HAVERFORD, Pa. - Haverford College Cricket completed its first unbeaten season since 1991 with a comprehensive seven-wicket victory over the Penn Alumni XI, composed of current graduate students and recent alumni of both the undergraduate and graduate schools at the University of Pennsylvania. This win was a clinical performance both with the bat and the ball. For the first time in recent history, the bowling unit affected all six modes of dismissal possible in a cricket innings.
Senior Captain Raghav Bali led the bowling with two wickets while also contributing a crucial 20 runs with the bat. Junior captain Andrew Cornell also took two wickets with his deceptive off-spin while Sophomore Ethan Flicker took two wickets his loopy leg-spin bowling. Sophomore Jake Kutchins anchored the batting innings with an unbeaten 28 runs from 47 balls. With this win, Haverford has improved its spring season record to 7-0 and the record in the academic year against University of Pennsylvania teams to 3-1.
The Penn side won the toss and elected to bat first on a warm but overcast day. While the temperature was favorable to batting, Penn underestimated the degree to which the Haverford bowlers could swing the ball, especially with the favorable overhead conditions for swing bowling. Bali employed the swing to devastating effect in his first spell, with his first over only going for three runs before making the first breakthrough in his second over when a full pitched and out-swinging ball on the off-stump was pushed to sophomore Daniel Van Beveren at extra cover. Van Beveren moved like lighting to collect the ball and then made a laser direct hit on the non-striker's stumps to achieve a run-out.
While Bali's out-swing continuously swung by the batsman's bat, junior Nathaniel Rolfe shared the new ball with menace and hostility. Rolfe peppered the batsmen with bouncers, with the chin music most notably landing a blow on the batsman's collarbone. With the contrasting styles leaving the batsman clueless and confused as to what to do, Van Beveren was brought into the attack to excellent effect. Van Beveren's skiddy action was a sharp contrast to both Bali and Rolfe and promptly induced an expansive cover drive from the batsman off his third ball.
The batsman failed to read the bounce though and didn't keep the ball off the ground as it went straight to the waiting hands of Cornell at cover. Haverford recognized the value of introducing new bowlers into the attack and shortly thereafter introduced afformentioned Cornell to bowl his off-spin at the batsmen. The move paid dividends as the batsmen decided to combat Cornell's flighted deliveries of varying length and speed by stepping deep back into their crease to give them more time to play their shots.
The strategy failed to produce as the batsmen failed to make any contact with Cornell's ball. On Cornell's fourth ball, the batsman took one step too far and tread on his stumps to be out hit-wicket. This was the first hit wicket dismissal in recent memory at Haverford College. Cornell found further success in his second over with a flatter and quicker delivery was skied into the air off the top edge and promptly pouched by Freshman Malcolm Thompson at mid-on.
From here, Flicker bowled with Cornell, with both refusing to give up an inch on their lengths and easily containing the scoring rate of the Penn batsmen. Flicker induced the next week with a flighted delivery that deceived the batsman with its lack of turn. The batsman miss-hit the ball attempting a monstrous drive, with the ball looping up and into the hands of Van Beveren at cover. As Flicker turned the screws further, the Penn batsmen attempted to use their feet, advancing down the ground in an effort to find boundaries. This was their downfall. Flicker saw the strategy and promptly slipped in a quicker but shorter delivery that lured the batsman out of his crease but beat the bat. Wicketkeeper Charlie Lynn, standing up to the stumps, reacted with lightning speed to stump the batsman.
With the Penn batsman flailing aimlessly against the slower bowlers, Haverford introduced Senior Richard Phillips to deliver the lob deliveries that he specializes in. Phillips used his tall frame to bowl a variety of dismissals, mixing in flighted lobs with quick Yorkers to leave the batsmen guessing on every ball. The tactic, combined with Phillips' accuracy, left the batsman trapped LBW as a quick Yorker rapped the front pad dead in front of middle stump. With the tail exposed, Bali returned to give the final death knell to Penn batting innings. With refreshed pace and energy, Bali bowled some of the quickest bowling seen all season. A batting mix-up left two batsmen at the same end with the ball at Bali's feet, to which Bali affected a simple run-out.
In the final over, Bali's second to last ball was a lightning quick Yorker that beat everything and left the stumps a mess. Bali's final ball was another Yorker, pitched to perfection and hitting the back pad of the batsman on leg stump to leave him LBW.
