THE MATCH that Sagar has been waiting for! Friends Forever by Ramendra Kumar, illustrated by Avijit Sarkar, takes you through each over!
It was the month of April and it was pretty hot. Luckily, the Final was a Day-Night match. It had attracted a lot of sponsors and also a huge crowd. Sagar was the only player from TPS in the team. Even Sam, the Captain of the school team hadn’t made it to the Final Eleven. There was a lot of support for Sagar with three busloads of his schoolmates cheering him in the stands.
“I’m feeling very nervous. There is so much at stake,” Sagar told Aamir just before the start of the match.
“Sagar, you are a talented player. Just go out there and play your natural game. I have a gut feeling that you are going to do really well. After all, whether it is batting, bowling or fielding; in every department of the game you are so good,” Aamir told his friend, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Thanks buddy, I really needed that.”
The finals was a 50-Over match.
Hyderabad Blues won the toss and elected to bat. They got off to a disastrous start losing both the openers in the third over.
Hyderabad Blues’ stylish left-hander, Adil, and the wicket-keeper batsman, Bishan, managed to steady the innings to a certain extent. Adil got out to a brilliant catch at forward short leg, while Bishan fell LBW to, once again, leave Hyderabad struggling at 92 for four in 26 overs. The fifth and sixth wicket partnerships did not contribute much and when Sagar came on to bat seven down the score was 143 for six. At the other end was Irfan on 33. He did not seem in very good luck.
Sagar defended the first two balls and then took a single to retain the strike. He now had to face Mumbai’s most fearsome pace bowler Hari Tambe, whose repetition had preceded him. It was believed that Tambe was already knocking at the doors of the National Cricket Team.
The very first ball was a beauty and Sagar almost played on. The second ball left him flashing outside the off-stump. The third, too, he barely succeeded in warding off. Sagar now decided enough was enough. He would launch an attack come what may.
Encouraged by the fact that he had him pinned down, Tambe dropped one short. Sagar ducked a little and hooked it over fine leg for a four. This was the first four in six overs and there was a generous response from the stands. The next ball was an inswinger. Sagar went on his back foot and punched it straight back. It just missed the diving Tambe and raced to the long on boundary. The last ball of the over Tambe bowled an outswinger. Sagar, whose confidence was peaking, quickly got into position and executed a perfect square cut to deep point for four. The over had yielded 12 runs and Hyderabad Blues’ supporters were jumping in the stands.
Irfan played the next ball to short mid-wicket and dashed off without even looking where the ball had gone. He was in a desperate hurry to give the strike to Sagar who seemed in such rousing form. Sagar saw Kanitkar the best fielder in the side pouncing on the ball. He had to make a split-second decision. If he sent Irfan back he would be run out. Irfan was not the quickest between the wickets. Sagar set off at a scorching pace. Just as he neared the crease, he dived full-length. But Kanitkar’s throw had crashed into the stumps a couple of seconds before Sagar’s bat had touched the crease. Sagar did not even wait for the Umpire’s decision. He started walking.
Irfan joined him. “I am sorry, Sagar. I now realise there was no run. You sacrificed your wicket for me. Thanks. I’ll try to see your sacrifice doesn’t go to waste.”
Irfan kept his word and played some good strokes. But he soon ran out of partners and Hyderabad Blues were all out for 173 in 43.2 overs. The total was not likely to pose much of a challenge to Mumbai Reds who had one of the best batting line-ups in the game.
During the team meeting at break time Raghav and Irfan addressed the boys. “We should have made at least 40-45 runs more to pose any serious threat to Mumbai Reds. But there is no point in brooding over all that now. We should now think of a game plan,” Irfan said, looking at Raghav.
“You guys should field like tigers. Don’t give anything away easily. Make them fight for every run. Bowlers should bowl a very tight line and length. However, keep in mind that the economy alone will not get you anywhere. 173 is too small a total to defend, the asking rate is a mere 3.48. You have to attack. You should plan to bowl them out,” Raghav said.
They discussed for a few more minutes and proceeded to take their positions on the field.
Read on to Chapter 28
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