ASSOCIAZIONE SPORTIVA MILAN CRICKET CLUB
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The Zuoz weekend – June 14th - 16th 2013 

Mindful of my numerous civic misdemeanours during my recent stay in Austria, I am determined to behave myself here. And what a difference 3 weeks make : left for Velden with the temperature in single figures, today it’s 30.5° in Milan. 

So why Zuoz ?  

a)     Fresh air.

b)     Sumptuous scenery.

c)     Fresh air.

d)     Manageable temperatures.

e)     A chance to wave your fist at idiotic drivers in their poxy boxy cars on the Maloja Pass ( curse you, Cuffley !!)

f)      Cheaper petrol.

g)     And fresh air ( in case I didn’t mention that before).

h)     Proper grass. 

And of course some cricket. 8 teams each playing 3 games . If you win your first match, you go through to compete in the top four. And if you lose..... well, you play for honour! (I note here that a team that wins 1 and loses 2 can actually finish higher than a team that wins 2 and loses 1). A reminder that Milan are the defending champions. We have strong squad : 13 players + some presidential support. 

Friday June 14th

The new games master of the Lyceum Alpinum, the International school that officiates at this jamboree has decreed that the draw to see who plays who is to take place in the Dorta pub at 9 p.m ........ so here we go :

For their first match Milan have drawn ..... Carmel & District CC – now look you, boyo, a team from Wales I am thinking – or so they say. An opposition we know nothing about  - the good thing is we are not on the accursed pitch 4, unlike Silvio and Co. from Idle (who, as I write at 22.30, are either still in Lecco or stuck in a humungous traffic jam just north of Lugano :apparently the boys from Lodi have a secret Gran San Bernardino route to get to Zuoz ...) 

Saturday June 15th

 Nand has issued instructions that everyone be at the ground for an 0845 net, so you can be sure he won’t be there ! Am I right ? 

Damn sure I’m right.  

Game 1 : MCC vs Carmel & District

Everyone present for the 0930 start. Milan win the toss and bat first. A sunny, breezy day. Pitch 2 – the one on the right by the main road.

A good start : Vikas in his groove, 16 runs off the 1st over, Oliver content to play a supporting role –bowling not up to much. By the first bowling change after 7 overs Milan are 65 without loss, Vikas dealing only in boundaries, Oliver biding his time (my euphemism for scoring slowly). Then Carmel make their breakthrough – the faster bowlers are replaced with 2 medium pacers, Vikas accepts the invitation to hit out (as if he wasn’t doing so already !) but gets out, caught for 51 (4 sixes, 5 fours) – Irfan comes in. On reaching the three figure mark in the11th over Milan lose their second wicket: Oliver, having shown considerable temperament throughout is bowled for 21. But 103 for 2 is fine – plenty of batting to come. Irfan was emulating Vikas up to a point with a fair few boundaries; sadly Sunil scarcely had time to make an impact before he was caught for a measly four... 

(You probably want to know what is happening elsewhere – well, the place not to be is pitch 4 – the track is the worst I have ever seen – a piece of coconut  matting that is  sopping wet due to overnight rain – nothing underneath, and clumps of weeds pushing through holes – not only that, but the mat has not been stretched tight, and so is riven with folds : no way should cricket be played on this – the umpires decree that bowling can only take place from one end ! The mat does for everybody –Idle all out for 60+ runs.) 

... meanwhile Milan start to falter, as a total lack of batting discipline starts to take its toll : a mini collapse ensues – Sonu is bowled for 1, Irfan is caught for 42 ( 4 fours and 3 sixes). Now we are 135 for 5 in the 17th over, Milan looking distinctly more mortal. Ramesh out, caught for 5, which takes us to 140 for 6 – earlier on I’d thought we were good for 200+,but now I’d settle for 180 – what to say about the bowling ? The openers made no impact, but both first changers succeeded in reining in the batsmen, and the wickets tumbled. Vijay the volcano failed to erupt and was bowled without scoring – seven down with 19 overs gone – 5 wickets lost for a paltry 11 runs !!

