As the 2022 Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship presented by Sunoco heads into its final month, the race for those precious two playoff spots in each division is going into overdrive.
This weekend saw two teams speed off into the sunset and punch their passport into the next phase of the tournament. We also saw some teams’ seasons run out of fuel and others will need to deal with their check engine light. All the same, there were some high octane centuries and red-lining bowling tallies, and a great atmosphere at one of the largest events this competition has seen in its short history. At this point in the season, you have to be on the top of your game if you want to be Going Places.
Pack the trunk and don’t forget your car water, let’s take a look at how Round 6 went.
The spotlight this weekend was on Exton, Pennsylvania, a pastoral slice of heaven that might be confused with the English countryside if you didn’t know any better. Four matches in two days to separate the cream of the crop from the also-rans, a showcase that saw more than 1,500 people turn out to watch play on Saturday.
👋🏽 from our Philadelphian Fans
Over 1.5k fans celebrated cricket at our Philly Summer Cricket Festival ‼️
— The Philadelphians Cricket (@philly_cricket) August 1, 2022
Many of them came out to watch the hometown Philadelphians, playing against the top two teams in the division and knowing that at least one victory would keep them in the playoff race. Instead, they found themselves spun out in the ditch with the rest of the teams left in the wake of the New Jersey Stallions and Manhattan Yorkers.
Things started with relative promise on Saturday against the Stallions, as a shaky innings was steadied by England national team alumnus Liam Plunkett and Chiranshu Bhatia, who put on 57 for the sixth wicket. Though they were toppled for 140, captain Miland Kumar’s side felt somewhat confident that they could defend that total on a slow wicket. In reply, Anthony Bramble’s 41 helped navigate the twisting turns of the Philly attack, led by a Trinson Carmichael 3-fer on debut. But N.J. captain Jasdeep Singh had held out one of his batting aces, Raymond Ramrattan, for just such a fight. Ramrattan and Singh held on for dear life until the end, leveling the scores on the penultimate ball before Ramrattan won the game on the final delivery.
1 run needed to win off the final ball. Ray Ramrattan scored a huge 4️⃣
🐎 now top their group
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) July 30, 2022
The defending Atlantic Conference champions would complete their weekend sweep on Sunday, as Bramble’s 80* lifted the Stallions to an easy 10-wicket victory over the DC Hawks to maintain sole possession of first place.
Sensing a shakeup was needed in his lineup, Kumar replaced Syed Abdullah as an opener for the Sunday game against the Yorkers, trying anything to keep the season alive for the Philadelphians. The move seemed to work initially; Kumar and Plunkett, who came in at three, stood firm for a 97 partnership with Kumar notching Philly’s first ever century in team history at 104. The 188 seemed like a strong target at first, but things turned very much against the men in yellow and black.
First, Plunkett pulled up hurt after one ball of his second over. John Campbell and Dinesh Patel then proceeded to feast on the hobbled bowling attack, matching the Plunkett/Kumar partnership by the end of the power play. The two veteran batters put on a demolition derby, ending the opening wicket stand with 112, Campbell going for 54 off 22. Two wickets fell after the game was seemingly done and dusted, as Patel would carry his bat for 86* and the Yorkers meeting their obligation with 26 balls remaining.
In spite of the Empire State Titans sweeping the eliminated New England Eagles this weekend, the Stallions and Yorkers are fingertips away from locking away both playoff spots, and they both might be able to do so this weekend. As for the Philadelphians, they can hold their heads high having hosted one of the premier fan events of the MiLC calendar.
It was a jam-packed weekend in the South, with three teams still jostling for those two precious playoff spots. The Lightning and Fire would split their matches in Atlanta, with the Lightning taking a rain-shortened affair on Saturday and the Fire pegging them back on Sunday.
The Raptors, meanwhile, traveled to Orlando to play a scheduled two-gamer with the Galaxy and a makeup game against Ft Lauderdale. It had been three weeks since Morrisville had played, and they showed little effect of being parked in the driveway for so long in Saturday’s match.
The Carolina side took the Saturday match, after Lahiru Milantha and Vinothkumar Kandaswamy’s opening wicket stand of 92 saw the Raptors catch the Galaxy’s 152 target with 13 deliveries in their pocket. Despite now being eliminated from the playoffs, the Galaxy would exact some revenge on Sunday morning. After Karthikeya Jagadish’s 5/21 effort helped scuttle O-town for 124, the Galaxy bowlers tripped up their opponents taking guard. Four of them took wicket pairs, top scorer Obus Pienaar was held to 30, and the Raptors were bowled out still five runs from the win.
Not wanting to leave the Sunshine State with a losing record, the Raptors took the game to the Lions and drove over, around, and through them. After Milantha put up 62, Pienaar threw things into another gear. Smashing ten sixes and six fours, Pienaar set a record-breaking century, getting there in 37 balls, the fastest in MiLC history. A number of those boundaries came off the bowling of Javelle Glenn, the previous record holder, who got to his century in 38 deliveries against the Galaxy in Round 3. Chasing 226 for victory, however, the Lions never stood a chance. Hungry dogs run faster, and in this case the Raptors, starved of matches for so long, got a 3-fer from Jagaish and pairs from Dane Piedt and Aditya Padala to bury Ft. Lauderdale 108 runs short and send Orlando to the sidelines for the playoffs.
