HCL Championship 2012

On the eve of November 4, 2012, Houston Cricket League experienced another nail biting final which ended in a defeat to the Division I champions Houston Indian Cricket Club (HICC) from the hands of Triggers Cricket Club – Spartans (TCCS). This was the second instance these two teams were meeting in the final, last one being in 2010 with TCCS coming out on top. This was anticipated to be a close game as both teams were only separated by a mere tie result for HICC during the league phases of the tournament. The coin was flipped around 9:30 in the morning after the distribution of memento caps
presented from HCL to both finalists. TCCS’ captain, Srinivasa Rao Koneti, won the toss and elected to bat almost instantaneously. HICC captain, Kuldeep Patel, was not fazed by the result of the toss as the outfield was still damp from the rain showers from the previous night and was only going to get quicker as the day progressed, with temperatures in the mid-80s. Kuldeep had faith in his invincible batting line-up and was also familiar with the fact that all TCCS losses had come while defending a total in the league stages of the tournament. Devon Small and Donald McLaren took the umpiring positions as the game got underway around its scheduled time of 10AM.
Krishna Sikharam with Asad Tahir, from TCCS, walked out to bat, with Chaitanya Pani taking the new ball for HICC.
TCCS started the first two overs cautiously as both openers tried to read the conditions. However, a reminiscent of the 2010 final, Chaitanya had Asad top-edge a short delivery only to be caught by his keeper Arun Douglas to get HICC on the top straight away. Ashok came in at No.3, who had been in tremendous form, as he started where he left from in the semis. Both Krishna and Ashok ensured there was no further loss till the end of 10 overs with the score reading 49/1. In the 11th over, Krishna’s
aggressive innings came to an end as he skipped down the wicket and tried to heave Keyur Patel over covers, but only to have his bat turned as he got caught on the boundary by a substitute fielder. In came Sushil Nadkarni who had scored 163* in the semis to carry his team score forward. Both Sushil and Ashok played modestly to avoid any further loss before the break as HICC went through their overs fairly
quickly. At the end of 20 overs, TCCS were 80/2.
The platform was set for Sushil to break loose, as many spectators came in just to watch his fireworks. But with HICC bowlers finding their rhythm, scoring got tougher for the batsmen, as TCCS lost Ashok to Ankit Mehta only one run short of his 3rd consecutive 50-plus score in the playoffs. With the run-rate still below 5 an over on a quick outfield, Srini sent in his pinch hitter Jawad Khalid to accelerate. Jawad and Sushil started taking quick singles, keeping the big shots in check as they both waited for the power-play overs (28-32). HICC brought Chaitanya back into the attack, which
brought results right away as he picked up the big Kahuna, Sushil, adjudged LBW for a well played 34 making the score 139/4. Skipper Srini walked in to the crease, but his stay was short-lived as he went for an expansive heave against Chaitanya again only to lose his leg-stump. Sidhesh, the Driver, came in at 155/5 but due to his ankle injury earlier in the morning was unable to score freely, but he stuck at one end as he let Jawad take the risks. Soon after, Jawad, Sidhesh and Aditya fell in quick succession courtesy of Ankit’s wrist spin, and a run-out, as the score went from 179/5 to 194/8 in 34 overs. With 6 overs to play for and two wickets in hand, Manas Dasaraju took the anchor role and played sensibly, hitting the bad balls out of the park and keeping most of the strike as the overs progressed, he hit 3 fours and 1 six. Eventually, Kuldeep slid one down as he saw Manas jumping down the wicket to have him stumped. The total was still a modest 221-9 with two more overs to play for. Faheem and “General” Raghu ensured TCCS played all 40 overs and at the end of the 40th over TCCS finished at 233/9. From HICC, Chaitanya and Ankit were the pick of the bowlers as they both picked 3 wickets each and kept the run-rate in check.
With a batting line-up that went all the way to No. 10, it was HICC’s game to lose as they started their run chase with skipper Kuldeep Patel and Keyur Patel. Kuldeep made a statement by slogging Sushil for a boundary in the very first over, that he was not there to wait. Faheem took the other end, and on his very first ball he had Kuldeep survive a loud caught behind appeal.Soon after, there was mix up between both openers as Keyur found himself a yard short after they attempted a second run on a fumble from skipper Srini whose throw on top of the stumps got rid of the Left Hander; score reading 22/1. In came a recent US recruit Japen Patel, who will be debuting for the national team in the Auty cup soon. Japen kept turning the strike over to Kuldeep, who after one too many slogs misjudged a straighter one from Sushil and skied it to square leg where Ashok took the catch on second attempt. Varun was the next man in but was also sent back momentarily as he missed a doosra from Sushil and was adjuged LBW. With
the score reading 50/3, Ankit Mehta walked in and got off the mark straight away with a
boundary off Sushil. TCCS skipper Srini kept rotating his bowlers to keep the batsmen in check, as he brought in Aditya, the joint Man-of-the-Match, who removed Japan Patel LBW for 22 and Prasanth Manne caught behind for 6. At this point HICC was reeling, all they needed was one good partnership as they turned to Charan Gowda walking in at 93/5, who made sure that HICC didn’t lose any more wickets before the 20 over break at which they had reached 104.
After play resumed, Jawad didn’t take too long to get rid of the dangerous Ankit Mehta leaving HICC in trouble at 117/6. HICC wicket-keeper Arun Douglas came in to bat at a pressure situation and both batsmen felt the nerves, on the other hand TCCS’ fielders let go some chances. However Arun missed a leg-cutter from Jawad and was given LBW for 9. Another clever bowling change from skipper Srini saw the new man Saurabh Tonapi feather a catch to keeper Krishna with the score now reading 146/8. With 88 runs required and 2 wickets in hand, it was TCCS’ game to lose but Charan and Chaitanya showed resilience and a brilliant fight back. They kept the scoreboard ticking, and with a boundary every now and then, they never let the required rate go above 8 an over as the game went in to the last 3 overs. 28 runs required to win, and Charan had just brought up a fighting 50, HICC was right back in this.
Srini brought back the ever so dependable Sushil, for his last over, in the hopes of etting Charan. His first ball was pulled out of the park for a 6, as Charan walked to
Sushil and exchanged a few words, 22 required off 17 balls, the very next ball Charan got carried away as he saw another flighted delivery from Sushil and he went after it again, however, this time he only skied the ball to captain Srini at deep midwicket. The celebrations were epic, TCCS knew this was the wicket they wanted to seal the deal. Sushil ended with figures of 8-0-47-3 as the last 16 balls went for only 14 runs as HICC ended their innings at 221/9 in 40 overs, only 12 runs short of TCCS’ total of 233. Players from TCC camp rushed on to the field to celebrate a hard fought but well deserved victory, “Gangam Style”. It had been a close game as both sides had contested a very intense and competitive final with Triggers Cricket Club emerging victorious by 12 runs. Jawad Khalid (8-0-51-2) and Adithya Balasubramanian (8-0-25-2) shared the Man of the Match award for their wonderful all round performances as TCCS skipper Srini lifted the club’s third Champions Trophy in four years, coincidentally all wins coming against a consistent HICC team.

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