Dazzling Iquique outshine Tacna in tape-ball thriller

  Posted on: July 29th, 2010

Tacna, Peru: A brilliant display of all-round cricket by skipper Saif Cheema, Mudassar, Shahid and Arsalan led the visitors Iquique of Chile to a thrilling 2-1 series win over Tacna, over the July 18th, 2010 weekend, at the Zofratacna ground, writes Usman Sherazi.

With the series tied at 1-1, Iquique produced a spirited team effort in finally taming the Tacna Tigers to claim the glory and bragging rights until the next series.

All-rounders Mudassar, Shahid and Saif Cheema were the heroes of the match with compelling performances with both bat and the ball. Young paceman Arslan, however, stole the limelight with a decisive two-wicket burst in successive balls to pave the way for his team’s victory.

An attacking right-handed batsman, capable of bowling at a decent pace, Mudassar first struck a couple of sixes and a four in his quickfire 18, and then claimed three wickets to ensure a comfortable win. Similarly, Shahid’s medium pace was equally effective as he put the brakes on Tacna by dismissing in-form Ihtisham and Waseem Lodhi early in the innings and returned to claim the wicket of Amir Ranjha who had just started flexing his muscles by hitting a couple of sixes in the penultimate over.

Set to chase a decent 105 off ten overs, Tacna were cruising along at 55/3 off the first five, before young medium pacer Arslan changed the course of the match with a crucial double blow off successive deliveries. 

He first forced Qaiser into a mistimed pull to be comfortably caught at midwicket and then held on to a spectacular, one-handed, return catch to send Nadeem Malik packing. The batsman had done well in assaulting a fuller length delivery with a powerful stroke. However, the young fast bowler did an amazing job in holding on to a low, ankle-high catch in his follow-through to completely rattle Tacna’s innings.

Such was the effectiveness of this double strike that it left the home team gasping for breath and swung the game in Iquique’s favour. However, Tacna’s hopes were briefly rekindled in the penultimate over when an aggressive Amir Ranjha clubbed a couple of sixes to bring his team within the striking distance. His cameo didn’t last long as medium-pacer Shahid uprooted his stumps with a yorker.

Needing a challenging 18 off the final over bowled by Saif Cheema, Tacna’s last hope Amir Maqbool was beaten by a beauty first ball, and then went down the pitch to hoist the second ball over long on for a six. A single off the third brought last man Nadeem Abbas on strike, but there was nothing he could do against the piercing pace of the Iquique captain. Such was Saif’s accuracy and speed that a usually reliable Nadeem was not even able to touch a single delivery.

Earlier, a remarkable display of stroke-making by left-handed Omair Shaukat, who struck 45 off 18 deliveries led the visitors to a daunting total. Despite losing three wickets in the first two overs, Iquique maintained their strike rate mainly through the efforts of Omair and Saif who who kept Tacna on their toes through some aggressive stroke-making. Iquique were a little unlucky to lose their top batsman Mudassar who was looking extremely dangerous in hitting a couple of sixes off the four balls he faced.

Throughout the tournament, Mudassir was in supreme touch and stood out from the two teams through his commanding stroke-making. Pulling, cutting and driving at will, the right-hander simply looked unstoppable each time he walked on to the crease.

Despite having the home ground advantage, most of the Tacna bowlers lacked discipline and were duly punished. Usually the pick of the bowlers, Nadeem Ansari was unable to create the usual fear among the opposition; while all-rounder Asif’s terrible lack of form continued to haunt him with the ball. Paceman Haroon was the only exception among the Tacna bowlers bowling with a consistent, nagging line. A generally reliable Waseem Lodhi also got punished for straying off line and for providing width to the Iquique batsmen.

The first match of the series was comfortably won by the home team by 12 runs before the visitors bounced back to level the proceedings. Left-handed opening batsman Naveed, right-handed Mudassar, Saif Cheema and Shahid were the heroes for Iquique in that comfortable victory.

Tacna’s dashing opener, Ihitsham was the star of the first match with a ruthless display of stroke-making. When on song, Ihtisham is literally unstoppable as he dismisses pace and spin with equal disdain. Each time he scores at the top, Tacna Tigers find it easy to master the opposition. A more consistent display by their middle-order could do wonders for the home team in future.

It was the second series between the two teams in the last three months.  Tacna had won the last series 2-1 played in May. The rivalry between the city teams from Peru and Chile continues to raise newer levels of excitement and participation. A busload of players is eagerly followed by many supporters from Iquique all the way to the border town in Peru each time a series is announced. Passions run high as both sides, and their supporters, fiercely lock horns in crucial overs.

With grateful thanks to Usman Sherazi for this report.