You are hereUniversal wins semi-final 2011

Universal wins semi-final 2011

By gokul - Posted on 25 September 2011

Date - Saturday, September 24, 2011. 

Venue - Cassie Campbell Ground.
Occasion - Division-1 Play-off Semi-Finals. 

After the huge downpour on Friday, when any chance of a game was felt to be remote, Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day...more than just weatherwise. The sun beamed and it was as pleasant as it could get for a game of cricket. 

The Universal brigade trickled in, each one more enthusiastic than the other. The ground was set-up, and the drills were performed - catching, fielding, throwing. We were playing the (near) undefeated division champions, and they were coming  off a big win off us a couple of weeks back. Their confidence was very high to a point that it seemed their victory was only a foregone conclusion. In two prior encounters between Universal and Challengers, we had pulled off a big chase, but tied the game, and lost the second game. This game was to be the one to show which way the scales tilt. Do they tilt completely in their favour, or do we prove it to them that their win was more of a fluke and we are just as, if not more, capable of beating them. This match was to prove it, and the stage was set. Alea Jacta Est - as it is said!!! The die had been cast!!!
Challengers won the toss and as was expected, batted first. In effect, we won the toss as we were keen to chase as well. The ground was a little soft due to overnight rains, and scoring boundaries would have been a little difficult, or so we thought. First 10 overs proved us right!!! Anil opened the bowling and that may have taken them by surprise, as the openers very quietly played out the first over, not knowing how to react to the opening with spin. What may have surprised them more was that having played Taresh the last time, and seeing him not share the new ball. Viren started the proceedings from the other end. Seeing that approach, their opener, Jayant, decided to go after Anil anyways. Wrong idea, as he soon learned in Anil's second over, and must have realized that as he saw the ball settle in Taresh's hands at mid-off. Viren bowled a tight 3 overs from the other end, and after one more over from Anil, Taresh came on from his end. Taresh struck immediately, removing the other opener, Pratik, playing across the line. 15/2 in 7th over - right where we wanted them. The energy on the field, the efforts to stop the ball or chase it, was tremendous. Everyone was throwing themselves around and giving more than expected, and that is so contagious. The next pair realized the runs were not easy to come and tried consolidating. We too changed bowlers often, not letting the batsman settle to a pace or a bowler. Taresh switched end, and struck immediately, removing Tushar, their most prolific player of the season holing a cut to Anand positioned perfectly at covers for that shot. 41/3. Jigar was holding up one end and playing calmly, but now he went more into a shell, and so did the new batsman Harsh. Runs were not coming at all, and in Taresh's next over, in an attempt to find gaps, Harsh chopped one on to the stumps. 45/4. Their skipper, Ankit, stepped in to join Jigar, and they crawled to 61, not before we had seen Ankit do come good dance moves to both Nandit and Anil. Finally, on one such delivery from Anil, Ankit did everything that he could - hopped out, jumped back in, squared up in a dancing step, twirled the bat in an attempt to find the ball - all that could be done to make it look utterly funny - but what the ball did find was the off-stump. Timber!!!!! The person who laughed the most at what had just transpired was the nonstriker-end umpire! It WAS utterly hilarious. 61/5. Daxesh stepped in to join Jigar. The pair added 16 runs, before Jigar tried to swipe Nandit across the line and was adjudged LBW, rightly so! His long and patient vigil came to an end. 77/6. The next batsmen, the left-handed Ronney, missed the first ball, swiped the next for a single, and another run later when he came back on strike, danced down to Nandit only to get stumped. 79/7. Precarious position for the division champs to be in and quite embarrassing too. This in when the dirty antics, cat calls, allegations, provocations started. The spectators too joined in, encouraged by the players themselves. Having dealt with it the last time, I think none of the Universal boys were in a mood to take it quietly this time round. Unfortunately, it did take a bit away from the game, and Daxesh and Pinakin (the spit machine), added 27 runs for the 8th wicket. Anil came back into the attack and Daxesh holed out to Taresh at long-on. 106/8. With the tail in, it was obvious there was to be a little bit of swiping to happen, as it did. The sad part is, you can't set a field for these kind of batsmen or shots. The 9th wickets added 22 runs, when Viren, in his 3rd spell, kept his cool as usual, and his line and length. He was rewarded by getting Raju caught behind. 128/9. Another 11 stolen and desparate singles later, Viren held on to a good return catch to wrap Challengers up for 139. Even so, they were smirking with confidence, with the thought that 139 was enough. Aren't we the party-spoilers!!! Anil and Taresh grabbed 3 wickets apiece, with Viren and Nandit accounting for 2 each. Excellent bowling performance by all the bowlers.