At the crease we now have Nand and Mandeep, the latter looking supremely calm as always – thankfully they both steadied the ship and put on 35 for the next wicket – Nand was caught for 9 in the 27th over, at which point Mandeep sprang to life and set about the bowling, reducing erstwhile very respectable figures to a set of very ordinary stats – 50 runs added in the final 5 overs, Mandeep rounding off his innings with 4 consecutive sixes to finish on 59  not out, Milan ending up on 220 for 7. Compliments to  over his last over in which Mandeep hit his sixes ... 

(Meanwhile on pitch 4 : Idle reduced the Geneva All stars to 22 for 6, aided and abetted by the matting, but then a bright young thing came in and knocked off the runs, meaning that Lodi, as losers , would now have to play their second match on the same awful pitch!! Such was the frequency of wickets that Idle’s game actually finished before Milan got to bowl...)  

Carmel were thus faced with a fair old ask : 7+ an over.  Challenging, but not impossible. But they were mighty slow out of the blocks, and by the 6th over with 1 wicket down had scored just 20, Yogesh and Brian doing what they do best - line and length. Sunil got the second wicket in the 10th over, the score on just 41 – apparently game over- but hold on a mo’ : the 2 batsmen in had other ideas, and Van Es and Marshall contrived to produce a fight-back of no mean proportions, resulting in an enthralling passage of play : once settled they piled on the runs at more or less the asking rate (by this time approaching double figures) and wrested the initiative away from Milan – the hundred came up in the 19th over with the batsmen well in control of their shots, Van Es in particular concentrating his fire power through the mid off / on area . Milan were getting slightly nervy - none of the bowlers could find a way through the defences.....

         ..... so Nand decides to bowl. For a while the batsmen coped, but Nand had noticed that Van Es was backing up a little too prematurely and so advised him that he ran the risk of being run out . Then he advised him again. And again. Matters came to a head when, on the 4th occasion that the batsman left the crease early, Nand actually whipped off the bails during his run up  and appealed - umpire said “not out”, citing various rules – Van Es distinctly unimpressed. But Nand had the last laugh - and then some : first he had Van Es caught by Sonu at mid on for 50 (a very valuable part of a 90 run partnership) and then yorked Marshall for 65 the very next ball – and with the final ball of a game-changing over got a third : Carmel now on 134 for 5 in the 25th over (Nand’s over reads  : dot/dot/w/w/2/w) .... and more or less that was that – in the 5 remaining overs Carmel were only able to add another 20 runs for the loss of 4 wickets, and so closed some 65 runs short. Yogesh mopped up the tail, taking 3 for 20, but compliments to Nand for his 3 in 4 balls - he finished with 4 for 33 off 6. 

Game 2 : MCC vs Lyceum Alpinum 

Incredibly the Lyceum boys have won their first match – against Basel, of all people !

Off to pitch 1, then : Lyceum won the toss and chose to field first. I know you what you are thinking : that Milan should stroll through this one – surely the teenagers would be no match for our seasoned crew ?? But complacency is a dangerous thing – and we definitely took to the field with our thoughts already on the final... 

Nuri, the Mount Everest orphan, opened the bowling – and came within a whisker of having Sonu caught second ball : what a strike that would have been, but 1st slip just couldn’t cling on. But it didn’t take long for Milan to lose their first : Ramesh LBW for just 1 in the 4th over – the next passage of play was characterised by ... not very much – a handful of runs an over were added, causing some consternation in the Milan camp – pitch 1 is a large, large pitch, and thus you tend to score fewer boundaries than you would like : this does mean, tho’, that there are gaps a plenty for singles ... but singles require some running between the wickets! And the Lyceum weren’t about to give up – their persistency finally paid off : Milan were 56 for 1 in the 11th and then lost two wickets for just one run -  first Mark B was out caught for 25, then Irfan – out (caught at slip) without scoring ! Three overs later Sonu, having now been dropped twice, was out, caught and bowled for 35 – Milan 77 for 4 at drinks. Not exactly brilliant. The next three batsmen were : Vikas, Sunil and Oliver – talent in spades, yet 60 runs and 9 overs later all three, having got started, were out.  

