Take 1: Cricket is bound to bring the best out of all, and such is the attraction and love for the game, that The Immortals just wanted to get off work, go out and enjoy a good practice session on a lovely Friday evening.
Take 2: Enters the spoilsport - the weather devil, and it is raining cats and dogs all over the bay area on what could have been a cool-warm summer cricket session. Was this rain going to dampen the spirits of The Immortals?
Take 3: Such was the love for the game, and the spirit to play, that almost all the players made it to the practice session and played their hearts out with rain belting on. The Immortals have surely come of their age, and have found a way to enjoy Cricket the most when the going gets tough.
Fast-forward to Saturday, and it's Game Day. What better opponents than the finalists of the Gold Cup (which the Immortals won proudly) and the word was that Knights are all but looking forward to this game. Well who wasn't ? After all it's one thing that everyone waits the entire week, a lovely game of Cricket. Once again, the toss, as usual our captain Darshil lost it and surprisingly enough Knights choose to bat first. The pitch was totally unfamiliar to them, and add to it, it had drizzled a bit over night, and Knights could have put the Immortals batting line up to real test if they had opted to field first. But nevertheless, chasing or defending, The Immortals were up to it, and given this opportunity to field first, would love to get on top of the opposition from the very first ball.
Speaking about the very first ball, my buddy Bhupesh, jokingly got offended when I compared him to Prasad in my last report (which actually I was just pointing to the duel between Prasad and Sohail), but I promised him, this time, bowl viciously and I would promote him to McGrath. Boy, did he take it too passionately? The first ball of the day, Bhupesh firing in, a good length delivery, and the batsman looks forward to dispose it to the leg side boundary. Alas, to find the safe hands of Aditya and up the Immortals went. Score read: 0 runs for 1 wicket in 0.1 balls. What a start that was? But hold your breath just enough, as there was more to come... In the same over, with a little assistance from the pitch, Bhupesh delivered a ferocious delivery which just exploded off the pitch catching the batsman by surprise on his rise, taking the upper hand/palm and looping a straightforward dolly to Keko (Karan)... 2 wickets in the first over and could this get better?
Well, the answer was delivered in the very next over from Nirmam, who has found his teasing line and length since opening alongside Bhupesh, and he was bang on target. A nice half volley, and the batsman was lured into going for it, and he did so rightly enough to hit the ball straight into our captain Darshil's hands. Score: X runs, 3 wickets, 1.3 overs. The Immortals were off to a dream start. The next few overs saw bowlers pushing the edge, fielders with their mouths open and some healthy sledging, and the batsman just trying to find their feet in the wet sand. A disastrous start and it was repairing time for Knights.
But there was one final nail left in the coffin, and it was back to Bhupesh to hammer it. I am still surprised from the sidelines, as to how one can even dream of hitting a bowler like Bhupesh, and his pace, to clear the boundry on almost what can be said the Cover position. The batsman just did that mistake, and the catch was taken by Gaurav quite comfortably. With 4 down for a measle 10-14 runs on the board, were Knights looking down the barrel of the gun waiting to be shot at, or can they still continue from here and post a competetive total?
Their rebound came in the form of a good middle order partnership which inched them closer to a respectable total, but then the Immortals have now known what is needed to crush the opponent in their weak spot, and thus they did put a lot of pressure to restrict the Knights for a score of around 25-30 odd runs for the loss of 5 wickets. The Knights then rode their luck as they started converting the dots into singles, and the singles into twos but then a brilliant caught behind by the keeper Ronak off Keka's first ball of his spell exposed the Knights tail at 6 wickets down. Keka has been continuing his knack of striking with the first ball of his spell for the past 2-3 games now and it took a naturally gifted talent to pull such a catch behind the stumps as Ronak did. A runout from Ronak should have almost sealed Knights fate, but they stuck along and the Immortals started showing some signs of desperation to fold them up. With another partnership from a lower order batsman, the Knights creeped their way slowly to the 60s.