Penn left behind a target of 93 runs. While Haverford had chased higher totals in the past, Penn's alumni brought with them the most accurate bowling that Haverford had seen off all season. Haverford's opening pair of Rolfe and Kutchins got off to a flier of a start, with the first over yielding 13 runs courtesy of booming cover drives from Rolfe and a crushing agricultural shot from Kutchins that blasted the ball to the long-on boundary for four. Rolfe nearly pierced the point boundary with a ferocious cut shot, but ultimately departed after scoring a rapid 11 runs from 11 balls after a diving catch at short long-off ended his innings. Bali marched to the crease, batting for the final time in Haverford colors.
With the ship rattled by the early wicket, Kutchins and Bali employed an iron defense against accurate bowling by the Penn bowlers. They favored a short, fourth stump line which was difficult to play for boundaries. Mistakes, however, were suitably punished. The first bowling change produced a slightly leg-side delivery which Bali whipped with authority to the fine leg boundary with a beautifully timed pull shot. Settled, Bali didn't look back, with his next boundary coming from a flowing straight drive that went over the bowler's head for four.
With Kutchins holding steady at the other end, Bali next dismissively swept away a poorly bowled slower delivery for four. Bali was misfortunate to be caught out at point shortly thereafter, as an attempted delicate shot was defeated by a well-disguised topspinning delivery that bounced higher than anticipated and took the top edge to point. Andrew Cornell arrived at the crease with runs all of a sudden hard to come by as Penn's bowlers found their lines again and refused to deviate.
Cornell blocked out but found the gap as he expertly guided the ball between fielders all around the field. With the singles flowing, Haverford found itself ever closer to the finish line. Cornell departed with less than 10 runs left to chase when a beautifully struck cover drive was caught inches from the ground by an incredibly difficult piece of fielding. Thompson brought his imposing 6-4 frame to the crease to complete out the chase. Kutchins violently flayed a full ball to the long off boundary to level the scores. Thompson then played a monstrous cut shot that went over the fielder's heads to take the run needed to win the game. Haverford won the game comfortably, with seven wickets and four overs remaining when the dust had settled.
This win completes Haverford College Cricket's first unbeaten season since 1991. The season caps off an incredible year for Haverford Cricket. The final record across both seasons stand at 10-3. Nathaniel Rolfe made a record 288 runs between the fall and spring season, with Bali and Flicker taking 13 wickets each. The Spring season especially showed Haverford's talented fielding side; for the year, over 45 catches were taken and nearly 15 run outs affected. The season ends the distinguished careers of Seniors Raghav Bali, Isfar Munir, Richard Phillips, and Nicholas Munves. This Senior class has collectively made nearly 650 runs over the last three years and taken nearly 45 wickets in the same time frame. The Senior class has overseen a remarkable turnaround in the performance of the Haverford Cricket side, with a legacy that will hopefully lead to a golden age of cricket at Haverford College.
Coach Kamran Khan quoted "I have dreamed of leading a side of 11 American-born cricketers to a winning season. We came so close this year." This season's undefeated stature remains ever more impressive given the makeup of this side. Only Bali had ever played cricket in an organized fashion before coming to Haverford. For a team made up of students who had never played the game before to take an undefeated season is a tribute to the determination and enthusiasm for cricket shared by every member of this squad and the coaching skill of Head Coach Kamran Khan.
While Raghav Bali has been a colossus and cornerstone of Haverford Cricket's setup over his four-year tenure at the school, the future of Haverford Cricket is bright. They will return to action this fall, led by Andrew Cornell and Nathaniel Rolfe as Senior co-captains. Haverford will return a strong side to their stewardship, with a promising batch of Juniors and Sophomores to lead into the future. Haverford Cricket will lose Paige Powell to the Fall Field Hockey season but will look forward to her return in the Spring of next year. Zachary Cho will be lost for much of next year as he studies abroad at the London School of Economics, with the silver lining that he will return with a year of English cricketing experience under his belt and being available for much of the fall season next year. Kaito Nakatani will return next year from a fractured hand that kept him out of the spring season this year as he looks to continue his promising career from the fall.
The graduating Seniors will hope to keep cricket a part of their lives as they move on past Haverford. Raghav Bali will be joining Epic Solutions in Madison, Wis as a Technical Problem Solver. Nick Munves is set to conduct biological research at Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad, a nation know for its love of cricket and producing Brian Lara, widely considered one of the greatest cricket batsman of all time.
Richard Phillips will begin a Ph.D. program in Computer Science at Cornell University. Isfar Munir will be joining the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. as a Research Assistant for the Monetary and Financial Markets Analysis group. Haverford Cricket looks forward to seeing all of them at next year's alumni game, and for many alumni games to come.