Milan now on 138 for 7 – not an inspiring total – and since the Lyceum’s bowling was better now than in previous years, then maybe their batting, was too ?  We were soon to find out – Milan failed to bat out the overs, finishing on 158 all out in the 27th over – credit to the boys for getting us all out. Would we be made to rue all those singles spurned ?? 

Fortunately not – the top 3 batsmen scored 1 run between them; brief resistance was met as the middle order staged a fight-back, but this was ultimately undone by Nand’s customary magic; all the other batsmen failed to make it into double figures, and so Lyceum lost by over 100 runs. 4 wickets for Sonu, 3 for Nand, 2 for Sunil and 1 for Yogesh.

 Two point worthy of note – in the first 2 games we bowled fewer than 5 wides in total – bearing in mind that we used to regularly  concede 20 to 25 of them, this is good news – but what is happening with our catching ? We put down a boatload of simple chances  - Ramesh’s absolute sitter at 1st slip simply defied belief – luckily we were not made to pay for this, and we can only hope that we have concentrated all our bad bits in one game.  

(Meanwhile on pitch 4 : Idle, finding themselves 8 for 4 (!) manage to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, thanks to an impressive piece of crafty batting by Steve, who not only protected Marco at no. 11 but then smashed the required runs to hand Idle victory by one wicket – thus ensuring a move to a friendlier pitch !) 

Game 3 : The final - MCC vs Geneva All Stars 

Am I right in thinking that this our 4th consecutive final ? Yes, I am - we lost in 2009 (to Idle) and 2010 (to Munich) – we sat out 2011 – and we won in 2012 ( beating The Schmock XI). Now the chance to join the elite who have won the cup two years running. 

The weather was glorious. Sunil’s departure less so. 

We won the toss and opted to bat, Vijay and Vikas to open. Well, it wouldn’t be dull, that was for sure ! First ball from the pacy, diminutive Salim – whacked for 6 over square leg by Vijay ! But his fairy tale start came to end that same over as he was a shade dubiously given out caught behind – didn’t sound much like bat to me. Second over : Vikas tonked the first ball for 6 ! It may not be the right strategy, but if that is what they do .....

Bad news : in the 5th over Vikas whipped a short ball round and placed it down square leg’s throat, out caught  for just 18. 25 for 2 is not a good start in a final. Time, then, for a partnership, responsibly provided by Oliver displaying his customary patience, and Irfan, whose first 12 scoring shots were all singles. We ticked over at 5 runs an over and made it to drinks after 15 overs without further incident – score on 76 for 2. Not bad, but not spectacular – quite possibly not enough, as there was every reason to believe that Geneva deserved to be in the final, so would have a strong batting line-up.

A bowling change brought about the next wicket in the 18th over, Sudath inviting Oliver to play forward, who dutifully prodded the ball back to the bowler for a simple catch. A decent knock, however, (24 runs) which had settled nerves and provided a platform from which to progress.  Irfan suddenly discovered the attraction of scoring boundaries and was moving nicely towards his half century when he was bowled by Sudath for 42 -  Milan now 115 for 4 after 22 overs – if we were to stay in with a chance we just had to score more runs – 120 would be laughable, 150 the absolute minimum if the other team is weaker; 180 would be a possibly defendable total, but ideally 200+ : just to be on the safe side.

A valuable 50 partnership between Sonu and Mandeep (62 and 20 respectively) saw the run rate go up steadily – at the end of a lucrative 29th over ( 19 runs plundered) we were 186 for 5 – the final frantic six balls saw the loss of 3 wickets as Milan desperately scrambled around for runs, and it required the cool head of Brian, facing his first delivery, to calmly despatch the final ball for 4 through wide-ish mid off. 194 for 7. 

Alright. A defendable total, but care needed – the pitch with its fast outfield invited runs, so bowlers would have to be on top form. Certainly a decent ball would have helped – we had no new ball, so scrounged one from Idle, but it appeared to have no real seam to it.  Oh dear. 