Arnab and Nandit opened the innings and were striking the ball beautifully. Arnab fell to a fluke catch, trying to flick a ball off his toe, as the fielder at shortish square-leg made a face-saving move and the ball caught one of his hands (you read it right). 20 runs for the opening stand, not bad, but considering Challengers' bowling, was a little less. Anand's stay was not long and his pull found the fielder. 27/2 and it did jangle a few nerves. Gokul stepped in at this point, and along with Nandit, consolidated, placing and picking runs, while despatching the lose balls to the boundaries, which were difficult to come by, or may be it was just the perception (cause Taresh later on seemed to find them at will). The score went up to a healthy 65 when Nandit played around a ball to get bowled. He played beautifully for his 35 well-made runs, and that did go a long way towards the end result. 65/3. Dhruv came in to join Gokul and they inched forward adding 18 runs before Gokul faint-edged a catch to the keeper. 83/4, with 57 more to go. There was batting yet to come, but even so, its always a bit rankling when a wicket falls, especially while chasing. As a last-minute move, and even as Dhiren was walking out to replace Gokul, Gokul took Dhiren back and sent in Gurjeet to bat. In the end-analysis that proved to be a decisive strike to Challengers. Gurjeet played exceptionally sensibly, blocking the good balls, placing the others for singles, and powering the loose ones for runs - like a seasoned pro who has been doing this all his life. Dhruv fell quickly and we were 86/5. A very dicey situation with another 54 runs to go. In strode Taresh, looking somewhat nervous. Given his potential and abilities, we were more relaxed and confident about his abilities to finish the job, and boy, did he do it in style. A few tentative pokes later, as he got the hang of the wicket, and with Gurjeet supporting so well at the other end, Taresh broke loose. Jigar, their opening bowler, was walloped for 2 consecutive boundaries, and in the next over, Ronney, one of their strike bowlers through the regular season, was shown what can happen to him when faced with the right talent. A huge pull for six to deep wicket, and another ball later, an even bigger one right into the parking lot to...cant even call it long-on, cause the ball landed way past where long-on would even be. Taresh was on fire and wanted to finish it off early...and Ronney was out of the attack!!! Daxesh came back for his last over, which turned out to be the last of the match as well. Gurjeet, pulled a short one smartly over square-leg for a four to seal an emphatic and resounding win by 5 wickets. Universal  - 141/5 in 37.3 overs. Gurjeet remained unbeated on 18, and Taresh was unconquered on 38 runs (off only 28 balls) - an unbeaten partnership of 54 runs for the 6th wicket. Partnerships - they are so important to build!!! Universal juggernaut has thundered into the Final for the second consecutive season...and we have a score to settle with Hindustan.
Special mentions go to Anil, for opening the bowling in daunting conditions; Taresh, Viren, Ed and Nandit for their bowling efforts; Anand, Gurjeet, Dhruv, Dhiren, Arnab for their fielding. Overall the fielding and catching was excellent. Everyone chased the ball like every run saved will win them the game - and it did!!! Every catch mattered and it showed in the intensity from every player to take them. Batting wise, Nandit is doing a fantastic job at the top of the order. He lends the aggression and yet, there is solidity in his style. Arnab is also a revelation as an opener and a sweet timer of the ball. Both of these have addressed the worry of the opening combo. With the dual line-up batting strategy - which is working well - we ensure we keep the pressure on the opposition bowling, and not let them get on top of us. At the same time, we bat deep so we can always take some rearguard action as required. 
To top it all, the team-spirit and the intensity shown, the drive to get the game home, is so palpable that you can touch and feel it on the field. Not only on the field, but also off it, team-spirit is so heartening to see. In this aspect, a special thanks and kudos go to Denny. It was his brainwave to have Gurjeet replace him in the playing 11. Gurjeet justified this confidence many time over, but importantly, in a crunch game, doing what is best for the team is nothing but complete team-work!!! Well done Denny. Your confidence in Gurjeet through your selfless act was justified and DID WIN US THE GAME!!!! The supporters of the team - Sunil and Jitu - have been visibly present and it is encouraging to see them come out and be there. Maybe its the luck factor they bring, or maybe their presence eggs us on. Whatever it is, every time they have been present, we have won. So Jitu/Sunil, do come out. You guys are lucky for the team!!! Its great to see your support. Thank you.
Overall, it was a great game and I am going to be smiling about this one even after we WIN THE FINALS!!!! Beating the division champs is not a small feat, especially when they have lost only 1 game in the entire season! Then they came across Universal!!! Beating us and then daring to facing us again - not a good idea, right? Not a smart proposition for any team. Got a win off us, slink away and never come back, or we have you for breakfast, lunch and dinner!!! :) 
One more game in the season. We need to keep the same intensity, the same drive, the same thirst to win, and the fire to save every run, take every catch, with the thought that this is what may win us the match. One more push - a BIG PUSH - and we will be celebrating next week like only UNIVERSAL CAN! Lets do this!!!
Win on 3. 1...2...3 - WIN!!!



Go, Universal, Go!!!