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Nova vs. Bengals, Saturday, June 18, Galway
Toss: Nova won toss and elected to bat 
Result: Nova won by 58 runs

Nova sent in a new opening pair in newcomer Sandeep and Rajesh R. Sandeep departed early, which was followed by a steady 56 run second wicket partnership between Rajesh and Asif before Rajesh was dismissed to a top-edged sweep, after demonstrating a lot of patience for his 24 runs (45 balls, 2 fours). Amar had tough luck getting out to a tame catch at short midwicket without scoring. which brought the in-form Razi to the crease. Razi continued to sparkle with the bat, scoring 52 from 42 balls with 4 fours and 3 sixes, while he lost Asif (35 runs, 54 balls 3 fours, 1 six), Jalal (2 runs) at the other end. Mikki and Razi put on the second 50+ partnership of the Nova innings before Razi departed to one of the more stunning diving headlong catches we have witnessed. Mikki departed soon thereafter but not before scoring 28 valuable runs from 29 balls with 3 fours. Youngster Rasesh B. demonstrated his hitting power with two massive sixes and a four to score very useful and rapid-fire 19 runs from 13 balls, before being tricked by a slow delivery. Debutant Shiju got a chance to bat and got off the mark on the first ball he faced but was bowled a couple of balls later to end Nova’s inning. Nova came 2 balls shy of batting out the full 40 overs, and thanks to 49 extras from the Bengals got to a decent defendable score of 220.
Amaan opened the bowling and struggled to find his line. From the other end, Razi was either switched on or completely erratic and had to stop bowling after 2 overs during which he conceded runs only via extras (wides and no-balls), but not before he trapped lbw the Bengals batsman who was threatening to get on with the chase. This brought Shiju on for his bowling debut (on a free hit no less!) and he got out of the over without too much further damage. Rasesh B. bowled a great first over to get the Bengals’s second wicket caught behind, but then lost his line in the second. A change of ends helped Rasesh come back strong later in the game to pick up the penultimate wicket to finish with strong figures of 6-0-21-2. The 3rd and fourth wicket partnership flourished due to some uncharacteristically expensive bowling from Asif and Mikki, which was not helped by sloppy fielding at the boundary, except for one spectacular one handed swat save by Imtiaz to prevent a certain six. Bengals raced away to 111 for 3 from 19 overs, needing only 100 from the remaining 21 overs. Both Mikki and Asif switched bowling ends at this point and the game turned completely around. Asif took 4 wickets in 15 balls while conceding only 2 runs – two caught and bowled, one catch by Imtiaz, and a stumping. Asif finished with stellar figures of 8-0-23-4 to reduce Bengals from 111 for 3 to 124 for 7. Mikki contributed with the 8th wicket (lbw) and also took the final wicket, which yielded a partnership of 20 runs, all scored by the one remaining batsman, who retained and rotated strike skillfully. Mikki’s finished with figures of 7.2-0-43-2. The game ended when Nova finally managed to hold on to a catch at the boundary, thanks to Amar.
Positives: Asif was great with the ball in his second spell. Razi shone with the bat again. Rasesh continued his strong bowling. Several batsmen (Asif, Rajesh, Mikki, Rasesh) made key contributions and we did not lose wickets in bunches but are building partnerships. We are going to need this against the stronger teams we will face in the second half of our schedule. And special kudos to Asif, who demonstrated grit and fighting spirit to keep playing despite being hurt and fasting. 

To improve: For the third game in a row, Nova’s primary bowlers were not able to bowl their full quota, thereby putting a lot of pressure on our part-time bowlers. We also dropped or misjudged 7 catches.
A key learning for the Nova Captain to implement at Galway, where we will play six more games: make sure our bowlers are able to bowl from their preferred end as that made all the difference for the bowlers’ line and length, and thereby to the game’s outcome. We also need our bowlers to get used to bowling uphill at Galway since obviously not everyone can bowl from the same end.

Next up: Away game vs. Frederick on June 25 at Frederick, who are also winless so far this season, with massive lopsided losses to Pakistan and Omnitech, and a washout vs. Washington. A good chance for Nova to go into the July 4th break, with a 3-1 record.

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