Brian Barrish returns with a recap of week three in MiLC action as teams fish for points almost halfway through the season – and if nautical puns make you seasick, click away now!

Following a quick stop at the harbor to refresh provisions after the flurry of games over Independence Day weekend, it was back to the high seas of cricketing adventure for the teams of the Toyota 2022 Minor League Cricket Season presented by Toyota. Eighteen clubs were in action in Round 3 in search of the big fish: precious points ahead of the halfway mark of the season.  Some reeled in the blue marlins of success, while others sprung a leak and floundered.  Along the way we saw two magnificent centuries, one notable for its efficiency and the other for its sheer brute strength, and teams spring majestically out of the depths of the middle of the table and do some fancy flips.

Who plundered their opponents and who were made to walk the plank?  Cast the sails, prepare to make way, and let’s delve into this weekend’s happenings:

Central Division

Tigers are strong swimmers, and when the Chicago Tigers saw the chance to claw their way into the division race, they cat-paddled their hearts out to win three games in as many days.

It started under the lights at Hanover Park on Friday night, as Calvin Savage used his leftover July 4th fireworks in the 19th over to club 32 of his 49* runs.  That outburst, coupled with the Durban native’s 2/24 performance, led his side to the win over the crosstown Blasters, who ended the weekend heretofore as the league’s only remaining winless team. 

The Tigers then went from facing the Central’s worst team to its best, as they welcomed in the 5-0 Dallas Mustangs.  Defending 181 runs, the home team’s bowling attack took all the giddyup out of their guest’s bats. Despite Sujith’s Gowda’s 51, a devastating spell of 2/11 in three overs down the stretch put the target out of reach, and the division leaders were forced to drop anchor on their win streak.

Sensing a sweep, the eyes of the Tigers were focused on the Houston Hurricanes. Sending seven different bowlers to deal with the likes of Ashley Nurse and Matthew Tromp, each and every one of them took a wicket, reducing the men in red to a tropical-depression-like 101.  The target was met with five wickets and 28 deliveries to spare, and the cats from the Windy City were smiling.

Having gained a split with a win over the St. Louis Americans on Sunday, Dallas’s division lead is now down to a single game, with the Tigers now two points behind them and four points clear of the Americans, with the idle Michigan Cricket stars eight points out of first but with three games in hand on the top two.

Western Division

With Dallas no longer unscathed, the Silicon Valley Strikers have become the league’s cthulhu: mystical, cosmic, and otherwise gargantuan.  At least on the league table.

Unmukt Chand finally became a 2022 centurion with a galavanting 104* in Saturday’s match against San Diego, and Shehan Jayasuriya chipped in 63 to set up a target of 218: which the Surf Riders chased bravely but unsuccessfully.  San Diego’s 184 was their highest total of the season, but another seven-tentacled effort with the ball from the Strikers sunk the chase 34 runs short.

While Chand’s Sunday encore against the East Bay Blazers could only yield nine runs, Jaysuriya picked up the slack with 86 to end the weekend with a league leading 445 runs. The former Sri Lankan international’s average went up to an eye-popping 89.00, and his run total is 147 runs ahead of the batter in second… one Unmukt Chand.

But it was all hands on deck for the defending champs in defense of 187. The Blazers’ openers of Saideep Ganesh and David White put on a first wicket partnership of 47 before the latter departed on 35 and the former was dismissed for 56. Chand’s quick batting cameo was atoned with four catches in the field, and Raymon Reifer backed up his 38 runs with the bat unleashing 3/35.  After a see-saw innings, East Bay found themselves needing five runs off the final over to secure a titanic upset, but instead it was a Titanic (with a capital T) ending. A team hat trick off the final three balls – two run outs and Chand’s fourth catch off of Kulvinder Singh’s splendid bowling – sunk the Blazers and propelled Captain Chand and his jolly Strikers to 7-0. Epic stuff.

In spite of the loss, the Blazers are still tied for third with the idle Seattle Thunderbolts, two points behind the Golden State Grizzlies, who split their matches this weekend for the final playoff spot out of the West.  The ‘Bolts, however, have played two less matches than the other teams in the top four.

