Minor League Cricket,  Nosh Kenjige,  T20

Minor League Cricket Week Nine Replay

I don't care what you did, Nosh Kenjige had a better summer than you.

He spent July hanging out with some of the top cricketers in the world -- Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Rashid Khan, and Trent Boult -- as part of Major League Cricket's MI New York team. The squad won the league's inaugural championship and Nosh proved that he could hang with the game's elite; his 5.73 economy was the lowest in the league for anyone who bowled more than 15 overs.

But Nosh was just getting started. Instead of hanging out on the beach for the remainder of the summer -- like I would have done -- he rejoined the Dallas Mustangs for the third straight season. Two months later, he would again be hoisting some hardware. This time it was the Minor League Cricket championship trophy. And it's a trophy that the Mustangs wouldn't have won had it not been for Nosh's play with both bat and ball in the title game.

Coming into the season, the Mustangs looked like the team to beat. The squad featured eight players who had been on Major League Cricket rosters, but they stumbled out of the blocks. Over the opening weekend of the season, they went 1-1 -- and needed to go to a super over for that win. By midseason, though, the bats of Corey Anderson, Andries Gous, and Nauman Anwar had come alive and the Mustangs cruised to the top spot in the Central Division. In the Super Eights, they were unstoppable, ripping through the Lone Star Athletics, Silicon Valley Strikers, and East Bay Blazers to earn a place in the title game.

The New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers took a different route to the championship game at Grand Prairie Stadium. They started off the season 1-3-1 and somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs with a 5-4-1 record. Back-to-back wins launched them into the Super Eights, where -- despite forfeiting a game because of an ineligible player -- they ended up tops in the Atlantic Conference.

The title game was an oddball affair from the start. Without slugger Corey Anderson in the XI, Dallas was counting heavily on Gous and Anwar for runs. But New Jersey wasn't going to let that happen. Gous was sent back to the pavilion in the second over after scoring just a single run. Anwar would last until seventh over before flying out, his 10 runs coming quite expensively from 19 balls. The Mustangs were 28/2 at the end of the power play and 46/5 at the halfway point of the innings and it looked like New Jersey was in the process of pulling off a massive upset.

That's when Kenjige came in to bat and the run rate began to climb. A 56-run partnership with Ali Sheikh stopped the tumbling of Dallas wickets. Sheikh would bow out at 36 runs and Nosh would go on to score 27, but the stability they brought back to the innings allowed the Mustangs to finish their innings at 128. It wasn't a typical bombastic Mustangs innings, but it was a lot better than many expected considering the team's anemic start.

Finals 2 600

The Cavaliers looked to make short work of their chase. A 20-run third over from openers Kennar Lewis and Steven Katwaroo brought the Cavs to the 30 mark through three overs and a New Jersey win seemed all but inevitable. And that's when the wheels fell off. All of them.

30/0 through three became 38/0 through five and 48/4 at the halfway point of the chase. At one point, the Cavs went eight overs without hitting a boundary. Mustangs' bowlers were limiting New Jersey runs and grabbing New Jersey wickets at a murderous pace. Hammad Azam bowled 21 dot balls, allowed only three runs, and took two wickets over four overs. And Kenjige took three wickets while allowing only nine runs. In the 16th over, the Cavaliers were down to their final wicket and it looked like the upset that was so inevitable an hour earlier was simply never going to happen. And it officially didn't happen two overs later when Adil Bhatti was run out and the Dallas Mustangs stormed the field.

The Mustangs became the first non-west coast team to win the Minor League Cricket championship -- Silicon Valley and Seattle had won the trophy in the league's first two years. Nosh Kenjige was named Player of the Match for his both his shut-down bowling and his clutch hitting.

It was an amazing year for domestic T20 leagues. Major League Cricket played to sold-out crowds in both Texas and North Carolina and garnered fans from around the world. And despite some minor hiccups and weather issues, the Minor League Cricket season would also have to be considered a success.

There are still plenty of questions to ponder in the long months before the start of the 2024 seasons: Will Major League Cricket find its place among the world's elite T20 tournaments? Will Minor League Cricket continue to be a showcase for the country's best and upcoming players?

Of course, the question on the minds of most cricket fans in this country is this: What's Nosh Kenjige gonna do next?

© CricAmerica.com/Steve Steinberg 2023

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