[written by: Aamir Husainy, Hamid Malik, Riyad Ramjaun, Zain Khilji, Zuhair Fancy & Hashim Ghazi]
We're now at the final weekend of games in July, with still some things in the. The Seljuqs were able to grasp a lifeline last week while the Sultans were not, and both these bottom-tier teams face each other in what will feel like a must-win for both sides. Meanwhile, the Abbasids and Mamluks suit up for a crucial game to solidify their holds on the last two playoff spots. And that's not even going into powerhouse matchups like the Ayyubids and Mughals, and Nasrids and Ottomans. Clearly, there's some big games this week, and the results may set up for some tantalizing matchups come the Super Sundays.
Kya Scene Hai, you ask? Let's find out by reading this week's rumours
AYYUBIDS (@ Abbasids 2:00PM BW2 & vs Mughals 3:30PM BW1)
It is unusual for a 2nd place team to make a major trade, but the Ayyubids threw caution in the wind with their blockbuster trade with the Sultans going into Week Six. When reached for comment, GM Umair Sheikh reportedly said, "look it was a tough decision but a generational talent like Omer Chaudhry doesn't come onto the market very often and while we gave up a lot of depth to acquire him I feel like this was the best move for us. Did I trade four loyal players who had contributed – sure but if the Raptors have taught us anything its that you have to be bold and make the tough decisions when you sit in the GM Chair. Leaders like Masai and I have a vision and the courage to see it through." With that said, the Ayyubids welcomed their new players and got a boost when Zain Malik cut his vacation short and hopped on an early flight back from Europe to suit up for his new team in Week Six – games he was allegedly expected to miss when playing for the Sultans, so read into that what you will. The Ayyubids started the day off with a 15-11 win over the Nasrids where they opened the game with a mercy inning and then did enough the rest of the way to win it. They did have four errors committed which was unusual, but as the team fits all of the new pieces in, there will be some hiccups. Zia Ali was the star of this game for his new team as he led the way with two massive homers and put up four RBIs – quite the first outing considering that he had 0 HR and RBIs on the season thus far. Game Two saw the Ayyubids grind out a close win over the Seljuqs. It will take the Kurds a few games to settle as they were not able to find any real rhythm against Hamza Waheed, nearly blowing a 7-run lead. The Seljuqs did their part to help the Ayyubids out in committing five errors, including Umair Jabbar dropping a catch (or running in about 30 feet in to make a diving play that popped out of his glove, but semantics) on his older brother Ali Jabbar. Two close wins combined with the Ottomans splitting their games puts the Ayyubids back at the top of the table going into Week Seven where they will face the Abbasids and Mamluks, two teams holding onto the final two playoff spots. Ayyubids are the consensus team to beat now with their loaded lineup and are already sitting in first place, which gives them some margin of error as the season winds down.
ABBASIDS (vs Ayyubids 2:00PM BW2 & @ Mamluks 3:30PM BW2)
As an encore to last week’s performance, the Abbasids clashed with the first place Ottomans who were looking to continue their dominance. The Abbasids jumped up to an early lead before the blew a tire in the 5th inning, allowing six runs on multiple errors. For most of the game their defense was rock solid, but in the 5th, many routine plays were mishandled which ultimately lead to their demise. The highlight of the game (and maybe the season) was a triple play led by Hamid Malik, who made a diving catch and quickly made the throw to the infield to get the second and third outs – unbelievable. The Abbasids had their fair share of opportunities to get the win but left too many men on base, including in the last inning where the Lions left the bases juiced with nothing to show for it. Jav Ahmed was carrying the offense on this scorcher of a day as he stringed together some quality hits. The second game against the Sultans was a must win for the Abbasids as going down 2 games would put them in a bad spot and allow the Stallions to get back in the race to the big dance. The game was a low scoring affair that featured the Sultans having a one run lead going into the bottom of the last inning with the Abbasids bottom order up to bat. Ahmed Butt and Jav Ahmed had a couple of clutch hits to get on base and set up Mohamed Kala to hit the walk-off base hit to bring in Jav for the win. The Abbasids were very upset in their performance today as almost everyone played dismal offense but, a grinded out win as just as good as a high scoring affair. Hats off to the bottom of the batting order as they did what they could to keep the Abbasids in it all day long, especially the aforementioned Ahmed and Butt, and Arshad Chawdhry. The Abbasids need to keep their foot on the gas as every loss will have consequences, especially if the Sultans and the Seljuqs get hot at the right time. Will the Abbasids be ready in time to help their playoff chances or will they allow the bulls and stallions to catch up to them challenging for that final spot…stay tuned as things start to get heated.
