What promised to be an enthralling match, with both teams fielding new or returning players, unfortunately ended in a result overshadowed by debate and controversy.
Having racked up 172 runs in his past two matches for the Rest of the World, all-rounder Justin Swart’s reinstatement to the Penguins and the signing of left-arm seamer Dom Judge certainly fortified the Patong side, while the Cows garnered motivation by the arrival of all-rounders Bhanu Pratap and Zan Coplestone.
Cows captain, Joe Ninan won the toss and determined conditions were best suited to setting the pace and making the Penguins chase down a decent total.
Openers, Jeremy Bootsy and Imtiyaz Mushtaq got the morning off to a good start, latching on to any loose deliveries as the score rapidly reached 50 by the 7th over.
Sajal Gaur was to be Penguins’ breakthrough bowler in the eighth over, enticing Bootsy (26) to target another boundary, but his effort was intercepted by Jason Robertson at mid-on, stretching high to take the catch, with the score on 56.
Coming in at three, Ninan’s innings was to be short-lived, but the manner of his dismissal just six balls later will long be remembered by all at the ACG.
Claiming 25 runs from just seven Curt Livermore deliveries, Mushtaq again launched at the frustrated bowler, only to top-edge the ball skyward. As Livermore moved to position himself beneath the dropping ball, both Cows batsmen sprinted to cross and make their ground. Straying off a direct line, Ninan collided with Livermore, causing both players to end up sprawled on the ground, negating the possibility of a catch. Immediately, a chorus of appeals went up from the Penguins claiming ‘obstructing the field’, to which umpire Neil Quail promptly raised his finger to signal a dismissal.
Regrettably, an inexperienced Quail was unable to confirm which batsman was to be dismissed, but after some heated debate between the two sides, it was decided that an incredulous Ninan, having been the one to obstruct the fielder, would return to the clubhouse.
The 11th over brought more anguish for Livermore as Mushtaq continued his assault on the boundary, but the bowler’s perseverance to line and length paid off in taking the wicket of Ali Khan, caught behind by Anthony Van Blerk.
Grinding out 39 runs over the next seven overs, Stuart Hamilton and Mushtaq saw their side safely to the 18-over drinks’ break, with the score at 131 for 3.
As Mushtaq bludgeoned his way to 80, Robertson took the ball for the 22nd over and kept the batsman at bay until a shot borne of impatience failed to connect, allowing both the ball to cannon into the stumps and then Robertson an exuberant celebration as the scoreboard read 152 for 4.
Hamilton’s innings moved ever onward, and by the 28th over had secured his half-century calling on a repertoire of exceptional shots, none better than several clipped exquisitely to the leg-side boundary off his toes.
The last six overs brought Hamilton (90 not out) a further 40 runs, while Gaur picked up the wickets of Sameer Khan (12) and Bhanu Pratap (10), with Judge taking Sami Pir’s (16) scalp on the last ball of the Cows innings.
Targeting 267 for victory, Penguins experimented with an opening pairing of Michael Flowers and Saju Abraham, which paid dividends as the latter snapped up a quick 17 off 18, before Pratap bowled Abraham, beating the bat on the first ball of the 6th over.
Strategically, Penguins then exploited their super-sub allowance, replacing Gaur for Paddy Ledeboer, who set his stall out early by thumping Pratap for six within five balls of arriving to the crease.
A 59-run partnership between Flowers and Ledeboer through the next seven overs ended when a Sameer Khan delivery clipped the edge of Flowers’ bat for Bootsy to hold behind the sticks.
In the same over as Flowers’ demise, Ledeboer (56) achieved his deserved half-century, with fluid, powerful striking before holing out to Ninan off a Coplestone delivery in the 14th over as the score reached 112 for 3.
With Seemant Raju and Swart leading the run to drinks, Coplestone’s leg-spin continued to pressure the Penguin batsmen, when Raju fell victim to a googly and a successful LBW appeal from the youngster in the 16th over.
At drinks, Penguins were just slightly ahead of the required run-rate at 138 for 4, with Dan Nicholson now partnering Swart.
The inning’s 20th over seemed to swing the game back in favour of the Cows as Nicholson picked out Ninan off Ali Khan’s bowling, and four balls later Livermore being run out – a casualty of sharp fielding from a Mushtaq direct hit – that left Livermore stranded and sprawled on the wicket for a second time in the game.
The stage was set for a decisive final 15 overs, but a 110-run partnership between Swart (82) and Van Blerk in just 11 overs took the game away from Cows before Hamilton dented Swart’s averages, having him caught in the deep by Ali Khan.
Van Blerk (29 not out) closed the curtains on this first game of the series in the next over, drawing first blood for the Penguins, but with a taught return match expected next Sunday.
Man-of-the-match went to Hamilton for his 90 not out, with nods to Swart for his 82, Mushtaq for his 80, and Ledeboer for his 56. Bowling honours were claimed by Gaur for his 3 for 43 off six overs.
What’s on at the ACG (Jan 27 – Feb 2)
Wednesday: Junior Football Training (4 - 6pm)/Senior Cricket Training (4:30 - 6.30pm)
Thursday: Last Man Stands Cricket Challenge (7:30am) Touch Rugby Training (5 - 7pm)
Friday: Senior & Junior Cricket Training (4:30 - 6:30pm)
Saturday: Vagabonds Rugby Training (4 - 6pm)
Sunday: Cricket - Patong Penguins v Thalang Cows (10am start)
Monday: Junior Cricket Coaching with former professional Ashan Fonseka (3 - 5pm)
Tuesday: Junior Cricket Coaching with former professional Ashan Fonseka (3 - 5pm) Vagabonds Rugby Training (5 - 7pm)