SM40 Match 2 Empire CC vs Vantaa Super Kings - Saturday May 21 2011

Final score
Empire CC 197 ao - Vantaa Super Kings 201 for 9 - VSK win by 4 runs

Match report
In preparation of Empire's second match, the big one against the first place Vantaa Super Kings, Empire had two very intensive training sessions during the week. And with these training sessions as preparation Empire went into the match brimming with confidence. And it showed in a great performance by Empire, narrowly losing to VSK by 4 runs. Considering we were blasted out last season in two matches by the VSK fast bowlers, Amjad and Khan, this was a real achievement.

It was a beautiful day for cricket with sunny skies and temperatures around 10 degrees as Empire made their way to our old home ground Rajakyla in good spirits. The toss was lost, but we got the decision our captain wanted, with VSK sending us into the field. Imran and Mustafa took the new ball for us and though Imran's first over had a couple of loose deliveries, both were very economical, tying the VSK openers Fahad and Farukh down. Considering that the VSK openers pretty much destroyed Espoo B scoring 100 runs in about 8 overs to win that match, things were looking good for Empire. The constant pressure finally brought a break-through in the 5th over as Imran breached Fahad's defences with Fahad being bowled for 4. With Mubashir coming in next, Imran and Mustafa kept on applying the pressure by bowling a good line and length. The VSK batsmen were being tied down, but Empire was not able to get the vital breakthrough. After seeing off Mustafa and Imran, the VSK batsman started to score some much needed runs and started to rotate the strike building a partnership of 40 runs. With the partnership looking to press on, Nitin brought himself on and was successful in taking Farukh's wicket, Farukh playing back on one, he should have been forward to. Unluckily the next batsman in, Junaid, left off where Farukh ended, building a solid partnership with Mubashir. Unfortunately it was our own fault that we let the partnership grow, with us dropping two vital catches in the field and allowing additional runs through a couple of miss-fields on the boundary line. The partnership was left unbroken when we headed into drinks with VSK at 100 for 2 after 20 overs. After the drinks break, Nitin went looking for the breakthrough bringing Imran and Mustafa back into the attack. As it was in the first match against Kerava, this move worked like a charm with Junaid holing out to mid-on (Badger) off the bowling of Mustafa. Mustafa's well deserved maiden wicket in Finland. Things took another turn in Empire's favor when Suman induced a leading edge from Ash and Suman diving around the non-striker to took a magnificent catch off his own bowling. Ash was out for 1 and Empire was in the ascendancy.  But VSK still had the experience of Wasim and Abbas to come and they promptly started building a key partnership for the 6th wicket. Wasim and Abbas quietly took the singles offered and took advantage of the loose deliveries hitting these for boundaries, which led to a partnership of 42 runs. Luckily for Empire, or better yet through great skill by Nitin, finally broke the partnership by quickly fielding a drop and run try by Wasim and knocking the stumps down with a direct hit. Abbas though kept on hitting, getting the score up to 184 for 7 until he was bowled by Imran. The tail batted out the overs and VSK finished their innings at 201 for 9. A solid total to be sure and one VSK with their bowling attack thought would be safe, however Empire was also confident, with us batting 8 deep, that we could chase down the score. 

