Look, we’re not going to call anyone out specifically, but in some leagues in American sports it is literally harder to not make the playoffs than get in them. That’s not the case in the Toyota Minor League Cricket Championship. Only eight teams will make the cut, the top two teams in each division, and advance to the Conference Semi-Finals on Sept. 25-26. That’s less than a third of the 27 teams.
This means that as we hit the halfway point of the regular season this past weekend, wins and losses certainly meant something. For the teams who have struggled so far, it felt a little last chance saloon to pick up a win or two and go on a streak to make up ground. For the teams at the top, it was all about keeping a grip on those spots and building a buffer for what’s to come. So how did that shake out?
Let’s be honest: this writer always enjoys a clean narrative. A team sweeps the weekend and bashes opponents to oblivion, and hey presto, that’s an easy explainer. So we’re not too happy with what happened in the Southern Division this weekend, where the weather in Atlanta and topsy-turvy results kept it complicated. The Atlanta Param Veers started the weekend strong with a very comfortable eight wicket victory over the Florida Beamers, and looked set to continue that form after compiling a massive 247-run total in their second match against the Orlando Galaxy – including this ridiculous pair of centuries, achieved off back-to-back balls:
Zain Sayed and Mark Parchment bring up their centuries with back to back deliveries!!
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) August 22, 2021
Sayed and Parchment both ended up 111 not out, but it proved to all be in vain as rain forced the match to be abandoned. The Param Veers, though, certainly set down a marker at the weekend that they may still get in the mix for the top two.
On the top of the standings, the Atlanta Fire crushed the Galaxy on Saturday morning before splitting a pair of rain-impacted games against the Beamers and the Galaxy, with the dreaded Duckworth-Lewis method providing the result. That was enough to keep the Fire at the top of the standings.
Attempting to keep pace with the Fire, the Morrisville Cardinals suffered a disappointing loss to the Fort Lauderdale Lions on Saturday, the Florida team winning their first game of the season after bowling the home team out for only 83 runs.
🏏 RESULTS: The @FTLLionscricket take their first win of the tournament against the Morrisville Cardinals 😍 They win by 27 runs! Take a look at this last wicket by Kyle Phillip to end the innings 🙌 pic.twitter.com/FLIIBuxB7T
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) August 22, 2021
The Cardinals had to win on Sunday, then, and this time it was their bowling attack to take advantage of the Morrisville pitch, skittling the Lions for only 70 runs and taking a comfortable win, clinging on to top spot in the Southern Division.
Just four games were possible this weekend in the Eastern Division, but that was enough to shake up the standings. The Yorkers, who had won all their previous four games in the championship, lost both matches over the weekend to drop to third place in the standings. First to defeat Manhattan’s team were The Philadelphians, who brought new firepower with signing Milind Kumar putting on a show:
#MeetYourPhiladelphian: Meet our captain, Milind Kumar, who produced a match winning all round performance in his first ever MILC match (45* and 2-18 in 4 overs). @MiLCricket #ThePhiladelphians #PhillyCricket #CricketReloaded pic.twitter.com/wOsuYlwy2b
— The Philadelphians Cricket (@philly_cricket) August 23, 2021
The D/L method also brought a win for the Hawks over the Yorkers. By contrast, the Stallions stamped some authority on the division, winning a tight one over the Empire State Titans by only two runs, then taking a more comfortable 44 run win against the Cavaliers.
Only three games took place in the Central Division, but that was enough for the Michigan Cricket Stars to confirm they will be a force to be reckoned with. The Stars took a pair of comfortable 50- and 41-run victories over the St Louis Americans. In the latter, Nicholas Kirton put in one of the all-round performances of the weekend – hitting 19 from 15 balls and taking four wickets.
Bails FLYING! Nicholas Kirton takes his third wicket against the St. Louis Americans!!! pic.twitter.com/ZqCj8Xw4KC
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) August 21, 2021
In the Western Division, Saturday saw the Golden State Grizzlies roll to their fifth win out of five games in the season, star batter Sami Aslam hitting a sizzling 86 from 59 deliveries against the Socal Lashings.
That set the scene perfectly for the final game of the weekend on Sunday: the Grizzlies’ unbeaten record, the last in the league, was on the line against second place Silicon Valley Strikers. Golden State put up a respectable 131-run total, a competitive score at Morgan Hill, but surely rued a run-out that saw Aslam depart for only 10 runs.
A 73-run opening partnership between Arsh Buch and Unmukt Chand laid the base for the Strikers chasing 132. It was Buch who scored rapidly early on, hitting 44 from 31 balls, while Chand laid anchor before accelerating his scoring in boundary-beating fashion to steer Silicon Valley to victory with seven balls to spare, scoring his first half-century in Minor League Cricket and ending unbeaten on 56.
— Minor League Cricket (@MiLCricket) August 23, 2021
The Strikers ended the weekend top of the West, but don’t rule out the sneaky Blazers in third place: East Bay’s team has only lost one games, and boasts the strongest Net Run Rate in the entire league. The race for the top two in the West will be one to watch in the remaining three weekends of regular season play.