Three MCA players were part of the Atlanta-Chicago-Michigan ad hoc U-17 team that lost narrowly to hosts Triangle Cricket Academy on Friday, 21 July, in the first of a three-match series in North Carolina. TCA, chasing 186, won by two wickets with four balls to spare at the Shiloh Cricket Ground in Morrisvile, NC.
The series, organized by Atlanta Cricket Academy’s Vijay Ganji and TCA coaches, brought south three MCA players – Ani Mayasandra, Gordon Makin, and Rohit Mogalayapalli – together with Midwest Cricket Academy’s Arjun Ahuja, to play with six Atlantans on a ten-man team.
The ACM Captain won the toss and had no hesitation in batting. ACM began well, with openers Sunny and Rohit putting on 54 in a solid first-wicket stand, before Rohit was run out for 22 in the tenth over. Sunny was then bowled for 27 and Gordon for 17, beaten by a ball that cut in and kept low, before Kush and Arjun put together a 51-run fourth-wicket stand. The visitors struggled with the pace of the pitch, failing to punish a lot of short bowling as the ball usually came on to the bat very slowly and often kept low, although some balls did rear up. However, Arjun’s controlled aggression was very effective, his three sixes raising the spirits of his team mates. He fell for 36, caught at square leg, trying to hit a fourth, but finding that he was too early on the shot. Kush’s patient and correct innings came to an end as he was well caught, trying to accelerate, but his 37 was the most valuable contribution to ACM’s innings. The runs dried up in the final overs, despite 13 from Saqlain and a quick ten from Ani, both falling lbw to balls that kept low, and ACM’s innings ended in the 40th over as Akul and Mit were both run out, leaving Karan stranded without facing a ball. ACM supporters on the boundary were left feeling that the total should have been higher – the first seven batsmen had all got into double figures, but no one had gone on to post a big score. Nonetheless, the home team supporters seemed to think that the score was par on a difficult wicket with a rough, slow outfield.
TCA’s reply began cautiously, watched by former West Indies Test Batsman Alvin Kallicharan, who coaches Triangle Cricket League’s 200 plus youth players. When the home team were 36/2 after eight overs the visitors had cause for optimism – Arjun had bowled opener Nahusha for 14, and Sunny, who opened the bowling with Karan, had exploited Sagar’s nervousness against the short ball to have him caught at short leg by Kush (one of ACM’s best fielders) without scoring. But a maiden half-century from opening batsman Vidusha (finally bowled for 52 by Arjun) and a solid 42 from Princ, caught very well by Rohit on the extra cover boundary off spinner Saqlain, put the hosts in a winning position. The third-wicket stand of 102 was exactly what the visitors had lacked – a potentially match-winning partnership. Ani, ACM’s unluckiest bowler, saw off Samip, caught for one at short point by Arjun, who, like Kush and Rohit, distinguished himself in the field, but Prit’s innings of 23 (one six), ended by a run-out, brought the hosts within touch of victory. Needing less than a run a ball off the final overs, TCA wobbled a little as Sachin was caught behind by Gordon off Rohit for one, but Dharmik (19 n.o.) brought the hosts home with four balls to spare, ninth man (of ten) Cameron not facing a ball.
ACM had entered the match expecting to dominate, but ended the day reflecting on a number of areas that needed improvement: no big partnerships and an inability to deal with the pitch had restricted them to a total that was within reach of the hosts; fielding that could certainly have been better, as several balls that should have gone to hand ended up on the North Carolina grass, while others went through to add easy runs to the hosts’ total, and at least three run-outs were missed; and, finally, in contrast to the good line bowled by TCA, ACM’s bowlers, including the spinners, were often wayward, conceding 28 wides (14 more than the hosts). Arjun (6.2-0-27-2) and Rohit (6-0-21-1) were ACM’s most economical bowlers, while Sunny (8-0-40-1), Ani (8-0-40-1), and Saqlain (8-1-37-1) all returned respectable figures that would have been better had ACM been sharper in the field.
A short meeting at the team hotel after the match addressed areas for improvement, but coach Vijay Ganji took the defeat calmly, and observers reflected that some of the shortcomings were typical of a team playing together for the first time. Another forty-over match against TCA awaits today, while back in Michigan Motown-MCA face GDCC at Bloomer Park with an unfamiliar line-up, shorn of its usual MCA contingent.