Another memorable weekend of Masters Cricket was played at scenic Victoria Park on August 6/7 --- Calgary v Edmonton. After heavy downpours overnight and sustained lightning and thunder activity, it did not appear as if the much-anticipated Alberta initiation of a brand new turf wicket at VP would be possible. But, happily, the skies cleared out and the temps warmed up considerably to make for a great day’s cricket.
Chris James, immediate past president of Cricket Alberta, was honored for being the driving force behind the conversion to turf wicket at the venue. It is a significant accomplishment in that it will now make Alberta a choice venue when national and international events are scheduled in Toronto. Currently, all international matches are assigned to Toronto, which now holds a decidedly unfair advantage over the rest of the country. In his honor, Chris was given a brand new white cricket ball signed by the masters of both cities as well as the opportunity to captain Calgary on the field and he did not disappoint.
It was another clean sweep by the hosts. But winning is secondary when the game is played for its traditional values and where respect for opponents, umpires and everyone else is valued. Edmonton won the toss and sent the visitors in. Calgary were given a solid start by openers Jonathan Bray and Trevor DeFreitas, who put on a 56-run partnership. Bray was the first wicket to fall, attempting a pull shot to wicket which saw the ball clipping the top of his off stump. DeFreitas fell shortly after, but not before becoming the first man to score a fifty on the new wicket. Sohail Abdullah came in at number 3, but his stay was brief, departing without scoring. Chris James was next man in.
The cameras were on when the cricketing icon walked to the crease. He played well during his 30-minute stay, blocking the good ones and attempting to punish the loose ones, but a little rust impeded that ambition until he played right across the line and was bowled by Ryan Rahaman who maintained a steady line and length on or just outside off stump.
One of Alberta’s great batting maestros of the past 35 plus years, Paul St. Rose, came in at 6 and immediately showed flashes of brilliance, reminiscent of the halcyon, glory days of past decades, treating spectators to timely blasts sailing high into the trees at the mid-wicket and long-on boundaries, coupled with a rock-solid defense. He was unbeaten on 54, when the 10th wicket fell, in helping Calgary post a respectable target of 167.
Ryan Rahaman and Sammy Naicken opened Edmonton’s innings and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon from the get-go, taking 16 off the first over, most of it coming off Rahaman’s blade. Rahaman relished the conditions, patiently waiting for anything loose. He thoughtfully carved the mediocre Calgary bowling to all parts of the ground, retiring on 101. By reaching a century, Rahaman became the first man to achieve that lofty and momentous milestone on the new wicket. Naicken, too, earlier, had retired to allow his mates to have a taste of the strip, a magnanimous gesture for which the Masters is well known. The crowd was treated to a cameo from George Robinson who played a stylish innings of 20 not out. Edmonton won the first match with relative ease, as the great Steve Dutchin remained undefeated on 13 during a brief stay at the crease.
The host won the toss for the second day in a row and elected to bat first on a mostly sunny morning. Ted Brown and Bryn Whittaker opened and put on 48 before Bryn nicked one to the keeper and walked, one the umpire had missed. Ted batted brilliantly, putting some huge slogs right on top of the clubhouse, ending the day on an aggressive 66. Steve came in to bat at number three. He began watchfully and once he got his eyes in, he made Calgary toil.
Any ball that was short or too full got its deserved treatment into the distances and over the trees. He was dropped on 32 at the long off boundary off the bowling of spinner Ron Saywack. Like all great batsmen, they make you pay. Steve reached the highest score, and second century, of the series (104) before retiring. Edmonton set Calgary a mammoth target of 279 in their allotted 40 overs.
DeFreitas and Bray opened again for Calgary and put on 32 for the first wicket. After a long day in the sun, they were zapped of energy and it showed. Trevor was bowled for 16. Art Alfonso came in at 3 but departed shortly thereafter, looking completely out of form. After he fell, Rodney Gooray came in to team up with Sohail who came at 4. Their partnership gave Calgary hope as they authoritatively struck the ball to all parts for sixes and fours. Gooray was given out run out by the square-leg umpire under dubious circumstances for 27. That dismissal effectively ended Calgary’s hope.
Sohail continued his mastery of the Edmonton bowlers until he blasted one right up the throat of the man on the long-on fence, who did not make a mistake, for a swashbuckling 74. St. Rose, who had earlier suffered a painful blow to his left hand whilst fielding, was unable to bat at his customary number 6. When he did make it out to the crease, the result was all but academic. Vijay Mutto was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 5/33 .
Edmonton retained the Masters Trophy in convincing fashion.
1 Trevor Defreitas scored the first fifty;
2 Ryan Rahaman scored the first hundred –101;
3 Steve Dutchin scored the highest runs –104
4 Vijay Mutto claimed the first five-for.