It was a beautiful Sunday morning with the sun out and match number 8 between Thimphu Knights and IPS Cricket Club was about to commence. It seemed like whichever team won the toss, was more inclined to choosing bat first looking at previous toss results. Knights won the toss and opted to set a target for IPS, as speculated.
We found out that captain Dorji Khandu of Knights decided to pass on the responsibility of captaincy to his deputy, Pasa from today’s match onward on personal grounds. Dorji Khandu and Bikash Luitel opened the bat for Knights as usual and they seemed to be in good control, keeping the score board ticking. However, there were a couple of bowlers from ISP who were looking to ask questions to batsmen on a regular interval. Sonam Tashi and Ugyen Tshering were among the pick bowlers.
Knights lost their 1st wicket just before the powerplay completed. Bikash Luitel was in good knick and had a great chance to score his first half century of the tournament. Unfortunately, he got ran out while trying to steal double when there wasn’t a double. When Chirag Sharma came into bat, he started playing beautiful shots all around and seemed to be on top of every bowler. He scored his first half century of the tournament and that too at a strike rate of 200. But right after he lifted his bat, he got out bowled the next ball. Dinesh also chipped in some valuable runs of 34 (no) in just 18 balls and took their total to 225/6 in 20 overs.
Target set to 226 from 120 balls for ISP, the batting department of ISP had a huge task before them if they are to win this match. But the Knights looked to finish up the game fast and decided to attack all the batsmen. Tirtha Raj Puri with his arsenal of outswingers damaged the ISP’s batting line up, taking a 5-for in his 4 over spell, conceding a mere 12 runs. Tashi Sonam from ISP was the only batsman (scoring 29 of 13 balls) trying hard to keep the score board ticking but losing wickets on the other end didn’t help. ISP were all out for 88 in 17.1 overs, losing the match by a massive 137 runs. With this win for the Knights, they stay on top of the table with high probability of getting through to the Super 4. Tirtha Raj Puri was named the Tashi Cell Man of the Match for his brilliant spell of 5/12.
Match 9, the defending champions Dragon Strikers taking on Wapcos Wolves, was the match all people were talking about for both teams had game changers in their sides, and which ever team wins today, qualifies for Super 4 so everything was on stake. Dragon Strikers winning the toss, opted to bat first. Asif and the captain himself, Kumar Subba opened the bat and started off really well until the first wicket of Asif fell when he tried to pull a short deliver that popped into the air for a catch. End of 5 overs, Strikers were 45 with a wicket down. Kumar Subba and Kencho Norbu steered their score board and shared a partnership of 93 runs. Kumar scored 69 runs off just 34 balls and just when he started to find gaps in the field, got carried away and gave his wicket. Kencho Norbu with 47 off 28 balls and Ikrmul with 23 off 14 balls helped the side to reach a decent total of 181 in 20 overs. KhemChand took 3 crucial wickets and conceded only 20 runs in his 4 over spell.
Prassana also helped the team by taking 2 for 29 in 3 overs. Target of 182 seemed less likely to be a defendable target but with the likes of quickies from Strikers – Asif, Bushan, Sherab, and Kinley Penjor – gave some hope. KhemChand now with the bat, gave a beautiful start to his team scoring at a run rate of 14 till the 4th over, hitting clean sixes off Sherab’s bowling and controlling the game.
KhemChand’s drop catch by Kumar Subba at 3rd man off Asif’s bowling costed around 30 odd runs before he got out caught at deep point. Their main dependable batsman Nassem came into the middle and looked in good shape. He played some brilliant shots and seemed like he was the one who can take the Wolves to a victory, giving the impression to the Strikers that his wicket was the one they need to take for the same reason – victory. One thing that really disappointed all the viewers was the number of catches being dropped by Strikers’ fielders. To be precise, Strikers dropped 12 catches in total and almost costed them a game and the tournament.
However, Asif came-in to bowl at Nassem and got the better of Nassem by taking an outstanding caught and bowled wicket for 31. This was a turning point for Strikers regaining the momentum of the game after a bit of tussle here and there. 49 runs needed off 24 balls with 4 wickets in hand for the Wolves, the pressure was on both the teams. Wolves kept on finding a boundary in every 3rd ball, making the game more intense by closing in more. 19th over was bowled by Asif and the run required for Wolves to win at that point was 29. That over went for 10 and the final over, whoever was going to bowl, was surely going to be under a pressure cooker.
Bushan was given the responsibility to bowl the last over and defend 19 runs to either take his team to a victory or cost the tournament. But batsmen on the other end, seemed to be in a hot cooked situation more than the bolwer. Bushan, in the final over of the game, bowled all his delivers on the off side, having understood the batsman’s weakness in playing the off balls. First ball, dot – second ball, dot – third ball, dot and now 18 needed to draw – 3 sixes would do – but the next ball went only for a single and the game was decided. Only 2 runs came off the final over and what a game it has been! Dragon Strikers won by 17 runs and qualifies for the Super 4! In the post-match presentation, captain Kumar Subba of Dragon Strikers was named the Tashi Cell Man of the Match for his outstanding knock of 69 and a wicket in his 3 over spell.