The Seattle Orcas did everything right this inaugural Major League Cricket season. Well, almost. They were a model of consistency, going 5-1 into the championship game, and had possibly the most balanced batting and bowling lineups of anyone else in the league. They only thing they couldn't do? Get Nicholas Pooran out when they really needed to. Pooran and MI New York took the Major League Cricket title in stunning fashion. Pooran's 137 not out was the hitting display of the tournament and it came at the perfect time. Steve Steinberg of CricAmerica breaks down all the playoff action from Dallas and wraps up the Major League Season for us.

At the risk of sounding cliché, the 2023 Major League Cricket regular season was really a tale of two cities. Of the eight Week One games played in Grand Prairie Stadium outside of Dallas, the team batting first and defending their total won seven times. In Morrisville, North Carolina, which hosted Week Two of the tournament, the script was reversed and the chasing team won six of the seven matches at Church Street Park. Heading back to Texas for the playoffs involving the top four teams in the league, it was going to be interesting to see if those trends continued.

Cricket playoffs are traditionally a bit different from what most Americans are used to. Instead of the top seed and the fourth seed meeting in one semifinal and the second and third seeded teams meeting in another, with the winners squaring off for the title, cricket uses an interesting double-elimination setup.

The top two teams play each other with the winner advancing all the way to the finals. The loser squares off against the winner of the match between the third and fourth place teams. The winner of this contest earns a place in the finals. This rewards the top-playing team by giving them an extra day off -- which, when it's 100-plus degrees on the field, is a very nice reward. It also gives an extra life to the team finishing second overall in the regular season.

Eliminator - Washington Freedom versus MI New York

In the first game of a Thursday double-header, the third-place Washington Freedom took on fourth-place MI New York. The winning team would go on to face the loser of the battle between the top two seeded teams -- the Seattle Orcas and the Texas Super Kings -- and the losing team would be eliminated. New York, which had lost a heartbreaker to Seattle just two nights earlier had every reason to come out flat -- and that's exactly what they did. Captain Nicholas Pooran, subbing in for injured captain Kieron Pollard, came in at three after Team USA member Monank Patel was sent packing after a dismal five runs from ten balls and, somehow, he managed to make things worse. By the time he was bowled by Saurabh Netravalkar early in the seventh over, Pooran had scored just one run off of ten balls and New York had amassed just 24 runs overall.

Enter Dewald Brevis. The young South African, who was a replacement for Kieron Pollard, was exactly what NY needed. His clutch 57 from 41, along with Tim David's 23 from 12 and Shayan Jahangir's 25, was enough to let MINY salvage its innings and finish with a below-par, but still respectable 141 for Washington to chase. (The average score for regular season games in Dallas was 158 and if you take out the Los Angeles Knight Riders' woeful scores of 112 and 50, the average jumps to over 169.)

Trent Boult, who finished the regular season as the leader in wickets taken, continued where he left off. His four wickets combined with two from Nosh Kenjige prevented the Freedom from ever really getting on track and New York was easily able to defend its total, holding the Freedom to just 125 runs. Kenjige continued to be extremely stingy with the ball, allowing only 19 runs in four overs to drop his league-leading economy for the season to a lethal 5.58.

Washington, which had used the same XI in each of its six MLC matches, opted to go with Justin Dill over Dane Piedt in its bowling attack. It was a surprising move considering Piedt had not only been one of the Freedom's most consistent wicket takers, but also because he was one of the squad's most effective bowlers in the regular season clash with MI New York. USA cricketer Saurabh Netravalkar finished the season with ten wickets and an economy of 7.28 in six matches. Both he and Piedt did a lot to increase their value in the eyes of the world's other T20 franchise tournaments. In an interesting side note, the Freedom did manage to notch a couple of statistical anomalies before exiting the tournament. They were the only team in eight matches to fail to defend their total in Dallas, but they were the only team in seven matches to successfully defend their total in Morrisville.

Qualifier - Seattle Orcas versus Texas Super Kings

In the battle between numbers one and two, Seattle showed why they've been atop the table for most of the season. They took advantage of another slow start by TSK captain Faf de Plessis -- five runs from eight balls -- and shut down the Super Kings for 126 runs. Solid knocks of 24 from both Devon Conway and former Hollywood Master Blaster Cody Chetty helped the TSK cause, but it wouldn't be enough to stop the Orcas. Former Seattle Thunderbolts' captain Harmeet Singh again showed why he's one of the league's premier bowlers, grabbing a wicket and restricting Texas to just 16 runs in four overs to drop his econ for the season to just 6.35.

Seattle wouldn't need much time chasing. Quinton de Kock, who had been less than impressive for most of the MLC campaign, finally showed what he was capable of. His 88 not out from 50 balls -- a 176 strike rate -- coupled with a 31 from Shehan Jayasuriya, who's been beating up Minor League bowling for the past two years with the Silicon Valley Strikers, allowed the Orcas to get across the line and punch their ticket to the finals in just 15 overs.

