After conceding two successive defeats in official matches, Geneva CC’s players had to step up their game in order to qualify for the T20 Cup semi-finals and secure the number one spot of the group stage in the 40-over League. The two matches to be played over the last weekend were thus more than crucial. Could Geneva CC make it and seal an amazing comeback in Swiss cricket? Little reminder: although it is the oldest cricket club in Switzerland, Geneva CC did not play in any major Swiss competition for more than six years. What a great achievement as the Genevan team is now part of the cricketing elite of the country!
Back on topic, Geneva CC’s played on 6 and 7 August its last group stage matches in the Pickwick T20 Cup and the Premier League. GCC played first against Colts on Saturday and then against Cossonay on Sunday. Overall, it was quite a wonderful weekend with a rather stress-free and unbalanced match against Colts, followed by an astounding and extremely tense game the next day against Cossonay. Here is what happened:
First match at Bout-du-Monde, 6 August 2016, Pickwick T20 Cup
Geneva Cricket Club, 59 for 5 in 8 overs (Khurram 26, Ashwin 4-10), beat Swiss Colts, 58 all out 15.2 overs (Massoud 3-8), by 5 wickets
What promised to be a tough game between a young and dangerous side (Colts) versus an experienced and solid team (Geneva) turned out to be a somehow unbalanced game. Indeed, even before the match started, the situation already tipped the scale in favour of Geneva CC, as Colts came with seven players only. The rest of the team was touring in Jersey so how could one blame the blokes for enjoying cricket on a beautiful Channel island?
Anyway, there was no doubt that Colts came for the honour and would put up a fight. The truth is that they actually did so superbly. That’s the spirit of the game! With only seven wickets in hand off the first ball, Colts started slowly but surely, in a fashion that indubitably reflected their truncated batting line. Openers Yash and Jai defended carefully and displayed some nice shots to give their team a very decent start. It took 39 balls for Geneva’s bowlers to scalp the first wicket through Ronak, granting keeper Ahmad a classic catch behind the stumps. The second, third and fourth wicket then came rather swiftly as Colts reached 38 for 4 after 10 overs. Massoud was the marksman behind the story. It is worth noting that Yash’s dismissal at 7.4 overs was made possible by a terrific backward one-handed diving catch by Ankit at the extra cover boundary. The ball was going for 6!
So Massoud could maybe not concretise a hat-trick in the tenth over, but the damage was done. It was only a matter of time before the two remaining wickets would fall. The innings could have ended even earlier if fielders did not miss a few run out opportunities. In the end, Swiss Colts were all out in 15.2 overs with 58 runs in their tally. Not so bad given the circumstances.
Colts then showed that they did not come for nothing and bowled beautifully, scaring a bit the hosts and threatening them earnestly. The fact that Captain Cool Anser (not skipper that day but that nickname fits him so well!) waved goodbye for a duck demonstrated that very well. The man left the ball and got tricked by a slick inswinger from Ashwin, only to see it slamming the off stump. Ashwin took his captaincy role seriously and bowled like a bull. He hit bullseye four times in that innings, including thrice in a single spell at 6.1, 6.4 and 6.5 overs. More than noteworthy: out of the four wickets that Ashwin took, three of them were ducks, all bowled –> Anser in silver, Saeed in bronze and then Ankit for the golden ducky.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Ashwin’s tremendous bowling in the seventh over was too late as the previous partnership between Khurram and Saad permitted Geneva to get closer and closer to the target. Idrees and Massoud finished the job and blasted the ball over the boundary in the next over, scoring together 21 runs to close the match. Kudos to Colts for the fight and congrats to Geneva for qualifying to the semi-finals!
Second match at En Marche, Cossonay, 7 August 2016, Premier League
Geneva Cricket Club, 219 for 9 in 39.4 overs (Idrees 61, Ankit 53, Vikas 2-27), beat Cossonay Cricket Club, 215 all out 39.5 overs (Zahid 58, Saurab 53, Afif 4-46), by 1 wicket
Just check the scorecard and look at the over comparison. This game was purely insane. Its nail-biting finish gave stomach aches to all players and spectators! Geneva CC won by a single wicket with two balls remaining whereas the final scenario could have been clearly different. The two teams played beautifully. A ridiculous amount of wides were conceded by both sides and a few fielding mistakes here and there could have given the winning edge to any team. Cossonay scored 215 runs thanks mostly to Saurab “The Tenacious” and Zahid “The Blaster”. Geneva chased the score with ease in the beginning, only to see his batsmen suddenly losing control and leaving the tail to finish the job with immense pressure.
Conditions were overall perfect for a good cricket match with wind, sunshine and reasonable heat. Cossonay won the toss and decided to bat despite a vigorous bowling-friendly wind. Ankit and Afif were back as the usual opening pair of bowlers and did a very decent job although the numerous wides let Cossonay cruise with a satisfactory +3 run rate. The first wicket came at 5.5 overs as Aman hit Afif’s ball super hard towards mid-on for a low catch to Saad, who actually injured himself. He actually took it like a man and came back home with a giant swollen right hand! Thereafter in the tenth over, Idrees dismissed skipper-keeper Sathya with a fierce bouncer top edging the ball towards Ronak at third man. Score after ten overs: 44 for 2.