MUGHALS (@ Mamluks 2:00PM BW1 & @ Ayyubids 3:30PM BW1)
With only a handful of games remaining, the Mughals went from being the team to beat to being the team that is spiraling down the fastest. Going winless this past weekend has pushed their slide to two weeks now without a win and has put them back in the middle of the pack in the standings. On Sunday against the Seljuqs, the Badshahs committed a season-high eight errors that allowed the Bulls to walk them off, while game 2 had the Spaniards beat them by double digits. The lone bright spot on the day for the Mughals remains their ROY candidate, Tamour Sheikh who now leads all rookies in all offensive categories. Big T has been doing his part, but the rest of the squad needs to step up in a big way. With a few wins in the remaining weeks, the Mughals could turn the tide back in their favor and get their momentum back for the playoffs – something we know they are capable of. This week, however, will be another test, as multiple guys will not be available to play due to prior commitments. Those who are ready to play this week have made it a must to work not only on their batting but on the defensive end of the ball as well. Once considered the top defensive team in the league, the Mughals have looked complacent in the past few weeks and not making the plays we all know they are capable of. Seems like this has been written before, but 2 wins this week could clinch a playoff spot for the Mughals; 2 losses however, could send them spiraling and into panic mode.
MAMLUKS (vs Mughals 2:00PM BW1 & vs Abbasids 3:30PM BW2)
Last week we were saying the Mamluks were a hard team to read. This week we are saying that the Green Machine is starting to get fired up, especially after a sweep this past weekend against the struggling Sultans, and the surging Ottomans. Despite missing their assistant GM Taher Mirza, the Mamluks powered to victories with the resurrection of Ismail Akhter's bat. Another player that has been falling under the radar but making a serious bid for rookie of the year and All-Star consideration is Suleman Mann. This year has boasted a number of impressive rookies, but SuperMann is not only contributing with a serious bat, but patrols left field like the man of steel himself. Factor in production from the rest of the lineup and the Mamluks are really finding their groove, have firmly placed a stake in the playoff race after an absolutely tumultuous start. Their next week's matchups feature plenty of intrigue. Week 7 will kick off with the Green Machine facing the spiraling Mughals on Birchwood 1. In their last matchup, the Green Machine mounted a tremendous comeback in the late innings, putting up a 7 spot to seal the deal. Since that game, the Badshahs have yet to enter the W column, so expect a hungry matchup there. Then to conclude the matinee affairs, the Mamluks will square off against the Abbasids. This will mark the first time the teams will play each other after having pulled off a blockbuster deal. Another marquee matchup which will likely have a little extra gusto to it. Should be exciting to see who prevails and whether the Mamluks will continue their upward trajectory towards contention.
OTTOMANS (@ Nasrids 5:15PM BW2 & @ Seljuqs 6:45PM BW2)
The Ottomans were riding high moving into Week 6 after showing what they are capable of, while also welcoming back nearly a quarter of their team. They started the weekend with an extremely gutty performance, mounting a comeback victory against the Abbasids. After some sloppy play to start, the Ottomans were able to right the ship by relying on their defense and the depth of their batting lineup. Usman Ali has provided a serious spark at the bottom of the lineup, and A R filled in admirably in place of Zia "Doc' Beg on the mound, who sat out this week for load management. Whether this continues may be something to keep an eye on, especially with the playoffs peaking their head in the horizon. In the second matchup, however, the Ottomans were unable to string together any hits and fell to the surging Mamluks. Look for the men in royal blue to right their sloppy play and get back to their stellar selves this week. For the upcoming week, the Ottomans start off by playing the Nasrids. Their last matchup featured excellent defensive play in a tight 5-4 affair. Look for the Ottomans to rely on their strong defensive identity with the Spaniards, who also display an impressive defence as well as a lineup that may be just as long as any other team. The second matchup will feature a rematch against the Seljuqs. The last time these two teams faced off, the Ottomans pummeled their counterparts. Expect this to be much tighter as the Seljuqs probably have this matchup circled as a revenge quest. Either way, in order for the Ottomans to truly establish themselves as serious contenders, for both the championship and a playoff bye, look for them to take care of business this Sunday evening.
