After two frustrating days in North Carolina the Atlanta-Chicago-Michigan team, coached with admirable sang froid by Vijay Ganji, and captained by Atlanta’s Saqlain, had reason to celebrate today, chasing down the hosts 157/7 for the loss of only three wickets in 18.2 overs. The Midwestern contingent, especially frustrated yesterday, had particular reason to smile as they all contributed to an exemplary run chase, while Arjun Ahuja (2/24) and Ani Mayasandra (2/25) also led the bowling, and Rohit Mogalayapalli reminded everyone yet again of what a fine fielder he is with an excellent slip catch.
Heavy rain overnight meant that plans for a very early start at the tiny Crabtree Creek Nature Park ground had to be set aside, while the hosts, aided by some of the visitors, worked on the outfield and the areas around the wicket. By 10.30 the field was ready and TCA captain Prince Patel, on winning the toss, had no hesitation in asking ACM to bowl, no doubt confident that ACM would find the wet ball and the wet outfield challenges. Sure enough, some of the twenty wides and not infrequent full tosses bowled down the leg side by ACM’s spinners had something to do with the conditions, while TCA found themselves again grateful to opener Vidusha, whose 31 might have been even more if Rohit had not taken an excellent diving catch at slip off Ani. Arjun, generating real pace, had already taken two early wickets, keeping the hosts in check. Prince’s captain’s knock and top score for the innings of 36 came to an end when he was clean bowled by Ani, whose bounce and flight again troubled the batsmen; Jaskaran saw off Anup; and Kush, who had not bowled for a year, took two wickets. Thirteen-year-old Akul, given the new ball in tandem with Arjun, rewarded his captain with three tidy overs for twenty, and guest player Svetak’s two overs for 15 also included some excellent balls. Once again, ACM could have been tidier in the field, but when Mith caught Sagar behind off the last ball of the innings for 26 (Kush’s second wicket), the visitors had reason to feel reasonably confident – a target of 158 on such a small ground was far from huge.
Two days of batting on the slow Carolina wickets and a day’s acquaintance with the tiny ground also helped ACM, whose innings was opened by a pair very familiar to MCA members – Gordon Makin and Rohit Mogalayapalli. Both reminded spectators of why they had been selected for the USA U-15 side last year with some confident stroke play as they carefully saw off the new ball before Gordon fell lbw for 16 (three fours) with 39 on the board. Rohit was then joined by Ani Mayasandra, and both went after the bad balls aggressively, while playing the good ones straight. By now ACM’s batsmen had realized that a ball hit hard on the ground was likely to head for the short boundaries before the field could react, while shots in the air that would be suicide at Lyon Oaks would be greeted here with enthusiastic applause from team mates as they sailed into the lush Carolina vegetation. Rohit hit three sixes and two fours in his 35, while Ani stood tall, playing back everything he didn’t want to clout, and hitting five sixes in the key ACM innings of 41. When Rohit was clean-bowled and Ani fell lbw, TCA, looking a little crestfallen and sounding less enthusiastic in the field than on previous days, had to deal with Arjun and Kush. The latter was undefeated on 10 (two elegant fours) at the end, while Arjun brought the match to a conclusion with his fourth six, sending the ball over the extra cover boundary to bring his own score to 29 not out.
After two disappointing matches, the combined team had found its rhythm and looked a much happier group as they gathered for another lunch generously provided by the welcoming hosts. Alvin Kallicharan praised both teams at the closing ceremony, and much goodwill was generated as parents, coaches, and players mingled before the ACM group made preparations for long journeys home.
TCA coach Prashanth and TCA parents take to horticulture at the ground.
It is a “Nature Park”, after all…
At the innings break
Alvin Kallicharan at the closing ceremony
The ACM team with Alvin Kallicharan, who singled out Chicago’s Arjun Ahuja for particular praise