Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cricket in Pullman

I play in the North West Cricket League and most of our games are within a 20 mile radius of where I live. Yesterday's game was, well, not quite. We set off from Redmond at 5AM and drove 288 miles to the town of Pullman to play the students of Washington State University in a 40 over game. I was able to escape the driving duties on the way to Pullman, and slept through most of the drive - except waking up at one point to talk about my frailties as an opening batsman and then falling asleep immediately after assuming I had made my point. Last season, we'd driven 5 hours to play a cricket match in Spokane where we were greeted by a ground that was so small that we had to play with 2G rules (2 runs granted, like if the ball hit the baseball batting cage behind the keeper). It also didn't help that the matting pitch at the ground in Spokane was 11 yards long. So it was surprising in a wonderful way, like when you trap a batsman plumb in front and the umpire is competent enough to agree with you, to see that the ground in Pullman had an all-weather pitch and a freshly mowed outfield.

We lost the toss and I was made to wonder if I'd dreamt my discourse in the car about how I'm not a good opening batsman when I was told to pad up and take first strike. When one is in doubt of one's batting abilities, it's always good to have an attacking batsman playing alongside - he'll get the runs while the nervous batsman does his best to 'well left' the ball and bring down the run-rate. My opening partner was this guy, who as a rule walks down the crease before the bowler has reached his and tonks the ball, when it arrives, over the mid-wicket boundary. Either he has scant respect for the new ball or a severe allergy to the batting crease.

Ever since I moved to Seattle, my batting performances haven't been great and the quiet college town of Pullman turned out to be the ideal place to let loose. The first ball I put bat to sped to the point boundary, a shot that would have got me 0 runs on our home ground. The shot should have got me 0 runs on this ground too but the fielder missed the ball completely and used the oft quoted 'bad bounce' excuse. The 'bad bounce' card, much like the 'preserving Indian culture' card, can be used whenever by its wielder and cannot be disputed. The wicket was a bit tricky to bat on when the ball was delivered on a good length - it tended to stop a bit - but the WSU bowlers bowled at least 2 hit-me balls every over and I was able to find the gaps. Things were going so well that at one point the keeper told the umpire to signal a four in spite of the fielder claiming that he had stopped the ball before it had crossed the mid-wicket boundary. It turned out to be a simple case of the keeper misjudging the sound of the fielder hitting the fence to be the sound of the ball hitting the fence.

When you haven't played a significant knock in a while, getting close to a 50 can make you yearn quite a bit for the milestone, for the shouts of "bat up!" from the 'pavilion' so that you can act like the 50 is no big deal and that you're raising your bat only because the 'pavilion' insists. I'd reached 47 in around the 13th over and the bowler bowled a widish delivery that I went after. The ball hit the bottom of the bat and lobbed slowly towards the point fielder who ran towards it as if he wanted to obliterate it with his chest. His hand, following his forward momentum, pushed the ball away but the force of his desire was so intense that he stumbled and enveloped the ball on his downward passage towards the grass. He rose with the red cherry in his hand, surprised and delerious, and I walked back to the 'pavilion', surprised and dejected.

We finished our innings with 297 in 40 overs, the highlight of which was the final over which read '4 6 4 4 4 4'. The batsman, getting to his century in the process, ended the NWCL bowling career of the bowler who commented at the end of the carnage that such big hits were only expected in the last over of the innings. The WSU team, though, never got to the 40th over of their batting innings as they folded for 128 runs - the highlight of which was the 16 runs they smacked off my third over. One of the sixes in that over went so far out of the ground that it took ten minutes to find the ball, causing the fielder who chased after it down a never ending slope such pain that he told the captain that he would never field in the deep again.

The 16 run over probably won't end my NWCL bowling career, fingers crossed, but it did end my spell for the day as I was summarily dispatched to the deep from where I witnessed the rest of the WSU innings. 


Anonymous said...

The Underhill playground in Spokane now is one of the best grounds in the league with an all-season pitch and a beautiful outfield.

Coconut Chutney said...

Of the few things I actually understood, the bad bounce = preserving indian culture was particularly funny :D

amas said...

Back in full form, Niyantha :-) Lovely post, the type I like :-)

Mahesh said...

Nice one Niyantha! And a good knock btw!

Niyantha said...