5 May 2011

World Cricket League Div. 7 - Germany Settle Old Scores

Match Day 4
[scorecards] [points table]
[cricinfo bulletin] [ICC match report and post match statements]

Germany v Kuwait
(For the other two matches please scroll down)

Captain, MOTM, smarty pants: Rana-Javed Iqbal
"I enjoyed captaining the side today and the boys just seemed to really listen to me."

"On a personal note, I think my bowling is well suited to the conditions here in Botswana and we use the same type of matting in Germany which I knew was going to work in my favour. I'm really pleased to win man of the match but it's an even better feeling to win the game."

-Rana-Javed Iqbal, leading wicket-taker of the tournament by a mile: 16 for 106 from 4 matches, avg 6.68, at 2.76/ov


Today I died. I'm still dead, I'm talking to you from the realm of the lifeless. Perhaps by tomorrow or so my spirits will have returned. I hope you don't mind my anaemic complexion and empty stare. I promise not to burst into remote-controlled, hollow Sachiiiiin Sachiiiin groans. Alright, so let's have a look at operation "Revenge of the Lederhosen":

5-25 for Rana-Javed Iqbal
(Ranus Magnus Africanus)
Unfortunately I couldn't follow the first innings, but checking the score my jaw dropped in shock: Asif Khan wasn't playing. I hope for the love of god that he's just caught a stomach bug, but I fear he is injured. "Thomas" Khalid Butt replaced him.

The second change in the line-up concerned an issue I had been thinking about as well: our dear Ehsan Latif got dropped for offspinner Ashwin Prakash. We remember that the last time Ehsan faced the Kuwaiti batsmen he suffered a terrible trauma, so although I was utterly sad not to spot his name in the line-up I was curious to see how Ashwin would be doing. My heart skipped a beat upon the discovery that Rana-Javed Iqbal, the German hero of the tournament, had been appointed to captain for this match. I do generally bandwagon bowling captains heavily, so Rana the brain man assumed a popesque aura on my inner monitor. If you know what I mean. Ahh.

It seems to be an unwritten law in this tournament to bowl first if you can, and since we lost another toss, Kuwait put us in. Milan Fernando (59) did not get run out today and subsequently scored most of the runs for Germany. André Leslie and the good Shakeel Hassan chipped in as well, but not much support came from the rest. Just like in the Div. 8 final it wasn't Mo Murad or any other fast bowling kid who grabbed a bucket of wickets, but the wickets were spread almost evenly among the bowlers, so I think Hisham Mirza's permanent juggle of resources saw us twitch around and so we got bowled out for 188. We have defended smaller totals before, but never in my whole life I would have dreamt of a victory against the Kuwaiti batting machines.

Enter captain Iqbal.

Farooq has a happy: Rana (No. 7) has just removed Saud Qamar
He immediately continued from where he had left the day before, and opened the innings in tandem with Shakeel Hassan. Oh you most glorious of wicket reapers, you who just needs to stick his hand out, and into whose palm the wickets will fall like the sweetest ripe grapes fall from the vine. Irfan Bhatti, the granite pillar at the top of the Kuwaiti batting order, left for a duck. Abid Mushtaq followed him on his heels for one. Shortly after, the second metaphorical rock got removed in form of the fearsome Saud Qamar, and Kuwait were 21-3 courtesy of Rana-Javed Iqbal.

I quietly celebrated these colossal partial victories, but refused to get excited. Because 1) the terrifying Sibtain Raza was at the crease, 2) concrete wall Hisham Mirza was at the crease, and 3) the first change bowlers came on. And oh yes Sibtain dropped his anchor and didn't even think of leaving. But Iqbal played with his bowling options so cleverly and mixed them up so wisely that I erupted in spontaneous declarations of total agreement every now and then. This smart juggle never really released the pressure from the batsmen, and when Sibtain departed in the 25th over for 56, bowled Kashif Haider (YES!) caught Rishi Pillai, I thought we were back in it. Mirza however would still have been able to get them home, if his partner just nurdled around a bit, because the asking rate was oscillating around 4.odd. But when the fifth wicket fell due to the perfectly timed introduction of Farooq Ahmed the gates swung open. Farooq also removed skipper Mirza a few overs later, Kuwait were 128-6 and the smell of tail was lingering in the air.

