Another cold, windy morning resulting in just another day at the office. After a 2 week’s forced lay off thanks to the weather, none can be expected to hit their rhythm straight off. Friends CC after being put into bat seemed to be cruising to a grand total thanks to Sultan’s counter attacking mode despite Hamid being out of sorts against the pace of Mujtaba & Razzak. The pace pair kept asking questions off the pitch but somehow could not grab the eluding wicket. Lady luck seemed to be all smiles for the openers when they were even negotiating the spinners & at 119 in 17th over were all set to end the session ahead of Saipem. A moment’s error, Hamid drove a ball straight & called Sultan for a quick run only to see Akthar speed in from cover’s to fire in a direct hit at the runner’s end to catch Hamid well short. So often as the saying goes, “One wicket leads to another” & true to that Nishant caught Sultan plumb in front, sweeping down the wrong line & suddenly Saipem was back in the game, well rewarded for their perseverance. Runs had dried up thanks to the ever so economical & quick burst of a few overs from Akthar ( 4 overs for 14 runs ) & Nishant. In search of a few wickets, in came back Mujtaba to uproot the middle stump of Quadri & then of Saif in the same over. The sight of the stumps being sent on a cartwheel is indeed a delight to see as long as you are not on the receiving end. Nishant cleaned up the lower order, picking up 4 wickets for a miserly 19 off his quota while Rajeesh ended FCC’s chances of a redemption by picking Aziz’s wicket, caught at long off. After being 119 for no loss at nearly the halfway stage, 193 was definitely a disappointment.
So often have we seen a low scoring game turn into a nerve wrecking thriller. Saipem’s ever so confident openers started off in a sedate manner, one with purpose. The FCC bowlers however weren’t going down without a fight. With nothing to lose & Saipem’s semi berth at stake, they were in the mood to be a party spoiler. Rahiman was the first to go for 26 caught of Aziz after an opening stand of 65 & what followed next was utter mayhem with Sarwar getting run out off the very first ball he faced after calling for a run wrongly. Babar too walked back to the pavilion without troubling the scorers for a mere 4 after gifting Aziz a return catch. In came Shafi, known throughout for his power hitting prowess was out to prove a point to himself more than anyone. Despite another quick succession of wickets in the form of Nishant’s & Vineedh’s, Shafi held on. A totally uncharacteristic knock of 47 not out, but one with the determination & nerve of steel, he guided Saipem across the finishing line along with Razzak who proved to be an able partner scoring 18 not out. Amidst all of this Captain Nishant continued his terrific form notching up another 50 plus score.
Things shouldn’t have gone this far for Saipem and at the end of the day there must have been several ‘if only’ in the Friends CC camp. Saipem held on & a hiccup now is better than in the knockout stage i.e the semi. Sterner tests await Saipem & they seem to be well prepared for the perfect haul. Meanwhile, Friends CC have ended their 40-40 journey perhaps on an underachieving note, but with a lot of promise for the future.