Challenger - Texas Super Kings versus MI New York

With a trip to the championship game on the line, this was the time for TSK captain Faf de Plessis to throw the squad on his back and lead them to victory. Unfortunately for the Super Kings, for the seventh straight match Faf failed to deliver. His six from nine balls once again hamstrung any chance for a strong start to a Super Kings innings. Devon Conway, again, did his part as an opener, posting 38, and Milind Kumar, the former Philadelphian from Minor League Cricket, added 37 to bring TSK's innings to 158. But it wouldn't be enough -- especially when they were facing an absolute wrecking ball in the form of bowler Trent Boult.

Boult picked up four wickets for the third straight match and held Texas to just 16 runs in his four overs. Very surprisingly, MINY didn't bowl Nosh Kenjige despite including him in the starting XI. Nosh's overs were taken by Team USA teammate, Steven Taylor. Taylor did his job -- restricting TSK to just 28 runs in four overs -- but it was odd to not have the league leader in bowling economy as part of the attack.

Thanks to a strong opening 36 from 18 by Shahan Jahingir, New York hit the ground running and never looked back. Nicholas Pooran, who couldn't seem to get on track in the Eliminator match against Washington, was back in form with 23 runs. Powerful and aggressive knocks from Dewald Brevis (41/33), Tim David (33/20), and Namibia's David Wiese (19/11) -- at one point, Brevis and David combined for five sixes over a nine-ball stretch -- allowed New York to successfully chase TSK's total in 19 overs, losing just four wickets along the way.

Overall, the Super Kings outperformed expectations when you consider that captain and opener Faf de Plessis was a virtual non-entity for the entire campaign. Devon Conway and Daniel Sams were incredibly consistent with the bat and timely knocks from domestic players Miland Kumar and Cody Chetty kept the Super Kings near the top of the table for just about the entire season. A trip to the finals would have made the home crowd in Dallas very happy, but it just wasn't to be.

Championship - Seattle Orcas versus MI New York

The championship game was a rematch of the final game of the regular season. With playoff implications on the line, Seattle was able to chase down MINY's 194 total in the final over thanks in no small part to Heinrich Klaasen's 110 not out from 44 balls. This one would also come down to a guy having a monster innings. And for the first half of the match, it looked like Quinton de Kock would be that guy.

Batting first after MI New York won the coin toss, the Orcas were slow out of the gate. After six overs, they were a lackluster 31/1. (And had it not been for a 15-run over off of former New Jersey Stallion Jessy Singh, making his MLC debut for New York, things would have been even more dire.) And that's when de Kock started stepping on the gas. The wicket-keeper's 87 from 52, aided by Shubham Ranjane's 29 and Dwaine Pretorius' explosive 21 from seven balls pushed Seattle over the 180 mark and set themselves up as the frontrunner for the title.

Credit the bowling -- and late-innings wicket-taking -- of Trent Boult and Rashid Khan for keeping Seattle under the 200 mark and New York in the match. Boult finished off the title game with three more wickets to bring his league-leading total to 22 and Khan was masterful, taking three wickets and limiting the Orcas to just nine runs in four overs.

New York continued fiddling with its opening batters, sending up a pair of domestic players -- Steven Taylor and Shayan Jahan -- to start the chase of 184, but Taylor was quickly dismissed by Imad Wasim without scoring a run. It was looking more than ominous for MINY when captain Nicholas Pooran was forced to come in so early at three, but that's when the tide turned. Pooran took little time to get to work. Almost immediately, he began pounding Orcas bowling. And it soon turned into an exhibition. New York was at 62/2 after six overs and broke the century mark in only the eighth over. Pooran got a little help from Shayan Jahangir (10), Dewald Brevis (20), and Tim David (10), but this was essentially a one-man show. The Trinidadian ended on 137 not out from 55 balls with ten fours, 13 sixes, a 249.09 strike rate, a championship trophy, and Player of the Tournament honors.

If you were going strictly by inpidual stats, this one would have been tough to predict. The top performers in just about every relevant batting and bowling category came from either Seattle or New York and that didn't change much after the title game. Pooran ended up on top of just about every offensive category with 388 runs and 34 sixes (NY's Tim David was second in sixes with 16). Boult was a wicket-taking machine -- especially in the post-season. And Nosh Kenjige announced himself to the cricketing world with a league-leading 5.73 bowling economy.

For Seattle, Heinrich Klaasen finished with a monstrous 197.47 strike rate, smashing 235 runs from the 119 balls he faced this season. Seattle's Cameron Gannon and Andrew Tye finished knotted at 11 for second place in wickets taken and Gannon, Imad Wasim, and Harmeet Singh all finished among the leaders in economy. For his efforts, Gannon -- the fourth-round pick of the Orcas in the domestic draft -- was named the Bart King Domestic Player of the Tournament.

Both MI New York and the Seattle Orcas have solid foundations and should be considered the frontrunners when the 2024 Major League Cricket season gets underway.