A smiley Sibtain Raza enjoys his 50
Just the right time for Rana's second spell: another two batsmen disappeared into his bottomless pit of death, and at 8-132 I was convinced that from here nothing can go wrong anymore. Boom Boom Farooq had enough overs left, Kashif exerted great control on the ball, and then there was still.... Ashwin Prakash. Any German supporter probably suffered a shock of medium-large dimensions when Shakeel had to pull out of his last over (I hope it's nothing serious!!!). Ashwin finished the over for him with two tidy deliveries, but was never considered for activity again. Instead the skipper had the more experienced Rajeev Vohra and of course Rishi Pillai fill the remaining overs, who bowled well enough for the role assigned to them. I feel bad for Ashwin though and would like to witness his talent, of which was spoken so highly, as soon as possible. He's had a couple of nice cameos now I am curious to watch him over the longer distance.

But back to the match... Kuwait had 56 runs to get with two wickets in hand, none of them with any batting credentials, Farooq was bowling his four letters off, but young Mohammad Murad successfully hogged the strike and lived on nurdles, nudges and the occasional boundary; but slowly, almost unnoticeably, the asking rate kept climbing and reached 6 at some point, which can put a lot of pressure on two tailenders. However, Murad was obviously attempting at some "Mo-Aamer-v-NZ" heroics and had my nerves in tatters so much that random muscles in my body began to twitch uncontrolled. Unlike me, Boom Boom Farooq held his nerve and DANG Murad's partner fell prey to a certainly gorgeous caught and bowled. I suspect that they had left the powerplay until the end, because the wicket fell in the 46th over, after both seemed fairly settled. Murad however was clinging on for dear life and they sneaked closer and closer towards the target, but Farooq and Kashif Haider, the latter returning for the death when Iqbal was bowled out, tightened the screws unbelievably and finally Murad lost his nerve and surrendered to Kashif, who, so I felt, had taken one of the most important wickets of his career in this moment.

Kashif erupts in joy after taking the last wicket
Words cannot describe the relief, my nerves were dangling in loose bundles and I couldn't move or breathe or control my facial expressions. Bloody hell Germs!!! This match, this victory has to be attributed to the probably tidiest and most disciplined bowling performance I have ever seen of the Germans.

I don't want to hear anything about Kuwait having got sloppy due to their superior position in the table. The fight of the tailenders illustrates impressively that Kuwait did not want to give in and fall victim to a side that had just narrowly lost two matches against two medium-strong teams. I also won't speculate that Iqbal's bowling brain perhaps gave us the edge in this thriller. Everything just fell into place and for the first time our team's admirable efforts were rewarded accordingly.

Unfortunately this hard-fought victory won't change anything about the fact that we've lost the race for ascension, but our position in the fight against relegation is a lot stronger now with two wins under the belt. Which takes us to the other two of today's games...

Nigeria v Japan

It is so sad to see Japan get mauled over and over again. I really feel for these poor blokes that have travelled so far and don't seem to stand the ghost of a chance against any of their competitors. Today it was up to Nigeria to knock the stuffing out of them and they did so by 90 runs. Ah well. :(

Botswana v Norway
[no gallery up yet]

These two sides would guarantee a really interesting match. A Norwegian victory could have kept the door to promotion open for us. Norway put a decent total on the board, 272 (captain Damien Shortis 91) certainly gave them the opportunity to inflict defeat upon the hosting side. Sounds like a good plan, but you need the bowlers to back it up. Norway didn't have them. Botswana approached the chase very cautiously, paying most of their attention to keeping wickets in hand, and their careful course of action paid off in the end, they only lost two wickets and arrived at the target 20 balls early, with opener Faisal Rana hammering a whopping 158 off 143 balls. Amazing.


Outlook: after another day off tomorrow we are playing our last group match on Saturday against our fellow Europeans from Norway. It's gonna be a tough match I can tell you. Today's victory has put us in the position that even if we lose against them we can still stay on top of them via NRR and secure a spot in the next Div. 7. Kuwait have only Japan left to play and with all due respect I don't think they will lose. So the second thriller will take place between the two African sides Nigeria and Botswana, who, both equipped with 6 points, will fight for the second promotion spot. The losing team will remain in Div. 7 along with either us or Norway. Should Japan win against Kuwait by like 500 or so runs, the table will be wide open again, with all four of us, Botswana, Nigeria, Kuwait and Germany back in the race for spots in Div. 6. Well, one may dream ;)

For now I need to rest my sorry nerves...


No comments: