Saturday, 25 February 2012

Battle of Wankhede - Part II

Hi Folks,

Welcome to the second innings of the match between the Invincible Titans and the Riders of the Storm.  In the first innings we witnessed a historical milestone being achieved. What will transpire in the second innings? Will the Riders be able to chase down the competitive total set by the Titans?

The Titans make their way into the center. They form a huddle. Warne seems very keen to motivate the team to enable them to perform to their fullest potential. The Riders opening batsmen now stride out to the crease. Anwar and Ganguly would be looking to get their team off to a good solid start but the deadly duo of Glenn McGrath and Dale Steyn would defninitely have other plans.

Saeed Anwar is ready, McGrath has the ball in hand and the umpire signals start of play. The first ball lands on leg and swings down the leg side. Gilly is unable to reach it and it speeds towards the boundary. Four Wides! It is very uncharacteristic of McGrath to start like this. He shakes his head as he heads towards his mark. However, like a true genius, he bounces back well as the next few balls are right in the corridor of uncertainty with Anwar playing and missing a couple of times. 

In the next over, the classy South African strike bowler Dale Steyn does not get off to a great start. He bowls a couple of half volleys and is delectably driven by the God of the off side, Sourav Ganguly. The Prince also cuts the last ball of the over towards the point boundary.

With five overs coming to an end, Anwar has looked very rusty. Almost all his shots have gone straight to the fielders. He has also not been able to rotate the strike often and an excellent line and length maintained by McGrath has not helped. On the other hand, Ganguly is looking quite comfortable and has done the bulk of the scoring. But patience pays and in the sixth over Anwar cashes onto the erratic Steyn and sweetly drives and flicks two full deliveries to the boundary. 

In the ninth over McGrath bowls a good length delivery and Ganguly in his characteristic style dances down the pitch and lofts it effortlessly straight back down the bowlers head. The next ball is pitched short, Ganguly tries to pull it but the ball finds the leading edge of the bat and is pouched safely by Sachin at mid-wicket.  The first breakthrough for the Titans! McGrath is rewarded for his outstanding line and length. 

The next batsman is the reliable South African Hashim Amla. McGrath pitches it short again to perhaps unsettle the new batsman but Amla is remarkably up to the task. He swivels on the back foot and pulls it wide of mid-on for a first ball boundary. After ten overs the Riders are off to a decent start despite the loss of Ganguly.  They are 56-1.

In the 13th over, the captain, Warne brings himself onto bowl. In the fourth ball, Anwar skips down the track and lofts a flighted delivery from Warne over mid-on. The last ball is pitched slightly short, Anwar decides to cut it but it hurries on to him. It was the flipper; he gets an extremely faint edge to Gilly. The Riders are 65-2.

The graceful Sri Lankan batsman Marvan Atapattu comes on to the middle now. He and Amla grind themselves in and stitch together a good partnership by intelligently rotating the strike and hitting the occasional boundary. They reach 140-2 in 30 overs. 

Warne is getting a bit impatient now. He brings Sehwag only bowl his dibbly dobblies hoping that the batsmen will take him for granted and commit a mistake. But he is well negotiated by both batsmen. However, Klusener and Sehwag bring down the scoring rate a bit as the batsmen try not to make silly mistakes. The score is 157-2 after 35 overs. The required run rate is climbing. The ball gets changed. 

Warne gives the newish cherry to Steyn. Steyn has not been impressive today and has sprayed the ball all over the place. But he bowls a beauty in the first ball of his spell. The ball swerves in the air towards middle, pitches at good length and swings away at the last moment. Atapattu is totally opened up, the ball kisses the outside edge of the bat and Gilly takes an easy catch. Steyn is elated. He has got a wicket. After the first strike will he smell blood and go for the kill? Aravinda de Silva takes strike. Steyn comes charging in. The ball pitches right in the block hole and hits the batsman’s toes. There is a load appeal. The umpire raises the dreaded finger. De Silva cannot believe he got such a magnificent delivery first up. He shakes his head and makes his way back to the pavilion. 

