Article - ROAD TO FINALS - Part 1
ROAD TO FINALS - Part 1
Admin@northfloridacricket.com Admin@northfloridacricket.com (nfcl)
2016-03-19


NFCL WINTER LEAGUE 2016
 
ROAD TO FINALS
 
North Florida Cricket League comprises of 8 teams : JCF, Tallahassee CC, Marianna CC, Savannah CC, First Coast CC, Chillers CC, Deerwood CC and Gators CC. The format of the tournament is similar to the 92 world cup with all teams playing other competitors once. Then the top 4 qualify for the semis and then the winners on to the FINALS. This brings more thrills till the end of the league stage as the there is always possibility of points table fluctuation, something we have witnessed in 92 WC where Pakistan sealed their spot in their last game and emerged winners. Half way during the tour, they were 90% out of contention, from there they played like "cornered tigers", as described by Imran Khan, the victorious captain. Needless to mention, this Winter tournament 2015/16 was 1 such affair.
 
Let's have a look at how these teams made it to the finals.
 
1) TALLAHASSEE CC (TCC)
 
Match 1:
The first match of the tour involved TCC travelling to Jax to face veterans JCF. Both sides are balanced on paper with strength in batting and bowling, but guess TCC had warmed up better during their 2.5 hrs of journey I believe. JCF having won the toss stuck to their routine of batting on a cloudy day which could have been a gamble at that point. Yes, it involved the risk and they lost their premier batsman Adrian in the 1st over. JCF never recovered from there inspite of some resistance from Jignesh (30), Blood (19) and Shabbie (23). TCC kept applying the gear on JCF for all the resistance and bundled them for 100. Leggie, Senthil from TCC proved instrumental in that wrap up claiming 4. TCC with their stable and deep batting were targeting for a bonus point straight away, what happened in the middle is something different. They crumbled to 40 for 6, thanks to some tidy bowling from West, Nate and Blood. In came Venroy Watson and joined Pradeep. The next 8 overs were a complete turnaround of counter attack, Venroy being the major participant. The duo not only won the game for TCC but also pocketed a crucial bonus with 3 balls left. Needless to say Venroy was the Man of the match.
 
Match 2:
Deerwood CC (DCC), a young and spirited team, travelled to TCC. Winning the toss, DCC piled the runs and kept the scorecard moving. Good contributions from Srikar (27), Abhishek (48) and Nazy (20) helped them to 157. TCC bowlers were still managing to hold DCC and should have been happy to restrict them to that target. Everyone chipped in with wickets. In reply Omar gave them a solid start. Farman their premier batsman missed out yet again. This time it was all-rounder Senthil who joined with Ashutosh to finish off the match in a calculated chase and in style and grace of shots. DCC would be kicking themselves for the dropped chances of both these batsmen. Boy O Boy, they missed the chance of beating TCC. Senthil was the clinical Man of the day with wickets and runs, proving his capability as an all-rounder in the team.
 
Match 3:
With 2 out of 2, TCC were hunger for wins, yes they never looked from there on. Travelling again to Jax to meet Chillers CC (CCC), they were on their toes for another win. Chillers chose to bat were constantly put on brakes by TCC bowlers, except for significant contributions from Malar (25) and Bharath (61). Rash strokes trying to hit the ball hard, was something that could have been avoided by them. They lost almost all the wickets in the same fashion. Bharath was the only player who kept his cool till the end. Prabhat was the beneficiary for the rash strokes from CCC, claiming 4. Target was 155. Farman, TCC key batsman desperately wanted to make his bat talk and just did that. Chillers never troubled him on his way to a ton. Some wayward bowling with the shiny ball from CCC, allowed Farman to keep his head still, get his shots going. Bharath and Bhagwant bowled tidy spells in the middle of the game but never were their team in threatening TCC towards a panic situation. TCC reached the goal with 4 overs to spare. Farman scored 2/3rd of the runs and undoubtedly the Man for the day.
 
Match 4:
Gators, a new team in this season had forfeited their 1st 2 games, due to logistic reasons from their side, hours before the game. So as per rules, they were out of the competition and all the teams were awarded 4 points.
 
