MiLC Playoffs Preview

An incredible final weekend of the regular season saw three of the four divisions up for grabs until the final day, with thrilling run chases and wild finishes abound. Now we can turn our attention to the playoffs. The conference semi-finals will each be a best of three series, with the winners advancing to Church Street Park for Finals Weekend. In this preview, Tom Nielsen highlights the top five players from each team (mid-season departures excluded) in terms of total impact.

(As a reminder, impact stats are a measure-in runs-of a player’s contribution to his team compared to the average player in the same match situations: positive batting impacts are good and negative bowling impacts are good.  We’ll dive into each match-up and highlight what to watch for when you tune into playoff action this weekend, all live on the MLC Network YouTube channel.)

Atlantic Conference Semi-finals

New Jersey Stallions vs. Morrisville Raptors, Church St. Park

New Jersey Stallions: 12-2, 1st place in the Eastern Division; +0.8 Batting Impact per 20 overs, 3rd in Division; -16.9 Bowling Impact per 20 overs, 2nd in Division

Morrisville Raptors: 9-4, 2nd place in Southern Division; +12.8 Batting Impact, 3rd; -1.6 Bowling Impact, 3rd

Just as in 2021, the Stallions head into the playoffs with a solid core to their bowling attack, all featuring in the above impact table. Each has gone 35+ overs at bowling impacts near or better than -1 run per over. Mylavarapu is the standout with 14 wickets and a 5.59 economy across his 45.5 overs. Jessy Singh will be coming off USA duty in Scotland: though he hasn’t been in the wickets quite as much this year as last, he boasts an even tighter 5.12 economy, best in the Atlantic Conference out of qualifying bowlers. Anthony Bramble is the fastest scoring bat in the side; since moving up the order from fifth in the order to opener, he’s scored at a 160 strike rate, including an outstanding 80* (43) against a stellar DC Hawks bowling attack. Dominique Rikhi is the team’s leading scorer and plays an extremely reliable anchor role, scoring under 19 runs just twice on the season despite a relatively low 117 strike rate.

Morrisville is led by the dynamic duo of Lahiru Milantha and Obus Pienaar with the bat. Lahiru opens and leads the team with 511 runs at a respectable 149 strike rate, while Obus comes in at four and has revamped his scoring style a bit this year with a strong 160 strike rate, up from just 122 last year. Captain Dane Piedt makes full use of a deep bowling lineup, with only two bowlers topping 30 overs on the season; all other playoff teams have at least four. Siva Kumar Duvvarapu and Karthikeya Jagadish have been tops on a per-over basis: Siva Kumar sporting a tight 6.09 economy from his 22 overs and Karthikeya Jagadish taking 12 wickets from just 18 overs. All the bowling options allow Morrisville to effectively play match-ups and mix and match their bowling attack.

This is a quasi-rematch of last year’s Atlantic Conference Semi-finals, when the New Jersey Stallions swept through Morrisville at Church Street Park on their way to winning the Atlantic Conference championship. New Jersey has just had two matches on natural turf this year but won both including a matchup with the Atlanta Fire. With many key pieces remaining from last year’s side, they may be immune, or at least accustomed to, the big stage at Church Street Park and its accompanying Morrisville Magic.

Atlanta Fire vs. Manhattan Yorkers, Atlanta Cricket Fields

Atlanta Fire: 9-4, 1st place in the Southern Division; +16.6 Batting Impact, 2nd; -8.6 Bowling Impact, 1st

Manhattan Yorkers: 10-4, 2nd place in Eastern Division; +27.4 Batting Impact, 1st; -17.3 Bowling Impact, 1st

The big story coming into this series for the Atlanta Fire will be how can they cope with the loss of Rahkeem Cornwall to the Caribbean Premier League: he will leave an explosive hole at the top of the order, not to mention the reliable bowling figures he provided throughout the year. Luckily for Atlanta, they will get back Steven Taylor and Aaron Jones from USA duty, both of whom have missed much of the season representing their country. Wicket-keeper Jahmar Hamilton also provides some power from the middle of the order, scoring 310 runs at a 155 strike rate on the season. Bowling support to replace Cornwall comes in the form of spinner Nasir Hossain, who joined the Fire for the final weekend and promptly took five wickets from 10 overs at a 4.80 economy, while providing some handy middle order batting as well. Elsewhere, Amila Aponso and Corné Dry continued their excellence from last season, spearheading Atlanta Fire’s bowling.

Despite higher than typical roster fluctuation in-season, the Manhattan Yorkers have consistently been one of the best teams in the league, leading the Atlantic Conference in both batting and bowling impact on the season on their way to posting a 10-4 record and the best net run rate in the league. Manhattan has coped with the loss of big bopper John Campbell (253 runs at a blistering 213 strike rate) by bringing in Shawn Findlay and Christopher Barnwell, who was one of Minor League Cricket’s top bats in 2021. While Denesh Patel leads the team in runs at a steady 378, Bhaskar Yadram may be the most effective bat in the side, scoring 318 runs at a 156 strike rate. While Yadram has played the finisher role well, he’s arguably under-utilized coming in at five or six, and not even batting on four occasions this year (these admittedly being wins and relatively easy chases for the Yorkers). Yadram leads with the ball as well, leading the team with 21 wickets at a 6.77 economy, restricting his opponents’ totals by about a run per over.

