Gist: 12 stars won the toss and opted to bat. We were all out for 245 in 46 overs (Ayyappan 50, Amit 46, Zoheeb 3-15). Exiles were all out for 185 runs in 32 overs (A Diwan Ali 42, Q Abbas 39, manoj 5-45, Ani 2-28) and 12 stars won the match by 60 runs. 12 stars were in control throughout the game and it inevitably marched towards its logical conclusion: A 12 stars victory.
Setting the stage
12 stars were in high spirits after a successful weekend where Nike (goddess of victory), yielding to 12stars’ entreaties, was right beside us, whispering “Just do it”, as we piled up 3 wins. This week, 12 stars hoped to continue the winning streak and the opponent between us and another victory was Ostend exiles. 12 stars had won all league games against Exiles till now and even though 12 stars is all about setting new trends 🙂 we decided to stick to the same winning trend.
On with the game then:
12 Stars reached the ground on time. The statement might seem innocuous but great efforts have been put to reach this stage. The typical banter started immediately and we went through the normal warm up routine where talking takes priority over stretching. Our captain Ani won the toss and elected to bat. In form Swaroop opened the batting with out of form Ajay. The 2nd ball of the innings went for a six. An excellent pull shot by Swaroop. From then on, for 6-8 overs the duo batted smoothly and Swaroop added few more mesmerizing shots to 12 stars collective memory. Ajay just repeated his standard pull shot six and a four. The wagon wheel of his innings would resemble Salman Khan’s acting : very one dimensional. After making some unsuccessful bowling changes, Exiles captain Zoheeb took it upon himself to rein in the 12 stars batsmen. He was successful as he got Ajay caught behind in his 2nd over (40-1). This brought last week’s centurion, Ashish, to the crease. Swaroop and Ashish kept the scoring steady and we knew that everything was as usual based on Ashish’s extraordinary desire (itch!) to take risky singles and his customary change of shoes, helmet, cap (Guard?) mid innings. Swaroop continued scoring with ease but his aggressive batting style led to a charge down the wicket and he missed getting to the pitch of the ball leading to a stumping (62-2). Enter Mr. Bhushan. Another century from Ashish was also not on the cards as he got out trying to slice the ball on the off side leading to a top edge and a well-judged catch (72-3). The first 3 wickets were taken by Zoheeb. Next up was Anshul. Meanwhile Bhushan, blessed with excellent shot making skills which was on display in last week’s T20, started to settle in. But, he has been plagued by run outs this season and he decided to create a legacy of his own and got run out again (74-4). This brought our kapitan, Ani, to the crease. Anshul and Ani steadied the ship and played cautiously (a stretch of time during which Zoheeb bowled 3 maidens). Sensing the need to increase the scoring rate, Ani started to counter attack. He hit a powerful six to long on followed by elegant scoop/drive towards long off for four. He repeated the same shot combination in the next over bowled by that bowler. His sixes were based on brute force. He was like a modern day Arjuna as he struck the ball through the tiny gap between the long on fielders’s hands for six! The score had creeped up to 131 in 33 overs. But, cricket is not just throw ball-hit ball kind of game. Too many strategies are involved. Every strike results in a counter strike and Zoheeb made a bowling change and got in a bowler with a long run up and a slow delivery. Ani couldn’t capitalize on this change of pace and he got out trying to hit the bowler out of the park (131-5). Then came Amit and his beautiful world of uncertainty. Nobody knows what can happen during the first 4-5 balls to Amit including Amit himself. After he survives this period there is a sudden transformation and we see a person in control. Fortunately this is what happened and Amit continued from where Ani left and started scoring briskly at a rate of 6 r.p.o. Anshul has taken up the role of anchoring the innings and he is becoming good at it. This is pleasantly surprising because he is an impatient guy who likes to bowl both a googly and doosra in the same ball! This shows the ability of 12 stars to adapt. He was in the middle keeping one end safe as Ani and Amit started attacking from the other end. Eventually he also perished (168-6) and this brought Ayyappan to the crease. When you see Ayyappan you can already visualize that he can wreak havoc on the opposing team. And boy did he not disappoint. For the first few balls he assessed the conditions and then the towering sixes came to the delight of 12 stars. He was MIA for some time now and he also felt happy I guess (no one can tell as the facial muscles don’t flex much!). Cricketers would become poets seeing the graceful arc followed by the ball as it left Ayyapan’s bat and went beyond the boundary lines. Amit at the other end was also in attack mode but he suffered a leg cramp and as he couldn’t run anymore he tried to go for big shots and was caught at long off (244-7). The pair had a partnership of 75 runs in 5 overs and Ayyappan scored a 50 in 20 balls. Then, an all too familiar story unfolded before 12 stars. The euphoria from Ayyapan’s innings came crashing down like a pyramid formed by untrained Hippopotamuses. Within a span of 7 balls we lost 4 wickets. Ayyapan was caught, shortly after Amit’s wicket, at long on (244-8). Manoj went and came without troubling the scorers (although he would trouble the exile scorers a lot later in the innings- 245-9). For all the muscle flexing done by Rohan he couldn’t flex it fast enough to prevent a ball from hitting his pads and he was adjudged LBW (245-10). Nauman had found a nice batting rhythm while giving catching practice earlier and he was waiting to unleash some shots but ended up being a spectator as the wickets tumbled at the other end and 12 stars were all out for 245.