With Ronak and and Ankit involved in the bowling attack, the high pressure was maintained constantly. Opener Sunil – who rotated the strike well but perhaps did not take enough responsibility – was finally taken out by Ankit and the middle order crumbled down in the 17th over when Ronak lbw’ed Bernard and bowled out Thileepan. Cossonay looked like they were in a really bad situation with 61 for 5 in 17 overs, but Saurab at no 4 and Vinay at no 7 stayed on their crease and defended well. The hosts passed the 100 runs threshold when Afif wreaked havoc again by bowling out Vinay. Next thing you know, Anser’s precise spin bowling finally paid off after he gave an easy catch to Idrees at long off to dismiss Manas. Everything looked in place but The Tenacious Saurab was still on the crease while The Blaster Zahid at number 9 came on the pitch with one objective: blasting it! In a bit less than 10 overs, the pair scored 84 runs together, both reaching their half-century in two successive balls in the 38th over. Zahid reached fifty in 27 balls and Saurab in 88 balls. In between the 117 to the 201 runs scored by them, Geneva’s fielders could have stopped the partnership on at least two occasions but failed doing so (missed run out chance and another catch by Saad but with one foot on the boundary). Zahid’s knock was impressive and his reflex and timing were excellent, whilst Saurab rotated the strike magnificently.
In the very end, Tariq managed to halt the partnership and gave a good nick behind to keeper Ahmad at 38.3 overs. Afif subsequently took honourable wickets in the last over to allow Geneva’s bowling attack to claim all wickets. Cossonay all out in the penultimate ball with 215 runs. All in all, a satisfying score, actually unexpected in the middle of Cossonay’s innings! This boded quite well for an exciting chase.
And what a chase it was! Ankit “Da Test Dude” and Idrees “Boom Boom” imposed their game with a 133 runs partnership. They definitely paved the way for a fluent innings. It took 140 balls for Cossonay to break the bat affair between the two, who both scored a half-ton with ease and class. Ankit displayed jaw-dropping strokes with stylish cover drives, leg glances and cool sweeps, whilst Idrees tempered his usual agressive batting, but still slapped the ball towards both the leg and off sides with power and shrewdness.
At 18.2 overs, when Idress was caught at long on by Saurab after a good bowling comeback by Vikas, things looked pretty okay for Geneva thanks to a fine +7 run rate and plenty of wickets in hand. Khurram at 1 down showed immediately that no one on the visitors’ bench should worry. He continued to play with a tranquil Ankit until all hell broke loose. Indeed, spinners Manas and Thileepan started to improve their length and turn. Thileepan then magically tricked Ankit for a good stumping in the 26th over. Anser, who just came to replace the former, miscommunicated with Khurram on the batting end, which lead to an avoidable run out. In the next over, Anser was caught at gully after a rash stroke. 14 balls later, Massoud was caught in the same fashion, followed straight away by Afif in the next over. Manas and Thileepan were both responsible for five crucial wickets and brought down the visitors from an appeasing 161 for 1 in 25 overs to a troubling 172 for 6 after 30 overs!
The spinners turned the game (pun intended) into Cossonay’s favour but Saad at number 8 kept the party alive. Saad slapped the ball for two long awaited sixes in the 32nd over, but then the tremendous pressure overwhelmed and trapped Ahmad as well as newcomer Ronak. The two were eliminated by pacer Rohit in the next over with Ahmad caught behind after a slog, and Ronak caught at point by Zahid. Scoreboard was showing 190 for 8 after 33 overs, so 26 runs to win in 42 balls. Plenty of balls one could say, but the tail is known for not being able to keep its wicket… What a game we were witnessing!
Slowly and not so surely, Saad “Gigantik Hand” and Tariq “The Finisher”at 8 down got closer and closer to the target. Every single delivery was looked at with fear and anxiety by Geneva’s players on the bench. None could stay still, and all continued to cheer the stressed batsmen. The turning point then came when Tariq hit a four with a straight bat at 37.5 overs. The ball was rolling rather slowly on the field but could not be stopped by Aman who unsuccessfully used his feet to cut the trajectory. Tariq then hit the ball for a double. Over up and Vikas replaced Saurab. Score at the beginning of the penultimate over: 212 for 8. 4 runs to win. Vikas conceded a wide off the first delivery but managed to trick Saad after four dots. Caught easily at mid on by Rohit.
Manas, who participated in the pure discomfiture of Geneva’s batting lineup, came to bowl the last over. 3 runs were required to win. Parit at number 11 left the first ball for a wide and the second one too, not wide this time. He hit the third one for a single and the score was leveled. Pressure was not relieved at all as Geneva still needed to win to secure its first spot in the group’s ranking. And the last wicket could fall anytime. Two balls later, Tariq finally hit a short-pitched ball for four towards the third man boundary and Geneva CC invaded the pitch to celebrate. 219 for 9 in 39.4 overs. Geneva CC won by one lonely wicket.
That was the end of an extraordinary match. A great battle between two teams which showed resilience, patience and composure. Everything we love about the sport was contained in that match. The next rendez-vous for Geneva CC is the League quarter-finals against St Gallen CC on 21 August, followed by the semi-finals of the Pickwick T20 Cup against Nomads on 4 September. Cossonay might still qualify for the quarter-finals if Colts lose their match against GESLCC on 14 August. So stay tuned for the next episode!