They say the two things that you never want to see how they're actually made are your laws and your sausages. You may want to add a third thing to that list -- Minor League Cricket playoff tie-breaker criteria. The regular season wrapped up over the weekend and we now, finally, have a breakdown of how the postseason will unfold. It's shaping up to be an exciting next couple of weeks as 14 teams get pared down to the Super Eight and eventually down to the two teams that will square off in Grand Prairie Stadium on October 1.
The Philadelphians locked up first place in the Eastern Division with a win over the New Jersey Stallions with Ryan Scott's 31, Jonathan Foo's 25, and a bonus 27 from 17 from Philly's top bowler, Raj Nannan being just about all the scoring that Philadelphia would need. The Stallions were then able to turn things around and made short work of the Manhattan Yorkers to seal up second place in the division.
And here's where it gets weird. Roughly tied for the third and final playoff spot going into the weekend, the New England Eagles were gifted two victories when the Empire State Titans forfeited their final two matches of the season. Needing two wins to remain in the battle for the last postseason slot, the New Jersey Cavaliers channeled last year's heroic Seattle Thunderbolts squad and dispatched both the Manhattan Yorkers and The Philadelphians. At this point, NE and NJ were tied on points and while folks were quick to congratulate the Cavaliers because of their higher net run rate, Minor League Cricket's official tie-breaker was how the two teams fared against teams with the same number of regular season wins. And, in this case, it was the Eagles. Since both squads both had somewhat legitimate claims for the final playoff spot, it was decided that they should play each other, with the winner taking on the second ranked Stallions to see who heads to Texas for the Super Eight along with the Philadelphians.
At least I think that's what happened.
(Blue = Clinched First Place. Green = Clinched Playoff Spot. Red = Eliminated.)
Things were a lot easier to understand in the Southern Division. With first and second place locked up by the Atlanta Lightning and Atlanta Fire, the final spot would be decided by a pair of matches between the Ft. Lauderdale Lions and the Morrisville Raptors. If the Raptors could sweep, they were in. If the Lions could take one of the matches, they were in. Or…because both matches were canceled due to the weather, the Lions maintained their lead in points and punched a rain-soaked ticket to the playoffs.
Going into the final weekend of the regular season, just about everything was up for grabs in the Central Division. Essentially, five teams were battling for four playoff positions. The Dallas Mustangs, who were a preseason favorite in the division, wasted no time in making their claim for the top spot. In a battle against the second-ranked Dallas Xforia Giants, the Mustangs banged out a score of 222 -- the highest total put up by any squad this year. It was carnage from the outset with openers Nauman Anwar and Andries Gous scoring 43 and 91. The Giants fought back -- Smit Patel exploding for 62 from 40 -- but their 179 wouldn't be enough. In a rematch on Saturday, The Mustangs would again defeat the Giants, sending the Giants into a scramble for the final playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the Lone Star Athletics split a pair of matches with the Houston Hurricanes, leaving their playoff fate up to the results of a final game between the Michigan Cricket Stars and the Chicago Kingsmen, which -- unfortunately -- was rained out. Had the Kingsmen won, they would have secured a place in the postseason, but instead they ended up in a three-way tie in the points column with the Athletics and Giants. And, based on the somewhat unique tie-breaker system used by the league, ultimately found themselves on the outside looking in when it came to a playoff spot.
In the Western Division, the Golden State Grizzlies -- with three matches left to play -- controlled their own destiny…or at least to the point where anyone or anything truly controls their own destiny. One win would put them in the mix; two or three wins would make them a lock for the playoffs. After losing to the top-ranked East Bay Blazers, they went on to split a pair against the Seattle Thunderbolts. This left three teams tied for the final playoff spot and when the league's tie breakers were applied, the Grizzlies slid ahead of Seattle and the SoCal Lashings for the last postseason position.
It wasn't pretty, but -- at last -- the playoffs are set!
© CricAmerica.com/Steve Steinberg 2023
Divisional standings graphics courtesy of Brian Barrish