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.