How does the match end? Is Sagar able to prove himself? And make Hyderabad Blues proud of him? Friends Forever and Sagar bowl the story to its end.
The hugely popular serialized teen novel written by Ramendra Kumar and illustrated by Avijit Sarkar, reaches its climax!
Mumbai Reds started on a sedate note. It was clear that they were playing according to a plan. They had decided they would get their eye in and then slowly cut loose.
The first six overs yielded 27 runs with their opening batsman Vipin Joglekar back in the pavilion. Imtiaz and Vikram, the opening pace attack of Hyderabad did a good job of containing the aggressive Mumbai openers.
In the seventh over Vikram was bowling to Kirti Dange, the Captain of Mumbai. Dange hit a full-blooded shot to extra cover. Irfan, in a desperate attempt to stop the boundary, dived and pulled a muscle. He had to leave the field and P Rajan was now the skipper.
Rajan was Satyan’s brother and quite sore with Sagar. After all, it was because of Sagar that Satyan had been dropped for today’s prestigious match. He had also heard whispers that Sagar had pulled a few strings to get into the Final Eleven.
After eight overs Sagar was hoping to get a chance to bowl. He was disappointed when third pacer Anshuman was introduced by Rajan. Anshuman replaced Imtiaz who had bowled quite well and would be brought back later.
Two overs later, Sagar walked up to Rajan.
“Hey, Rajan, we have completed ten overs. Don’t you think I should get a chance?”
“I know my job. You’ll get to bowl when I feel it is necessary; not before that.”
After ten minutes came a message from the dressing room. “Raghav Sir wants you to give Sagar the ball,” the 12th man, Arvind, told Rajan.
Two overs later, Rajan handed the ball to Sagar scowling away to glory. A couple more wickets had fallen and the score was 56 for three. Two left-handers were now at the crease.
“But Rajan, I want to bowl from the pavilion end. A good breeze is blowing from that end. If I bowl with the breeze behind me, my Inswingers will be much more effective.”
“Oh! So, now, not only do you want to bowl, you want to decide from which end you will bowl! Who do you think you are? A combination of Rabada and Bumrah is it?”
Without a word, Sagar adjusted his field and began to bowl. The first over yielded three runs and he was quite satisfied.
He was given two more overs to bowl in which he gave seven runs and then the spinners were brought on. The Mumbai batsmen decided to attack the spinners and, in the process, lost three wickets with the addition of 52 runs.
After 45 overs, Mumbai Reds were 144 for six. The equation was 30 runs in 30 balls with four wickets in hand.
Vikram bowled the 46th and 48th overs and Imtiaz the 47th and 49th. Imtiaz took a wicket in the 49th over. The equation was now five runs in six deliveries with three wickets in hand, including the wicket of Captain Kirti.
As per Rajan’s calculation, Vikram still had an over left and Sagar had seven. The other front-line bowlers had exhausted their quota. Since Vikram was the most experienced bowler in the side, Rajan had kept him for the final over. He handed Vikram the ball.
“But Rajan, I have already bowled my quota,” Vikram said.
“What! But who is going to bowl the last over then? Oh my God! How could I be this stupid? The coach will crucify me. With you, we had a chance but now I’m sunk. I’ll have to give the ball to Sagar and he has no chance with Kirti at the other end! The match will be over in a couple of deliveries.”
Rajan handed over the ball to Sagar, a grim expression on his face. Sagar set his field and walked to his run-up.
As he walked, he kept praying. He knew this was his most important test. He had to exhibit terrific bowling abilities, apart from a steely temperament.
With Mohammad Aslam’s words echoing in his mind, he raced in. He put everything into his very first ball. It was an Inswinger, which came in very sharply. As Kirti drove, the ball took the edge and flew to second slip. Rajan who was at first slip, dived full length to his right and brought off the most spectacular catch of the championship. The supporters of TPS went berserk.
Rajan ran towards Sagar.
“Fantastic delivery, Sagar! You had him completely bamboozled.”
“The ball was nothing compared to your catch – simply awesome!”
They slapped each other on the back and the rancour was forgotten.
Suddenly, the game seemed to come alive.
The next man in was Vijay Prabhakar who too had a 50 to his name in the Tournament and was certainly no bunny.
The second ball was an Outswinger. Prabhakar just tapped it to gully and ran for his life for a single. Kishore Raina was now to face the third delivery. Sagar bowled a Yorker and Raina deflected it to mid-on and the two batsmen scampered for two runs. Using his usual run-up, Sagar next bowled a slower delivery. Raina, who was expecting a faster ball was caught off-guard and was clean-bowled.
The equation was now three runs, three balls and one wicket.
Sagar knew he had to finish it off. The last man in was Jayant – a tall and hefty fellow who could swing his bat around. The first ball Jayant faced he managed a single.
‘Two balls, two runs and one wicket – it couldn’t get more exciting than this’, thought Aamir praying with all his might.
The entire stadium was on its feet. The air was thick with tension. At this stage, the match could go either way. From the brink of defeat, Hyderabad Blues had come to the threshold of victory. But could they win?
Sagar came charging in and bowled the best delivery of his cricketing career. He had been practising this delivery for months. Facing him was Ranjit Pawar. The ball just whipped off Sagar’s hands. Expecting an Outswinger Ranjit took a step backward and slashed outside the off-stump. At the last moment the ball straightened, ever so slightly, missed Ranjit’s flashing bat and just kissed the bails. As the bails fell down, the entire stadium erupted.
Hyderabad Blues had won by two runs with one ball to spare. Sagar returned figures of three wickets for eleven runs in 3.5 overs. A few minutes later, the Hyderabad Blues did the victory lap with Sagar leading the team.
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