball which swung in and had the wicket in shambles. Ashok tried to approach the situation with a balanced state of mind when the deceptive bowling of Altaf claimed his wicket. Rajesh was bowled off a quicker one by Altaf. SJCC's bowling often has this knack of hitting a bad patch when it is on top. On this day it was no different. Peeyush who looked unsteady in the beginning started belting the ball all around the park. The SJCC bowlers were helping his cause by bowling to his strong spots. The required run-rate which was around 4.6 during the drinks break kept falling rapidly because of Peeyush's calculated assault on the bowling attack. He was scoring runs only by fours and looked as if he would take the game out of SJCC's hands. Ever heard of the word "Firearm"? It applied to Rajesh who came back for his second spell and struck twice. His right arm was on fire(pun intended). He bowled to deadly effect first disposing off Ashwini by bowling him out and then the dangerous Peeyush who was held by a magnificent catch by Rubel behind the stumps. Sriram came in with a runner but he did not trouble him much as Ali sent his stumps for a walk. Thus Valley had 20 odd runs to get with plenty of overs remaining but with only 2 wickets in hand. Ganesh was held well by Rubel behind the stumps off Altaf. Srikanth was the last one in and surprisingly the game had an anticlimactic end when Niranjan and Rubel caught both batsmen in a hesitant mood for a single and it was all over. Euphoria, despair, joy, sadness - you name it, the emotion was there in the field. Whatever comments beginning with "What if ..." or "If only ..." was put into shade as the truth that the better team of the day had emerged victorious. The SJCC members walked to their respective cars paying tribute to the great Sultan-Rubel partnership and feeling proud - proud that they were the members of the San Jose Cricket Club.
The game was in SJCC's hand right from the beginning except for some unfortunate dismissals. But things turned out well in the end because of mental balance which was a vital factor. If the bowling can mantain the same level of brilliance right from the beginning, SJCC can bowl out any team between 35 - 40 overs without much sweat. One aspect which has improved over the course of the past 3 games has been the fielding which is very good news. As for the bowling and batting, things can be easily ironed out during "nets".
Batting - 80%. Bowling 70%. Fielding 95%.