Eastern Division

Like the untamed horses that fight the currents of Chincoteague Bay in search of the shore, the New Jersey Stallions battled through oncoming waves of runs and wickets to sweep the New England Eagles back-to-back on the road at Keney Park in Hartford to end the weekend on top of the East by a half game over Manhattan Yorkers.

Saturday’s triumph was punctuated by a 63 from Jamaican Paul Palmer and 57 from Saiteja Mukkamalla, as the Stallions defended 161/4 in a twelve-run winning decision. Palmer again top-scored for Jersey on Sunday but this time only for 33, as Andre McCarthy’s sparkling 3/19 looked to stem the tide in search of an Eagles split. After a slow start to the reply that yielded three runs off of as many overs, New England rallied to require 49 off of the final 26 balls. But the Stallions death bowling, led by Karan Patel, kept Marvin Darlington and Archit Patel thirteen runs arrears and two-from-two in the northern sojourn.

But we can’t let an All-Rounder with a nautical theme go by without a sunken treasure reference, and that’s what the New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers gave us on Sunday afternoon against the Empire State Titans.  Entering the game winless from six tries, and a day after capsizing for 105 against the Yorkers, the Cavs’ went searching for gold and found it in opener Chandrapaul Hemraj.  The West Indian international faced 54 balls and thoroughly harpooned every EST bowler he faced to the tune of 130, just two short of Unmakt Chand’s MiLC record of 132 from a season ago.  

Hemraj’s 16 maximums catapulted him into first place league-wide in that category with 23 total, and his opening partnership of 160 in 13.2 overs with Abishek Prabhu – who carried his bat to finish with 42* – was the same amount that the ten Yorkers who toddled to the crease could muster from their full complement of 120 deliveries. Somerset’s 233 ranks as the fourth largest total in league history; they have the most with 252 in the league’s opening weekend last year against the Atlanta Param Veers.

Southern Division

With the Atlanta Cricket Grounds outfield soggier than a forgotten bowl of Cap’n Crunch, postponing the Lightning-Fire match on Saturday, the only games out of the South were the Florida derby matches in Orlando between the hometown Galaxy and the Fort Lauderdale Lions.  Both teams were trying to keep pace with the top-of-the-table Fire with a weekend sweep.

Both matches had different feels to them. Saturday’s encounter saw neither team last the full 20 overs, and a game largely dominated by good bowling on a pitch that saw the winner of each toss choose to bat. Tagenarine Chanderpaul’s 61 was the standout performance for Orlando against a Lions attack that featured a 4-fer from Atul Iyer and pairs from Javelle Glenn, Shamarie Brown, and Ujjwal Vinnakota. Fort Lauderdale’s reply was stymied by four wicket pairs in kind; Manav Patel had Orlando’s best innings with 2/12 and took the game’s final wicket to preserve a 24-run win.

On Sunday, though, it was the batters that shone through.  With the Lions batting first, Roy Silva and Zachary Sattur put on steady numbers in a chase before Glenn came to the crease at 77-for-2.  Loading up the cannon and firing at will, the Jamaican all-rounder had an answer for everything he saw from the Galaxy attack, romping his way to 100 runs on his 39th ball before being caught out on his fortieth. And if you thought another section of this article was going to go by without an Unmukt Chand mention, you’re wrong: Glenn’s effort set the fastest century recorded in MiLC, surpassing Chand’s 54-ball hundred set last season.

The Galaxy tried their best to chase down 219, with openers Meetul Patel and Naseer Ahmed totalling 52 and 41, respectively, but another three wickets from Brown and a three-fer for Masood Mohamed stopped it in its tracks 30 runs short.

So the split was good news for the Fire and the second-place Morrisville Raptors, as they both have a game in hand on third place Orlando and plenty of room for the Atlanta Lightning to catch up having only played three games through the first three weeks.

We now come to the midway buoy of this second Minor League Cricket season, and a few favorites have emerged.  There are 21 matches across the country next weekend, and after a round that largely favored offense, what will we see as teams try to stay in the playoff race?  Tuna in for what should be an ex-squid-ite Round 4! (editor’s note: you’ll walk the plank if you try to bring any more nautical puns this season, Brian!)