‘Rambo’ bowls Ariel Speedboat XI to Guyana Softball Cup title
By Avenash Ramzan
Superb captaincy or a stroke of luck?
It could be a bit of both, but what’s clear Ariel Speedboat XI captain Wazir Hussain can now breathe a sigh of relief.
His heart was pounding with 13 to defend off the final over, and with the opposition having wickets in hand and the captain batting with some level of fluency and comfort, a bet on the batting side might have been the safer option.
Or so it seemed. Hussain kept his most experienced bowler Mark ‘Rambo’ Harold for those crucial six deliveries, a move that turned the match head on in the space of about four minutes.
Wickets began to tumble- four to be precise- as Harold singlehandedly consigned Boots All-Stars to a heart-wrenching defeat under the towering lights at the Demerara Cricket Club ground, Queenstown.
It was a remarkable passage of play that left Boots All-Stars pondering at what could have been, and guaranteed Ariel Speedboat XI a slice of history as they became the first team to successfully defend the Open title at Guyana Softball Cup.
Eyeing 129 to win and claim the title in their maiden appearance in the tournament, the recently assembled Boots All-Stars seemed on course for the win at the halfway stage of the chase, as they coasted to 60-2.
The captain Ejaz Mohamed, the former national Under-19 hardball player, was starting to blossom nicely, playing conventional cricket shots, flat along the outfield rather than taking the aerial route that is so commonplace in softball cricket.
Upon resumption of the second half of the chase, it became apparent that Mohamed had to bat deep if they were to upset the defending champions. He rotated the strike beautifully, but with Ariel Speedboat XI bowlers tightening their line, boundaries became scarce and pressure began to mount.
With the run rate increasing with every dot ball, Christopher Seenarine was dismissed for 22 off 36 balls, looking to up the ante, and his demise was followed by two other quick wickets.
Mohamed continued to play his natural game, which is strokeplay and elegance as against brute force, and managed to take his team within touching distance with 28 required off the final 18 balls.
Harold, who had two overs up his sleeve, was called into action, conceding just eight off the 18th over, leaving Boots All-Stars with 20 to get off 12. Kishore Smith, bowling the penultimate over, leaked just seven, and the equation became 13 off the final over.
The game was on a knife’s edge, and Mohamed, well-entrenched on 37, faced the first ball from Harold. Seeing to need to go big upfront to ease the pressure at the back-end of the over, Mohamed attempted to clear the field, but Harold’s accuracy was impeccable, rocking back the stumps of the skipper.
His innings spanned 45 balls and included just a solitary boundary, but it would prove futile as Harold proceeded to dismantle the lower-order, claiming three more wickets in the over, while conceding just eight runs.
He finished with 4-22 off four overs, as Boots All-Stars fell agonisingly short at 124-9, losing a wicket off the final ball with five required for the win.
That Ariel Speedboat XI were restricted to 128 all out with as many as 17 unused deliveries was down to poor batting, as Boots All-Stars gifted a whopping 40 extras.
Vickash Dhaniram with 27 (2x4s, 2x6s) got the only score of significance, as C. Ramdhani (3-31), Y. Sooklall (2-7) and R. Persaud (2-34) kept things tight.
Predictably, Harold was named Man-of-the-Match for producing one of the most eventful overs in the tournament’s history. He was also adjudged Most Valuable Player of the Open category, winning a golden pendant in the shape of a cricket bat from Steve’s Jewellery.