Lunch break: Upon 12 stars insistence Exiles had prepared chicken curry and it was very tasty. The vegetarians in our group got their standard channa quota. Everybody ate more than expected and it made us a bit lethargic which only increased our drive to finish the game sooner.
12 Stars bowlers in action: Rohan opened the bowling attack and the 1st over went for 4 runs. A decent start. Ani started from the other end and bowled a maiden. As the opening pair was unhappy with their bowling ends they wanted to switch. So Ayyapan was brought to bowl one over. He got the breakthrough immediately, beating the batsman and uprooting the stumps. After this, there was a period of 15 overs where no wickets fell (there were two chances created by Rohan which didn’t give him a wicket but like many other missed chances throughout 12 stars history they would also be used as entertainment material for post-match drinking sessions). This was an unusual thing for 12 stars as they are used to seeing Ani going to CTRL+ALT+I mode (consistent amazing inswingers) and get 2-3 wickets. But the left hand right hand combination of Exiles players at crease negated this effect as he was bowling most of the time to the left hander. 12 Stars didn’t panic. New strategies were again put in place and the spin attack started. Leg spin by Nauman at one end and Off spin(?) by Manoj at the other end. The exiles were scoring at a good pace (5-6 r.p.o) but 12 Stars were maintaining a good line and length and the bowlers gradually started suffocating the batsmen and a mistake was waiting to happen.
Dance of the T-Rex: Scientists have to figure out which circuit in our brain snaps as we see a ball loop towards us at a slower pace and we go into a primal barbarian mode and want to hit the ball out of existence. Manoj is a master in making use of this mental breakdown. He coaxed the left handed batsman to go for an aerial shot and Rohan was waiting to latch onto it like Gollum to the ring. The dance of the T-rex had begun. 4 more wickets were taken by Manoj. One caught at slip by Ani after a secret juggling act where nobody could see what was happening between Ani and the ground. A well-judged, tough catch taken at long on by Sandeep. A “faster than tracer bullet” stumping by Swaroop and a LBW. Another 5 wicket haul of Manoj got added to his growing wickets count. It would seem that the wicket taking capacity is directly proportional to the age (weight??) of the bowler.
Nauman kept one end tight but his share of bad luck continued as Ajay dropped 2 catches of his bowling. It was just not his day. Anshul was brought on for a spell and after a good first over he got a wicket with a beautiful set up in his 2nd over. After bowling few leg breaks he slipped in a wrong one which caught the batsman completely unware and he was bowled. The match’s outcome was pretty much decided by then. There was some big hitting by 2-3 players from their team but the bowling changes made by Ani (he started bowling from one end) got the necessary breakthroughs. He got 2 wickets: A regulation caught behind and a long on catch taken by Rohan). The last wicket, however, belonged to the fielders as an excellent run out was effected by Sandeep and Swaroop. In the end, a methodical approach by 12 stars and their unwavering confidence led to a well-deserved victory. Special thanks to JD for taking up the responsibility of scorer and Sandeep for umpiring (25 overs) and fielding (40 overs).
The dominance over Exiles continues. Next league 1 match is against Crescent and we are looking forward to another good game. Personally, I believe that when you want to defeat somebody badly and you end up doing that, victory feels hollow. But I also know that I want to have that hollow feeling!