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Series opener sees Asia draw first blood in final-over thriller

Series opener sees Asia draw first blood in final-over thriller

CRICKET: After a break of several weeks, cricket returned to the ACG on Sunday (Nov 28) as Phuket’s Asia side clinched victory in a nail-biting contest over the island’s Rest of World (RoW) side to take an early 1-0 series lead.

Cricket
By Curt Livermore

Wednesday 1 December 2021, 08:45AM


Asia captain Seemant Raju troubling the RoW batsmen at the ACG last Sunday (Nov 28). Photo: Siri

Asia captain Seemant Raju troubling the RoW batsmen at the ACG last Sunday (Nov 28). Photo: Siri

With both sides missing two players each, the value of wickets would be crucial in deciding the match in a longer 30 over format.

After winning the toss, Asia captain Seemant Raju entrusted openers Ashan Fonseka and Manish Sadarangani with building a solid platform. It would be ROW who would gain the upper hand early however as Paddy Ledeboer removed danger-man Fonseka (1) in the 1st over with some help from wicket-keeper Van Blerk.

A Solid Stand

Following the disastrous start, Sajal Gaur joined Manish at the crease as the pair looked to steady the ship with only 7 wickets in hand and plenty of overs remaining. Both sides seemed to be content in the early stages as RoW kept the run rate below a run-a-ball through some tight bowling and fielding whilst the batsmen looked to protect their wickets as they waited to pounce on any loose deliveries.

After reaching the scheduled 15 over drinks break without losing any further wickets and the score reading 78-1, the pair began to up the tempo with the help of some wayward RoW bowling. After a frustrating period for RoW, and it would take a fine piece of bowling and fielding to break the 130 run partnership as Sajal (35) could only pick out the safe hands of Michael Flowers on the long-on boundary from the bowling of Michael Rhys Thomas (MRT) in the 22nd over.

Flowers would be in the action once more four balls later, this time combining with leg-spinner Curt Livermore as Manish (68) became Flowers’s second victim of the day with another fine catch in the deep. With two new batsmen at the crease and the score now reading 136-3, RoW looked to end the Asian innings early.

The experienced Seemant Raju will have known a score of 200 would be competitive, thus the Asia captain was immediately on the counter-attack crashing two huge sixes before seeing his batting partner Imtiyaz Mushtaq (11) clean bowled by Flowers in the 26th over.

Guddu Manoj (8) provided an entertaining cameo before Waseem Mir went full and straight to pick up his first wicket in the match. Full and straight was the order of the day again as Flowers’ slower-ball yorker proved too good for Sami Pir’s (1) defense in the penultimate over.

The final over would see one more wicket fall when Raju (32) looking to add another six to his name could only pick out that man Flowers on the boundary once more for his third catch of the match, providing Livermore with his second wicket. Anoop Kumar (5*) and Saju Abraham (1*) helped nudge the score to a defendable 200/7 after 30 overs.

Fishing

Requiring 201 for victory, opening batsmen Flowers and Joe Ninan looked to work the singles early on taking advantage of the extra gaps on offer before Pir tempted Ninan (8) into fishing at a wide delivery only for the former to edge behind to Manish Sadarangani in the 3rd over.

This triggered an early collapse as Manoj struck twice in the same over to remove both Ledeboer (5) and Rishi Sadarangani (4) with the RoW score on a troubling 29/3.

RoW’s Craig Morgan, captaining his first match, joined teammate Flowers at the crease and the former wasted no time in showing his class with some well-timed boundaries.

The game plan was clear as Flowers looked to anchor the innings at one end whilst Morgan would look to take the game away from Asia at the other.

It looked to be plain sailing for the pair as Morgan brought up his half-century in style with a customary explosive leg-side six in the 14th over. That would all change however just three balls later as Raju dragged his side back into the contest, removing Morgan for 55 from just 33 balls faced with the help of a fine running catch from Sajal at long-on leaving the game finely poised at the drinks break with the score reading 114-4.

Some tight bowling immediately following drinks built some pressure before Raju made his mark on the game once more by firstly trapping Van Blerk (8) LBW before removing Livermore’s off-stump for a second ball duck in the 17th over with the score 124/6.

Squeaky Bum Time

MRT was the next to join Flowers at the crease with only two wickets remaining. Fortunately, the RoW were still ahead of the required run-rate as the pair looked to ‘take it deep’ with minimal risks.

As MRT looked to ensure no more wickets fell, Flowers showed great composure and timing in picking his moments to attack any loose deliveries. Flowers looked to have taken control of the dual between himself and Raju after a six in the 28th over looked to have been decisive, bringing his team within single figures of the target and a personal MVP accolade to boot. Somewhat fittingly it would be Raju who would come out on top for his team as he held his nerve in reading Flowers’ intentions to come down the track once more, only this time beating the openers bat with a precise Yorker. The RoW batsman departing for a hard fought 68.

Waseem Mir was the final batsman to enter the crease and the ROW man wasted no time in trying to end the contest with some wild swings at the ball in the penultimate over. Fortunately for the Asia side Mir would fail to connect, leaving a simple equation of six runs from six balls heading into the final over. RoW cheers quickly turned to moans and groans after MRT (8) looked to have cut a wide Pir delivery over the infield only for Manish to steady himself underneath the ball and thus ending the contest with MRT and the RoW side falling agonizingly short with 5 balls remaining.

Another closely fought battle for match MVP caused much debate once more in the post-game discussion with winning captain Raju’s 4 key wickets and 32 from 22 deliveries with the bat, marginally edging out the effort of Flowers’ 68 from 86 with the bat as well as figures of 2-28 with the ball to add to his 3 catches in the field.

Other performances of note included Morgan’s 55 from 33 as well as the crucial 130 run partnership shared between Manish Sadarangani and Gaur.

Tomorrow (Dec 4) sees the return of Rugby to the ACG with the Bangkok Southerners visiting to take on the Phuket Vagabonds whilst the Asia v RoW 30 Over series is due to continue on Sunday, Dec 12.

For more information visit the ACG Phuket Facebook page.

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