Thrilling 3-Day Test Match at Moosa Stadium in Pearland

PEARLAND: Houston got to witness its first 3-day test match on Dec 2nd – 4th, 2021. This was a landmark event in the long and rich history of Houston cricket. The organized cricketing scene in Houston, has been in place for almost four decades. It has been played in short formats of 20/40/50 over formats. For the initial part, it was being played in traditional white uniforms and red ball. With advent and popularity of the colorful format of t20 cricket all over the world, Houston chose to switch to white ball and color clothing in the last 12 years. It was a welcome change to see this traditional 3-day format test cricket being organized and played in whites and red ball format. This opportunity was made possible by Mr. Sakhi Muhammad, owner, and promoter of Moosa stadium, Pearland, Texas.

Moosa cricket stadium, is beautiful international level facility. It was built in 2013 and has been the host to some marquee national teams in the recent past, namely Canada, USA, Bermuda, Denmark, Italy and several ICC Americas Combines. It is also the home venue of American College Cricket, Masters Cricket USA, 2 Ten Cricket USA, Smart Choice National Cricket Academy USA and Minor Teague Team Austin Athletics and Irving Mustangs.

Match Report: Houston Warriors v Houston Masters

On a beautiful day for Test Cricket, Houston Masters won the toss and had no hesitation in deciding to bat first on a brilliantly prepared Test wicket by the curator Sam Plumett. Govardhan Kandhula and Syed Hussain bowled a testing opening spell which resulted in an early Wicket for Govardhan. At 7 for 1, Shreyan Satheesh walked in at number 3. In the company of Taha Marvi, Shreyan and Taha stitched a 202-run partnership for the 2nd wicket. Taha showed brilliant grit and adapted beautifully. He scored 95 of 171 balls with 13 fours and 1 six. Considering his skill hitting ability in the White ball format, this was a treat to watch him score 95. Just when he looked set to get a Test ton, Nikhil Bhat got him on 95 thanks to a brilliant catch by Nabeel Parkar. Barring a couple of chances given by Taha, this was a top-class knock. The spin trio of Nikhil Bhat, Josh Saripella, and Enosh Krupakar kept toiling and kept the runs in check to an extent. The pressure resulted in Enosh picking the final wicket of Day 1. Enosh picked up Umair Hussain on 22 thanks to a good catch by Govardhan. At the other end, Shreyan Satheesh batted brilliantly. He came into bat in the 2nd over of the day and stayed unbeaten on 138 at the end of the 1st Day.

At 297 for 3 after Day 1, Masters looked set to score 400 plus but Warriors had other plans in mind. A masterstroke by Nikhil to have Raju Dhaduti bowl spin with a semi new ball from the Pearland end turned the tables. Raju bowled 10 overs on a trot and picked up 3 crucial wickets which got Warriors right back into the game. From the other Josh and Nikhil kept things tight along with Enosh. Masters were 7 wickets down at lunch. The 1st over after lunch bowled by Josh resulted in 2 wickets and Nikhil picked a wicket in the next over which meant Masters were all out for 363 thanks to top class bowling by Warriors. Josh picked 3 for 43 in his 25 overs and bowled superbly giving nothing away which was testimony to his bowling skills and variation. Nikhil picked 2 for 58 in his 26 overs and showed amazing control. Raju picked 3 for 57 and displayed amazing skills by bowling an immaculate length consistently. Nabeel was exceptional as a Wicket Keeper throughout the inning besides being a Silly Point and doing brilliantly when Tanaf Wasie kept wickets.

After being in the field for 109 overs, coming into bat was a tough task for Houston Warriors. However, Nikhil Bhat started positively from Ball 1, hitting two back-to-back fours which set the tone for the inning. Tanaf Wasie played some delectable shots, and both put together 46 in no time before a fantastic short ball by Shreyan Satheesh resulted in a leading edge from Wasie which gave Masters their first wicket. The next batsman Nabeel perished quickly, and in no time Warriors were 59 for 2, which brought Josh to the crease. Nikhil and Josh, both southpaws, put up a very solid partnership. Just when Josh looked set for a big one, he was run out against the run of play for a fantastic 32 though replays showed that Josh was probably in. One wicket again brought two which meant Warriors were 141 for 4 with a session to go. Nikhil was going brilliantly on 75. The 3rd session was where we saw a game changing partnership between the “Nik Brothers” as addressed by the Commentators. Nikunj Satani showed his skills his defending and did not play any loose shot. Nikhil at the other end scored heavily in the final session. At the end of the days play, Nikhil was batting on 145 of 175 balls and had scored 100 runs in the final session.

Warriors came back on Day 3 at 220 for 4 and continued from where they had left. Masters took the 2nd new ball and tried to make amends by taking advantage of the early morning moisture. The bowled brilliantly but Nik brothers batted with grit and determination. The round the wicket spell from Shreyan to Nikunj was a treat for all Test Match fans. Finally, Nikunj departed for 26 of 134 but Nikhil carried on his marathon knock. He was well supported by Enosh and Rahul who played cameos but at 317 for 7, the game was in balance since the Winner was to be decided based on 1st inning lead. In walked Hamza Jamshed and right from ball one, showed his class. He added 132 for the 8th wicket with Nikhil before Nikhil finally got out for a chanceless 265 of 365 balls which included 29 fours. This was his 7th ton and 1st double ton. This was also the highest score in a non-Test Country in the last 100 years as confirmed by the founder of American College Cricket. Nikhil Bhat showed amazing technique, fitness, skillset, and determination to help his team win based on 1st inning lead with support from other batters. Hamza stayed not out on 62 and Warriors were all out for 457. Umair Hussain, Arir Ali, Murtaza Hashwani, and Aryan Satheesh bowled brilliantly. Aryan for 3 for 70. With an hour to go, Masters came into bat and smashed 82 in 11 overs thanks to Ali Hasan’s 24 of 22 balls and Nandu Jalumuri’s 55 not out. Nikunj, Rahul, and Nabeel picked up a wicket each. Syed and Mayuresh bowled a good opening spell.

The Test match was played in good spirit and Warriors won based on 1st inning lead. Players enjoyed the 3-day test format, which helped them understand and improve their game, as far as planning their innings, setting up batsmen for wickets, building on their temperament and patience. Once again, commendable effort by all involved (Moosa management, ground staff, organizers), to make this event possible.  Houston can’t wait for more of these formats and hoping to see more games at Moosa.

Nikhil Bhat won the Man of the Match for his 265 with the bat and 2 for 58 with the ball

Taha Marvi won the Best Batsman award for his 95 of 171 balls

Josh Saripella won the Best Bowler award for his 3 for 43 in 25 overs

Shreyan Satheesh won the Upcoming Youngster award for his 162 with the bat and 2 for 88 with the ball.

— Bhaskar Saripella