T 20 Championship Finals
12 Stars vs Ostend Exiles
Venue: RBCC Grounds, Ohain
Date: (3*0) + 7 = 2-0-1+6
“Every mountain top is within reach, if you just keep climbing.”
― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond
On a perfect summer day, which seems more like an oxymoron lately in Belgium, 12 Stars prepared themselves for one final push. The weekend started with such a buzz about 12 Stars being able to field 4 completely different, mutually exclusive teams for 4 games. While it already spoke volumes about the way the Club has grown, no one realised what more could actually revolutionize the image of 12 Stars, among the other clubs in Belgium.
T20 final it was against Ostend Exiles and there was no final hurdle for 12 Stars, since 12 Stars considered every game their final hurdle, which is also the reason for the team reaching “The Final hurdle”. With 6 “Success”ive wins, 12 Stars were obviously the hot favourites to win the cup. But the past has taught better lessons for 12 Stars and Ani, the Captain of 12 Stars made it very clear just before the match. The message was loud and clear, “Forget what has happened in the past, Today’s a new day”.
Both the teams made their intent very clear with some intense net sessions and disciplined Warm up. The Toss was won by Ani and he immediately decided to bat. The find of the year, Sensational Swaroop went with the Classy but “form-lacking” Ajay. A brisk start was what 12 Stars needed and the openers answered the call perfectly with 8 an over start, before Ajay was tempted to scoop the ball round his legs, only to be caught at leg gully. A visibly upset Ajay paved way for Rahul Pagey who struggled to find his feet and rhythm. While the momentum seemed to be with Exiles, Swaroop cautiously but cleverly found some important boundaries to keep the score ticking. When Rahul was out after a miserly strike rate, the onus was on Bhushan to bring back the Stars into the game. Quick hands got the Stars some quick runs, but soon, the quick legs of Bhushan eventually led to the downfall of Swaroop. Swaroop played a mistimed sweep which went straight to the guy at short mid-wicket. Before Swaroop could complete the shot and regain his position, Bhushan was almost at the other end, as if in a hurry to tell how bad the shot was. Swaroop sacrificed his wicket for a wonderful 43, which otherwise would have been Bhushan’s 8th run out of the season, earning him the title “Inzy of 12 Stars” on the way.
The Captain joined Bhushan in the middle, and played a highly sensible innings and throughout the game, he looked like Determination personified. Bhushan was out for a quick fire 18 which had some powerful boundaries and there were also cameos from Ayyappan and JD, but none of the 12 Stars middle and lower order batsmen could give the support Ani needed thereby flattering to deceive the bright start that the Openers provided. With the players thinking we were 20 or 30 short of what our total should have been, Ani’s confidence came through his words, “We have enough on the board”. With the strong bowling line up that 12 Stars had, it did seem that we had enough runs on the board. We had 9 bowlers in the team, including the Deadly “Death over specialist” Ajay. If we have reached this year’s final, one of the reasons was that he never bowled this year 🙂
Knowing that 158 is a good score to defend, particularly in a tense occasion, so as this final, 12 Stars only had one thing to do. Stick to the Basics, something that sometimes doesn’t stick…. basically..
A peppy talk from the Captain set the tone for the last half of the Final match…. Having played cricket for years, everyone knew that the match is never over until the last ball is bowled or the last wicket is taken. Rohan started the proceedings, but a 4th ball six from Sulaiman laid down or rather hoisted Exiles’s statement for the day, literally. Their intent was so blatantly clear and immediately set the stage for the formidable chase. Further heaves in the next over took the Exiles to 30 runs in 3 overs before Ani got the first of the 4 Diwan Alis to nick one to the keeper. Swaroop held to the low catch and the wicket brought back some lost energy into the 12 Stars Contingent. But that did not seem to stop Sulaiman who kept chancing his luck with some fierce blows. Ani had Ayyappan to replace Rohan and the change reaped dividends immediately. Misjudging the pace of the ball, Sulaiman went for another glory and skied the ball leaving the entire 12 Stars team gaping at the approaching Ajay. Ajay completed a beautiful, well judged, clean catch to spark celebrations that almost looked like 12 Stars had won the championship. It was clear that 12 Stars desperately needed the wicket to bring back the self-belief that was lost for a few balls…
A sensible run out from JD and a wicket to wicket bowling from Ayyappan, further reduced the chances of an Exiles victory. When Manoj had Zoheeb caught off the first ball at Slip through a sharp reflex from Nauman, it almost spelt doom for Exiles. This got the big hitting Qamar in, to fight it out for the Exiles. Another beautiful ball from Manoj took the edge of Qamar only to give a hard but failed chance to the keeper. The very next ball, another tempting one got him swinging to glory and hit it straight to long on. Unfortunately, Rahul was still struggling to find his feet and rhythm and this time his hands joined too, to let down a fairly straightforward chance. A visibly upset Manoj returned the next over only to see another dropped catch at mid-wicket. With 3 lives on his back, Qamar brutally assaulted Manoj to 3 continuous sixes reminding the team that he was making them pay for every dropped chance.
