In a lot of parts of the country, this has been one of the rainiest summers in history. (Just look in my basement!) Miraculously, though, the busiest summer in the history of American T20 has hardly been affected. There were no Major League Cricket rainouts and there had only been four Minor League Cricket matches canceled due to rain…up until Week Six. Five matches were lost to the wet field conditions last weekend. With more weather expected in Week Seven, it may be a scramble to get all the games in.
Amazingly, of the 26 teams in the league, only five have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. This year, three teams from the Eastern, Southern, and Western Divisions and four teams from the Central Division will make the post-season -- with two from each division eventually heading down to Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas for the championship weekend. With so many teams alive and so few games remaining, it sets up an incredibly busy and exciting final weekend to the regular season.
In the Eastern Division, The Philadelphians have secured a trip to the playoffs despite having their bid for an undefeated season quashed by the New England Eagles on Monday. In a rain-shortened match, the Philly wickets fell early and often leaving them with just 64 on the board after their ten overs were up. The Eagles -- with playoff hopes still alive -- rode the bats of Sushant Modani and Christopher Barnwell to a successful chase with an over to spare.
The rest of the division is potentially up for grabs. The New Jersey Stallions, who had the weekend off, could advance with a win in either of their final two matches. The Eagles, New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers, and Empire State Titans are all tied for third, so if any of them can sweep their two weekend matches, they should be playoff-bound. The Manhattan Yorkers, at 2-5, still have a chance at popping the champagne, but they need a pretty specific -- and unlikely -- combination of other teams' wins and losses, so the odds are that the champagne will go unpopped.
(Blue = Clinched First Place. Green = Clinched Playoff Spot. Red = Eliminated.)
Only one of four scheduled matches in the Southern Division was played in Week Six and that allowed the Atlanta Lightning to ride the rain to a division title and a trip to Dallas. In the one game that was played, the Atlanta Fire clinched a playoff spot by handing the Baltimore Royals their fourth consecutive loss with Phani Simhadri and Neive McNally each taking three wickets for the Fire.
The remaining two games left in the division are a pair of matches between the 5-3 Ft Lauderdale Lions and the 2-4-2 Morrisville Raptors. A split and the Lions head into the post-season, but if Morrisville can sweep, it'll be the Raptors moving on.
No minor league team has been hotter than the Dallas Xforia Giants. They took three matches over the weekend (including a rare Wednesday game) to slide into second place in the Central Division. And their success has been a team effort. They have only one player -- Aakarshit Gomel -- among the top 35 in runs scored in the Pacific Conference. Their highest wicket-taker -- Harmeet Singh -- is tied for 19th in the conference. And they have only one bowler -- Siddantham Praneeth Raj -- with a sub-6.0 economy…and he's only bowled 12 overs.
With the St. Louis Americans and the Chicago Tigers already eliminated from playoff contention -- and the Houston Hurricanes holding on by a thread after dropping two over the weekend -- it's really a five-team race for the top four spots. And despite dropping their last two games, the schedule favors the Lone Star Athletics. This weekend sees the two top-ranked Dallas teams squaring off for a pair of matches and the third- and fourth-place Michigan Cricket Stars and Chicago Kingsmen playing two against each other. And while these heavyweights are all banging away, the Athletics play a pair against the struggling Hurricanes. If the Athletics can sweep, it puts them in great shape to move into the playoffs.
In the Western Division, the East Bay Blazers maintained their hold on first place with back-to-back wins over the weekend thanks to longtime Blazers, David White and Angelo Perera. White lit up the San Diego Surf Riders for 49 and then torched the SoCal Lashings for 42, while Perera took three wickets in each match. The Silicon Valley Strikers also clinched a playoff spot with wins over Lashings and Surf Riders.
This leaves us with a three-team fight for the final playoff spot. And with the Lashings having played their full schedule, the season may come down to a pair of matches between the Golden State Grizzlies and the Seattle Thunderbolts. The Grizzles have turned around an 0-3 start and have won three of their last four, while the Thunderbolts have yet to win back-to-back matches this season.
The Hot List --
Aakarshit Gomel. Gomel has been the Xforia Giants' big bat this season, but he's really turned it on when the squad has needed it. In three pivotal games last week, he put up knocks of 75, 26, and 64*.
Unmukt Chand. At 7-1-2, Unmukt's Atlanta Lightning have the best record in all of Minor League Cricket, but that's not why he made the list. He's here because he's a big part of Toyota's TV marketing campaign for its new Grand Highlander -- an SUV that's slightly larger than my first apartment. From a Toyota press release: "A family’s cricket game is almost forfeited because of a lack of players. The Grand Highlander quickly saves the day by helping pick up more teammates along the way, including a last-minute unexpected recruit, international cricket star Unmukt Chand."
Ali Khan. Nope -- he didn't make a return to the Houston Hurricanes, but he did grab three wickets in his role as death bowler for the Trinbago Knight Riders against the Jamaica Tallawahs. Ali got banged around a bit during the Major League Cricket season, so it's good to see him back and taking wickets.
The Cold List --
Getting One Point for a Rainout. I can see teams splitting the two points if the game is tied -- or maybe a team getting a point for a super over loss. But it messes with the integrity of the standings when a team gets the same number of points for two rainouts as they would have gotten for a win. Just my rant.
© CricAmerica.com/Steve Steinberg 2023
Divisional standings graphics courtesy of Brian Barrish