It was the VC, Aditya's turn now, who once again showed his prowess of bowling wicket to wicket and thus bowled a great spell of 4 overs giving a mere 8 runs of which 4 were extras due to the pitch conditions. He also bagged two wickets and a runout and a wicket by Darshil had been helpful to fold the Knights innings for a total of 74 with an over to spare. The bad part was the number of extras which The Immortals gave away - 18 runs were conceded without even letting the bat hit the ball. Well by far they knew that the pitch was a minefield and the ball can have its own shape of a brutal artillery. Can the batsman hold on and deliver yet another victory? Or will the old memories of chasing a decent total and faltering at the end haunt the minds of The Immortals? Behold, as what you might claim a stroke of brilliance was in fact a brush of confidence and belief as I take you to a joy ride of some exuberant stroke play from the batting lineup.
As usual, and as always, the winning combination of Darshil and Ronak opened up the batting for us, with a straightforward goal of sticking to the basics of 1s and 2s leaving out the odd balls which might just stay low or just explode off the pitch. The start was a slower one, but then Darshil got an inside edge and carried the ball to his stumps. 1 wicket down, with the score not yet in double figures. Nothing lost yet with plenty of batting to come. Sannato (Viral) joined Ronak to steady the ship but he could not last long, and a fatal miscalucalted decision from the leg umpire resulted into his stumping and he was walking back to the pavilion having faced just 5 deliveries. 2 wickets down, score barely crossing the two figure mark. Ronak still in the play, Batti (Karan SJSU) to join next.
Both Karan and Ronak began cautiously taking the singles and playing with determination. But then the inevitable happened, as Ronak who wanted to follow a similar shot attempted by Karan and mistimed it, giving a sitter to the fielder who managed to wobble it but then finally held on to it. Pin drop silence, as the dugout watched him walk back. With lots of uncertainties, and the heat of the game making a turmoil for the rest of the players, Nirmam as usual began pacing up and down. Others just stood still, and held on to their breath. Next up was our VC, Aditya who for your information, had remained not out on all his 4 previous occasions. In fact he has not yet been sent back to the dugout this season.
The overs that followed, with Aditya and Batti on the crease re-defined the way Immortals are now playing. I have been commenting, that it is no longer a single man show, and it is a great team effort which Immortals have found to be the key to their success. Batti was in supreme touch as he and Aditya took 12 runs of a single over and that changed the mood and the tempo of the game. Immortals were back on track with Batti playing with utmost confidence and it was a delight to watch his strokes. A cover drive was stopped in its tracks towards the boundary by a pillar on the field, but some balls later, Batti gave us an almost action replay, of the same shot, which bisected the fielder this time, and crossed the boundary ropes for a 4. That was the shot of the day. He managed to score runs on almost all parts of the field, with couple of them coming behind the stumps on the leg side. He not only played steadily but also played some intelligent strokes. But as it takes two to tango, Aditya was right behind, or shall I say, he was scoring right behind the stumps with his torturing deliberate knicks between the keeper and the slip fielder. At the end it was Aditya who hit the winning shot for a 4 and once again guess what - he remained not out on 18 off 21 deliveries.
But the highlight of the match was Batti (Karan SJSU)'s 55 ball 40 which showcased an innings of confidence, stability, stroke plays and more importantly an urge to believe in success. Unfortunately, even though I managed to bring my DSLR on the field, I did not knew the battery was drained out and all that I could click were some pictures before the game began, and just one frame of the first ball delivered by Bhupesh which resulted into a wicket to set the tone for the rest of the day.
The Immortals cruised home with just 3 wickets down, and both Batti and Aditya not out for a score of 40 and 18 respectively. The most satisfying victories lately have pointed out only to one common thing - Believe in the Team, and Perform as aTeam. Miraculously there has been no single contender who can be said to have been leading the Immortals as a one man show, but it is the entire troop of 11 who have clicked on their own different days. not out on 18 off 21 deliveries.
Next up is Thunderdawgs and the mood in the Immortals camp is upbeat.
Way to go Immortals.