ONDRIVE … with Sham Samaroo
On Sunday October 1st, it was raining boundaries at the Cage when two top teams in the Eastern American League, Galaxy and Richmond Hill Liberty Cricket club (RHLCC), clashed in the season ending T20 finals. Over 400 runs were scored in a furious assault on bowlers that sent fielders scurrying helplessly to retrieve balls beyond the boundary. The action-filled spectacle began with RHLCC openers, Dominique Rikhi and Wahid Ward, posting a century opening stand to set up a commanding total in excess of 200. To ensure that it was not all one way for RHLCC, when their turn came, Galaxy’s Kevin Nazeer and Rajiv Ivan batted magnificently to keep their team also in the game.
Throughout the playoffs, both teams were dominant with the bat, and a high scoring finale was expected. A week ago in the semifinals, RHLCC took a bite out of Big Apple with a decisive 9-wicket victory to secure their place in the finals. Batting first, Big Apple ran into all kinds of trouble against RHLCC’s Altaaf Habibulla who picked four Big Apple wickets to put his team in command. And only a late order flurry from Munroe helped Big Apple to a respectable score of 161, which, in the end, was easy pickings for RHLCC. Openers, Rikhi and Ward, fresh off an opening stand of 144 in the last game of the preliminary round, were off to the races once again in the semifinals. The two shared an ominous-looking opening stand of 58 before Ward fell for 29. Trevor Henry and Rikhi then both hit unbeaten fifties to steer RHLCC comfortably to a comprehensive 9-wicket trashing of Big Apple, and with it, a place in the finals.
In the second semifinal, Galaxy sent Everest ACS on a leather hunt. Playing in the Cage, Galaxy’s opener, Akshay Homray, pounced like a ‘caged animal’ on anything loose. He was in swashbuckling form slamming a scintillating 142, 100 of which came in boundaries (10×4 and 10×6). It was, to put it mildly, a furious slaughter as Galaxy signed off on 229 for 3 in their allotted 20 overs. The required run rate of 11 and change per over was always going to be a bridge too far for Everest. Veteran and former USA captain, Zamin Amin, kept things interesting for a while with a calculated innings of 47 including six 6s. But it simply could not reign in a rampaging Galaxy whose attack was led by Metray Balgobin (3 for 47), with two wickets each for Vijay Seonarine, Yudesh Bisnauth, and Rafik Nazeer. The win earned Galaxy a place to their second T20 final. The first was back in 2013 where they lost to Atlantis.
Tantalizingly, this final was a rematch of the 2016 semifinals between RHLCC (formerly Liberty Sports Club) and Galaxy. RHLCC would win that game, and eventually go on to lift the trophy. Understandably, this season, Galaxy was out to even the score. The battle lines, as they say, were clearly drawn. At the toss, Galaxy called correctly and asked RHLCC to take first strike. Openers Ward and Rikhi boldly answered the call, for a third consecutive match, this time posting a century opening stand before Rikhi fell for a well-played fifty. Ward and Trevor Henry continued RHLCC’s dominance and at 142 for 1 in the 13th over, RHLCC was firmly in the driver’s seat. But just as they were about to switch to cruise control, Rajiv Ivan struck two decisive blows in the space of four balls removing Ward (69) and captain Trinson Carmichael for quack, quack. RHLCC continued to lose wickets at regular intervals despite fighting knocks from Henry (37) and Joel Boodhoo (28 n.o.). Rajiv Ivan was Galaxy’s most successful bowler with 2 for 29. Three batsmen went via the run out route as RHLCC signed off on 212 in their allotted overs. At one stage, RHLCC were looking at a possible par score of 240. Still, chasing 212 runs in a T20 game can be daunting, to say the least.
T20 Champions Galaxy celebrate the moment
Century-maker Akshay Homraj and Shafiq Adel Shah opened the innings for Galaxy. Homraj immediately picked up from where he left off the previous week. In the first 4 balls of the opening over, Homraj bludgeoned 18 runs in a sequence of 4,4,6,4. On the fifth ball, he fell to catch in the deep going for another boundary. RHLCC would have breathed a sigh of relief to see the back of Homraj. Trevor Henry soon after accounted for Shah (7), and at 42 for 2 in the 4th over, “the result was still in play”. That’s the very same thing that the fake news media, CNN (Clinton News Network), kept telling us throughout election night. But unlike the election, this game was truly “still in play”. The result was definitely still hanging in the balance with RHLCC holding a slight edge. It was really anyone’s game. And it was then that all hell broke loose. Kevin Nazeer and Rajiv Ivan came together in an unbroken third-wicket stand of 176 runs that literally knocked the game out of RHLCC’s reach. Nazeer and Ivan batted imperiously, exuding confidence and sending ball after ball soaring into the sky. Nazeer completed a glorious hundred and remained undefeated on 109 from 57 deliveries. He plundered 9×4 and 7×6 and a strike rate of 191. His teammate, Ivan, too remained undefeated on a magnificent 79 (5×4 and 7×6) with a strike rate of 213.
After the game, I spoke briefly with Galaxy’s captain, and former Guyana national player, Vijay Seonarine, about his team’s eight wicket victory. Asked if at any point in the game he was worried, Seonarine paused for a moment before acknowledging that there were some anxious moments when the RHLCC openers posted a century opening stand. But he added that a target of 212 might look ominous but “it is a small ground” and with Galaxy’s batting lineup, he had no doubt they would chase it down comfortably. Seonarine also reminisced briefly about his time on the national team when he played alongside fellow Guyanese stalwarts Hooper, Sarwan, and Shiv.
Spare a thought too for the RHLCC team who lost both finals this season. They are a talented group of players who play the game the gentleman’s way. Let’s do it again, bigger and better, in 2018.
Caption for featured photo:
Skipper Vijay Seonarine with century maker and man of the match Kevin Nazeer