A tournament that began so brightly for CER ended in disappointment, as the Midwesterners lost the fifth-place 30-overs match by six wickets to South East at Riverside Park, Hartford, CT, on Monday. After being put in, CER posted a mere 47, but fought hard to defend their small total, taking four wickets and unnerving the Southerners. However, CER chose the wrong match to put down chances – at least three relatively easy chances went down – and what seemed a clear stumping to neutrals on the boundary was also denied them, so there was no miracle finish to the tournament for them, although a surprise victory remained a possibility for much of the South East innings. Thus the Michigan contingent on the team were able to leave Connecticut for the long drive home far earlier than they had planned (or would have liked), while the Illinois players were left clicking their heels at the first-place match (won, in a repeat of last year’s final, by North West, who punctured New York’s run chase, despite a ton by the latter’s captain, Randall Wilson), before flying to Chicago.
The story of CER’s innings was simple and was what had been dreaded by the team’s support staff from the moment the team was announced: failure by both openers. Captain Rohit Mogalayapalli was run out for 8, after hesitating over what looked like a good single, and then Gordon Makin, apparently having lost concentration after the run out, flicked hesitantly at a ball he should have pulled for four and was out for seven, caught at leg gully. When Makin fell the celebrations among the South East players, staff, and fans told the whole story: the two key men were gone cheaply within seven overs. Sadly, the remaining nine batsmen scored six fewer runs in aggregate than CER’s bitterly disappointed openers, to reinforce the pattern of previous matches: over the entire tournament, Makin and Mogalayapalli scored a total of 307 runs (159 for Rohit, 148 for Gordon), while the rest of the team totaled 58 in four matches. In Monday’s match, the most resolute partnership after Rohit and Gordon departed was probably between Ryan Quinlan and Neil Makin, who fought hard until the former was beaten by a ball that kept low and the latter was bowled off his foot, but even that partnership produced just one run off the bat. Arsalan Babar, batting at no 10, added a second four to Rohit’s early boundary before falling lbw for six, and Reeshav Patel was 1 not out at the end.
However, it says much for the spirit of the team that they took the field with confidence and determination, feeling that a target of 49 was not as simple as it seemed. Nauman Khan, who was to take two wickets, opened the bowling, and his leg spin immediately troubled the openers, one of whom, caught between attack and retreat, fell lbw in the first over, while Imram Babar opened at the other end and bowled his best spell of the tournament. Unfortunately, a catch went down behind almost immediately, and relatively easy chances at short midwicket and at point were also grassed, while a very strong appeal for a stumping was denied. With Arsalan Babar’s leg spin also effective, there was at least some optimism among CER’s staff and supporters until South East were within single figures of the target . When the captain came on his adrenaline was clear from two big, high no balls, but one of them was taken far down the leg side by a diving keeper and thrown back to the bowler for a spectacular run-out. South East wobbled, but CER could not rattle the batsmen quite enough, and a calm Sagar Patel, top-scoring with 9 not out, guided his men home. As in every other match, CER’s extras also helped the opposition.
CER were seeded sixth (despite finishing third last year) and finished in sixth place. A stronger batting line up would have taken some of the pressure off the openers, while a more experienced team might have been able to defend even a very low total in the fifth-place match. However, CER’s coach and manager told his charges at the end of the match that he was proud of them for their fight and commitment, and was confident that next year’s team, which will lose only three players to age limits, would come back strongly.