It was hard to measure how excited everyone was about this game. The season opener. A new ground. A new visiting rival team. Dartmouth almost at full strength. Having said that there was a certain feeling in the air that today was a special day. What was going to happen, no one really knew. For the moment, Dartmouth Cricket Club was present at the Chase Field Hockey ground on a very chilly Saturday mid morning.
This was Merrimack Cricket club's first trip up north. As a young club from the greater Boston area, they had just completed a season with the Massachusetts Cricket League. As far as cricket was concerned, after a lean winter, they too, were as hungry and rearing to go as DCCC was.
So the day began. DCCC lost the toss and was asked to field first. A good decision by the opposing captain Satya, as it was really chilly and the fielding was really challenging, with the ball stinging at the hands. On the other hand, the air was cold enough to offer some swing and Jay, the veteran of swing, did well to trouble the batsman. I (Omar) came on as Jay's opening bowling partner and despite wanting to come in running hard, I did not have the guts to take off my two sweaters. I was lucky enough to grab a wicket off a very poor first delivery with a great catch by Chris off a hard shot to point. Another run out in the same over saw Merrimack in a touch of trouble on a batting paradise of a ground.
Himanshu and Sandeep steadied the innings from that point, and I thought Jay and myself (Omar) had put in some decent overs with both of us giving away 28 runs in the first six overs. First change Vinay bowled a beautiful opening over and gave away only 2 with Miral giving only 4 runs, to wrap up the first 8 overs Merrimack had faced. Himanshu and Sandeep did a great job in keeping the scoreboard ticking and keeping wickets in hand and in the ninth over they started to push the scoring rate, extracting runs from both Miral and Vinay. Prince was brought on and even his beautiful outswingers could not keep the rate down, despite him picking up a wicket in his second and his final over. Amit, captaining the side on the day, brought himself on but Merrimack was already rolling by that time. Both Amit and Chris picked up a wicket each but they couldn't stop the runs. An earlier change to bring me back on saw the wicket of the well set Sandeep, who made an amazing, well balanced-, 71, but overall that, too, failed to stop the run flow. Merrimack's innings ended on 240 from 25 overs with significant contributions from Himanshu, Malla (35 from 12 balls), Pradeep (25 from 7 balls) and Kunal (19 from 5 balls).
It was a significant score, and even a relatively small field and a good batting track could not make DCCC feel that confident about chasing the score. Jay and myself opened the batting, in the hope that I could whack some out of the park but, though we stayed out there for a few overs and were not far behind Merrimack in the comparative run worms, Jay's 12 from 20 balls and my 20 from 26 balls was much too slow and the run rate kept lagging. Amit pushed hard and picked up 32 from 19 balls. A misunderstanding and a run out followed and, Chris was out facing just 2 balls, and that was a big blow. Amit departed a few balls later and we were in big trouble. Vinay, despite looking good with some solid shots, departed and Miral soon followed. At the end of the 13th over, we were 91 for 6 and still 160 runs behind, compared to Merrimack's 88 for 2 at the same stage.
What then followed was a display of pure old school class and clean striking of the ball. Govind's first ball drive to the deep extra cover region screamed his arrival. Prince joined him and both scorched the ground with blazing strokes all over the park. They tried picking up singles but it was their solid, middle of the bat drives and pulls that was slowly beating the drums of danger for Merrimack, and to Merrimack the sound just kept get louder and louder. But then when Prince departed after he scored 30+ from half the number of balls with only two and half overs to go, Merrimack took a sigh of relief and thought the game was secure with 41 runs in 12 balls needed for a DCCC win.
What I'm about to tell you is completely true. No exaggeration. No lies. I know it sounds like a fairly tale and I know it's completely unbelievable, for moments like these are so ridiculously unrealistic that even dreaming about them would be crazy. Remember that 1986 last ball six in a Sharjah Final? Once in a lifetime thing, right? Amazing story, right? Well get ready for this.
Satya, Merrimack's captain and probably their fastest bowler, came on to bowl what may well be one of the most historic moments in Dartmouth's history. So 41 runs off 12 balls needed. Govind on strike. First ball gets bowled and Govind hits a clean, middle of the bat, straight one right out of the park. 35 runs needed and 11 balls to go. Second ball pulled over deep midwicket and another six. Now 29 off 10 needed. Another straight six to make it 23 off 9. All of us were thinking, good job Govind - go for it - make the defeat look respectable. But Govind had other ideas. Fourth ball out of the park again!! Now 17 off 8 balls needed. Satya tries to come around the wicket. Huge six over long off. 5 sixes off 5 balls. Last ball to come with 11 from 7 balls. Suddenly it looks like we had a fair chance. Maybe now was the time to slow down. Again, Govind was in a different zone. Last ball of the over and he pulls it over long on and the ball sails over the boundary for another six. 6 sixes off 6 balls!
5 off the last over. Anish was on strike and had the major responsibility of scoring a run to give Govind the strike. All the fielders close in. Anish is brilliant. Single of the first ball. Risky but it's completed. 4 to go from 5 balls. Govind facing and smack! Another six to end the match and to make it seven sixes off seven balls for Govind! An amazing innings of 127 off 47 balls! What an amazing feat! Well done Govind!
With that Dartmouth chalked up their first victory off the season opener. Great celebrations followed and everyone rejoiced in what was witnessed to be once in a lifetime show. Certainly I was fortunate enough to witness it.
Today's date: Tuesday, February 21st 2017.