After a hearty lunch of spicy birjani provided by VSK, Empire was in good spirits heading into our innings. Bupesh and Sawan went in brimming with confidence and decided to take the attack to VSK's new ball partnership of Amjad and Khan. In quick time Sawan and Bupesh put on 43 runs, playing some beautiful drives through the covers, majestic pulls through square leg and some deft defending. Things were looking really good for Empire as Sawan and Bhupesh were almost able to see off Amjad and Khan without losing any wickets. But then Amjad struck in his last over of his spell and with the help of the umpire was able to induce a really thin edge or no edge at all depending on whom you ask from Sawan. Sawan was out for 20 playing a gamely knock and seeing off both Amjad and Khan. However Empire was not out of the woods yet, as Junaid (VSK's captain) brought on the wiley veteran Abbas who got Fahad trying to play an ambitious shot off a ball way outside off-stump and with some uneven bounce edged one to Tariq, the VSK wicket keeper. Things went from bad to worse as Abbas got Suman, the next batsman in, LBW for a golden duck. Empire were wobbling at 44 for 3. Things then went pear shaped as Nisar, in at number 5, was run out after Bupesh played one into the covers and set off for a single. Empire was now at 45 for 4. Though things were looking bleak, we still believed we were in with a shout with Nitin, Imran and Badger still to come. Our confidence was definitely not misplaced as Nitin came in and solidified the innings with Bupesh with a partnership of 35 runs for the 6th wicket. Junaid had other thoughts though and in his second over got Bupesh to edge one to first slip where Khan more hoping than anything taking a sharp catch on his second try. Bupesh was out for 37 playing a brilliant knock. Next in was Imran, who was hoping to take it to the bowlers from the off. However he was looking quite scratchy with the spin duo of Junaid and Ash keeping Imran quiet until Junaid got him edging one to Khan again at first slip. Empire was in the doldrums, but the next batter in Badger quickly got the Empire spirits up, playing a great hand with Nitin scoring at a brisk pace. It was looking like Badger didn't have any lay off last year as he raced to his 50 off 30 balls and Nitin and Badger reached their 50 partnership with Badger straight driving Fahad down the ground. The target set by VSK was getting closer and closer and VSK was getting worried. But then Junaid got one to straighten on Badger and he was bowled for a well played 55. Empire at this point was 169 for 7 with 6 overs left and 32 runs from the win. Shaun was the next in, with the assignment clear, rotate the strike and let Nitin, the set batsman, go for the boundaries. The strategy worked well with the two putting on 20 runs in quick time with Nitin bringing up his 50 with great on-drive off Amjad. But Amjad got his revenge getting Nitin LBW on a full toss. Nitin was out for 58 playing a true captain's knock. When Nitin came in Empire was wobbling at 45 for 4 and when he left, we were inches away from victory at 187 for 8. In came Mustafa with only 15 runs to get in 3 overs, definitely a reachable target. However disaster struck as Shaun got run out after some miscommunication between himself and Mustafa, as Abbas knocked down the stumps with a direct hit from deep square leg with Shaun just short off his crease. Empire was down to their last wicket, but the target was still in sight. Mustafa then decided to end the match as quickly as possible when he absolutely crushed a Khan delivery over cow corner for 6. He then tried the same shot on the next delivery, but he didn't get all of it. What happened next will be discussed at length during Empire socials, Wasim at long on got under the ball on the boundary, had the ball in his hands, but inexplicably dropped it as he tried to avoid stepping on the boundary line. Now depending on who you ask it either fell out of his hands behind or just in front of the boundary. In all the confusion though, Wasim threw the ball back in and with Masum in all the confusion short of his crease at the non-strikers end;,Masum was run out or was he. Wasn't the ball over the boundary and thus dead? The umpires were also confused and went out the check whether they could see a mark indicating whether it was a boundary or not. After checking with the fielder and the marks, the umpires stuck with their original decision and the match was lost in heart-breaking fashion. Empire losing by 4 runs. 

Though we lost, Empire can be proud that we were involved in one of the most exciting SM40 games played in awhile, considering all the ups and downs during the match. VSK even noted that this is the best they have seen Empire play in a long time. Thanks again to VSK for their hospitality and hopefully we can play them again this season in a match just as exciting as this, but hopefully another result. Thanks also to Hyde, Dhina, Shakir, Nipuna, Yathu and Mia for coming out and supporting Empire. Stay tuned as Empire plays our next match against Espoo B next Saturday May 28 at Ruskeasuo. 

Key statistics for the match

Men of the match: 
1. Jonathon Martin - Empire CC - 55 runs
2. Junaid - VSK - 3 for 33; 45 runs
3. Abbas - VSK - 2 for 47 ; 39 runs

Key bowling performances: 
Empire CC:
1. Imran Muhammed - 3 for 27 
2. Suman Kunwar - 2 for 38 
3. Mustafa Kuchey - 1 for 37

Key batting performances: 
Empire CC:
1. Nitin Joshi - 58 runs
2. Jonathon Martin - 55 runs
3. Bhupesh Khoda - 37 runs

Fielding achievements: 
Empire CC:
1. Suman Kunwar - 1 catch, a great diving catch off his own bowling
2. Shaun van den Dobbelsteen - 1 catch 
3. Nitin Joshi - 1 run out, direct hit to run out Abhijit.

Match Scorecards

Match preview

Empire CC's second match will be played against some well known rivals, the Vantaa Super Kings (VSK). So far this year VSK has shown impressive form, dismantling Espoo B by 8 wickets and Turku by 175 runs, leading to them being in first place so far in the SM40 2nd division. With a third place finish in last year's SM40 season, these early season results should come as no surprise. 

Empire had a lot of trouble with VSK last year as well, especially with the potent bowling of Amjad, the left arm fast bowler, who in two matches took 9 Empire wickets, though we had a under-strength squad in the second match. 

But this year, I hope will be different, especially with a full squad to choose from on Saturday.

Form guide:

Empire: L (currently in 7th place)
VSK: WW (currently in 1st place)

Key VSK players:

1. Amjad Mustaq - Medium-fast bowler
2. Akthar Junaid - Middle-order batsman
3. Iqbal Shahid - Opening batsman

Prior year scorecards:

Empire CC XI: 

Nitin Joshi - Captain, Imran Muhammed - Vice Captain, Suman Kunwar, Fahad Ghani, Bupesh Khoda, Mustafa Kuchey, Jonathon Martin, Nisar Malazakay, Sawan Singh, Masum Samad, Shaun van den Dobbelsteen, 

Dhinakaran Siddarthan - 12th man.

Match facts:

Date: Saturday May 21 2011
Time: Approximately 10:30 
Location: Räjäkylä, Rajakentatie 10, Vantaa, Finland
Umpires: Espoo
Pitch: Coconut mat
Weather report: Sunny 16 degrees Celsius

Rajakylä, Vantaa, Finland