Everyone in the stands was on his or her feet. The roar was deafening. Aamir was standing on one leg, his heart acting like it would burst out of his rib cage and flutter around.
Tarun now gave the ball to Pritam, keeping Chandra for the last over. 15 runs were required in 2 overs. The first ball did not yield any run, while the second was played by Sagar to mid-off for two. The third he could have got a single but decided not to expose Kiran. The fourth ball again yielded two. The fifth was a dot ball. For the last delivery of the penultimate over, Tarun asked the fielders to close in. Sagar called Kiran for a short mid-pitch conference.
“We have to steal a single or rush for three. I don’t want you to end up facing Chandra for the last over of the innings. The target is still a stiff one and the match will go down to the wire for sure.”
Sagar went back and studied the field. Pritam bowled a straight, quick one. Sagar jabbed it and took off. At point, Tarun pounced on the ball and took a shy at the batsmen’s end. Luckily it missed the stumps and Kiran was safe. Sagar heaved a sigh of relief. Had Tarun’s throw been accurate Kiran would have been marching back to the pavilion. Ten runs were now needed off the last over.
Chandra took his time setting his field to increase the pressure on Sagar.
The first ball was a vicious one. It pitched outside the leg and spun sharply in, completely beating Sagar. Sagar drove the second ball quite hard, but it went straight to Ajay at mid-off. A single was there for the asking but for obvious reasons Sagar made no move. The next delivery was a faster one, and Sagar quickly moved into position and cracked it through cover for four. The stands came alive. The equation was now 6 runs off 3 balls. The fourth ball kept low and Sagar dug his bat in just in time to save himself. The fifth delivery was on the leg stump. Sagar executed a copybook leg glance and the ball trickled to fine leg. Sagar took off and as Kiran and he crossed each other, he whispered.
“Come back for the second.”
Sagar turned and charged back like lightning. He knew he was going to the danger-end and it would be touch and go. In the meantime Firdaus, who had one of the best throwing arms in the team, had pounced on the ball. He threw it straight into the wicket keepers’ gloves. Sagar dived full length with his hands and bat stretched in front. As the bails came off, the WHS team screamed, “Howzzatt!!”
The square leg umpire shook his head. Sagar had made it by a whisker, clearly his speed, training and skill in the 100 metres had come in handy.
Sagar got up, dusting his clothes, and got ready to face Chandra. The task still seemed a daunting one. Four off the last delivery, and that too, with a bowler like Chandra at the other end!
Everyone in the stands was on his or her feet. The roar was deafening. Aamir was standing on one leg, his heart acting like it would burst out of his rib cage and flutter around. Neelabh was tense, too.
The field was now spread by Tarun. All the boys were on the boundary, positioned to stop the fours and catch the mistimed pulls and hooks.
As Chandra came into bowl, Sagar stepped forward. Chandra saw him advance and he dropped it short. And this is precisely what Sagar had hoped Chandra would do. He quickly moved his feet and struck the ball with all his might. Thwack! The sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat was like music to Sagar’s ears. The ball zipped like a rocket just beyond the bowler’s reach.
Mahesh, who was fielding on the boundary, dived full length. For one terrible moment Sagar thought the fielder would get to the ball. But it just caressed Mahesh’s outstretched hands and crossed the boundary.
“Four!” There was a roar in the stands. Sagar collapsed in a heap on the ground. Aamir, Neelabh and Sam came running, picked him up and carried him on their shoulders.
It was a fantastic moment and Sagar knew he would savour it for a long time to come!
Sagar was declared Man of the Match for his fantastic knock of 79 off 68 balls.
The next day, Sagar’s name appeared in the newspapers and Aamir proudly showed the clipping to everyone.
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