With 45 runs scored in 5 overs, Exiles were back in the chase when, all of a sudden, amazingly well directed throws from Anshul to Swaroop and Swaroop to Bhushan and a wonderful collection from Bhushan effected the Run out to mark the end of a dangerous partnership. Rohan was immediately brought in, to emphasise the momentum that 12 Stars had just got into. And Rohan did just that to effect a well-directed short ball which Qamar couldn’t get hold of and he ended up hitting slightly over the head of Ajay who with his tall stature, just like his character, took the catch calmly to erupt another wild celebration from 12 Stars. When Soheel was out to a perfect field placement off Bhushan, caught at point by Ani and with 50 needed off 32 balls and 2 wickets remaining, the writing was almost on the wall.. But a very cautious Rohan kept shouting over and over again “The game is not over yet guys!!!”.
A quick flurry of runs got Exiles needing 33 off 20 balls when a mishit from Zadran went well over the head of JD, or so everyone thought. An outstretched arm and an anti-gravitational defining moment from JD literally pulled it back to complete an unbelievable catch, even to JD’s amazement. With Ani deciding who should bowl the last 2 overs, he tossed the ball to JD to bowl the 18th over with 31 needed off 18 balls. JD’s first 4 balls cost 4 runs, but a mishit and a bad ball gifted 8 runs off the final two. With 19 runs needed off 12 balls and 1 wicket in hand, in a T20, it was really anyone’s game. Bhushan bowled the pen”ultimate” over; the over, that definitely turned the winds back in favour of 12 Stars. Bhushan just gave away 6 runs, leaving 13 to be scored off the final over from Rohan.
The finals couldn’t have been more (in)tense and the faces said it all. Everyone including the audience was so engrossed that there were absolutely no words uttered before the start of the final over. Rohan’s first ball was pushed to long off for 1 run and that brought the equation down to 12 off 5 balls. A good short ball and a mighty heave combined to produce a hard earned dot ball bringing down the equation to 12 off 4. With 4 players needed to be inside the circle, JD was brought in from deep fine leg to short fine leg. Just to prove Murphy’s Law right, the next ball from Rohan went to precisely where JD should have been and suddenly everyone looked like wanting to get out of their worst nightmare ever. 8 needed off 3. Rohan looked at his calmest best and delivered an outstanding delivery that beat the batsman. When the ball landed in the safe gloves of Swaroop [who was already fighting with a dislocated little finger], almost 30 pairs of eyes were on Swaroop glued to what he would do next. The batsmen set off for a desperate run and Swaroop took 2 strides towards the stumps and then bent down a little and let go off the ball with a calculated aim that struck the wickets with the runner a foot away from the crease marking a 7 run victory. What happened later is History.
A trademark pulling off the T-shirt by Rohan sparked the wildest of all Celebrations, 12 Stars has ever witnessed. A bear bare JD represented the entire West Indies team as “We are the Champions” was sung thoroughly by everyone in their coarsest voices never minding the “pitch” of the song 🙂 . A combination of calypso and bollywood and frantic movements meant that 12 Stars were literally floating with the Stars. Ani chose Beer to replace Champagne as he sprayed them wildly unto all 12 Stars. There were laughter, hugs and beers all around and it was getting increasingly difficult to wipe the smiles away from the faces of 12 Stars.
Congratulations also to Exiles who played in the right spirits and made the game so very interesting with their “Never say die” attitude.
Division 2 Champions in 2013, Division 1 Champions in 2014, BPC Champions in 2015 and T20 Champions in 2016. This success was the icing on the cake and a much needed trophy to 12 Stars as a club. To people who did not believe that 12 Stars was a T20 side, this victory was more than a strong statement.
While Exiles were left gaping at the Stars, the Stars ended their Exile and became the worthiest of all T20 Champions.
Congratulations 12 Stars, T20 Champions 2016
“Every mountain top is within reach, if you just keep climbing.”
One of the twinkling Stars,