The USC Trojans played in the SCCA against Victoria on Sunday at Woodley grounds. Overcast conditions and strong chilly winds greeted the two teams. Victoria won an important toss and put the Trojans into bat hoping to use the conditions to make early inroads in the Trojan batting armor.
USC coming from an undefeated winter league T-20 season faced their biggest challenge, to adapt back to the 45 over format after playing almost 5 months on non-stop 20-20 action. The goal was clear, play out 45 overs while batting and the Trojan bowling unit which has done exceeding well in the last couple of seasons would do the rest.
USC were prompted to make 3 changes from the winning T-20 squad, Ketan Phaye returned after almost 8 months to the team after a back injury last season against Hollywood. Hashir Malik also made a comeback after playing just a couple of games from the 2009 season. Aniket S. was also included in the XI.
Mishal and Tyagi opened the innings, the two added 27 for the 1st wicket. Tyagi after launching himself on Madhu K, miscued one straight to midwicket for 23. Sandhu and Mishal steadied the ship and saw off the new ball and took the Trojans to 68/1 at the 13 over drinks interval. After drinks, Nagaraj bowled a venomous over in which he got the important scalps of Sandhu and Jeet P.
With the game back in balance, Victoria applied more pressure on the Trojan middle order as the runs dried up. Mishal who looked good for the most part holed out at 1st slip and was brilliantly caught by Sudhakar. Vignesh and Deepak looked to forge a partnership by both batsmen were picked up by Praveen. The Trojans were 109/6 in 26 overs at the 2nd drinks interval. Dushyant and Bharat then turned the fortune around for USC. Both batsmen, played with a steady head and kept the scoring rate around 5-6 runs an over initially. Finally, Dushyant exploded and massacred the Victorian bowlers; Rishit and Praveen. Victoria saw the threat and changed the bowlers around, however their plan failed miserably. Dushyant was extremely severe on anything short and he pulled fiercely on anything length short and dispatched it to the satellite fields. 3 balls disappeared into the neighboring fields and couldn’t be retrieved. Dushyant’s maiden 50 came up in just 35 balls.
Bharat complemented Dushyant’s panache with quick singles and rotated the strike easily. Victoria seemed demoralized as even Sudhakar, their best bowler was brushed away for 20 runs in his 5th over. Finally, Dushyant’s masterclass innings ended on 77 of just 44 balls and included 6 monsterous sixes. Dushyant and Bharat had added 102 runs in just 13 overs to take USC to 212/6 in 39 overs.
However, after Dushyant’s wicket, Bharat got run out in the next over following a suicide run misunderstanding with Ketan. After a roar, the Trojan tail whimpered as the last 4 wickets fell for just 11 runs. USC couldn’t play out the 45 overs and were bowled out for 222. Nagaraj was the best bowler for Victoria picking up 2 important scalps for 33 runs in 9 overs.
USC would’ve fancied their chances after scoring 222, as the highest successful chased score against USC in the last 2 seasons had been 137 by San Diego in the 2009 summer league finale, which San Diego won by 1 wicket. Disaster stuck early for the Trojan Pacemen as Jeet struggled to find his line and rhythm early in the innings conceding 10 wides in his opening spell of 3 overs. Sandhu kept the batsmen poking and pondering outside the off stump with some good length bowling and was soon rewarded with the wicket of Praveen.
Deepak who replaced Jeet finally ended Venkatesh’s laborious innings of 11 at the stroke of drinks to have Victoria at 60/2 in 13. The 2 most experienced mainstays of Victoria; Nagaraj and Sudhakar joined forces to blunt the Trojan fightback. The two added 95 runs in 14 overs before Nagaraj was brilliantly stumped by Vignesh. Arun Kumar was tamely dismissed by Hashir and Victoria seemed to lose momentum. However, Sudhakar played his best innings for Victoria to take them to victory. Sudhakar remained unbeated for 64 valuable runs. Saktish provided solid support and remained 21*.
The Trojans were not helped by sub par fielding as 4 key catches were dropped. Sandhu finished with 1/23 in 7 overs and Hashir 2/33 in 6 as the other bowlers finished up with disappointing figures.
USC would feel they learned some important lessons in this game. Five batsmen reached 20 and failed to convert their starts into substantial innings to lose momentum. Even after a miraculous innings from Dushyant, the tail failed to push the Trojans beyond the 250 mark. The bowling unit which has performed consistently for the Trojans in their last 2 seasons, failed to make an impact. The Trojans need to regroup and bounce back after this loss; they have two weeks off before their next game against United at Carson, which has been USC’s stronghold since the last couple of years. For Victoria and Sudhakar, it was a nostalgic and happy end to a long and important career.
Fight On !
Tarun Sandhu President Trojan Cricket Club www.usccricket.com