The MiLC All Rounder – Week FIVE

July 26, 2022

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The second half of the 2022 Toyota Minor League Cricket Season presented by Sunoco is upon us, and across the 19 matches that were played, it was “lights, camera, action” for the bowlers.  Low scores and big wicket hauls were on display this weekend as fantastic catches and eye-popping figures posed a clear and present danger to some teams’ finals hopes.  All the same, there were thrills, spills and chills as the divisional race cliffhangers became a little more tighter.  A handful of clubs moved closer to an encore performance in late August, while others were mathematically shown the exit, stage left.

Grab the popcorn and a big cup of watered down soda, as Brian Barrish explains how MiLC Round 5 played out:

EASTERN DIVISION

All of the games were played on Saturday and Sunday but there was a little bit of Freaky Friday action happening, with teams at the bottom of the ladder scoring some upset victories over teams at the top.

The surprise of the weekend came at Idlewild Park, at the foot of JFK Airport. Surely the Manhattan Yorkers would sweep the Empire State Titans and New England Eagles to maintain their place at the top. Well, the Titans were chased down on Saturday within 12.4 overs after Deveshwari Prashad’s 4/15 held EST to 122 (and don’t call me Shirley.)  The Eagles, however, were trying to salvage something from the weekend after the New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers edged them by two runs to pick up their fourth straight win in a row after starting 0-6.

Playing the part of Apollo Creed, the Yorkers seemed to control the ferocious Eagles medium bowlers Adil Sardar and Devendra Bishoo, who had taken four and three wickets, respectively, against the Cavs. But like the veteran underdog from South Philly, it was the New Englanders who punched their way to victory, with Azher Ali (60*), Hemendra Ramdihal (44) and Marvin Darlington (44) bringing their team off the canvas ten balls before the final bell to score the win, just their third of the season.

The New Jersey Stallions’ close victory over Empire State on Sunday put them one-half game ahead of the Yorkers at the top of the East. Both teams visit Exton Park to take on the Philadelphians next week, a team whose cold bats earned them a disappointing split in DC. If both sides can take away wins to finish off July, it might be A Bridge Too Far for the rest of the field.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Following COVID protocols due to an outbreak in the Fort Lauderdale Lions camp, the Florida team had to postpone their two-game set in Morrisville, meaning that just two matches were played, as the Orlando Galaxy came to Atlanta to face the Backdraft of both the Lightning and Fire.

Saturday started out positively for the Floridan side, as Tagenarine Chanderpaul put up 53 and Roohit Dutchin got 41 before being run out, setting a target of 150.  But then the Lightning called on their own Top Guns, Mark Parchment and Cassius Burton, who parted the sea ahead of the oncoming Orlando attack to the tune of 72* and 57* as the Lightning battery met their obligation with just two wickets lost and two whole overs to spare.

The next day it was the Fire’s Rahkeem Cornwall who was Seeing Red, as the mighty West Indian international had waited too long thanks to the schedule and mother nature to unleash hellfire. Slugging nine maximums to take his total to 30 (six behind league-leading Chanrapaul Hemraj of N.J. Somerset), Cornwall and American run-getter Steven Taylor partnered for 117 runs to open the batting before the Antiguan went for 83.

After Atlanta captain Aaron Jones added 48 to help bring the final total to 226, the Galaxy had to deal with Thanos of the Fire bowlers in Corne Dry. The 29-year-old Capetonian rolled his way to four wickets, Ateendru Subramanian felled three more to bowl out the Galaxy 85 runs from the mothership.

The losses have just about put Orlando into the Abyss with four games left and both Atlanta clubs 1, 2 at the top. But the Morrisville Raptors, idle now for three weeks and with nine games still to be resolved, will be ready to come back and try to play the role of Wedding Crashers as the season draws to its conclusion.

CENTRAL DIVISION

The Dallas Mustangs appear to be riding off into the sunset with first place in the Central after a win over Lone Star Athletics and a rain-shortened W over St. Louis. But the Houston Hurricanes put on a Perfect Storm of batting and bowling to challenge the Chicago Tigers for the second finals spot. They needed a Superman to do it, and it was captain Usman Rafiq who took off the glasses and revealed himself to be the Man of Steel.

Saturday’s encounter against St Louis saw the second hat trick of the season, with Rafiq taking out the final four wickets of the Americans’ innings in the 20th over. The 33-year-old finished with 6/18, following 5/24 last Sunday against Lone Star to bring him to nineteen for the season, equal second overall.

After his Robin Hood-like effort with the ball spurred the ‘Canes onto a successful chase down of 145, Rafiq then led his team into what he knew would be a rain affected square-off with the Athletics on Community Day. Thus, the decision to have Houston bowl first led to a truncated match of 16 overs each. Though he wouldn’t have an effect with the ball on this day, Rafiq came to the middle with his team needing 62 runs off of the final 34 deliveries. Skywalkering his way to a Jedi-like 48* from 17 balls, the captain and the kid – that being Matthew Tromp – put on 51 runs before Rafiq ended the contest with a massive six to give Houston a weekend sweep.

Though two-and-a-half games behind the Tigers for the last playoff spot in the Central with three to play, Houston’s heartbeat is still there, and efforts like Rafiq’s will need to be consistent for them to sneak into the finals. While one Chicago team is primed to keep playing the other one, the 0-8 Blasters officially saw their postseason hopes sink like Artax into the Swamps of Sadness after losing to Michigan on Sunday.

WESTERN DIVISION

Silicon Valley may as well be renamed Pleasantville, because it’s all been going perfectly for the men in blue-and-gold. And while Andries Gous and the hometown Thunderbolts hoped to leave Unmukt Chand and friends Sleepless in Seattle during their two game set, it was the visitors who had The Right Stuff, putting some distance between them and the rest of the Wild Wild West.

Things started off great for the ‘Bolts after Chand was removed in the third over for just three off the bowling of Shadley Van Schalkwyk. They were able to keep run leader Shehan Jaysuriya to just 28 and ultimately restrict the defending champs to 130/8. But Pranay Suri proved to be the Terminator of Seattle’s dreams, taking 5/10 in his four overs including a maiden as the Strikers bowled out their foes for 105 with 15 balls left.

Sunday produced a wicket slower than anything Merchant and Ivory have ever produced, and even the Strikers struggled to get a handle on it.  Even though Jayasuriya managed to extract 46 runs out of it, the rest of the team really couldn’t get going. Phani Simhadri took 4/14 and Akhilesh Bodugum took 3/14 as Silicon Valley were dismissed for 94 all out.  Again Seattle licked their chops, and again their hearts would fall into the pit of despair. James Crosthwaite’s 21 was the top score as he was one of just three of the 20 batters on both teams to get double digits, as Raymon Reifer and the Striker bowlers slashed and dashed the Thunderbolt batters Freddy Kreuger-style to the tune of 65/8 from their allotted 20 overs.

The Deep Impact of the sweep was magnified by the East Bay Blazers’ stunning win over Golden State Grizzlies, as they were able to get 21 runs from their final wicket to move into a tie with Seattle for second place in the West. The separation from top to bottom has become clearer, with San Diego officially eliminated and both Hollywood and SoCal Lashings not too far behind.

The curtain goes back up on Round 6 as the season reaches its climax, and the finals scenarios become Pitch Perfect. If you’re in the Philadelphia area on Saturday, the Philadelphians Summer Cricket Festival at Exton Park should be a delightful afternoon that will include matches that will make or break the season, so we’ll hope to see you there.  But there are important matches happening all over the place, and it’ll be an arm wrestle right to the end to see who will go Over the Top and make it into the final eight.