Match 5:
Looks like TCC had switched on cruise control mode. They played Marianna CC (MCC) in their next game. MCC started the tournament late due to non-availability of players. So this was their 1st game. TCC won the spin of coin and elected to field on a gloomy day. It paid dividends to them as they restricted MCC to 135. MCC had lost only 6 wkts, maybe they could accelerated better to get some 10-15 runs extra. Good contributions from Brijesh (27) and Mehul (50) brought them to that total. TCC bowlers were tidy and Farman bagged 3 to his pocket and was very economical too. MCC started their defense well by taking quick couple of wkts. But Farman (39) coming from a ton alongwith Pradeep (47) made it easy walk for TCC. MCC tried their best to defend a modest total but couldn't get wickets as they'd have liked to. That gave a comfortable victory to TCC making 5 off 5. Man, are they really on cruise control here?? Farman for his all round performance capped yet another Man of the match. 5 wins almost sealed their spot for the semis but they do not want to lose their momentum at this point.
 
Match 6:
Any vehicle even set on cruise on a highway has to step on brake for sure. Yes the brakes were made to apply by a travelling team to TCC. It was First Coast CC (FCC). Winning the toss and electing to bowl, FCC took 2 quick wickets and applied pressure from the beginning. Farman (36) and Senthil (23) duo put up some resistance, but some tidy bowling by leggie Abhi, kept them searching for those extra runs. At the end Baskar (23) played a role to get to a decent total of 149. FCC having done well on the field continued that with the bat. Solid start from Ram (43) made the job half easy before losing him on the course of play, Senthil capturing him. Others in top 4 scored 20+ runs, with Kotesh making their job more easier with a 32. It was a calculated, convincing victory for FCC. TCC bowlers, except Senthil, never looked to control FCC from updating the scoreboard. Were they really playing in their den?? They were looking ordinary with some good batting from FCC. Ram was the Man of the match for his brisk start to the chase.
 
Match 7:
Loss at home could have done some damage to TCC confidence and that was exploited by Savannah CC (SCC). SCC came into the game needing atleast 1 win to stay alive in the competition. They had come with a plan and executed it well when they elected to field. Following a tight line and length, the SCC bowlers never allowed TCC to free their arms. Calculated field placements by captain Utpal restricted TCC to 99. TCC never looked like countering the situation in batting. Only Farman (20) and Ashutosh (27) showed some resistance at the wicket. All the SCC bowlers were tidy and amongst wickets. This is were TCC showed their brilliance on the field. They made the 100 look like 200. Sharp fielding and catching, some accurate bowling, kept SCC wonder and scratch their heads. SCC never got going while batting. All telephone number batting figures made them crippling and bowed out for 55. Superb bowling by Senthil with 4 wickets shattered any hopes of SCC winning the game. Would you believe it, TCC won the game by 44 runs and gained a bonus point defending 100!!! Senthil was the Man of the day.
 
So TCC clearly played the entire preliminary round like a top spot team except for their hiccup against FCC. They just had to see if any other team is going to surpass them in points, else number 1 spot was sealed for them. Things went their way and no other team could challenge their spot.
 
2) Marianna CC
 
Match 1:
MCC vs Gators - forfeited game
 
Match 2:
Please refer to match 5 under TCC for insight on this match.
 
Match 3:
Having started late in the schedule, Marianna CC (MCC) had a good catch up work to do with others in the points table. Their 1st match loss didn't help them do that. They were determined to make a winning mark in the next match against Chillers but Bharath (92), Arun (33) and Bhagwant (38) just didn't allow them to march towards their aim. Bharath scored his 2nd consecutive 50 and proved vital solidity for Chillers top order. Chillers piled up the runs on the board and made a huge 191 in their quota. For MCC, except Mahendra everyone was taken to stick. Marianna known for their chases, started brilliantly with contributions from Brijesh (58) and Mehul (40). Suddenly they looked on course to surprise CCC and went into the 15 over break with 98 for 1. At 112 in 18 overs, Murli came for his 2nd spell and kept bagging wickets at one end. MCC started losing wkts at regular intervals and the pressure mounted and fell well short of the finish line. Murli was ably supported by Bharath, the duo capped 5 and 3 wkts respectively. Bharath was clearly the man of the day with his all round skills.
 
