Sunday, 9 am may not be the best time to go and represent the company you work with. But when we're talking cricket, it's more important than anything else, even sleep. And it becomes even more crucial when it's a quarterfinal of the Dainik Bhaskar Agency & Media Cricket League (AMCL) 2010.
Group M and Multi Screen Media played the last quarterfinal in Mumbai. Although the teams were ready, play began 10 minutes later than scheduled, as the pitch was wet with dew. It was a big match -- the defending champion, Group M was playing a team that had not been beaten in the league matches.
With Group M batting first, Sachin P played a useful knock of 27, before he was stumped off a delivery from Vishal P. A total of 83 for 6 after 10 overs seemed unconvincing for the defending champions. It was good bowling by Vishal P (3-20-3) and Anirudh (4-35-2), which helped restrict the otherwise dangerous batting line-up.
MSM came. They hit. They won.
The first semifinal was between Percept and Dainik Bhaskar. Going by the superb batting display the day before, more fireworks were expected as Percept went in to bat. Spectators weren't disappointed, as Mukesh scored 29 off 17and Mulla made 24 off 17, before both fell to Hemant, who sprung surprise deliveries every now and then.
A good run-rate was maintained, but wickets fell at regular intervals. Two wickets fell in the seventh over and two more in the eighth. However, the flow of boundaries was maintained. The last batting pair of Suresh R and Suresh S held on and managed 16 runs in the final over, which placed Percept at 107 for 6 in 10 overs.
Dainik Bhaskar just couldn't get on top of the game and the required run-rate kept piling up. Percept's bowling was tight and the asking rate in the final over was 59 runs.
Dainik Bhaskar could only manage 58 for 4 in their 10 overs. Mulla was declared Man of the Match for his all-round performance, with bat and ball (4-25-1).
The next regional semifinal was between Rediffusion Y&R and Multi Screen Media (MSM). Batting first, MSM's Vishal P and Sunil P went on a blitzkrieg of boundaries and sixes. With 9 sixes, mostly on the off-side, they made it look like batting practice. Vishal P remained not-out at AMCL's highest individual score -- 108.
Though the Rediffusion bowling attack was plundered by MSM's batsmen, the silver lining was that Rediffusion had conceded only one extra.
At the end of 10 overs, MSM had put up a total of 167 for the loss of one wicket.
Rediffusion opener, Ganesh P got his team off to a good start through a classy batting display. He scored 86 off 34 balls, before an excellent diving catch by Pratik in the deep ended Ganesh's innings. Though Pratik bruised his arm, he had already bowled a good spell (3-31-2) for MSM.
Rediffusion ended its stay in the AMCL when it managed only 127 for four wickets. MSM won by 40 runs and reached the Mumbai regional finals.
So here were Mumbai's top two teams, pitted against each other - Percept and Multi Screen Media. Percept has a reputation of setting high targets by batting first, but those who've watched the team's game closely will tell you that it's not the best at chasing.
Despite this knowledge, and despite just having fielded in the semifinal, MSM decided to field first. Eyebrows were raised on that decision, but only time would tell whether it was a wise one.
Percept had a great start. Runs flowed and the run-rate looked good. But they lost a wicket, and hence, momentum. Shailendra Singh came in to take control of the situation and hit a brisk 26 off 9. His powerful knock gave confidence in his pavilion, but only till Dayanand got him clean bowled.
Indrajit, the differently-abled boy, came in with promise and hit a boundary off the first ball he faced. But he fell too, as Vishal P took a beautiful catch at mid-wicket, again off Dayanand's bowling.
However, unperturbed, Mulla continued his show of skill and experience. In a match that witnessed healthy sledging between players, Mulla kept his cool, and even his opponents were overheard praising this. He remained not-out at 52 off 21. Then, Suresh S' 29 and Mukesh's 22 helped Percept reach 138 for 3 in their innings.
MSM batsmen came with a one-point agenda -- to score, fast. They came and batted like run-making machines, making a solid bowling attack like Percept's look ordinary. Vishal P scored 79 off 27, before getting caught off Bala's delivery; while Sunil P scored an unbeaten 55.
In the last over, MSM needed to score 11 runs. The teams were constantly reminded that in case of a tie, the decision would be taken by a bowl-out. Long-scoring innings were extending play way into the evening and light was turning bad.
In the last over, bowled by Harindra Singh, a boundary was scored off the first ball, leaving 7 runs required off 5 balls. Before you could bite your nails off, another boundary took the score to 140 for 1, ending the suspense. Multi Screen Media won the match by 7 wickets with 3 balls to spare, to become the Mumbai Region Champions of the AMCL. Vishal P was declared Man of the Match.
Srinivasan Mukkari, captain, MSM and Mulla of Percept, both said that for them, the key to their respective teams coming so far was that they shared their success. No one person was a hero, but it was the entire team that worked as one unit.
MSM now plays the Delhi champions, Advert Communications on February 14 at Mumbai Police Gymkhana Grounds.
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Dainik Bhaskar AMCL-2010 is being supported by associate sponsors including Open Media, STAR News and All Sports Magazine. Radio partner for the cricket tournament is Red FM and outdoor partner is Bright Outdoor Media. Online support to the AMCL-2010 has been extended by Cricketnirvana.com.