It was a balmy Tuesday morning when teams met to reignite the annual staff vs student cricket match.
Both teams entered the gladiatorial arena of Whalley Range Cricket Ground prepared to do battle in an eagerly awaited contest of subtlety, guile, skills, nerve and brute force in the hope of exclaiming themselves Cricket Champions of MACE.
A number of grizzled veterans made up what is the staff team, while the student team consisted of members who had energy, enthusiasm and ability to throw a hard ball very fast at someone standing in front of 3 sticks of wood.
20/20 was the format, but it was felt that we could get two games in during the day, so an agreed alternatively to the format resulted in 15 overs being bowled by each team.
After a rather unorthodox toss using a bat rather than a coin (not as dangerous as it sounds), it was decided that the staff team would be batting first. The staff team lead by Imran Afgan as the opener managed to subdue lightning-fast opening spell of fast bowling; balls thrown at the speed of scud-missiles with only one way to go and aimed at unnerving the nerveless batsmen with only a few runs given away. One could hear the cracking of the sound barrier as the ball whistled past their ears. After a couple of wickets, Joshua Holgate of the staff team steadied the innings and began to compile runs, whilst wickets kept on falling at the other end. At the end of the innings, the staff team valiantly put together a modest, and improbable, 91 as a target to beat; an incredible 6 runs an over.
The pressure was on the student team.
Given the combined age of the staff team and their obvious lack of practice, pace and dexterity, the students felt confident of rattling off the runs in double quick time. And predictably, they did; though not without doubts of success creeping in. The student team came home to win with a few wickets to spare with contributions from Mehran Islam, Hussain Ali Abid and others. A couple of stars shone for the student team; unsurprisingly where they have been, or are currently, academy players within Hyderabad IPL 20/20 team.
Take a bow for Kumar Shubham who single handily made the bulk of the runs in the successful chase.
Lunch was taken, but due to circumstance and availability, a second 20/20 game became unworkable, and so an alternative game was introduced where individuals competed to score as many runs as they could within 2 overs. Everyone got to bat and bowl, some with more success than others, but it was fun and engaging with some unusual fielding helping scores to grow. A few amongst many notable highlights of the staff innings were the lighting-fast running of Alan Pease between the wickets (like a man on a mission), the diving fielding of Brendan Iyamabo (putting your entire 6 feet 2 inch body behind is a sure way of stopping the ball), the unplayable swinging bowling of Partha Mandal (as if he was possessed by the Sultan of Swing Waseem Akram himself), the stumping’s done by Imran Afgan (masked in the image of Kumar Sangakkara), the implacable umpiring of Iain Dupere (which would have bested even the great Billy Bowden).
An enjoyable afternoon was had by all, including the swallows that regularly dived and flew around in the field, and the weather remained calm and conducive to an engaging afternoon made up of realising that some amongst us are more natural at sport than others. Ultimately, as with most sport, it is the social aspect and engagement that will remind us to try our hand again next year; that and the staff desire for avenging this year’s defeat.