So the day of destiny arrived for Levante CC who knew that victory in the final game of the season would result in them being crowned the ECCL division 2 champions at the first time of asking. Stood firmly in their way however, were the team from Madrid who had gone the distance with Levante the day before.
The Levante victory first time around was a hard fought battle and the tired faces and bodies around the VCG at 10am were testament to that. Defeat the previous day seemed to spur on Madrid even further as they knew they could push the champions elect all the way. What was to follow was not only a thrilling game of cricket but a phenomenal end to a tough league season..
The day started in similar fashion to the previous day as Levante again lost the toss. On this occasion the Madrid skipper David Stirton decided to have a bat and see if he could take advantage of the tired Levante bowlers. There was one change though as the Madrid openers came out to bat minus the dangerman Jay.
It didn't take long for him to arrive at the crease in a new position of no.3 as Tivey, opening the bowling for Levante, wasted no time in having Clark (3) caught. Jay continued where he'd left off the previous day and this time he found a partner in Goldsmith (20) that stayed with him to take the score past 50 before the latter became the next Tivey victim. James Bancroft came in at 4 but didn't last long, Tivey again the man to take the scalp.
When Rao followed soon after off the bowling of Kar (1-31) and the score on 67/4 Levante looked well on their way to getting Madrid cheaply. This time however the middle order built on the foundation that Jay had created and Stirton (26) started things off before being caught off the bowling of Burchell (1-32), who was playing on with a dislocated finger after fielding a ball in the very first over of the day.
Next man in was Joss Bancroft (35) who arrived at the crease with plenty of men around the bat after his defensive heroics the previous day. This time though he showed he could play shots too and he cashed in on the close fielders by hitting the ball back over the top on a number of occasions.
The score went past the 150 mark and Jay was still playing his shots at the other end. After missing out on a century the day before he looked certain to make one this time but then Tivey (4-65) staked his claim for man of the match when he trapped the dangerman LBW for a brilliant 90.
Any thoughts Madrid would crumble soon passed though as Bancroft and Soloman went on the attack. The Levante bowlers and fielders were really beginning to feel the tiredness now though and the Madrid batsmen were good enough to take advantage. Bancroft did go in the over before tea, caught by Hunt off the bowling of Tickel (1-37) to give Levante hope at 204/7.
The bowlers would give it one last push at skittling the Madrid team but Soloman (42no) batted very well and with help from Angappan (12no) they saw their team to 252 for 7 declared.
This left Levante chasing 253 to win the match, and indeed the title, in approximately 45 overs. As if the situation and the pressure wasn't high enough, the chase would be a record victory in the division this season as no other team had successfully chased down more than 250.
The fact Levante only took 3 bowling bonus points meant the draw was now out of the question. It was win or bust.
In contrast to how the rest of the weekend had gone thus far, the Levante reply actually got off to quite a calm and measured start.
Kakkad and Little were opening together for the first time and they settled in to things by waiting for the bad ball and not taking any risks. As drinks approached after 16 overs the 50 had just been passed but more importantly no wickets had been lost and the Madrid bowlers and fielders were beginning to feel the pinch of a long, hard weekend. Despite the run rate approaching the 8 an over mark the opening pair still played things perfectly as more and more bad balls were coming their way and being punished in boundaries.
Little (39) was the first to go as he tried to increase the scoring rate and so Hunt joined Kakkad in the middle. Given more of a license to attack than usual, Hunt set off in typical style smashing 25 off 17 balls before being a little unlucky when adjudged to have been caught by wicketkeeper of the bowling of the 11 year old Madrid youngster.
That didn't slow things down though as Morgan came to the crease with a 20/20 style mindset and he punished all the Madrid bowlers as he smashed three consecutive fours at one point, bringing about a fist pump of sheer adrenaline. He went soon after for 39 but Kakkad was still playing the perfect holding innings at the other end and with the score on 161 and the required rate now around a run a ball, Levante were putting themselves into a strong position.
If only chasing big targets was so easy! First skipper Noon made an idiotic decision to come down the track to his second ball and was stumped for a duck and then Tivey skied one into the air to be caught out for 5. From 161/2 to 174 for 5, Levante were in the midst of a collapse that could destroy their entire season.
With club leading run scorer Burchell still hurting from his dislocated finger, the job was becoming increasingly difficulty. Pilkington joined Kakkad at the crease and the pair were initially cautious to get the chase back on track. Madrid had found a second wind and were bowling as well as they had done in the weekend so far.
Having got himself in, Pilkington (34) then started playing some big shots to try to get Levante back ahead in the chase and he did so with aplomb. With 24 needed off the last 30 balls Pilkington was finally dismissed when looking like he would see the job through.
Was there to be one final twist in a weekend that was conjuring up magic from every corner? Not a chance of it. Kakkad, who had held the team innings together majestically, then timed his own onslaught to perfection.
First he hit a couple of boundaries to demoralise Madrid and then, with 9 needed to win the game and 7 for him to reach a century, he smashed successive sixes back over the bowlers head to bring up his 100 and win the game and title for Levante CC.
It was a game won in the style befitting of not only the two games over the weekend but the championship winning season on the whole.
For Kakkad will forever be the memory of winning the title for Levante in their first season whilst smashing two sixes to bring up his own 100, the first by any player for the club so far.
Our thanks go to Madrid for two unbelievably difficult games. They did their club and La Manga proud for the performances they put in and perhaps on another day one or both of the results might have been different. Well done to all of the teams in the ECCL division 2 this season for a brilliant season played in great spirit.
Commiserations to La Manga for missing out on the title, we're sure they'll be back to give it a real go next season.
Thanks to umpire Keith Clark who officiated both games by himself this weekend.
As most games this season it was another great team effort from all of the lads, especially with two games in two days and playing under the kind of pressure our young club is not used to. Tivey bowled a remarkable 16 overs for his 4 wickets, Burchell played the entire game with a dislocated finger, Pilkington and Hoy gave everything they had from their ridiculously long run ups and contributed with the bat too.
Tickel broke yet another important partnership whilst Hamza again showed what a great bowler he is. Hunt and Little really stepped up with the bat whilst Morgan was brilliant with the wicketkeeping gloves and the bat. It was a performance and chase deserving of champions.
Man of the match was still an easy decision though. Kakkad's 105 not out was the first century for the club and the way he timed his innings whilst keeping a cool head was sensational. Had he not performed in this manner, this match report might well have been somewhat different/
Finally, thanks to all at Levante CC for a fantastic season and to everyone that has played a part in our success. See you all next season.
LEVANTE CRICKET CLUB: ECCL DIVISION 2 CHAMPIONS 2013
Captain, Levante Cricket Club.