NASRIDS (vs Ottomans 5:15PM BW2 & @ Sultans 6:45PM BW1)
The Nasrids have been the definition of middling this season, having never won both games in any week since the opener. This past week, the Spaniards dropped their first game against a revamped Ayyubids team but came out looking like championship contenders in game 2 in a win against the Mughals. GM “Sir” Nirvaan Latif’s big move of the day was to bat himself last in the lineup. This proved to be a great decision, as Nirvy went 4/7, with 3 HR’s and 7 RBIs – “OOH YEAH” – showcasing just how deep his team is. The other revelation lately has been the play of Khizer Channa. Khizer has been battling his brother for the “Channa Championship”, and this past weekend hit his first 2 HRs of the season (where a third was disallowed due to a controversial call by the Umpire) – bringing the Nasrids HR total to 31 on the season and a league high 161 runs. Providing perennial pitcher of the year candidate Tanseer “Robocop” Khawaja that many runs essentially means he will lock it down on the mound and give his team a chance to win every week. With only a few weeks remaining, the Nasrids have a chance to clinch a playoff spot this week as they face one of the top teams in the Ottomans and the basement dwelling Sultans. Depending on who is pitching for the Ottomans and how the Sultans come out, this could be the week the Spaniards clinch and set their sights on the ultimate prize. Though they have been close to the championship before in years past, this Nasrids team looks to be the most complete top to bottom team assembled in franchise history, and anything short of the championship will be a wasted opportunity.
SELJUQS (@ Sultans 5:15PM BW1 & vs Ottomans 6:45PM BW2)
The Seljuqs finally snapped their winless streak with a huge win against the Mughals, keeping them within a week’s worth of points from the playoffs. Although they lost their game against the Ayyubids, they showed that they can limit runs through consistent defensive discipline. Kamil Haider has been pure gold at short this season and has been making at least two head-turning plays every week. Last week saw Haider superman a bullet line drive, and on another occasion, make a diving toss with his glove for the force play at second – the doctor has been on duty. He will face his former championship team this week in a must-win game as the season continues to wind down. Their previous encounter favoured 2 points for the Sultans, but the Seljuqs are confident this one will have no resemblance to the last matchup. Balanced batting is seen as a strength for the Seljuqs this season, but so far, it hasn’t translated to a good record. With a few tweaks in the lineup last week, the order looked much more potent, sparking a resurgence just in time to make the playoffs. With massive performances from dreamboat Omer Dhaduk and GM Umair Jabbar in recent weeks, opponents will be scurred of the power and form these two are packing. A response is needed right away to improve their chances at the postseason. They will also get a chance for revenge against the merciful Ottomans. Let’s see if the ‘juqs got what it takes.
SULTANS (vs Seljuqs 5:15PM BW1 & vs Nasrids 6:45PM BW1)
The talk of the league was the blockbuster trade that the Sultans and Ayyubids pulled off going into Week Six; the Sultans gave up star Omer Chaudhry, Zain Malik, Zia Ali and Asim Waheed but got back depth across the outfield and batting order. It’s hard to give up the best player in any trade but with the Sultans on the brink of missing the playoffs, GM Shamil Khadaroo did not have many options. The "Special One", as he was anointed last season, has found defending the Championship much harder than anticipated. With the new look line-up, he was hoping for a spark to get this team on the right track with a pair of must win games on the schedule. The game against the Mamluks started out well with his team taking an early lead but the wheels fell off in the 4th when the Mamluks scored seven and never looked en route to an easy 13-6 win. Only having nine players hurt, as some players were out of position and not having a catcher allowed the Mamluks to score some free runs. The Stallions hit four homeruns, with Shahzad Ahmed and Fuzail Thakur each hitting a, pair but that was all the bats could bring on the day. Game Two was another must win against the Abbasids and again the Sultans offense was tepid at best; however their defense kept them in this game as Khuram Channa made some great catches in CF and threw out a runner at home while also playing his hand in a few double plays after some questionable baserunning from the Abbasids. The Sultans managed to take a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh with the bottom of the Abbasids lineup coming up, but a series of errors allowed Mohammed Kala to give his team a big walkoff win. Week Seven puts them in another pair of must win games as they face the Nasrids and Seljuqs, the latter just a point ahead of them for 7th place in the table. There is nowhere to go but up for the Sultans and with any realistic hope of making the postseason on the line this weekend, expect the Sultans to come out strong.
Last weekend of ball before Super Sunday - who you got?