Motown-MCA concluded the first league stage of the MichCA 40-overs competition on Saturday with a narrow loss to Lions C. C. at Toledo’s Beatty Park. Maniramprasad (52) and Shyam Mayasandra (34) took Motown-MCA to the relatively modest total of 157 in 31 overs at one of the league’s smaller grounds, before Anurag Yerabati (8-1-31-4) led an inspired bowling and fielding effort, which kept the Lions players anxious until an unbroken eighth-wicket partnership of 52 between Nikhil Vuppala and Ushan Milinda saw them to a three-wicket win (but with only one man left to bat) in the 32nd over. Zahid Butt was Man-of-the-Match for his elegant 36, the foundation of the Lions’ innings, and for two catches, one an excellent dive at point to dismiss top-scorer Mani.
The match, tense in cricketing terms from beginning to end (since it would determine final standings for the first stage of the competition), but played in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry at what was, in effect, a neutral venue, goes down as another “nearly” for Motown-MCA, alongside the run-chase against Windsor Dominion in June, when Motown-MCA failed by only 13 runs to overhaul the visitors’ 262 at Lyon Oaks. And while the Motown-MCA players trekked back to Michigan disappointed, there was, as in the Windsor Dominion match, much to encourage everyone for the future of this young team.
MichCA has now published the final standings of the first round and the pools for the second round. Motown-MCA finished fifth in the first round, and has therefore been placed in Pool A, with GDCC, Lions, and Oakland University. Motown-MCA will take four points into the second round. The first match of the second round will be against GDCC on Saturday, 20th August, at Lion Oaks.
Motown-MCA, again playing without two regular medium-pacers, Rohit Mogalayapalli and Chamila Kannangara, won the toss at a dry Beatty Park and skipper Sathish Thandapani elected to bat without any hesitation. He was probably hoping for the sort of sound platform his opening batsmen had provided last week, but Gordon Makin and Vasanth Krishnaswami (opening for Shyam Mayasandra, who on Saturday batted at six), couldn’t quite replicate last week’s success. Vuppala and Milinda, who would win the match for Lions with the bat, gave Motown-MCA the chance to move the score along, but Vasanth Krishnaswami was caught behind for 8, off a ball from Vuppala that the batsman thought he should have hit for four, when the total was 18, and Gordon followed soon to first-change Tanvir Malik, edging to first slip a ball he might have left alone and falling for 10 with the score on 25. Jeeth Nirban came and went soon afterwards, caught behind off Nikhil, while Anurag Yerabati was another victim of Nitesh Nangunoori behind the stumps, this time off Milinda, and Motown-MCA had to rebuild. They did so in familiar fashion, as Mani played the ball well for his 52, before Zahid’s excellent catch dismissed him – the first of four scalps for Lions captain Shahid Malik, whose skillfully flighted, very slow deliveries have tempted many a Michigan batsman to his doom. When Shyam Mayasandra’s imperious stroke play was curtailed in similar fashion, Motown-MCA hoped that the newly-returned Muralidharan and the ever enthusiastic Vijay Patel could combine elegance and power, but Murali found Shahid Malik too tempting, was drawn out of his crease, and stumped (the umpire who gave the stumping, Motown-MCA’s Neil Makin, standing at square leg, was applauded by the Lions players, and while their applause was generous and sporting, it led observers to reflect on the fact that, sadly, not every clear stumping might be given in Michigan cricket, where the batting team often provides the square leg umpire…), and then Vijay found the long-on boundary too far to lift Shahid Malik. A bold 17 from the captain added respectability to the score, and Pawan Canchi (5 n.o.) batted carefully to prolong the innings, before Neil Makin was run out without facing a ball as confusion reigned between two batsmen unfamiliar with one another in the middle.
Captain Sathish Thandapani has had one request of his team all season, when batting first – bat out the overs. This has taken the pressure off the younger batsmen and has allowed the bigger hitters the opportunity to take risks and accelerate later in the innings. But on Saturday, on a small ground, Motown-MCA left eight overs on the table, and knew full well that they had missed out. The openers, in particular, looked with regret on their dismissals, knowing that a few more overs at the crease could have given their team the opportunity to post 180 or even 200, which, although probably not par scores, would have placed the Lions batsmen under far more pressure. And with Motown-MCA coming close to defending even the low total posted, there was even more talk of “what if” at the end of the match.
The new ball went to Murali, whose first two overs reminded the fielding team that their comrade had not played in North America for some weeks (however, when he returned for a second spell, he bowled six overs, including a maiden, for 21 and the key wicket of Zahid, thereby giving up fewer runs in his last six overs than in his first two). But Anurag, with a masterful display of swing bowling, rocked the Lions immediately, dismissing Farooq Malik for 0 (caught Mani) and Tanvir for 18 (a running catch by Vasanth Krishnaswami at mid-on) in his first over. When he had Shehzad lbw for six in his second over, making the score 34/3, Motown-MCA began to hope, and Lions to hesitate. Shahid Malik had two streaky fours before he was caught behind by Gordon off Anurag for 8, but then the first of two key partnerships, between Zahid and Harinder Singh (22), put 45 valuable runs on the board, Zahid playing elegant ground shots, and Harinder hitting the ball hard and frustratingly failing to find a fielder until a superb reflex catch by Mani off his own bowling dismissed him in the 13th over. Pawan Canchi (7-1-21-1) came on to strangle the batsmen, with his accurate, probing off spin, and was rewarded in his third over as a half-hearted pull from Nangunoori ballooned to Neil Makin at backward square leg, giving the twelve-year-old, after a nervous bobble, his first MichCA catch. However, try as Motown-MCA might, another wicket was not forthcoming: Nikhil Vuppala (21 n.o., one 4) and Ushan Milinda (15 n.o., one six) gave a clinical display of chasing down a low total, happy to play out maidens to Murali, Anurag, and Pawan, confident in the knowledge that the odd bad ball could be hit, while even the most disciplined bowling attack would give up enough extras to keep the scoreboard moving inexorably towards a low target. Captain Sathish Thandapani did not want to risk a spinner from the woods end, where the straight boundary is very short, and, once Anurag was bowled out, brought back at that end Jeeth, whose first two overs had cost only 11. However, Motown-MCA’s third medium pacer struggled for his line, and whatever pressure had been on the eighth-wicket pair was gone. Mani bowled his third and final over, giving up seven runs, and the skipper brought himself on for what proved to be the last over, as Milinda and Vuppala saw the Lions home.