Having the series poised with two wins apiece, and more than 350 overs played by the end of the weekend’s match, the winning runs came in the very last over, with one ball remaining in the game.
Both teams fielded their strongest teams possible, Asia buoyed by the inclusion of Ashan Fonseka and his pace bowling, while the restoration of Stuart Hamilton to the ROW squad was also a welcome boost in return.
After losing the chase in last week’s game, Asia looked to set a challenging target for ROW on this occasion as Joe Ninan and Imtiyaz Mushtaq opened the batting, facing ROW’s bowling attack of captain Jason Robertson and Dom Judge.
Ninan’s innings was to be short-lived, however, edging a shot in the third over for Judge to take a sharp catch at first slip.
Mushtaq was then joined by Fonseka (63), and the pair would go on to build a powerful partnership of 145 runs before Fonseka’s wicket was felled by a Justin Swart delivery just after the 18th over drinks’ break having scored 63 off 46 deliveries, with the score then on 166 for 2.
Now supported by Bhanu Pratap, Mushtaq continued to frustrate the ROW bowlers and was just eight runs short of reaching his ton when, aiming for his 13th boundary, his lofted shot fell short to Michael Flowers at deep cover, who initially fumbled his attempt but recovered the ricochet off his palms to claim the catch and an important wicket for Curt Livermore and the ROW team.
Pratap would also find himself tantalisingly close to a milestone in falling victim to the combination of Robertson and Judge in the 31st over just seven short of his half-century.
Asia now were on 255 for 6, but for the remaining eight overs, only captain Shivam Bhattachayraya (20 not out) and later, Sami Pir (17 not out) were to make the only significant contributions to the score, with Asia eventually setting ROW a total of 289 to win.
A deserved break from the day’s heat and for lunch then brought Jeremy Bootsy and Dan Nicholson to the middle, beginning ROW’s chase.
In needing a confident start, Bootsy stepped up to the task and blasted his way to 50 at a blistering pace, reaching it in just the eighth over.
By the 14th over, the partnership had reached cricket’s superstitious score line of 111, which if believed would have an immediate negative effect.
With Bootsy on 81 runs, a tally that included a number of superbly timed shots off Fonseka’s fiery pace, Mushtaq’s four-wicket haul began by cart-wheeling Nicholson’s off-stump, and just five balls later he would bring Bootsy’s dramatic innings to a close in a repeat of Nicholson’s demise.
The new partnership of Swart and Paul Judge fared well in adding 50 runs to the total, when Mushtaq again beat the bat to plough through Swart’s wicket, and three overs later picking off Judge’s wicket with a catching assist from Pir, as the score reached 175 for 4, with 11 overs left to make 114 runs.
With Flowers briefly joined first by Stuart Hamilton (bowled by Fonseka) and then Michael Rhys Thomas (caught by Fonseka off Mayur Deuska’s bowling), the pressure was on Flowers and Livermore to increase a primarily subdued run rate.
Seeing off the Sri Lankan’s spell, the ROW pair raised the tempo with a little help from a loose Yassir sixth over and the game’s 30th, which gifted ROW a vital injection of 23 runs, and arguably became the game’s turning point in favour of ROW.
Now needing 38 runs to win from four overs, Flowers and Livermore knuckled down to exploit any wayward deliveries, while their team mates perspired under the pressure, some even taking to the showers in order to cool down, but eventually bringing the target within six runs for the start of the final over.
Given an opportunity to redeem himself, Yassir took the ball for his team and looked to have swung the odds back in Asia’s favour with only 2 runs scored from his first four balls.
However, his next delivery veered wide down Livermore’s leg-side, allowing the pair to scramble an extra two runs, but importantly levelling the scores.
Yassir’s frustration was complete in seeing his next delivery beat Livermore’s bat, but also the wicket and then the wicket-keeper to then trundle over the boundary for four as the sun set on the series and over the ACG, with a hard won victory going to the ROW select XI.
An MVP performance from Mushtaq (92 runs and bowling figures of 4 for 40) was unfortunately not enough on this occasion. Bootsy’s 81 runs off 50 deliveries certainly gave ROW a crucial platform for their win, while the 82-run partnership during the last eight overs between Flowers and Livermore will also be remembered as integral to an overall solid team performance from the ROW select XI.
Written by Neil Quail
Umpire: Neil Quail
Pictured: ROW’s Jeremy Bootsy and Michael Flowers celebrate their batting performances and the series win against Asia last Sunday at the ACG. Photo: Joe Ninan.