We’ve been banging the drum here about the playoff chase; the long burn of the season will take eight weekends and over 200 games to determine which eight of the 27 teams will make it to the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship post-season.
But sometimes, sport is not about winning the long war. It’s about winning the individual battles, and there’s no sport like cricket at ratcheting up the tension for unforgettable drama.
This weekend in Minor League Cricket brought us more of those moments.
Usually in these posts, we save the best for last. But we can’t contain ourselves here: the finish of Sunday’s St. Louis Americans and Houston Hurricanes match brought out all the goosebumps.
Context: it had been a tough couple of weeks for the Americans, who’d lost six straight games on the bounce. Finally hosting at ACAC Park at home for the first weekend of the season, the Hurricanes – top of the Central Division and with only one defeat in eight matches – comfortably defeated St. Louis on Saturday by seven wickets.
On Sunday against the same opponent, the Americans came to play. The Hurricanes laid down 156, but it was a score that might have been significantly higher had not the St Louis’ star all-rounder, South African Obus Pienaar, claimed three wickets, including the critical top order scalps of Burhan Johar (46 from 22) and Willem Ludick (34 from 29) before they motored on.
That wasn’t Obus’ last contribution of the day. First, though, it was Luke Schofield (64 from 47) and Iknoor Singh (58 from 38) who laid the base for St. Louis. The Americans entered the last over with eight runs needed to win and Pienaar and Dhruv Duggal out in the middle. Bowling for the Hurricanes was their star man, Willem Ludick. Game on.
After conceding three runs from the first two deliveries, Ludick almost sealed the game with the third of the over, but couldn’t quite hold on to a sharp caught and bowled chance from Duggal. Ludick’s next delivery, the fourth of the over, was another dot ball, beating Duggal all ends-up. The swingometer had sharply moved in Houston’s favor; Ludick looking in complete control of the tense situation
A single off the next delivery meant that with one ball remaining, St. Louis still required four runs to win. With Ludick’s line and length on point, Houston looked odds-on to hold on and win. That single, though, meant Obus faced the final ball against his fellow South African. And then this happened:
What a moment: the look on Willem Ludick’s face after Pienaar dispatched his ball for four to win the game says it all. Ludick had batted beautifully, and bowled an incredible final over until that last ball. But that’s cricket: one brilliant swing of the bat from Pienaar delivered a moment the St. Louis fans and players will never forget as they invaded the pitch to celebrate a first win on home turf.
That was one moment of magic from this weekend. But perhaps the most entertaining aspect of this inaugural Minor League Cricket season has been the flurry of games taking place as dozens of matches take place nationwide, with some incredible individual heroics and fabulous finishes across the country. Here’s your top 10 highlights from round five – cricket, how can you not love it?