NY Mayor's Cup
Metropolitan Cricket League
Cosmos Are Champions Again!
It was a victory orchestrated purely on the magic of a magnificent 98-run partnership between Donald Bennett and Melroy Kingston, followed by a gritty indomitable spell of off-spin bowling from veteran former Guyanese national player Ashmul “Skipper” Ali and the sheer wizardry of an astute captain, former Jamaica national player Dixieth Palmer. The favorable outcome for the defending champions epitomized their championship mettle, as a determined Cosmos team patrolled the Floyd Bennett field with reckless abandon, rallying around captain Palmer who called upon all of his immense experience and plotted meticulously.
In their turn at the wicket, the Cosmos innings oscillated from one extreme to the other. The Cosmos openers, Dennis Evans and Keddy Lesporis, started very positively as both scored freely and looked extremely comfortable against the pace attack duo of Mikhail Miller and Mikey Alexis. However, with the final delivery of the 8th over and Cosmos on 43, Alexis struck! The giant paceman induced Evans into a forced lofted on-drive, which failed to clear a leaping Selwyn Andrew at mid-on who took a good clean catch two-handed high above his head. With the very next delivery from Miller’s ensuing over, Lesporis’ extravagant slash wide outside the off-stump ended up in the safe gloves of wicket-keeper, Kwaysi Rougier, relegating the champions to 43 for 2.
A jubilant and inspired Progressive team, already elated to see the departure of semi-final centurion Lesporis had even further cause to celebrate, as 28 deliveries later with just 19 runs added, the hard-hitting Palmer would hole out to West Indies U-19 player Nkrumah Bonner on the deep cover point boundary. Palmer’s dismissal came at a crucial point, as Progressive seized the initiative and would further justify their decision to give away the toss. The right-armed leg spinning Bonner would combine with former U.S. national team captain Richard Staple to bowl a stifling 12 overs between them, yielding a mere 33 runs. Bonner, in particular, at the end of his first spell returned an astounding 6 overs for 7 runs, which included 3 maidens. Progressive’s dynamic duo spun a web around the seemingly overmatched Bennett and Kingston as Progressive effectively tightened their viselike grip on the match into a near-death stranglehold.
At 96 for 3 in 25 overs and positively in search of their second Championship in the MCL, the Progressive team were bouncing on their toes and the echoes from the boundary lines were clear, “Cosmos is done here today.” Palmer would comment after the match that his response to that particular suggestion was, “there's still lots of cricket left to be played -- this is Cosmos.” Palmer, who usually relays his instructions via other players to his batsmen, opted on this occasion to convey his messages directly, making his way out to the middle several times to “refresh” the exhausted Bennett and an increasingly hampered Kingston. Kingston, who injured his hamstring attempting a sharp single, would eventually utilize Lesporis as a runner. Effectively, Progressive had backed Cosmos into a very tight corner on a day of fluctuating fortunes and squandered opportunities.
However, the pair of Bennett and Kingston battled, poked and prodded, seemingly unruffled and underwhelmed despite the mounting pressure beyond the boundary lines to improve the tedious run rate. In the 25th over, Progressive captain Keville George, electing to hold Bonner back for a few overs at the end, introduced off spinner Morris Cole. Without hesitation and almost as if doors had just been blown off a jail house, the Cosmos batsmen immediately pounced, hammering Cole for successive boundaries. After averaging just under 3 runs per over during the Bonner and Staple stint, the Cosmos batsmen took 11 runs off Cole’s first over and had effectively beaten him out of the attack in favor of George by his third over, but not before he had conceded some 31 runs. With the cap off the spigot, there was no getting the genie back in the bottle as Cosmos would go on a 10-run per over tear through to the 35th over.
