As the sun set, and the Stadium lights came on the University of South Florida Bulls and the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers took the field for the 5th Finals of the American College Cricket Spring Break Championship presented by Coca Cola with supporting sponsor Dish Network, on TV Asia.
It was likely to be a low-scoring Finals on the CBRP Cricket Stadium pitch, with the ball keeping low, and not coming on to the bat but the high powered USF batting was expected to make the most of it. But Gurnish Singh bowled Ashgar Sheik for a duck and then got Sai Ramesh lbw for a duck – the 2nd Finals in a row that Ramesh had gone that way !
Regionals centurion Krunal Bhange meanwhile was holding his end, but Taha Menon got 2 wickets and UMBC Captain Rikin Parikh sent back the returning Harsha Boddepalli, lbw for 8.Boddepalli was the USF Captain in 2009, 2010 & 2011, had smashed the first American College Cricket century, 133, back in the 2010 Nationals, graduated, but returned as an alumni.
Bhange’s 32 in 36 balls and Karthik’s 21 in 28 balls dragged USF to 107 all out on the last ball of their 20 overs. Gurnish finished with 3 for 23, Taha Menon 2 for 20 and Parikh 2 for 14.
The 12 HD cameras of TV Asia ensured the action was spendidly captured, with slow motion replays, as the varied voices and perpectives of Jamie Lloyd, David Sentance, Darren Stortz, Tim Shirriffs and Lloyd Jodah provided commentary.
Some tight fielding by USF made it tough going for UMBC, despite consistent scoring by their top order, and the game came down to a thrilling finish ! Normally hard hitting Eraj Abidi got 24 with 2 fours, Anand Patel 16, Raghav Bharadwaj made 28.Digant Samant continued his excellent form, making 30 and appeared to be taking UMBC to victory before he was run out, making it 102 for 4, and another run out by Sai Ramesh made it 103 for 5 in the 19th over!
But with Gurnish at the non-striker’s end Captain Rikin Parikh struck a 4 to seal the win, the National title, and the Shiv Chanderpaul Trophy for the University of Maryland Baltimore County !
The UMBC team now will spend a year reaping the rewards of National Champions, beginning with an appearance at the studios of TV Asia, articles in the Baltimore Sun and their University media, and much more to come. There are exciting plans ahead !
As for USF, commentator Jamie Lloyd said, “3rd time unlucky for USF. They’re got the players; they’ve got the skill. It’s a matter of when rather than if. But they must consider themselves very unlucky! Do we dare use the ‘C’ word?”
With an incredible run from 2009, the USF Bulls will want to ensure their legacy is not that of the Buffalo Bills of 1990-94 behind Jim Kelly, but that of the Denver Broncos of the 90s behind John Elway.
This Finals was the 24th American College Cricket match shown on TV Asia, all over the USA & Canada, since October 2011. All 50 matches were scored by CricHQ & available online for fans to follow live – the first time ever for a tournament in the USA & Canada ! SCORECARD: http://www.crichq.com/matches/35572