The atmosphere in Wankhede is tense. Steyn is on a hat-trick. The veteran Hick is in next. Will Steyn be able to do it? What kind of delivery will he bowl next? He runs in, pumped up. To everyone’s surprise he pitches short. Hick pulls the ball right off the meet of the bat. The ball goes flying towards the mid-wicket boundary. But there is a fielder in the vicinity. AB de Villiers flings himself in the air and plucks the ball out of thin air. What a marvelous catch. Steyn has completed his first hat-trick in world cricket!! He is engulfed by his team mates. He thoroughly deserves the milestone. From 157-2 to 157-5 in the space of just 3 balls and the required run rate rising up. The Riders are in a spot of bother now.

Saqlain and Warne cast a spell upon the Riders batsmen now. Amla tries to break free by hitting a couple of excellent shots. A perfectly executed sweep shot to Saqlain which goes whistling towards long leg and a lofted cover drive against Warne getting his feet right to the pitch of the ball. Alec Stewart, on the other hand, is unable to break free. He consumes a lot of deliveries and finally in the 41st over misses an attempted sweep of Saqlain. The ball hits him plumb on the pad and he is dismissed LBW. 

The score is 190-6 in 41 overs. 76 runs required off 54 balls. The required run rate is already over 8. This is the last recognized pair. Akram though a devastating pace bowler is quite a handy batsman too. In the 43rd over Wasim breaks the stranglehold and hits Warne for a huge six over long on. In the next couple of overs Amla hits his counterpart Steyn for a beautiful cover drive and launches him straight over long on for a straight six. The score is 228-6 after 46 overs. It is 38 runs to win off 24 balls.  

McGrath bowls the 47th over. The first ball is wide of off stump and Amla cuts it ferociously towards the point boundary. The next ball is full and is driven straight down the ground. A valiant attempt by the mid- off fielder there but is not able to reach the ball. McGrath does not learn and bowls another good length delivery. Amla tries to drive it on the full but gets a leading edge. Gilly dives with outstretched hands but cannot get near the ball as it races towards the boundary. Three consecutive boundaries! It seems the Riders are back on track. But Amla goes for a shot too many and manages to flick a full delivery straight to short mid-wicket. He cries in disgust. He knows he should have stayed there till the end.

Next in line is the Indian veteran Anil Kumble. The equation is 26 runs off 18 balls. Kumble however is unable to get the ball off the square in Steyn’s final over. Steyn mesmerizes Kumble with his Yorkers and slower ones. 23 runs required off 12 balls now.  

This is a crucial over now. The Riders would want to get as many runs off this over as too many in the final over would exert too much pressure on the batsmen. McGrath bowls a Yorker outside off. Wasim gets a bit of bat on it and it runs towards third man for a four. Another McGrath Yorker is then converted to a full toss as it is paddle swept wide of short fine leg. McGrath is furious. It happens when good balls go for runs! Wasim delivers a final blow as a rare bad ball (a good length ball) is hammered towards mid-wicket for a six! 9 runs needed off the last over now.

It is Lance Klusener bowling the final over. Will he be able to restrict the batsmen especially Akram? He is under pressure for the second time in this match, the first time when Sachin’s century was on the cards and now. He bowls a full delivery. Kumble manages to play it for a single. It’s Akram on strike now. The field spreads. Klusener bowls it full but on the pads. Akram’s eyes lit up and he flicks it wide of midwicket for a boundary.  

Its 4 required off 4 balls now. In the next ball, Klusener finally gets it right and bowls it right in the block hole.  Akram digs it out but it is a dot ball. The next ball is short of length and Akram manages to slice it with an open face towards point. Kumble is already half way down the pitch trying to get a single. Akram send him back but Kumble is run out in the non-striker’s end. 4 runs required off 2 balls now.   

The situation is extremely tense now. Klusener wipes his sweat off his brow after a long conversation with captain Warne regarding the field placing. Akram has a look around and takes strike. Klusener bowls it full. Akram attempts a big heave. The ball hits the inside edge of the bat and heads towards deep fine leg. Steyn gives chase but in vain. The ball reaches the boundary. The Riders win!!

The crowd erupts. The Riders team mates rush to the ground to hug their unlikely hero, Wasim Akram.  What a fantastic match it was! Both the teams shake hands. More than the teams, cricket is the winner today. The man of the match is undoubtedly Wasim Akram for his 3 wickets and his match winning knock.

Thank you, Cricket lovers for witnessing this match. I will assure you that I will be back soon with more stuff!

Fictional Cricket Blogger  

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