[door Nagesh Danturi] The early start of the ACC3 game against Qui-Vive6 in dry conditions meant a high-scoring game and also meant bowlers had to be patient. It was the 4th consecutive week of playing under the baking sun where the only green thing left on the ground was the pitch in the middle. Under testing Sub-Saharan conditions there was enough time for some high-quality survival cricket. Toss was soon going to be insignificant. ACC3 stuck to its tried and tested game-plan - Bat-first, Bat-long and Bat-deep. The opening pair, Immy and Bobby soon figured out how slow and uneven the pitch was. Bobby became the first victim of the pitch, spooning a catch to the point. Immy and Irfan were extra-careful in their 20-run partnership. When Immy lost his wicket to an in-swinger, it became very clear that it was going to be a bowler’s day with ample swing available for those who can exploit. Zeddy Malik making his mid-season return, since his injury, walked straight back to his batting days. In near-alien conditions, he and Irfan carefully negotiated the swing and saw-out the shine on the ball. Zeddy then timed a straight six over long-on before succumbing to slow bowling. Irfan was majestic in his supreme form with the bat. Irfan made batting look easy on the pitch as he pulled yet another half-century out of his hat. With the new-found middle-order, ACC3 batting has now become the talking point of the season. Rupinder’s 26-run performance was swift and rapid. Irfan fell after a skillful 72. Abid, who was long-due for a big knock, made a valuable and priceless 39 - which proved to be vital at the end. Abid and Manan’s 70-run partnership ensured that our long tail didn’t have to suffer the heat. Not to forget that lower down there was plenty of un-used firepower - Sajjad, Nagesh, Mudi and Satish - each of whom can score big and fast. ACC3 had eventually made a par-267 with the bat.
Qui Vive re-grouped after lunch and started with a bang. In the first, eventful, over bowled by the unlucky Abid, Qui-Vive lost a wicket and ACC3 lost an argument. The argument was over the first ball of the Qui-Vive innings which was nicked to the keeper Zeddy who juggled for a few nervy moments before latching on to it. The nick was loud and clear. The Batsman’s walk was obvious. The umpire heard nothing. Batsman stayed, and Umpire was changed. Game resumed. The nicked-batsman went on to make 59. No love lost between the teams!
ACC bowlers persisted in the sand pit with super-tight lines. Abid got the first break with a fiery back of a length ball that straightened enough to beat the nervous batsman all ends up. Qui-Vive were relentless in their approach towards leg-side aggression - which was well negated by the ACC bowlers. I must confidently add, ACC3 have now mastered the art of the 5th-stump line on the off. ACC is well aware of the cost of such a line - Wides - there were 36 of them (better than 56 - a couple of weeks ago). Manan was in his usual containment mode. The first 10 overs yielded 38 runs, it was going ACC’s way. Nagesh and Mudi continued tight lines tempting the batsman with the off-side field and keeping the on-side mostly vacant. Batsman committed the leg-side hara-kiri and gifted Nagesh a wicket over point - very well caught by Sajjad. Up until the 15th over, all bowlers enjoyed good economy rates. However, between the 15 and 30th overs Qui-Vive got back into the game with good partnerships mostly through well-timed slogs. It was 185 after 30 overs and the game was surely on. In the last 10 overs was one guy who turned the game on its head. Rupinder unleashed his slow-rippers and skidders to claim 2 wickets in 18 balls and importantly giving away only 18 runs. That sucked the game out of Qui-Vive’s reach. But the drama was not over yet. Qui-Vive, somehow, clawed back into the game.
In the last over ACC had to defend 9 runs with 1 wicket to go (QV needed 11 to win and 10 to tie). Due to an astronomical mis-calculation ACC had no mainstream bowlers left to bowl that over. Skipper then tossed the ball to Irfan to finish the game off. His first 2 balls showed no such intention (wides). His next 4 were spot-on as Qui-Vive could only manage 2 runs off it. Irfan then had to defend 5 off the last 2 balls. He delivered 2 laser-guided choke-balls to win the game for ACC by 4 runs.