Bennett leaned in and executed an exquisite drive to the cover boundary and Kingston stood and delivered, cracking a square cut to the point boundary off Miller, who had been brought back into the attack to replace Staple who had completed his spell. The momentum had swung completely over to Cosmos as both batsmen shifted gears and threw their hearts into a fine championship showdown. The next 15 overs showcased a Cosmos team that would fight ferociously like wounded tigers to the finish. When Lesporis, running for Kingston, was run out in the 32nd over, Cosmos had improved their position dramatically to 160 for 4, and had blown the doors off the Progressive run-containment effort. By then, the spectacular match-winning partnership, worth 98 runs, had turned the match into more than just a contest for Cosmos. Kingston was on his way back to the pavilion for a gritty 45 runs, with a wry smile of satisfaction that he had delivered a major revival in an important championship match-up between two unyielding rivals.
With Bennett continuing in full flight, supported by the hard-hitting George Adams and eventually Clive Samuels, Cosmos would mount a furious “death overs” assault on the Progressive bowlers, including Bonner, whom George had brought back into the attack as Progressive searched for answers in their attempts to quell the run blitz. Promoted in the order, Adams contributed mightily in a breezy partnership of 59 runs in only 5 overs before Bonner took an excellent one-handed blinder at extra cover to dismiss the consistent all-rounder. By then, Cosmos had recovered immensely from being nearly asphyxiated in the first 25 overs to overdosing on adrenaline, scoring a whopping 145 runs in the final 15 overs that left their opposition bewildered. The methodical and destructive aplomb with which the Cosmos' batsmen responded was a spectacle of remarkable audacity, self-belief and skill as they steered the Cosmos innings to an imposing 241 for 6 off 40 overs -- it was an astounding recovery. In the end, Bennett would remain on an unyielding 84 not out.
Overcast conditions stubbornly permeated the day’s proceedings – emblematic of the weather conditions throughout the entire summer -- and as the afternoon progressed the clouds got even darker. As such, given the prevailing cloudy conditions it appeared that the result was destined to be determined on run rate, which served only to increase the pressure on both teams. In their reply, the Progressive openers came out firing intent on gaining immediate ascendancy over the Cosmos’ opening bowlers, Sham Ali and George Adams. Cosmos suffered an early setback when in the first over of the Progressive innings, Evans rocketed a throw to Ali on a run out attempt that crashed the pacer’s right index finger into the stumps essentially putting an end to any control that he had of the new ball. The Ali injury seemed to generate a load of concerns for captain Palmer who was already without the services of ace paceman Kevin Darlington, and particularly as Ali continually strayed down the leg-side producing a series of wides. At the other end, however, Adams was a model of consistency, following up a superb performance in the semi finals with another tidy spell of steady and accurate fast bowling.
After sticking with his pacers for the first 10 overs, in an attempt to stem the flow of runs, Palmer looked in the direction of the veteran Ashmul Ali needing a big performance from the heady off-spinner. Ali would respond with a tremendous and inspired bowling performance. However, prior to Ali’s heroics it would be Lesporis who would once again become the game changer. A solid opening partnership of 58 runs in 11 overs between Kevil George and Selwyn Andrew was broken by a stroke of sheer brilliance from Lesporis who darted in from cover point on an attempted sharp single, picking up cleanly and in one felt swoop knocked over the mid stump at the non- striker's end to run out a casual and incredulous Andrew. The breakthrough effected by Lesporis began a steady downward spiral for Progressive as just 10 runs later; Kingston would snatch George at gully off Palmer as Cosmos set off on their way. When Naushad Khan, fielding at fly slip, plucked out of the air an induced Bonner slash off Ali, Cosmos had Progressive well within their grasps. As the overs ensued, the Cosmos position strengthened as Progressive fell severely behind the 6 run per over required run rate and the match began tilting firmly in favor of Cosmos.
Ali and Kingston would deliver a strong riposte to the Bonner/Staple duo earlier. The nightmare for Progressive was just about to begin as Ali served up gold on a silver platter with the spell of the match, a remarkable 1 for 24 off 8 overs. For his part, Kingston returned 1 for 34 off 8 overs leaving Progressive essentially running a marathon uphill on crutches. The late afternoon sun peeking out from behind the ominous clouds warded off the threats of bad light with Progressive struggling at 111 for 3 off 25 overs, needing another 130 runs off the last 15 overs with danger man the hard-hitting Staple looking for some reprieve. Staple would be required to produce a comparable, if not a better innings than Bennett’s, in order to rescue Progressive.
