The Monday All Rounder – Week Seven

September 13, 2021


FINISHES. This weekend in Toyota Minor League Cricket was all about making it count when it mattered: not just in the match, but in the final stretch of qualification efforts for the playoffs. Only one regular season weekend now remains, with some teams wrapping up their final matches this past weekend. Fittingly, the action this weekend was tighter and more intense than ever, with final over finishes determining a number of key results in each of the four divisions. Let’s take a look at the thrilling action.

Southern Division

After losing to the Fire on Saturday morning, a win that clinched Atlanta’s playoff spot, the Morrisville Cardinals knew they had to win their final game of the season on Saturday afternoon to guarantee a spot in the post-season. The Cardinals faced the Param Veers, a team who have had an up-and-down season but still with an outside shot to steal that spot away from Morrisville. Atlanta looked in trouble in their innings at 91/6, but a quick 49 from Sahil Charania helped the Param Veers to a respectable 150.

Morrisville’s top order similarly struggled, as the Cardinals limped to 107/8 and seemed down and out. Youngster Heer Patel took four wickets for Atlanta, who seemed to be coasting to victory. That was until a late order flurry of runs by Karthikeya Jagadish put Morrisville back in the match, with a good shout to win with 10 needed from the final over.

And then it all went wrong.

There was no miracle comeback after that, another devastating defeat at the death for Morrisville. The win gives the Param Veers a flicker of hope that seemed so unlikely before the day’s play: they’ll need to win both matches next weekend, a pair of games against the strongest team in the division, their regional rival the Atlanta Fire. Crucially, though, the Fire have already qualified for the playoffs and sealed the division title; the other Atlanta team will be fired up with far more motivation. What a finish it’ll be next weekend in the Southern Division.

Eastern Division

Jonathan. Foo. An incredible piece of six-hitting by The Philadelphians’ star led them to a critical victory over the DC Hawks, with the winning runs coming off the penultimate ball of the innings – the definition of a must-win in their attempt to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Earlier in the day, Philly’s team had fallen in another final over finish, the Cavaliers claiming victory with five balls remaining. Foo’s heroics, then, were needed to give the Philadelphians a shot heading into the last weekend of regular season action, one win behind both the Stallions and Titans.

Western Division

A three-horse race between the Blazers, Grizzlies and Strikers that’s been hard to predict in the Western Division took shape this past weekend, with fine margins again proving to be key. The Grizzlies stamped control of the standings by winning both their matches, first against the Thunderbolts, and critically, in the final match of the weekend versus the Blazers – reaching their target of 147 to win with only seven balls to spare, led by Sami Aslam’s 46.

The Blazers’ third defeat of the season leaves them tied on 38 points with the Strikers, who will rue a devastating defeat to Seattle on Sunday that may cost the Silicon Valley team a playoff spot, given their tie-breaking Net Run Rate is far inferior to the Blazers. Seattle’s win was propelled by a fine display with the ball by Andries Gous, who took three wickets, and an outstanding knock by Shadley Van Schalkwyk, who hit an unbeaten 79 from 44 balls as the Thunderbolts secured victory with only four balls to spare.

Central Division

There may only have been three matches in the Central Division this past weekend, but all three provided fantastic final over finishes. The Chicago derby saw the Blasters just overcome the Catchers in the last over, denying them a maiden win, led by Fahad Babar’s 59 from 62 – an impressive anchor innings as the rest of the batting disintegrated around him, nobody else scoring more than 11. Both Chicago teams, though, had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Of more consequence were Houston’s pair of matches, as the Hurricanes looked to secure a playoff position and top spot in the division. First up they faced the Irving Mustangs, who posted a strong score of 171, led by Ali Sheikh’s 59 from only 26 balls. That was bettered, though, by the Hurricanes’ Saqlain Haider, who stroked 63 from 31 balls. And with the second to last ball of the innings, it was Haider’s six that won the match.

It wasn’t the last tight finish of Houston’s weekend. On Sunday, against the second placed Austin Athletics, it all came down to the final ball of the match. The Hurricanes were held to 150 runs, a total Austin clawed their way towards – a four from the penultimate ball set it up for the winning run to be scored from the last ball of the innings.

The result put the Athletics two points clear of the Hurricanes in the Central Standings, and both teams will close out the season next weekend with matches against the competitive Irving Mustangs.

The regular season promises to bring more drama and tension as it comes to a close next weekend, and we find out which eight teams will make it to the playoffs. One thing is for sure: there’ll be FINISHES!