T20 Mumbai League 2019: ARCS Andheri become the first team to qualify for the semi-finals

ARCS Andheri all-rounder Iqbal Abdulla gave an all-round performance as he scored a half-century with the bat and bagged two wickets with the ball

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In a contest of the all-rounders, it was ARCS Andheri’s Iqbal Abdulla who pipped the Eagle Thane Strikers’ Alpesh Ramjani to ensure his side become the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of Season 2 of T20 Mumbai. The Strikers’ southpaw Ramjani put in a heroic performance, scoring a fifty but ultimately didn’t have enough gas in the tank to help his side across the line, as they now face an extremely uphill task to make the knockout phase.

After electing to bowl first, the Eagle Strikers got off to the perfect start, conceding just five runs off the first two overs while also sending the in-form Akhil Herwadkar back to the pavilion for a duck. Iqbal Abdulla and Kevin Almeida though the ARCS right back on track, getting them to 43 without losing any further wickets.

A few overs later, Abdulla nudged one to the long on boundary to get his first fifty of the season. Almeida too got into, smashing a brilliant straight six off to bring up the 100-run partnership, and kept the runs going with another six that brought up his half-century.

However, both the batsmen were soon dismissed after they scored their respective half-centuries.

After which, with two players at the crease, the Eagles tried to assert to dominance yet again as their spinners gave away eight runs in the next couple of overs which also sending Gaurav Jathar back to the hut. New man Azhar Ansari was also dismissed cheaply, as the Eagles managed a dramatic turnaround in the later stage of the first innings.

Matters got worse for the ARCS as Shubham Ranjane was the next man dismissed playing a rash shot, as Solanki ended with figures of 4/31 on his Season 2 debut. The wickets kept tumbling as Sufiyan Sheikh was the next man out courtesy of a brilliant diving catch in the deep, immediately after hitting a six over long on. Kruthik Hanagavadi then bowled a tidy last over, conceding just eight runs as the ARCS Andheri ended with a paltry score of 154 despite their splendid start.

In reply, the Eagles lost opener Sachin Wagh in the very first over, as a quick delivery from Tushar Deshpande first found his outside edge and then the gloves of keeper Sheikh. The wicket caused the chasing team to tread cautiously, as they got to 41 after the end of the powerplay.

However, Abdulla who starred with the bat earlier in the day came on to the ball and picked a wicket off just his second delivery, inticing Jaideep Pardeshi to play a reckless shot. Captain Aditya Tare though was undeterred, as he began building an innings with the new batsmen, piercing the gaps in the field and scoring the occasional boundaries.

The ARCS spinners though kept bowling a tight line and maintaining the pressure on the batsman, and ensured the run rate crept above 10 at the midway stage of the Strikers’ innings. The pressure eventually told as Abdulla nabbed his second of the night, picking up all-rounder Sagar Mishra. The veteran spinner ended the day with figures of 2/20 in his four overs to cap off an excellent day with bowl and bat.

With wickets tumbling at regular intervals, the task for the Strikers was getting more daunting as they now needed 71 off the last six overs. Tare was next to fall victim to the scoreboard pressure, as he sliced one in the air to be caught at deep mid-wicket. Another wicket fell in quick succession, as new man Rakesh Prabhu also found the fielder in the deep as Ranjane picked his second of the night.

Alpesh Ramjani though kept the fight on for the Eagles with two sixes and a four in the 17th over, leaving the equation at 37 runs off the last three.  Ankur Singh though bowled a peach of an over next up, conceding just five runs to tilt the game back in the fielding side’s favour.

That position was further augmented with a spectacular piece of fielding by Herwadkar, coupled with a direct throw from the deep to dismiss Shrikant Limbole. That was followed by another run-out, this time helped by Ranjane’s throw from long off.

Ramjani though was undeterred, as he scored a four and a six after that, to leave the equation at 16 off seven. Almeida though held his nerve as a quicker one at the pads up next had Ramjani trapped leg before wicket.

With two tailenders at the crease, Singh bowled another beautiful over, conceding just two runs as ARCS Andheri emerged victorious and qualified to the semi-finals for Season 2.

Brief Score:

ARCS Andheri: 154/8 (Kevin Almeida 59, Iqbal Abdulla 54, Prashant Solanki 4/31) beat Eagle Thane Strikers: 142/8 (Alpesh Ramjani 50, Aditya Tare 48, Iqbal Abdulla 2/20)

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