NY Mayor's Cup
Metropolitan Cricket League
Lesporis Slams Magnificent Century To Power Cosmos Past Westbury
Defending Champions to Meet Progressive for 2009 MCL Championship Honors
By S. Ali
By any measure, it was a sterling innings by the promising teenage batting sensation and current Windward Islands opening batsman. Lesporis rose to the occasion in as important a match as he has played outside of the Caribbean, the MCL Division 1 semi-final, finishing unbeaten on 109 (9x4s, 2x6s). The young star batsman’s shot-filled display embodied character and pure determination, the likes of which often elevates the performance of a cricketer of class against a formidable opponent, many-time champions Westbury, at Westbury High School last Sunday.
After being asked to take first strike with rain in the forecast, Westbury posted a challenging 256 for 9 off 40 overs, led by the inform Paul Salmon who struck a belligerent unbeaten 80 as he put together an excellent 120-run third wicket partnership with Barrington Bartley (67). Bartley capitalized on a rare mistake by prolific pacer George Adams, when a Kevin Darlington bouncer took a thick outside edge and flew straight to a well-positioned Adams at deep third-man with Bartley only on 9. Bartley made a meal of the opportunity, combining with Salmon to render Cosmos to toil under the heat and humidity after Cosmos had restricted them to 55 for 2 off 15 overs behind two controlled spell of fast bowling by the duo of Darlington and Adams. As seen all season by the Cosmos faithful, it was the brilliance of Lesporis that once again shone through in the field as after taking two magnificent catches at backward point to dismiss opener Cliff Roye and later Dennison Thomas, who came to the wicket for a brief stint to replace an exhausted Salmon, Lesporis effected a well executed run out of Bartley.
In search of quick runs for Westbury, Bartley steered a short delivery outside the off stump off seamer Clive Samuels straight to Lesporis at backward point and inexplicably took off down the track. Lesporis, moving deftly, sprung into action to gather the ball cleanly and fired a return right alongside the stumps to wicketkeeper Donald Bennett, stranding an openly angered Bartley who flung his bat in disgust anticipating that Clifford Lewis the non-striker would have been backing up further. The loss of Bartley left Westbury struggling at 156 for 5, with only 10 overs remaining, as Cosmos fought themselves seemingly into a position of strength.
With the previously retired Salmon on his way back to the wicket and Cosmos apparently reinvigorated by the effort of teammate Lesporis, the stage was set for an interesting final 10-over session. The final session would belong to Westbury as Salmon, Lewis (22) and Devon Campbell (22) led the way in posting 100 off the last 10 overs. In a brave decision, Cosmos elected to rest ace swing bowler Sham Ali in favor of the efficient young fielder, Marlon Persaud. Persaud responded, shaking off his early nerves like an inspired young man, and sensing his opportunity in his first big semi-final match was brilliant in the deep outfield saving many well struck balls from reaching the boundary. He along with Naushad Khan patrolled the mid-wicket and extra cover boundaries with frenetic energy all afternoon, highlighted by Khan’s well-judged catch taken to dismiss Dwight Meikle (0), swinging for the fences.
Cosmos’ Clive Samuels bagged 5 for 74 in an unusually expensive spell as unruffled captain Dixieth Palmer marshaled his team to the end, with Westbury fighting themselves back into a strong position.
In quest of victory needing better than 6.4 runs per over, under threatening skies, Cosmos openers Lesporis and Dennis Evans raced to 40 in only 4 overs before Evans was caught on the deep mid wicket boundary for a quick-fire 17.
The Cosmos batsmen would remain focused on the required rate as Lesporis and Donald Bennett carefully constructed an excellent century partnership for the second wicket. When rain and rapidly fading light interrupted play in the 17th and 22nd overs, Cosmos remained fractionally ahead of Westbury’s run rate. Bennett had already stroked a classy 66 runs, and was in the process of shepherding the younger Lesporis along as they positioned Cosmos on 145 for 1 off 22 overs before Bennett was dubiously adjudged leg before wicket from a thick outside edge that flew past the wicketkeeper and first slip – perhaps the result of the poor lighting conditions. Dixieth Palmer (2) then holed out to the deep extra cover boundary as Cosmos fell to 159 for 3. Westbury suddenly sprung to life as the “flood lights” were turned on in the midst of the prevailing darkness that ultimately transcended into potentially dangerous conditions.
Lesporis remained undeterred along with a determined Melroy Kingston as the pair shared a breezy 58-run partnership. Cosmos’ adaptable prowess shone through the darkness despite fruitless and endless appeals for more “flood lights” as it became increasingly obvious that fielders could not see well given their slow reaction to balls played in their general vicinity – several times standing in wonder as to where the ball had gone. With Cosmos coasting on a commanding 227 for 4 off 32 overs and the general Lesporis firing on all cylinders and needing perhaps just a few more overs to achieve their target, the umpires finally offered light to the batsmen and Westbury conceded defeat.
It was a well-deserved victory for the defending champions, who had swung into the playoffs on a thread, as they secured their second successive berth in the MCL finals. The victory also set up a repeat of last season’s MCL championship in which Cosmos defeated Progressive.
For Cosmos, it was tremendous team effort orchestrated squarely on the shoulders of a sensational teenager who followed up his brilliance on the field with a memorable match winning century. After the match, Lesporis reminded teammates that he was undefeated versus Westbury this season following his 87 not out in an early season six-wicket rout of the former champions. “This club has endured much more than just a testy cricket season and has survived with honors. Today’s effort in overcoming a major challenge underscores why Cosmos is a first-rate organization,” stated Cosmos president Sham Ali at the club’s post-game team meeting.
Cosmos will play Progressive at Floyd Bennett next Sunday in the MCL Round-Robin Final.
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, Aug.8, 2009 @ 11am at Floyd Bennett Field. All are invited.
C. Bennett also
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