The first 4 overs went for 25 runs.  Not ideal. So Nand came on to bowl earlier than usual, and you know what ? He did it again – Geneva captain Raja played back to a ball that came onto him with pace and was bowled for 16 – great work, as he had looked threatening. However the loss appeared not to affect Geneva – the 2 Salims now in displayed consummate calmness, and in an unhurried way started to punish the bowling which was often short of a length, and on a sprightly track it got what it deserved – runs gathered from all 4 corners of the ground. And very soon Milan heads started to drop : despite the fact that Salim W. insanely ran himself out for 25 trying to steal a non-existent run from a shot hit directly to mid off, Milan were palpably down in the dumps as the runs could not be staunched. Our bowling was not helping – 5,6, 8 and even 10 runs conceded in many overs. What to do ?   

Captain Nand had perceived that we were on the verge of mentally giving up, so he asked the umpires if he could gather us together in the middle of the pitch, whereupon he gave us a right royal telling off – it was insane, he argued, to even think about throwing in the towel with still more than half the overs still to bowl – the game was still there for the taking, and he was fed up with the total silence from the team – he wanted noise, he wanted more effort, and he wanted it now.  

At drinks Geneva were there or thereabouts with 87 for 2, needing (and getting) 6+ an over. The batsmen looking very unruffled, Milan with Nand’s stinging rebuke still ringing in their ears. A finely balanced game. Geneva resumed; a 50 partnership between Salim A. and Mohammed was chalked up in the space of 6 overs, the game beginning to trickle away through Milan’s fingers. The trickle then turned into a torrent as in one horrid moment Geneva amassed 25 runs in just 5 balls to take the upper hand..... 

..... and then – glory be – a game-changing moment of supreme quality – Vikas bowled a shortish delivery to Salim, who went for the six over square leg but hit it way up air down towards long leg – keeper Irfan set off after it like a scalded rabbit – the ball was spiralling all over the place thanks  to the customary mid-afternoon Engadine valley breeze – I confess I never thought he’d catch it, but as the ball came within inches of landing, Irfan stretched out a hand and caught it in the webbing of the glove – a simply unbelievable catch, which restored our morale. A commanding knock of 55 (7 fours and 1 six) which had kept Geneva in the hunt was over. Plenty still to be done, tho’ : 133 for 3, 62 needed in 9 overs... 

Two more wickets followed in close succession; another absolute gift-wrapped catch was put down in the leg slip position by V*j*y (I have respected the wish of the culprit for his identity to be concealed) –the game was going to go down to the wire, wasn’t it ?    

End of over 22 : Geneva are 136 for 4..... victory is ours !!!

End of over 23 : Geneva are 149 for 4..... victory is not ours. it’s theirs.

End of over 24 : Geneva are 152 for 5..... victory. ours. again.

End of over 25 : Geneva are 155 for 6..... yesssssssssssssss......

End of over 26 : Geneva are 168 for 6..... nooooooooooooo......

End of over 27 : Geneva are 172 for 7..... 23 in 18 balls ? Quite feasible.

End of over 28 : Geneva are 176 for 8..... 19 in 12 – can be done.

End of over 29 : Geneva are 180 for 8.....  15 in 6 – unlikely, but you never know. 

It took until the 4th ball of the final over for us to say that we were home and dry: Geneva got to 185 for 9. What a contest – a titanic struggle that swung backwards and forwards all through the game. Well done to everyone who took part, but special, special credit to Nand who discharged his duties as captain in an impeccable fashion, stepping up to bowl (as only he can) when the moment demanded (8 wickets in total) and shouting at us when we deserved it - his management even earned him the plaudits of the umpires. 

(This might be a good moment for me to apologise to him for running him out in the second game. Sorry.) 

A triumphant weekend, catching frailties notwithstanding. If we were to win the competition next year we would be the first team ever to win it three times in a row. Now there’s a thought. As Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise would say : “Make it so.” 

Jonathan  


 

 

 

 

 

 

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