After two weeks of Minor League Cricket action, there's a lot we know…but there's still a lot we don't know.
Let's break it down by division.
If you were one of those who thought that the Dallas Mustangs would run the table on the league based on their number of players with Major League Cricket experience, you weren't alone. The team fields seven(!) players who spent the last month bouncing between Grand Prairie and Morrisville and their starting XI may be the scariest in the short history of Minor League Cricket. Just don't tell any of the other Texas teams that.
Dallas opened the season by just barely hanging on for a super over win against the Houston Hurricanes -- and had it not been for a nifty catch by Nosh Kenjige on the final ball of the Hurricanes innings, the game wouldn't even have gone to an extra frame. In the super over -- needing nine to win -- Hammad Azam required just two balls to smash ten runs and secure the win.
You'd think that would be the scare that would ignite the team, but 24 hours later they were stymied by a Lone Star Athletics team that was easily able to defend their 186/2 total by holding the Mustangs to 176 runs in 20 overs.
The Mustangs may very well get on track and win the whole tournament, but for now, eyes in the Central Division should be on Pacific Conference runs-leader Shayan Jahangir and the 2-0 Lone Star Athletics.
In the Western Division, there's a pleasant surprise currently sitting at the top of the table. Last year, the East Bay Blazers missed out on the playoffs by the narrowest of mathematical margins because of the out-of-their-heads play of the Seattle Thunderbolts in the final week of the season. This year, it looks like they don't plan to leave anything to chance. The team is off to a 3-0 start, thanks in part to the bat of Sanjay Krishnamurthi who has been a beast since moving up in the order. He's tied for the lead in sixes in the Pacific Conference and is among the leaders in runs scored.
East Bay has the week off, so it'll be interesting if perennial powers, the Silicon Valley Strikers, can jump start a 2-2 record and move up the standings with a couple of victories over the winless Golden State Grizzlies.
In the Eastern Division, the New Jersey Stallions are leading with a 2-2 record, but with each team in the division having at least one win, this race might have the most parity. Where the parity -- at least for now -- is most apparent isn't in win-loss records, though, it's in runs scored. The teams in the east are putting up far fewer runs than just about anyone else. After two weeks, the highest total put up by any of the east teams is 133 put up by the New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers -- and there have been several sub-100 totals.
But while they're not putting up many runs in the east, at least they're putting them up in an explosive manner. Four of the five leaders in sixes in the Atlantic Conference all come from the east -- the Cavalier's Chandrapaul Hemraj (7), New England Eagle Rizwan Mazhar (5), Empire State Titan Kwame Patton (5), and New Jersey Stallion Bhaskar Yadrum (5).
We don't really know a whole lot about the Southern Division because three of the teams have yet to take the field. The Baltimore Royals are currently the team to beat at 3-1. The Royals -- formerly the DC Hawks -- have proven tough to beat behind the hitting of Jaskaran Malhotra, the lights-out bowling of Sarbjeet Ladda, and the play of Derval Green with both the bat and the ball.
This weekend we finally get to see last year's finalists, the Atlanta Fire, in action. Rahkeem Cornwell is no longer in the picture, but the Fire return with world-beater Aaron Jones, Jahmar Hamilton, and newcomer Obus Pienaar. We'll also get to see Unmukt Chand, Phani Simhadri, and the new-look Atlanta Lightning. Finally, the Ft. Lauderdale Lions get to show off new acquisition, Tagenarine Chanderpaul. Chanderpaul was a runs machine for the Orlando Galaxy last year and rode the momentum of the season into some very big and impressive knocks in his debut as an opener for the West Indies Test team. History fans will note that at 0-0, this is the first time the Lions have entered the third weekend of the season with an even record.
The Hot List --
Sarbjeet Ladda. Ladda made the Hot List last week by nabbing four wickets in the league’s opening weekend, but -- clearly -- wasn’t content. He grabbed five more in Baltimore's drubbing of the Orlando Galaxy. But these weren't just five random wickets. He took four with the final four legal deliveries of the eight over -- only a wide prevented him from nailing four in a row. But came back in the tenth over and snared another one with his first ball. Five wickets in five consecutive legal deliveries! Beat that!
Saad Bin Zafar. The New Jersey Somerset Cavalier held the Manhattan Yorkers to just six runs in his four overs in the league opener, but that was just the tip of the stingy iceberg. In Week Two, he allowed just 14 runs to the New England Eagles and just four(!) to the Empire State Titans. If you want to see his economy, you have to go to CVS and get a pair of those $12 reading glasses -- it's that small! Through the first two weekends of the Minor League Cricket season, his econ stands at a miniscule 2.18.
Joshua Tromp. The 18-year-old Tromp made his debut for the Houston Hurricanes in Week Two and put up half-centuries in his first two innings. He scored 52 from 38 in a heart-breaking loss to the Mustangs and then came back and banged a 78 not out from another 38 balls in a win over the Dallas Giants. And essentially the only thing preventing him from doing the same this weekend is that fact that the Hurricanes don't play. What were you doing at 18???
The Cold List --
Faf du Plessis. Nope, not Minor League, but somewhat related. Faf was a dismal opener for the Texas Super Kings in last month's Major League Cricket tournament -- putting up just 46 runs in seven innings. Hoping to reverse his fortune in the CPL, Faf bowed out of the league opener with just nine runs from eight balls for the St. Lucia Kings.
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