Match 4:
MCC already had a task of catching up game with board leaders and lost their 1st 2 games, brought them to an enormous tight situation needing to win atleast 80% of the remaining games at that stage. They were able to turn their heads towards the game from this situation. Having stayed behind in the schedule, they were forced to play back to back games on 2 weekends and they were quite remarkable in their run. Against Deerwood CC (DCC), they fielded 1st and restricted them to 145. Deerwood didn't have any big scores which couldn't bring them a bigger total, the max scores being 21 a piece by Prem and Faisal. Their top order collapsed to the inswingers of Rupesh, who bowled an outstanding spell of 4 wkts for 29 runs. In his very 1st over he grabbed 3 wkts and ripped the DCC top order. The only flaw from DCC while bowling was their uncontrollable extras, making it the top scorer on the board - 37. Needing a desperate win, MCC tried to look positive from the start but couldn't manage the heat of DCC losing the top 4 for just 14 on the board. A return from absence Kinal joined Mehul and they started to show what batting skills are to the opposition. With 50 runs in 6 overs, they were looking to turn the tables before Kinal (25) got caught in the deep, a well judged catch by Prem. After login another wkt in the next ball, Dhvanit joined Mehul to give solid company. Mehul showed his class, composition and technique to take MCC home. Mehul (69 *) was the star of the day.
 
Match 5:
MCC played the next day against Savannah CC, both teams needing a win, especially for SCC where this game was the only chance of hope to make it to the next round. SCC with their usual formula of opting to chase, got an immediate strike in the 3rd over. But Brijesh (45) and Paresh (40) turned some sloppy bowling into effectiveness on the scoreboard, not the kind of stuff wished by SCC. With other players trying to accelerate, MCC ended up to a 164 on the board. Pallav and Rohit were the best bowlers for SCC. 165 for their fate in the tournament, SCC never looked like getting there. They were just gifting wkts to MCC and were reeling at 19/4. Vikas (43), Mihir (16) and Dhrumin (22) were the only double digit scorers showing some resistance to MCC. But the target was too high with none of them carrying forward to reach there. Their key player Utpal would be definitely a big miss for them in that game due to personal reasons, didn't participate in the game. MCC never allowed SCC to take the upper hand and finished them off with a 43 run win. Rupesh and Mahendra were the pick of the bowlers once again. SCC was sent packing by an overall performance by MCC. Brijesh was the man of the match.
 
Match 6:
Next weekend for Marianna became even tougher with them facing 2 contender teams but they never stayed behind in the challenge. Saturday match was against FCC. Opting to bowl, they straight away put FCC on the backfoot by claiming 2 quick wickets. Vijay and Kotesh tried to consolidate, but Kinal got the break dismissing Vijay. Kotesh, in company with Suraj, got FCC to a good position at the 20th over, but a rash shot brought his resistance to an end falling to Hasu for 51. From there a FCC, 88/4 collapsed to 117 all out, the beneficiary being Hasu in wickets. Hasu claimed his 5. MCC made a decent start from their openers making 21 a piece. Their innings were carried over by Kinal (30) and Hetal (28) and MCC sailed to victory by 8 wickets and gained a bonus point as well. FCC never looked in the hunt and ran out of bowling options in response to MCC batting. MCC bagged yet another win with Hasu the Man of the match for his 5 wkts.
 
Match 7:
Needing a win to progress, MCC faced another tough opponent JCF on the next day. JCF also wanted to get back to winning ways before going to knockout. Electing to bat, JCF made a good start scoring run a ball when Dhvanit applied breaks for them, he first ran out Jignesh and then cleaned up Adrian for 22. JCF didn't get impacted by this and carried on their scoring with help from middle order at the hands of Pinak (22), Shabaka (44) and Harris (22). Ganpat struck back at JCF claiming 4 wickets and JCF fell to tidy bowling of MCC at the end, trying to accelerate. They ended up making 162 in their quota of overs. MCC were shattered by Adrian's spin losing 3 wkts for 19. Paresh (25) survived the battles and was joined by Kinal (53). The duo put on 92 runs together in 14 overs and completely got the match in their control. Both of them perished again to spinners within a run. In came Mehul and just swept off the game from JCF. Believe it or not, he got another bonus point to MCC. He crossed the finish line with an unbeaten on 38 from just 20 balls. Kinal was the Man of the match.
 
MCC bagged 5 off 5 games and made it to top 2!! A remarkable  feet achieved by them.
 

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