Underway at the new home of Rio cricket in Itaguai
A year ago, the Carioca Cricket Club didn’t exist, but on Friday 2 November they proudly hosted the National Championships of Brazil, welcoming their friends from Distrito Federal (DF), Paraná (PR) and São Paulo (SP). For a cricket player in Brazil, it doesn’t really get any better – a Twenty20 tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Four state teams bristling with talent, a round-robin competition played over a long weekend, held on the outskirts of one of the most spectacular cities in the world. Who could say no?
Staged at the charming São Fernando Polo Club near Itaguai, about sixty kilometres from Ipanema, the tournament brought together players, families and friends to a beautiful new home for cricket. The newly-renovated stand was filled, the pitch (repeatedly) marked out, and the caipirinhas well-iced, and after months of preparation, only the forecast of dodgy weather conditions could stand in the way.
DAY 1, Friday 2 November
RJ v DF
Gloomy skies may have hreatened to delay the beginning of the first match, but as the drizzle held at bay, it was left to the home side to wish it had. Put into bat by a wily Brasilia bunch, the visitors got a good look at how the new Notts roll-out pitch played on the short-cut grass underneath. It turned out to be a good decision. The Rio team, which had easily accounted for DF in June in Curitiba, was itself rolled out for a disappointing 61 runs without getting close to batting through their 20 overs. Only Vivek (14) was to reach double-figures, whilst of the bowlers, Tim Morris (3/15 off 4 overs) and Henrique Dolabella (3/19 off 3) scooped up the wickets with aplomb, Alexandre Miziara (1/17 off 3) and Fábio dela Pace (1/6/2) keeping the pressure on to the death.
In reply, DF had an early scare, losing Vinod first ball, the first of a raft of lbw decisions that would be a talking point over the weekend. The innings was steadied by Paul Davey (20) and Morris (12) which enabled the visitors to reach the target with just five wickets down in the 14th over. Vivek (2/14/3) led the RJ bowlers, all of whom bowled tidily, but, with only 3 runs an over required, there was little to defend.
The men in white
RJ Development XI v DF
In the second match of the day, a friendly with no bearing on the championship, the ever- growing CCC fielded another team which included veterans, novices and those somewhere in between. The game was not that friendly for the DF top order, which crumpled to 4/22 as the development side showed the rest of the CCC how to do it. A modest recovery took the team from the capital to an all-out total of 98 in the 16th over. Vince Bastick (25no), Dolabella (18) and Oliver Ballhatchett (making a welcome 17 in a surprise return to his former team) helped avoid an embarrassing score.
There were also some excellent bowling performances, most notably Johnny Pringle (3/2/2 – yes, that was 3 wickets for 2 measly runs in his two overs), Ed Riley (4/28/4 in his first match in many a year by his own admission) and Shajeel (3/16/3) with his accurate off-spin.
The RJ Development XI got their innings off to a very good start, making 35 before a wicket fell. Vivek (21) was again in the runs until he punched a low ball to cover. A few more quick wickets fell and the Cariocas were in a bit of trouble at 5/53. But it was the experience of Vim (29) that proved the difference, with good support from Riley (11 no). Reaching 7/102 in the 18th over, the Development XI restored some pride for the CCC with a deserved win.
DAY 2, Saturday 3 November
SP v DF
As the players stretched and warmed up and looked for their boxes and gloves, clouds again looked down upon the picturesque cricket ground. The captains tossed and SP invited their opponents to bat, presumably for the same reason the DF captain had sent RJ in the previous day.
A sure-fire combination of good bowling and ordinary batting saw a steady file of DF batsmen entering and departing the middle of the field. Your reporter (20) was the only Brasiliense to reach double-figures, while 14 welcome extras helped DF limp to a total of 69. Hamed, the new speedster for the Paulistas, did the early damage (3/9 off 4) and Daniel Lefèvre (3/23/4) cleaned up the unwagging tail.
As he has done many times before, SP and Brazil opener Greigor Caisley set about the total with forceful precision. Had you gone off to make a quick sandwich, you’d have missed most of his 41 runs, while Fasih Uddin (28no) showed his class as well. SP needed only 8.1 overs to reach 1/73 to take the win and have time for a bit of lunch before their next match. Only Dhanushka Jayamal (1/13/2.1) found a way to take a wicket. A thumping win to SP.
PR v RJ
The Paraná team raced to 0/50 before ABC president Norman Baldwin (23) had his stumps rearranged and soon after, Hammad Durrani (21) was bowled by Doug Gray. This was the first of five victims for the medium-pacer (5/14/4) and his spell reduced the men from Curitiba to 6/59 in quick time. Good hitting from Munish Sood (19) helped PR post a reasonable total of 96 in 17 overs.
The RJ team were intent on righting the previous day’s batting wrongs infront of the filling arquibancada. While their fans sipped caiparinhas and urged their dogs to not eat the cricket balls, the openers ambled their way to the crease. Captain Rob Wallace was seeing the ball well and reached 51 in fine style before holing out. Gray (12no) and Vim saw RJ home with 2/97 in the 15th over, PR conceding 21 extras which hardly helped their cause.
