HAVERFORD, Pa. – Junior Malcolm Thompson showcased a batting masterclass as the Fords won one of the most thrilling contests ever to have been played on Cope Field against their historical rivals, the University of Pennsylvania.
Haverford lost the toss and were on the field first, with no changes to the previous day's bowling quintet of Gulesh Shukla, Daniel Van Beveren, Malcolm Thompson, Kaito Nakatani, and Emile Givental. The Fords faced a tough challenge in Penn's prolific offense, which was comprised of a plethora of experienced batsmen that knew how to pick the gaps in the field and take quick singles. While the Fords' bowling attack looked to be more crisp and focused than the previous day's contest, Penn's batsmen were still piling on a steady number of runs, playing shrewd shots, and benefitting from a handful of close wide calls going in their favor.
Despite Penn seemingly having the slight advantage, the excellent field placement of co-captain Nakatani soon came into play for the Fords. With everyone being in perfect position, Haverford's fielders were ready, willing, and able to take catches as soon as a bad shot was played. The Fords took a total of five catches during the innings. Thompson and Givental each took an edged ball played behind the wicketkeeper, Shukla grasped a venomously driven shot near the boundary, senior Zachary Cho reeled in a pop-up at midwicket with a sliding grab, and co-captain Van Beveren pulled off what was arguably the catch of the afternoon with a highlight reel-worthy diving catch at long off.
Thompson also capitalized on a miscommunication between the Penn batsmen by taking a run-out at the bowler's end while the non-striker was left stranded in the middle of the pitch. The fall of wickets did not seem to impact Penn's batting, however, as every new batsman quickly settled in and started to play more aggressively, executing multiple drives over the course of the innings that found the boundaries of Cope Field. By the end of the innings, Penn would put up a total of 162 for seven. Haverford had chased totals greater than this before, but the technical prowess of Penn's players—not just in batting, but in bowling as well—gave the Fords a mountain to climb.
Co-captains Van Beveren and Nakatani opened the batting for the Fords again, becoming more open to playing big shots early on as a big chase was needed for a win. Nakatani was unfortunately dismissed in the sixth over as he edged a ball to the wicketkeeper after scoring a total of 10, and the grizzled young veteran Shukla came in as the one-down batsman to steady the ship.
Van Beveren and Shukla, both in magnificent form, showed tremendous chemistry in the middle with the co-captain's sound straight-bat defense and drives being the perfect foil to the more adventurous cuts and sweeps of the sophomore sensation. The pair frustrated the competitive bowling of Penn with great aplomb for seven overs until Van Beveren was bowled for a total of 20 in the 13th over.
At this point, the Fords had scored 84 runs with less than half of their innings remaining, and anything short of a miraculous stretch of batting could have led to a disappointing result. Fortunately, the power-hitting Givental replaced Van Beveren in the middle, displaying his usual propensity to hit boundaries with a series of hard-hit shots. Shukla and Givental kept the chase very much alive, bringing Haverford all the way up to 137 runs before Givental was bowled for a total of 24 by a fierce seamer finding the stumps in the 19th over.
In the dying embers of the game and Penn inching ever so closely to the spoils of victory in this historic rivalry, Thompson stepped up to the crease with a seemingly insurmountable task at hand. Thompson zeroed in on a couple of bad deliveries to add seven more before the over came to a close on an even more worrying note; Shukla—who had been a steady force on strike for 13 overs—was bowled for a total of 48.
With senior wicketkeeper Matt Leibold coming in at the other end, Thompson went in to the last over of the match. More focused than ever, Thompson zeroed in on a short delivery and sent the ball flying over the boundary for an emphatic six. Sensing danger, Penn fielders were starting to move towards the boundaries and the bowler tried to seal out the game by bowling Thompson on the pads. The defiant Thompson answered by sweeping three consecutive fours, successfully tying the game at 162 with just two balls left.
After a good delivery on the next ball forced him to a block, Thompson made solid contact with the final ball of game, clearing the diving fielder at midwicket to complete the comeback of dreams. Haverford had won on the very last ball of the contest, 163 for 4 against 162 for 7.
Coach Kamran Khan had high praise for the heroics of Thompson alongside the effort put in by the rest of the team, calling the match one of the greatest and most memorable he had seen at Haverford throughout his tenure.
Now on a two-game winning streak, Haverford seeks to continue this run of phenomenal form next Sunday against British Officers CC at Cope Field at 12 p.m.