Fate, it seemed, had decreed from the beginning that the Saturday night encounter between Gold Insurance of Bet Shemesh and YMCA was going to be a difficult proposition. As the teams gathered, the gate of Modiin’s equivalent of the Lords Cricket Ground was padlocked and securely closed with no way of entry. Undeterred, grown men and a young bride of only a few months, who had come to support her husband and the home team, scaled the high fence and clambered to the other side, collapsing into the bosom of the hallowed arena with its bright shining floodlights, bathing the turf in sheer anticipation. Nothing was going to stop the epic battle from ensuing.
Aryeh won the toss and set the cat among the pigeons by shrewdly inviting the visitors to bat first. A game which will long be remembered in the annals of night cricket was underway.
Bet Shemesh acquitted themselves well and the first two partnerships exceeded a score of well over 50. Then David struck with two successive balls in his own inimitable fashion which sent the wickets clattering to the ground. Bravely, the visitors staved off the hat trick and reconstructed their endeavors in reaching a challenging total. Joe, changing his run up somewhat, was actually quite bucked with himself when he clean bowled a befuddled batsman. A first for him under the format.
All bowled well, and mention must be made of YMCA’s ace-in-the-hole, one of the two Sauls in the team, whose speed and fiery accuracy caused ripples of fear in the hearts of the two forlorn batsmen facing the onslaught. Eventually, the Bet Shemesh boys reached a total of 103 runs. Both sides sensed victory was within their grasp.
Clint and David did the boys proud by getting YMCA off to a good start. Even though an unfortunate run out and a hefty blow out of the park curtailed the scoring, they wielded the bat with great aplomb, setting the stage for Aryeh and the above mentioned Saul to continue the chase. It has to be said that these two batsman set the mark for absolutely brilliant running between wickets which, unbeknown to everyone at the time, set the stage of what was still to come.
Joe and Jonathan, owing to the constraints of advancing age, thereupon took a more mature approach and with deft touches here and there consolidated the scoreline, bringing the team closer to the target. Only 11 runs were required for the final pairing to get. A piece of cake, or so everyone thought.
Out strode the Chopper – he of the Crouching Tiger – and the second Saul – the Hidden Dragon.
At first, everything went according to plan and 6 runs were needed with more than 2 overs left. The Chopper’s low stance in front of the wicket depicted the gritty determination of a man possessed. Saul, on the other hand, eschewed confidence with a nonchalant swagger and daring approach. What could go wrong?
Well, inexplicably, the fire suddenly went out of the Dragon. He prodded forward to a ball straight to a fielder inches away from him and set off on a suicidal run, but somehow decided there and then on a unique course of action. As if he was a hockey player of rare vintage he adroitly double hit the ball away from the groping fingers of the silly mid-off. Showing no mercy, Herschel, the Umpire, raised his finger. A wicket!!!
A few balls later, now with a rush of blood, Saul drove a shot down the throat of a faraway fielder who eagerly clutched the ball to his chest. The game had turned dramatically. Saul now took on more of a defensive role. In fact, one of his teammates was frantically searching the stands for his whiskey to rekindle the fire.
Four runs need to tie. Five for victory. Last ball. Saul at the crease.
The ball runs through to the keeper without any bat getting on the ball. Abject defeat. But wait!!! The Chopper charges down the pitch like the cavalry in full flight yelling, “Come On!!!” Saul awakens from his stupor, and fleet-footed hightails it to the bowler’s end. Pandemonium!!! The ball is thrown to the bowler’s end, missing the wickets. Retrieved. Another shy at the stumps. All the while, the men in the middle just keep on running backwards and forwards. A fielder actually has the ball in his hands by the wicket. Fate once again intervenes as he takes a swipe at the stumps, misses them completely, and drops the ball all in the same motion. Distress signals are thrown throughout the fielding team as the Chopper and a redeemed Saul complete the fourth run and earn a tie. What a spectacle!!!
Now, extra time. Each team bats 4 overs. Each pair faces an over and everybody bowls 3 balls. Once again, Aryeh wins the toss, and this time the natural-born leader elects to bat. Averaging 9 an over, all the players performed admirably in amassing 36 runs with only the loss of one wicket. Nevertheless, it had to be said, a reachable target. YMCA, however, were confident. Coming back like the way they did from the jaws of defeat, how could they lose now?
Bet Shemesh began with a swagger. A gent sporting a daunting tank top vest whose name eludes me, striking a grizzled pose, ruthlessly struck the first ball to the boundary and scored 5 runs. Both teams showed great spirit and tenacity. The game proceeded neck and neck and came down to the wire.
The last 3 balls. Four runs to win.
Last ball. Two runs to win.
And who was the bowler? Of course. Saul, of the Hidden Dragon.
Pitched slightly outside the off stump, beguilingly filled with a magic potion stemming from the sub-continent, the ball was met with a flaying bat skying the ball beyond the bowler. All was still. It seemed like an eternity that the missile hovered in mid-air.
Fittingly, first to react was The Chopper. With propellers whirling, he came storming in from the boundary and was just about to scream, “It’s mine”, knowing full well that his would be a futile attempt. But then, suddenly, in the corner of his eye, he saw Clint, perched at the ready, as cool as the coolest cucumber, about to do his duty. Clint caught the ball in the safe palms of his hands and YMCA had won.
Never mind Marlon Brando. The entire team, and Saul’s bride as the chief supporter, were true contenders.
Brett, the intrepid captain of the team, helplessly stranded on the other side of the world, can be most proud of his charges. Someone commented that he was probably saying tehillim precisely when victory was achieved.
The lights of Israel’s City of the Future shone brighter on Saturday night. Shavua tov, chaps.