WE are the Champions...


    Prashanth Buchi and Junaid showed that with a little dedication and common sense, winning even in alien conditions is not impossible...all the MSUCC team needed was a great finish from these two tail-enders in the first innings of the second match to pump them up and there was no looking back after that...their innings gave a kick in the rear to a team struggling to understand alien conditons and bat sensibly upto that point...

    As I have been reiterating time and again, it was always going to be difficult to play the Chargers at UAH...they are one formidable team and they were kind of looking to avenge the 2-0 wash-out that was handed to them when they visited Starkville in March...this coupled with the fact that the series was being held in UAH territory with all their supporters meant that winning for the MSU team was going to be all the more difficult...But, the MSU team showed that nothing is unattainable for them...they beat the Chargers and took the series 2-1...But, credit must also go to the UAH team...they played their hearts out and took every match to the final few balls...

    The first match was crucial because the MSU team was playing for the first time on the ground at UAH and a win there would certainly play a big part in them trying to keep the trophy at Starkville...the MSU team was put to bat first and my-oh-my...what they saw on the pitch will always be on their minds for a long time...after playing with taped balls and batsman-friendly pitches at Starkville, they got to play a pitch which helped the bowlers to the max...chest-high balls are always hard to play and every ball that the UAH bowlers bowled was up there below the chin...the MSU batsmen struggled to say the least and managed, what would be considered a low score, of 64...only three of the MSU batsmen were able to even reach double figures...plus the UAH bowlers were so strict in their line and length that extras were kept at a minimum...

    In the break between the innings, yours truly got to be part of the team discussion of the MSU team and I was mighty impressed with what I heard...even though they put up only 64, the MSU team had hardly given up and were all but out of the match...the bowlers were pumped up and I knew then that a match was on...The bowlers of MSU would sure love to carry the pitch at the UAH ground in their pockets...that was how much help they got from the pitch...they were bang on target from the start and gave very few extras too...this coupled with brilliant fielding displays took the match upto the UAH batsmen...they too batted sensibly and were able to stabilize after some early losses...In the end the score of 64 was too small for the MSU bowlers to defend and the UAH team got its first win against the MSU team...

    The second match was a win-or-go-home sort of a match for the MSU team and boy did they respond well...again put to bat first, the MSU team started off well with some great hitting by the openers...most notable were the two fluent hooks by Abdud which drew applauses from the UAH camp as well...but the team lost its way after losing some wickets and the scare of the first match low score was on...But Buchi and Junaid had other ideas...the last wicket partnership was the the most fruitful and Junaid was top scorer for the MSU team...His leg flicks to the boundary were exemplary in execution....on the whole, the MSU team put up 85 runs on the board, a score that was considered defendable...

    The UAH batsmen started off well and made some good runs...but the MSU bowlers were determined not to let the efforts of Buchi and Junaid go to waste and came up with a great performance...Kalyan, with his wily spins proved to be a crucial and Khurram too was on the spot right away...as was the case in the first match, the fielding was great and Arun in particular saved some precious boundaries with his energetic fielding...But the UAH batsmen were not ready to let this one go...they wanted to shut-out the MSU team on the first day itself...but some very irresponsible strokes and bad running between wickets helped the MSU team get back to its winning ways...the Dawgs won by a comfortable margin of 11 runs...

    This setup a crucial third match that was to be played the next day...whoever won the match took the series and the coveted trophy...but with rain forecasted for the day, it kept everyone guessing as to whether there would be a match or a tame draw was on the cards...after continuous rain in the night, the pitch was inspected by both teams and they decided to give it a go...

    The MSU team was put to bat for the third time in a row and yours truly got the best seat in the house to watch the proceedings...I was one of the umpires for the game and boy did I have a good time out there...the MSU batsmen were circumscept in their shots in damp, extremely bowler-friendly conditions and were limping at 19/4 after 8 overs...the UAH bowlers were again spot on and were determined to keep the MSU score down...but some quick hitting by the MSU middle order and tail enders ensured that the team put up a respectable total of 68, which at that time I thought was a shade low...

    Buchi once again came up with a brilliant performance with the ball and kept the UAH batsmen guessing...he was the pick of the bowlers...the UAH batsmen were cruising at one stage and looked to finish the game in record time...but some wickets put them in the back seat and they looked to be struggling...a rate of 4 per over was all that was needed at one stage and singles would have done the job fot he UAH batsmen...but they played some rash strokes and got themselves looking at a score of 22 in the last 4 overs, which again was not unattainable...but some disciplined bowling by the MSU bowlers showed the UAH team and its supporters that if determined nothing is impossible...In one of the most thrilling finishes I have seen, MSU won the match by 1 run...and took the series 2-1...

    Congratulations to all the members of the MSU team...you have made us proud...there are a few lessons to be learnt though and I am sure you will learn as you mature into a formidable team in the region...the UAH team too deserves some applause because they too never gave up...they are pretty new team and so will need some time to blossom into a decent team...they will get there I am sure and that is a day I will be waiting to see...

    I am proud to be part of this cricket dawgs camp and consider myself lucky to be reporting on them...GO DAWGS !!!
 
- Vikram Venkatesh
27th October 2003
http://www.msstate.edu/~vv24