The cricket match hots up as Sagar faces the deadly Firdaus who is considered one of the fastest bowlers on the circuit.
TPS’ innings started with a disaster. The opening pair of Chalapati and Ramesh had made only 18 runs when the former was clean bowled by a superb delivery from Firdaus, the best bowler of WHS. Sam came on strike and had added another twenty runs when Ramesh fell LBW. After that, wickets fell at regular intervals. When Sagar came to bat, the score was 145 for 6 in 21 overs and Chandra, the deadly leg spinner of WHS, was bowling. TPS needed 120 to win in 19 overs with only 4 wickets in hand.
Sam, who was still holding one end up, was on a fighting 53. As Sagar walked to take his position, Sam met him halfway.
“Sagar, it is now up to us. You are the last recognised batsman we have. Our hopes rest on you. I still feel we have an outside chance. Try to give me as much strike as possible. The dangerous men are Firdaus and Chandra. I am sure you will be able to handle the rest of them quite comfortably.”
As Chandra came to bowl the first ball, Aamir started praying fervently.
The very first ball was a googly which Sagar failed to read. He stretched forward and was completely beaten. Fortunately, it missed his bat as well as the stumps. That was the end of the over and Sagar got some time to study the bowling.
Sam took a boundary and a two in the over which was bowled by Ranjit, the medium-pacer of WHS. Sam wanted to take a single off the last ball to retain the strike, but the agile Vikas spoilt his plans.
Sagar now had to face Chandra. The first ball spun viciously away from him, but this time Sagar did not make a mistake. He steered it to deep point to pick up two runs. As Sagar opened his account, in the stands, Aamir and Neelabh clapped in encouragement.
The next ball was a googly; Sagar read it perfectly and going on the back foot punched it with all his strength through mid-on for a four. Aamir was on his feet cheering lustily. For the third ball of the over, a flighted delivery, Sagar stepped forward. He knew he was taking a risk. If he missed he would either be clean bowled or stumped. As the ball struck the meat of the bat Sagar was relieved. The ball soared over long-off and cleared the ropes. As the umpire stretched both his hands, the stands came alive. This was the first six from TPS. Aamir and Neelabh hugged each other in excitement.
Sam walked up to Sagar. “Great show, but don’t get too excited. Chandra is a very clever bowler. Play him carefully.”
Sagar nodded. In the next ball, he took two while the fifth delivery was a dot ball. The last ball Sagar played a leg glance for a single.
Tarun, instead of giving the bowling to Ranjit, brought on the deadly Firdaus who was considered one of the fastest bowlers on the circuit.
“He is trying to put extra pressure on you. Try to take a single and give me the strike. I’ll handle Firdaus. I have played him earlier,” Sam told Sagar.
Firdaus came charging in and bowled a quick one which he kept low. Sagar managed to ground his bat just in time and Aamir’s heart missed a beat or two.
The next ball was an attempted Yorker. Sagar stepped out and swung, the ball went over the mid-on boundary.
“Six!” the roar was deafening. The rookie Sagar had hammered the dreaded Firdaus for a six – it was too good to be true. The rest of the over, Sagar played a bit sedately. Picking up a couple and single.
“Hey man! You seem to be in terrific form. Rather than you giving me the strike, I’ll take singles so that you get to play as much as possible,” Sam said thumping Sagar on his back.
These were the sweetest words Sagar had heard in a long time.
Sam and Sagar’s partnership flourished at a rollicking pace and they were soon 231 in 35 overs. They needed 29 runs in five overs – a target which looked eminently reachable, with both of them timing the ball really well.
Just then disaster stuck. Sam fell leg before to Tarun for an excellent 73 in the fourth ball of the fourth over.
In the very next delivery, Rahman tried to hoist the off-spinner for a six and holed out to Ajay at midwicket.
The next man was Kiran, the TPS pace bowler. He managed to defend the last ball of the over.
Three overs were left and Tarun had the choice of giving an over each to his star bowlers Chandra and Firdaus who had only one over left or bowl Pritam who was a fast bowler. The options were not easy. If he bowled Chandra and Firdaus now and kept Pritam for the final over there was every possibility that Sagar might tear him apart. However, if he bowled Pritam, Sagar might launch an attack and by the time main bowlers of WHS came on to bowl, the battle would already have been lost.
Tarun consulted his senior players and gave the ball to Firdaus. Sagar braced himself, he knew he had to finish things fast. Kiran had never entered double figures in the championship and was not expected to last long against the likes of Firdaus and Chandra.
The very first ball of the over was a real beauty. From outside the off-stump, it cut in sharply. Sagar just about managed to get his bat in line on time. The second ball too gave Sagar little chance to do anything but defend himself.
Sagar looked at the scoreboard 16 balls 20 runs. Firdaus now decided to intimidate Sagar and bowled a bouncer. Sagar quickly got into position and hooked it. It was not a copybook shot but it produced the desired result – four runs.
Tarun went to Firdaus and had a little chat. A couple of fielding changes were made. The next ball was a terrific one. It was just outside the off-stump tempting Sagar to have a go. That is what he did and completely missed. Luckily for him, he didn’t get a nick. The fifth delivery was a dot ball; but on the last ball, Sagar managed to scramble for a single to retain the strike.
Read on to Chapter 13
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