Tri-City Outlast Castle Hill Siege

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Kailberg Field, Schenectady, NY- And it seemed like Tri-City couldn't have had a more exciting and thrilling victory this weekend than the one we had on Saturday, when along comes Castle Hill and adds yet another legendary match to Schenectady's cricketing history. Such was the case as Tri-City CC withstood a furious barrage to record our first ever league win, taking down Castle Hill by 35 runs in a limited, 30 over league match Sunday July 8th, 2012.

This was to be Tri-City's coming out party as the newest members of the Commonwealth Cricket League. And what a party it turned out to be. After the home town boys won the toss, they elected to bat of course. The wicket was playing great, the outfield trimmed and fast. In short, the perfect conditions for a big run total. Tri-City opened with veteran Mike Persaud and one of our newest members, Ahbijit Indulkar. Both batsmen wasted no times playing themselves in, but Persaud had an unfortunate runout in the sixth over that broke up what was promising to be an excellent opening partnership. Ajai Ishmael took up where Persaud left off, and provided just the right complement to Indulkars' solid, cautious style. Together they put on a respectable 114 run partnership through the first 17 overs, but Tri-City skipper John Persaud had a feeling that more firepower would be needed against an unfamiliar opponent.

After Indulkar was caught by Castle Hill's multitalented Shiv Kumralal (more on him later....) after a respectable 61 run knock (including 7 fours and 2 sixes), it was time to bring in the big guns..... Enter Fizal "G-unit" Husain, Tri-City's very own Master Blaster. Husain wasted little time before treating the Castle Hill bowlers to a steady diet of scorching fours and supersonic sixes. Like a veritable trebuchet assaulting Castle Hill's walls, Husain thundered his way to 135 runs, not out with an impressive 7 boundaries and an absolutely stunning 14 sixes. Raymond Cecil seemed happy to go along for the ride, finishing on 40 not out, with his own 7 boundary haul. When the dust settled and the ashes of Castle Hill's defenses finally settled to the ground, Tri-City found itself sitting on a seemingly insurmountable 312 total. It was a truly an amazing event to witness.

If we were to end here, however, we'd only be telling one half of the story. For if Tri-City's Husain earned his Master's degree in batting on this day, it was Castle Hill's Shiv Kumralal who got his PhD. In one of the most impressive and absolutely medieval displays of raw, unbridled aggression and power, Castle Hill's opening batsman tore apart Tri-City's vaunted bowling attack like it was tissue paper. Virtually nothing that the home town bowlers tried was able to prevent Kumralal from hooking and pulling his way to a huge total. Almost every delivery was dispatched with reckless abandon over the fence or into the bush. Mostly hooks and pulls, with the occasional single or four mixed in. Tri-City's pacemen simply could not solve Kumralal.

However, throughout the onslaught, there was one man on the field who was watching, observing, learning and assessing. That man was skipper John Persaud. Like a military field general from the Middle Ages, Persaud analyzed the Castle Hill batsman's weaknesses which seemed insignificant to the casual observer. After all, Kumralal looked unbeatable as he launched shot after shot over the boundary. But the Tri-City captain saw something, imperceptible that told him it was time to bring on the stealth bowling of the unassuming yet deadly Raymond "the Assasin" Cecil.

Cecil is a bit of an anomaly as a left handed batsman who bowls right handed spin, but Persaud knew he was the right man for the job. After all, that's what a good field general does: determine what assets can be used to the best advantage in a strategic situation. While Kumralal kept burning his way into the record books, Cecil came on and quietly and effectively snuffed the flames and silenced the Castle's big gun, clean bowling him and stunning the crowd into silence.

Kumralal strode wearily from the pitch to rousing applause in respect for his phenomenal 180 run knock which left 20 searing boundaries and 13 smoking sixes scorching the ground around Kailberg Field. Never had we seen such a batting performance. It was unbelievable. At that point,, though, there was little cause to panic for the visitors, as they now had amassed 199 runs in just 15 overs of play. Surely, they thought, we can put on a measly 114 runs in the NEXT 15 overs.

But then, a curious thing happened. Cecil continued to bowl effectively, frustrating the Castle Hill batsmen who only rarely were able to connect with his sly and deceptive deliveries. Skipper John Persaud also injected himself into the bowling attack, and after a rough start that included getting roughed up by Kumralall prior to his dismissal, also managed to pin down the batsmen and put a stranglehold on what had been a free flowing run rate.

And something else happened. Wickets began to fall. Like a castle wall that is continually bombarded in the same place over and over again, cracks began to form in Castle Hill's batting side. Tight fielding and even tighter bowling were taking their toll. The run rate became more of a walk rate, and soon Tri-City began to sense that despite the crushingly huge bite Kumralal had taken out of their 312 run total, a win was in sight if they bowled smart.

After Cecil snagged several more wickets, and Mike Persaud kept a lid on the visitor's run scoring aspirations, Skipper John Persaud brought back the openers Blair Theron and John Florent. The lower order batsmen of Castle Hill were not nearly as aggressive as their openers, and this time, Theron's and Florent's pace proved to be overpowering and they withered under the attack. P. Mangal tried valiantly to see his team through to victory with an inspired 38 run knock which included 5 fours, but in the end, there just wasn't enough batting to get it done. Castle Hill were bundled out for 277 in 28 overs, 35 runs short of the target.

To say this was a stunning turn of events would be an understatement. Halfway through their innings, it seemed to just about every spectator in the ground thought that Castle Hill were going to come away with a crushing victory. But Tri-City proved that cricket is truly a team sport, and that one performance, no matter how transcendent and otherworldly, cannot guarantee success. Tri-City batted well, but bowled and fielded better in the end. Yes, Castle Hill managed to put on an impressive total on the back of an impressive batsman, but ultimately, it was the group effort, with contributions from many corners, that sealed this win. John Florent's 3/25 performance was crucial, as was John Persaud's two wicket haul. Fielding was keen as well, with terrific catches taken by Hussein and Sahaman, and let's not forget the solid wicketkeeping of Ritchie Persaud. All these performances were critical. And let's not forget the balanced batting attack the put on the 312 run total to begin with. There are few who saw Hussein's batting clinic who could go away unimpressed.

However, it would have to be Ray Cecil's bowling that really turned this game around. It completely changed the trajectory of Castle Hill's innings, choking off their air and suffocating their batsmen. To those who meet him, Ray is a kind, friendly gentle soul, but we all now know another side to him. Ray "the Assassin" Cecil... hmmm. That DOES have a nice ring to it, doesn't it?