HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College Cricket team fell agonizingly short against Amwell Valley Cricket on Sunday, with a margin of loss of only 2 runs. The 25-over game was a run-fest, with Amwell Valley posting a record 163-runs, which Haverford Cricket nearly exceeded with a 161-run effort in the chase.
On a mild and breezy day Amwell Valley won the toss and elected to bat first. The Haverford bowling line-up was hampered by the loss of Junior Nathaniel Rolfe to injury, resulting in the new ball being shared by Senior Captain Raghav Bali and Sophomore Jake Kutchins. Kutchins made an immediate impact with his 2nd ball, gently clipping the bails off the off-stump with a beautifully disguised leg-cutter pitched just outside of middle stump. The early wicket led to confused and desperate run attempts from Amwell's batsmen, which Haverford's fielders capitalized on to full effect.
Zachary Cho collected a softly driven ball at covers and threw it back to Bali at the non-striker's end with the striker half way up the pitch. Sensing opportunity, Bali made an accurate throw to wicket-keeper Matthew Leibold who whipped the bails of to run out the batsman. Shaken by the rapid succession of wickets, Amwell's batsmen dug into their reservoir of cricket experience to settle into the crease. Kutchins and Bali maintained tight lines, but could not find a weakness in the batsmen's ironclad defense; they also placed the ball with surgical precision between fielders to accumulate runs. It was a bowling change that finally brought about a wicket, with junior captain Andrew Cornell floating in a leg-stump delivery that was pulled hard by the batsman to midwicket; first year Kaito Nakatani made an incredible effort to take the catch, making a 25-yard dash from long-on to complete a running catch.
The sheer awesomeness of the catch left the batsmen with no reply and Haverford's bowlers built up pressure once again. While Amwell's batsmen bristled with intent to break the shackles and unleashed a powerful hook shot for six, Cornell produced a well-disguised arm ball that perfectly deceived the batsman and crashed into off-stump. Sensing blood, Bali introduced himself into the attack and produced a furious display of fast bowling. While Amwell's batsmen took him on, Bali found the break through with a quick length ball on the off-stump that was drilled high in the sky and straight to a lurking Kutchins at long-off, where he completed a fantastic tumbling catch.
With the tail exposed, a bowling change was introduced with senior Isfar Munir entering the attack. Munir found success with his very first ball, a good-length off-cutter that found the edge of the batsman's glove and entered safely into the gloves of Leibold. Munir struck again shortly thereafter with the very first ball of his second over. This time it was a shorter pitched delivery on the leg stump that was mishit to a short midwicket, where Nakatani took his second catch of the match. Kutchins arrived to finish out the innings; with the final ball of the innings, Kutchins sent in a searing yorker that uprooted the middle stump and sent it flying back over five yards.
Despite the bowling efforts, Amwell Valley had still managed to post an immensely impressive 163 runs from their 25 overs. Haverford opened with Kutchins and Munir, promoted to fill the void left by Rolfe. The duo dueled against the best bowling seen by Haverford Cricket all season long. Amwell Valley's seamers boasted plenty of experience from English and Indian league cricket and it showed as they pitched the ball to good-length virtually every delivery while also finding prodigious swing in the air. While Munir showed a few flashes in the middle he was the first to fall, trapped leg-before-wicket to a swinging and quick full-length ball. With the fall of Kutchins shortly thereafter to a lightning quick Yorker, Haverford's captains Cornell and Bali found themselves in the thick of the fight with over 130 runs to go. Bali took control while Cornell laid the anchor for the innings.
Both were cautious, preferring ground-strikes for ones and twos as opposed to boundaries, aside from the first ball faced by Cornell, which was straight driven through long-on for a boundary. Both were very successful at rotating the strike, the result being that the runs continued to flow easily, with the asking rate of Haverford's batsmen staying around seven runs an over. Bali opened his arms for his solitary boundary in the innings at the halfway stage as Haverford looked to accelerate; Bali broke the shackles with a brutal pull that raced the ball away through square leg for four. The score climbed quickly until Bali found himself caught out at deep midwicket after a 35-ball stay for 36 runs.
Sophomore Ethan Flicker strolled out to the middle to join Cornell in an ever-thickening chase. Cornell led the charge, scoring rapidly with a highlight pair of back-to-back four's. Both were straight driven past the bowler and bisecting the long-off and long-on fielders for four. Cornell reached the score-cap of 40 and was retired on 42 runs from 32 balls; he is the third Haverford batsmen to retire this season. Flicker marshaled the middle order engine of Haverford as he was joined by Freshman Malcolm Thompson in the middle. Thompson clubbed his very first ball to the cricket pavilion for a one-bounce four, but was undone shortly thereafter by a rapidly swinging ball that evaded the bat and struck the stumps.
Flicker engaged in a useful partnership with Nakatani, highlighted by a hard-fought four runs. Nakatani found himself bowled however by a ferocious toe-crusher that shattered the stumps, bring Cho to his first time in the middle this season. Flicker and Cho gave Haverford a light at the end of the tunnel as the ask was reduced to 14 runs from 12 balls. A communications error and smart fielding from Amwell Valley resulted in the run-out of Flicker. Phillips and Cho brought Haverford ever closer to the finish line, bring down the equation to three runs off the final ball; to Haverford's despair, it was not to be.
Head Coach Kamran Khan remarked, "This was one of the closest games I have witnessed in my time at Haverford. The difference between the teams ultimately was experience and the ability to hold nerves in the close of an innings."
This assessment was backed up the captain of Amwell Valley Cricket Club, who remarked that it was a remarkable performance from a group with as little formal cricket experience as Haverford's group of mainly Americans who had never played before Haverford.
Haverford Cricket looks to finish out the fall season next week, with an away finale at the Merion Cricket Club on Sunday at Noon.