Rahul Bhatia stole the show with a last-ball boundary as Dubai claimed the ECB Under-19 Inter-Emirate title in a thrilling one-wicket victory over defending champions Abu Dhabi.
The 17-year-old had earlier played his part with the ball, taking one wicket as the capital outfit were all out for 160 at the ICC Academy.
With a reasonable total, the hosts were on course to reach their target within the 50 overs, especially after reaching 141-7. But Abu Dhabi hit back with two quick wickets through Abdullah Asif.
That set up a fascinating finale with nine needed off the last six deliveries, with Abu Dhabi in the driving seat especially after UAE international Yodhin Punja was given the ball.
However, Dubai were encouraged by the presence of Krishna Lakhani, who had reached his half-century, and tail-ender Bhatia. The pair kept the scoreboard ticking with seven runs in the first five balls. With two needed off the final ball, Bhatia delivered, striking a boundary to spark wild celebrations from his team-mates.
“I’m over the moon to have played such a big role,” said the spinner, who only faced Punja three times. “It was quite difficult out there and there was a lot of pressure on all the boys. But this is a team game and every single player played a huge role, not just me.
“When I was watching from the sidelines it was quite tense and to be out there at the crease was even more difficult given the situation we were in. But I was just focused on doing the job and struck the ball cleanly that thankfully went for a boundary.”
He added: “Abu Dhabi are a very strong side who have a number of players who’ve gone on to represent the UAE Under-19 side so to win against them is very special.”
There was an extra incentive for the players in this year’s competition. The ECB will select a pool of players from all four teams – Sharjah, Ajman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi – and develop them in the UAE U-19 set-up as part of the governing body’s vision to identify talent from a young age. And Bhatia made no secret of his wish to play on the international stage.
“It would be amazing to be called up to the UAE Under-19 squad,” he said. “I have hopes but I know I must work hard to achieve that as there are many other talented cricketers in this country. Let’s hope for the best.”
One man who made the second round of the selection process was Jonathan Figy. And the all-rounder again showed his potential with a fine 63-run knock to top-score for Abu Dhabi.
Lakhani was the stand-out bowler with three wickets while Aryan Lakra was lethal with the ball, taking one scalp and conceding just four runs in his three overs. Lakhani returned to score 68 for Dubai, while Punja finished with figures of 2-33.
Samiullah Younis scored a decisive unbeaten half century to guide Danube Lions to a thrilling one-wicket victory over Ibsons Group in the opening match of the 42nd Bukhatir League cricket Tournament 2016.
At the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Ibsons won the toss and got off to a fine start with skipper Baber Malik scoring an impressive 47 from 61 deliveries at the top. However, it was a cracking innings from wicket-keeper batsman Faisal Ather that provided Ibsons the right platform.
Ather blasted a superb 78-ball 81. peppered with six boundaries and four sixes. Sajjad Ali (28, 29b, 1×4, 2×6) and Fayyaz Ahmed (26, 31, 3×4) were the other significant contributors.
Danube Lions’ Ali Afzal (4-46) bowled an amazing spell picking up four crucial wickets in the middle order as Ibsons reached 249 in 49.1 overs.
Farhan Ahmed was the other successful bowler to claim 3-39 in his 8.1 overs. Chasing a tricky target, Danube Lions were in for a rude shock when pacer Umaid Asif scalped two wickets in his first over.
Habib Ghazi complemented Asif’s efforts as he also bagged a wicket in the next over to leave Danube Lions reeling at 4 for 3. Shaiman Anwar (54) then added 22 runs for the fourth wicket with Adnan Mufti (4) and put together another decent partnership with Gulraiz Sadae (17).
It was then that Younis stepped up to the challenge. Along with Amir Hayat, he put on 32 runs for the sixth wicket, before Asif (6-41) came back to haunt the Danube batsmen with two more quick wickets towards the end.
The last pair needed six runs off the last eight balls and Younis did not disappoint and finished it off with a fine boundary. Younis was eventually unbeaten on 92 in 91 deliveries, which included 11 fours and two sixes.
The UAE had been hosting international cricket in Sharjah for many years but their own team had been unable to make the cut for top-level cricket. All that changed on this day in 1994 when the UAE played their first one-day international – against India in the Austral-Asia Cup in Sharjah.
The team of predominantly expat players was captained by Sultan Zarawani, the only Emirati in the team. In the match, UAE restricted India to 273 for five and were well placed at 161 for three during the chase with Mazhar Hussian making 70. But they started to lose wickets as pacer Javagal Srinath took three wickets to seal a 71-run win for India.
Here’s other memorable events that happened on this day:
1962: ‘Stan the Man’ Musial scores his 1,869th run, a new record in major League Baseball.
1984: India beat Pakistan by 58 runs to win first Asia Cup title in Sharjah.
1997: Tiger Woods becomes the youngest golfer at 21 to win the Masters tournament.
2004: Barry Bonds hits his 661st career home run, passing Willie Mays on the all-time list in MLB.