SP v PR
The Greens of Paraná again batted first in the third fixture of the day. The overcast conditions continued, which seemed to suit players, especially the swing bowlers. Opener Rohit Khemani swung the willow like a pendulum, hitting six fours and four sixes before departing for 66. With inconsistent support from the other batsmen, PR were all out for 133 in the 18th over. Hamed continued to be SP captain Matt Featherstone’s main weapon, taking 4/10 in 4 overs of precise medium-fast bowling.
The more challenging total did not change the approach of Caisley. He also sent the ball sailing over the boundary four times and rattled off 60 runs in quick time. Featherstone (26 retired hurt) and Warwick Heaney (18no) carried on the brisk scoring until the the 14th over when SP reached 2/136. Mustafa (1/18/3) was the best of the nine PR bowlers used in this innings.
CCC commentator, Sinatra impersonator and rum expert Tobias Hanbury
DAY 3, Sunday 4 November
PR v DF
The sun was threatening to make an appearance as players arrived at 10.00am. With a slim chance of winning the tournament, depending on the result of the second match, the DF openers Davey and Dolabella took guard. They and three others fell in rapid succession, leaving the inlanders scratching their chins at 5/22. However, a fine partnership by Morris (45 no) and Vinod Kumar (24no) gave a veneer of respectability to the total, 6/121 in 20 overs. Annand (3/18/4) and Jeetu Khemani (2/12/4) bowled tightly and were well supported by the other bowlers and fieldsmen.
Paraná, not to be outdone in the collapse department, were scratching more than their chins at 9/44. The destroyer for DF was Morris (5/20/4), continuing his very good form. Dolabella (3/11/2) maintained his canny ability to pick up wickets, while captain Alexandre Miziara (0/7/4) maintained pressure at his end. Two sharp stumpings by Davey also helped the DF cause.
From what most would acknowledge to be a pretty hopeless position, there emerged what all cricket fans like to see, a 10th wicket rear-guard action. Annand (28no) and Stephen Greene (17) worked and slogged the ball to all parts of the ground and some parts beyond. The boys from Brasília were feeling queasy and it wasn’t just the effects of the night before. With 10 runs to get in 3 overs, Paraná dared to dream victory was theirs.
But then Greene guided a catch to backward square and PR was denied what would have been a popular victory with the crowd. A Gaucho barbeque with ribs the size of cricket bats was the reward for both teams after an entertaining match.
RJ v SP
This encounter was billed before the tournament by media commentators and fans alike as the match to decide the champions for 2012. SP, having already despatched DF and PR, needed to win well to make up for their 3rd in Curitiba in June. Rio were also statistically capable of the title, despite their Day 1 loss.
Children paused in their play, the large, brown dog known as Pinga lumbered off to the shade and the announcers’ droll commentary recommenced as the SP openers Caisley and Fasih strode to the crease. The red leather was soon flying to the boundary and it was Prashant (44) and Fasih (32) who put on a great partnership of 58 in quick time off some loose bowling. Featherstone (22), Johnny Randolph (14) and Heaney (13) carried on to take the total to 7/171, the highest score to date in the tournament. It would have most likely been much more if not for some refreshingly superb catching from the Cariocas. Six of the wickets went to catches, none of them easy and none better than the two taken by Pringle.
With the vocal crowd behind them, the Rio batsmen, requiring 8.6 runs per over, set about reeling in the imposing total. However, it was again the bowler of the tournament, Hamed, who made life uncomfortable for the batsmen. His 1/4 off 4 overs, with Lefèvre (4/17/4) making hay at the other end, reduced the home team to 5/21 after 6 overs. Carioca heads were shaking once again.
Enter Pringle, who gloriously set about the SP attack like a man possessed. Six sixes punctuated his clean-hitting innings of 58, supported by CCC president Nick Gibson (14) and Duncan Wallace (13) as the total raced past the 100 mark. Once Pringle was bowled by Heaney the chase lost momentum and the last wicket fell in the penultimate over – Rio all out for 120. It was a valiant fightback but SP, with their experience and talent, held their nerve. After the early damage by Hamed and Lefèvre, Heaney (2/25/2) and Richard Avery (2/29/3) bought the final wickets with runs to spare.
So it’s another São Paulo engraving on the national T20 Cup. Their unbeaten record here in Rio, combined with an unusual third in Curitiba in June, eqaulled the number of wins by Distrito Federal (2nd in both tournaments). With both teams on 4 wins and 2 losses overall, net run rate showed SP as the clear champions for 2012, while RJ can gain consolation in their winning the first leg in Curitiba.
This tournament was a huge success. Seven matches in three days, a wonderful new venue for Brazilian cricket, a great sporting spirit displayed by all, live commentary, even a trumpeter to add theme music at key moments – this was a real event. Bring on the next one!
CCC Captain Rob Wallace, President Nick Gibson and landlord and friend Abel, along with Brazil captain Matt Featherstone, congratulate the players on a hard-fought weekend