Thrilling finales light up Israel Night League

January 7, 2014
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As the great iconic American popstar of the 1990's, Lenny Kravitz, once sang: "It ain't over, baby till it's over". Nothing can come closer to summing up the stormy sea of emotions that befell the YMCA team in the space of a three-day period in the Israel Night Cricket League.

To continue the metaphor, every good sailor knows that his success depends on which way the wind blows. Last Thursday night the wind blew against the YMCA's in their match against the ever-improving Modi'in Young Lions. I suppose you could say that the wind started turning against them from the outset when being a player short the Lions recruited the league's best non-playing all-rounder, Herschel Gutman, as their super sub.

After the Young Lions were put into bat first, their first two batting partnerships struggled to put on a decent total thanks to good tight bowling by Sol Talker, Gideon Sacofsky and skipper, Brett Hickson. By the end of their third batting pair they had only mustered a sub-par total of 40 and it was up to the two veterans of the league, Gutman and Yefeth Nagavkar to bring the final total up to a more respectable 87.

The YMCA's opening pair of Eshkol Solomon and Gideon Sacofsky got off to a fairly good start despite having to face the very intelligent bowling of Gutman and Nagavkar. The subsequent two partnerships consolidated the total to 78 leaving the final pairing of the Aryeh and Benjy Myers to score what seemed at the time like a simple 10 runs. At that stage there was very little indication of the drama that was to ensue.

After an unnecessary run-out and an excellent over by Yair Nagavkar, the proverbial tide had already began to turn and the YMCA's suddenly found themselves needing five off the last over of seasoned bowler Yefeth. Five balls later the Myers brothers had reached their target off a no-ball and had to simply see off the last ball of the game. As Nagavkar came charging in to bowl Gutman edged ever so closer to Aryeh Myers who was facing and in a momentary lapse of concentration (by his own admission) got a leading edge into the outstretched hands of the super-sub. Game over as MYL won by three and YMCA had just lost their five-match winning streak.

With only two nights to try and make sense of what had just happened, the YMCA team had to pick themselves up for the next challenge which lay ahead. A game against the dangerous Mumbai Challengers who had struggled to adapt to the shorter form of the game at the beginning of the season but had now found a winning formula.

Nobody in their wildest dreams could have predicted the next dramatic episode of this enthralling night league series ...

Hickson won the toss and sent in the Challengers to bat figuring that they were masters at chasing totals, but maybe less effective at setting them. For the first three batting pairs the runs seemed to flow effortlessly. As the quick singles were being taken quite freely the normally boisterous YMCA fielders became quieter and the game seemed to be slipping from their grasp until their classy final two bowlers came to the party.

A formidable bowling spell of three wickets for -6 runs by Saul Weitzman and strong supporting figures of 1-3 runs by villain turned hero, Yefeth Nagavkar put the strangle on the Challengers and they ended up with a total of 87 - eerily identical to the score of the Modiin Young Lions two nights before.

Once again, the YMCA's went about their business consolidating a decent score but this time they left the final pair of Nagavkar and Emmanuel Solomon with a bit more work to do, chasing a further 19 runs. When it all boiled down to the final ball of the match they needed two to win, but could only make the one and so we were off to a super-over play-off. The rules are simple. Each player bowls three balls and each batting pair gets to face six balls.

Again Hickson won the toss and again he put the Challengers into bat first. Clint Rubin was the first to bowl and after opening with a wide, combined with the brilliant fielding of substitute fielder Yair Nagavkar to claim a run-out with his next ball. Emmanuel Solomon was the next to bowl and he also claimed a priceless scalp and all of a sudden the impressive Mumbai Challengers were -6 after six balls. With the YMCA's a player short the Challengers could choose any one of their opponents to bowl another three balls and they made the mistake of asking Rubin to bowl again who went on to bowl out another wicket. The Challengers ended up with a poor score of 10 which seemed well within the reach of their fired up opponents who could sense victory.

Incredibly, with all to play for the YMCA's got themselves into all sorts of trouble with the opening pair of Hickson and Rubin losing two wickets in their alotted six balls. It took a brave and aggressive partnership of nine from Aryeh Myers and Emmanuel Solomon to bring them back into the game and eventually the last pair of Yefeth and Saul Weitzman needed four runs off the last six balls. Amazingly they also lost a wicket and the team began to sense that sickening feeling of the tide turning against them again when they needed four off two balls.

But then something miraculous happened. Nagavkar found the inner wall and the batsmen came through for a run leaving them two to get off the last ball. While the Challengers were pondering their tactics for that all-important final ball and both teams teetering on the brink of a potential historic bowl-off, Yefeth sensed an opportunity to sneak in another run. The normally lethal Challengers panicked as they were caught off-guard and threw the ball waywardly to their wicketkeeper which allowed Weitzman and Nagavkar to sneak in another overthrow. In an amazing turn of events and an identical situation to the game on Thursday the YMCA team had reached their target with a ball to spare. This time Saul Weitzman stood in front of his wickets and calmly let the ball hit his legs for a dead ball. Game over and an unbelievable victory for YMCA.

It is on evenings like these when you wish that there were more spectators at these games to take in the thrills and adrenalin spills that come along with this league.

In the league's other matches, YMCB lost their eighth straight match - this time by 44 runs - to the improving KAT Israemploy line-up. David Berinson and Dovi Paltiel scored an excellent 54 runs in their four overs to help KAT to 119.

Bet Shemesh Royals climbed to seventh in the table after securing their third win of the season. The Royals scored 107 and restricted the young Bet Shemesh Braves to 13. Wicket-takers for the game were Yoni Berinson, Uriel Finkelstein, Aryeh Ofstein, Natan Wigman, Yehuda Bloch and Chovav Wigman with one each, while Ari Lewis picked up two and Yonni Sidelsky three. The Wigman brothers combined to score the highest partnership of the game with 36 runs.

For the time being, YMCA have now regained the number one spot in the league, they will know that PEARL Dental who have a relatively easy game this week against YMCB will take over that position by Saturday evening with a win. Ra’anana Raiders, who are due to play a double-header against KAT Israemploy and Pommeranz Juice Good Old Boys, will move into second or third position with two big wins, while a win for Modi’in Young Lions over Bet Shemesh Royals will relegate YMCA to a third or fourth spot position.

Not too far behind are the unbeaten and must be said favourites, Kiddush Club Jerusalem, who have only played four games. It looks like it is going to be an incredibly close end to the regular season.

"It ain't over, baby till it's over"

Report by Clint Rubin

    Last updated: 9:52am, January 7 2014