Cosmos was brilliant in the field all day, effecting another run out (Rougier) accounting for Progressive’s 4th wicket, amidst the mounting pressure. Staple finally answered the bell, pouncing on Dennis Evans immediately upon his introduction into the attack at the end of “Skipper” Ali’s amazing spell, blasting thirteen runs from Evans first five balls including one towering six over long on. Now requiring almost 10 runs per over, Staple was compelled to force the issue and as the classy batsman went looking for more off Evans’s final delivery, a strong low dying pull to deep mid on had Adams racing in from the boundary and diving forward full length to hold on to a simply stunning catch. As Staple stood in disbelief, attempting to confirm if indeed Adams had completed the catch, pandemonium broke loose in the Floyd Bennett crowd. The Progressive camp stood with hands on their heads; manager Jeff James sat motionless with an expression that appeared to say it all and the Cosmos camp, visibly elated, stood with hands to the heavens giving high fives all around. Cosmos manager Shadi Khan bordered on encroaching the boundary line as he enthusiastically encouraged his charges at the top of his voice. Floyd Bennett was on its feet almost as if trying to replay Adam’s stunning blinder in their minds, and confirming that indeed Adams had done what appeared to have been impossible. “The catch” was one of the most amazing moments in MCL championship history, attributable to the sheer skill and agility of the fielder, Adams, in a tense, pressurized battle with just enormous spoils at stake.
Once again, the sun peeked out for a brief look as Cosmos moved deliberately and methodically to extinguish the Progressive lower order. A collapse was in the cards as the hard-hitting Alexis’ edge off Kingston ended up in Bennett's glove and as Sham Ali ran back at short mid wicket to settle nervously under a skier from Malcolm Grey off Clive Samuels. Lesporis made another difficult skier look easy as he sprinted from backward square to mid wicket to dismiss Haywood for the 8th wicket, bringing his spirited and defiant innings to an end. With Cole’s run out and 9 wickets in the bag, Cosmos went for the jugular as Palmer turned to the man who had carried the burden earlier, the man who had just stamped his place in MCL championship final folklore with “the catch” perhaps of the season, paceman George Adams. Adams stretched his hands to receive the ball from Palmer who simply said, “George, finish it for me.” Seemingly running on springs, Adams gave the ball a bit of shine on his trousers, turned around with a deep breath having carried the load of his absent partner Kevin Darlington on his shoulders throughout the match, and with his teammates behind him ran in to deliver the final payload. Wicketkeeper Donald Bennett, who did brilliant glove-work all afternoon, went low down to his right gluing Hopeton Henry’s thick edge, as pandemonium broke out on the field and cascaded out into throngs of Cosmos supporters. Kingston at gully point leaped into the air; Lesporis darted in from point; young Marlon Persaud raced from square leg and the Cosmos team embraced each other. Cosmos 12th man and scorer Atiq Baksh could not tally his sheet fast enough, leaving it undone, as he ran out to join the celebration.
Through it all on this day, the gutsy, suddenly less-weary warrior Bennett had carried his team on his shoulders as he played the sheet anchor role with a clinical innings, deservedly leading his victorious team off the field. Kingston had stood and delivered. The experience of Ashmul Ali, the consistency and professionalism of Adams, the brilliance of young Lesporis and Persaud in the field, a top-notch all-round display from Cosmos – the culmination of which were all fused and plotted in the tactical mind of captain Dixeth Palmer underscored the words inscribed on the final Cosmos score sheet: THIS IS HOW CHAMPIONS ARE MADE!
In celebration of the club’s 28th anniversary, Cosmos has dedicated the 2009 season as its inaugural benefit year for a prominent contributor to its illustrious past. This year’s honoree will be team manager Shadi Khan. The inaugural celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Sept 12, 2009 @ 11am at Floyd Bennett Field. All are invited.
Carl Bennett also contributed to this article.
241 for 6 off 40 overs. Run Rate 6.02 rpo
Cardosa and Atiq Baksh
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