Both Atlanta and Manhattan will be getting US National Team reinforcements: Jones and Taylor for the Fire, and Gajanand Singh and Yasir Mohammad for the Yorkers. This series could come down to which of these stars can best manage jetlag and a hectic travel and playing schedule to perform.

Pacific Conference Semi-finals

Silicon Valley Strikers vs. Chicago Tigers, Morgan Hill

Silicon Valley Strikers: 13-1, 1st place in the Western Division; +27.5 Batting Impact, 2nd; -1.7 Bowling Impact, 2nd

Chicago Tigers: 8-5, 2nd place in Central Division; +10.8 Batting Impact, 1st; +3.0 Bowling Impact, 6th

The defending champion Silicon Valley Strikers return to the playoffs after a stellar 13-1 regular season. The Strikers are led by the top two players in career Minor League Cricket runs, Shehan Jayasuriya and Unmukt Chand. Jayasuriya has put up an incredible 647 runs at a 152 strike rate on the season, adding an average of +14.7 runs to Strikers’ totals relative to the average batter. As if this pair wasn’t enough, the Strikers went and added West Indian star Lendl Simmons on the final weekend. If you really squint, maybe the Strikers are a bowler short after losing Raymon Reifer, though they got excellent production all season from Pranay Suri: 20 wickets from 40 overs at a 6.58 economy and in just six matches, Saurabh Netravalkar put up insane figures with 14 wickets and a 4.47 economy from 22.1 overs.

The Chicago Tigers have made the playoffs in their debut season in Minor League Cricket, quickly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch. The star of the show is clearly Calvin Savage, perhaps the best all-rounder in the league. Savage has lived up to his name, posting 216 runs at a blazing 171 strike rate with the bat, while taking 17 wickets from 40 overs at a league-best 4.75 economy with the ball. The Tigers have a deep batting lineup, posting the best team batting impact in the division. Supporting Savage is Saad Ali and Marques Ackerman, each of whom posted just shy of 300 runs with the bat at solid strike rates. Calvin Savage’s opening bowling partner is Ranadeep Aleti, who has taken 15 wickets from 48 overs at a solid 6.46 economy, while Sami Sohail leads the team in wickets with 21 from 43.5 overs at a more expensive 8.51 economy.

This is a rematch from the holiday weekend earlier in the year. Silicon Valley put up 215 runs on the Savage-less Tigers, but the Tigers put up a respectable 175 in response, playing with good intent up and down the order. The key in the playoffs will be how the Tigers bowlers can manage the top order for the Strikers, who will open with Lendl Simmons and Unmukt Chand, followed by Jayasuriya. The Tigers consistently open the bowling with the Calvin Savage/Ranadeep Aleti pair. These are the Tigers’ two most economical bowlers: if they can’t remove two of the big three from Silicon Valley before the middle overs, the Strikers will look to put up big numbers on the rest of the Tigers’ relatively expensive bowling attack.

Dallas Mustangs vs. Seattle Thunderbolts, Moosa Stadium

Dallas Mustangs: 12-2, 1st place in the Central Division; +3.2 Batting Impact, 3rd; -15.8 Bowling Impact, 1st

Seattle Thunderbolts: 11-3, 2nd place in Western Division; +13.3 Batting Impact, 3rd; -29.7 Bowling Impact, 1st

The Dallas Mustangs come into the playoffs with one of the strongest bowling sides in the league, led by US National Teamer Nosh Kenjige, who sports an incredible -3.45 run per over bowling impact on the back of 23 wickets at a 4.83 economy from his 38.3 overs. After Nosh, Dallas goes deep with their bowlers, with seven guys taking nine more wickets on the season. Look for Naseer Jamali to open the bowling with Ali Sheikh coming in the middle overs as the next leading bowlers for Dallas. After the departure of Farhan Sahibzada to the Kashmir Premier League, the Mustangs were left with one big bat in Sujith Gowda. That said, they’ve since re-loaded by adding Willem Ludick – a top bat from Minor League Cricket in 2021 – and Denesh Ramdin, who has extensive international experience with the West Indies as well as the Caribbean Premier League. On top of that, they’ll get consistent contributor Sushant Modani back from US National Team duty.

Seattle is cut from a very similar mold to Dallas, with the best bowling attack in the league and a big bat leading the side. The Seattle bowling attack does go deeper than Dallas, with Harmeet Singh (5.11 economy) and Phani Simhadri (MiLC-leading 33 wickets) sporting outstanding bowling impacts at or better than -2.5 runs per over, in addition to strong contributions from Akhilesh Bodugum and Shadley van Schalkwyk. Andries Gous indisputably leads the batting for Seattle, putting up a team-leading 498 runs on the season, more than double second place Rishi Bhardwaj at 215. In the thrilling final match of the season, the Thunderbolts promoted Harmeet Singh up the order to #3 and were rewarded with a playoff-clinching 45* (13), hinting at some interesting lineup options going into the playoffs. Like Dallas, the Thunderbolts also made a key final weekend add in Rayyan Pathan, who scored 92 runs at an absurd 214 strike rate from the final two matches.

This is perhaps the most finely-poised matchup of the Conference Semi-final stage. We have two sides that are new to the playoffs with similar builds: standout bowling and late-season batting adds that can make a huge impact.