The rumors are true!!! We have a new record-breaking century 💯 💯💯
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) July 31, 2022
The end result of all of that is that Florida will be abstaining from the MiLC postseason, courteously (any other 1776 fans out there?), and the Raptors are one-half game behind both the Lighting and Fire with five of their remaining six matches against those two squads. Three does not go into two, and who will emerge from this traffic jam is anyone’s guess.
The Dallas Mustangs have had the horsepower to leave the rest of the Central division in their rearview mirror, and found themselves with a chance not only to lock in a playoff spot but the division title as well. Doing so would mean they’d host the Western Division runner up in a best-of-three conference semifinal in three weeks time.
Saturday’s match against the Chicago Tigers, the team on their tail, was one of those defining matches that could shape the rest of the season. Dallas was able to deal with Tigers captain Calvin Savage and keep him out of the wickets, but not with Sami Sohail, who took a 6-fer to bring his total up to 20. With noted bowler Nosthush Kenjige co-top scoring with 32, the Mustangs set a target of 150 for the Windy City men. Kenjinge took the momentum he gained with the bat and put forth a blistering set of four overs to the tune of 6/10. One of those wickets had a little bit of controversy tied to it, as Ali Shiekh made what will go down as a sensational catch off the bat of Sunny Bhati, but could have very easily been given as a boundary. Chicago ended up capitulating in the final over, still 27 runs adrift.
For the team that was known last year as the Irving Mustangs, this has been a dream season for them as come what may, they’ll have improved on their six win, seven loss season from last year and will now prepare for their first ever postseason matches.
Savage and company now needed to rev themselves up for a win to keep themselves in front of the red-hot Houston Hurricanes and hard-charging Michigan Cricket Stars, and they hoped to do so against the Lone Star Athletics. For a team with just one win from their previous eight games, the Athletics were up to the challenge of playing spoiler. Some good partnerships, headlined by Shayan Jahangir (60) and Nitish Kumar’s (40) stand of 53, put them at 166.
Many expected Chicago to chase this down; perhaps not many thought they’d do it on the last ball. Tidy overs down the stretch from the Lone Star attack slowed the run rate down, forcing the Tigers to score 15 from the final over to win. Two sixex and a single from Pruthvish Patel took the target down to two from three. An easy Sunday drive, right? Well, not exactly. Patel was then run out on the fourth ball of the over, then Sohail was run out on the next delivery going for a second, and winning, run. With the scores level, Mittansh Nithiyanandam came in to face the final ball of the game and…
Mittansh Nithiyanandam for the WIN! 🐅 pic.twitter.com/wOubpv6Heb
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) July 31, 2022
The Tigers now roar into their last two games, their biggest threat seemingly coming from the Cricket Stars, who are four points behind but with two games in hand.
Put this on your Dafa News headline: the Silicon Valley Strikers are, in fact, human. The defending champs finally lost a game in 2022, and the result has a big effect on who makes it through out of the West.
The weekend started well for SVS, as they castled the Golden State Grizzlies for an even 100 from 17.2 overs, with Saurabh Netravalkar collecting 4/13 and the rest of the attack strangling the Grizz offense. Rahul Jariwala (33*) and Unmukt Chand (64*) needed just 63 balls to take home full points and clinch their spot in the final eight.
Now they had a chance to wrap up the division and officially host the opening round. This meant they’d have to get by an East Bay Blazers outfit that came into the match on level terms with the Seattle Thunderbolts for the one playoff spot left on offer. Unmukt Chand has been mercurial for the Strikers this season, and on this day the Blazers held him to two runs, as run leader Shehan Jayasuriya picked up the slack with a top score of 69. Carmi Le Roux (4/36) and Nawaz Khan (3/29) kept the scoreline within reason, and set up the East Bay lineup to chase down a target of 167.
To be undefeated, you have to be able to defend just about any total, and following a weekend where they defended two low scores against a talented Seattle, one thought this would be no different. Some doubt was cast when David White and Mark Deyal added 60 for the second wicket, and that left the door open for captain Angelo Perera to help put a dent in the Silicon Valley ledger. The Sri Lankan international calmly fended off delivery after delivery and provided rock-like presence as four wickets fell in front of him. That presence yielded an unbeaten 53*, stepping on the gas down pedal the stretch and causing the Strikers to pump the breaks on their perfect campaign.
Angelo Perera keeping the momentum strong for the Blazers! 🔥
34 of 5.0 needed 6.80 RRR pic.twitter.com/mqeKIpbv5z
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) August 1, 2022
It’ll be an all out sprint for the runner up spot in this division over the last two weekends, and both the Blazers and ‘Bolts play teams that are either eliminated or have a faint heartbeat. Will we see more domination and run rate come into play, or will the bottom rung sides provide one more twist of the tale?
Two weeks remain until we officially say “happy trails” to 18 of the sides that started this long, strange trip and find out who will get into the winners circle. Every game is so important, and the big stars are still hitting their peak. Check out the schedule to see if there’s a game near you, and get around this 2022 season before it’s gone. We’ll talk at you next week.