Dubai Cricket Council continued their dominance by clinching their third consecutive Under-16 UAE Cricket League title after defeating Ajman Cricket Council by 76 runs on Saturday.
Dubai went into the week-long competition as one of the favourites after winning the previous two editions, formerly known as ECB Inter-Emirate tournament, and they lived up to that tag with a convincing display at the ICC Academy.
They had to settle for 187-9 after Adithya Shetty top-scored with 31 in their 50 overs but Dubai defended their total following some impressive bowling performances. Shetty and Jash Jiyanant each took three wickets as Ajman batsmen were rattled to be all out for 111 in 41 overs.
Salman Farooq, coach of Dubai lauded his players for their fine efforts. “It was quite an impressive win for us and to retain the title for the third time is really special,” he said.
“It’s always good to unearth new talent and we really had to work hard to get this win. There were some strong sides and we really had to work hard.”
He added: “We had a great bunch of players and some who have been experienced members of the team who have played in previous editions of the tournament. We had new talented boys as well and took on the challenges really well.”
The tournament acts as a platform for the Emirates Cricket Board to identify potential players for their national team. And Farooq is confident a number of players will have caught the eye of the ECB selectors.
“We have a lot of good talent and even last year we had some players called up,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of boys will be noticed and hopefully can progress to the next stage.”
Bukhatir XI added another A Division Cup to their trophy cabinet after defeating One Stop Tourism to clinch the Gold Cup.
Chasing 198 in 25 overs after Mohammad Ikram scored an unbeaten 102 at The Sevens, Dubai, Bukhatir reached their target in the 22nd over after an impressive partnership from Adnan Mufti (42no) and Rizwan CP (54no).
With Zawar Fareed (34), Khalid Shah (33) and Chirag Suri (28) dismissed and with the score 124-3, Mufti and Rizwan came together with a vital unbeaten 76-run stand.
The result meant Bukhatir were celebrating another title success following their victory in Ajman earlier in the season and UAE international Mufti praised the team’s owner Khalaf Bukhatir for his support.
“It’s great to be part of the winning side,” said Mufti, who was part of the UAE squad that competed in the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
“We all worked together as a team for this win. Almost all the team is under the age of 28 and this trophy would not have been possible without Khalaf Bukhatir who is a firm supporter of promoting young talent and giving them opportunities to play in domestic cricket in the UAE,” added the batsman, who is the oldest at 33-years-old.
The national team returned home from the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe on Saturday morning and despite not reaching the showpiece event in 2019, they could reflect on a memorable three weeks.
They managed to advance to the Super Six stage, while also retaining their ODI status until 2022. Brown’s side also managed to deny Zimbabwe a place in the World Cup with an historic win – their first over a Test nation.
After ODI status was sealed for another four years, ECB member and spokesperson Zayed Abbas said they are hopeful of pushing ahead with plans to award more players central contracts. In July 2016, the UAE announced 12 contracted players – eight on full-time and four on part-time deals.
Brown says he’s been impressed with the players’ efforts and, if funding permits, believes it would be another positive move to have more cricketers on contracts.
“We probably have at this moment of time, about a group of 22 players whom we can call upon,” said the 48-year-old. “We know that if we are going to sustain our form, we need to have a far better playing squad for the games that we are playing.
“We also need to have a competitive environment, which at this moment of time, is competitive but needs to be more competitive. It would be good if that’s the case but it all depends on funding.
“I would love there to be more contracts but it’s a balancing act between what we require and what we would like and what is completely viable. At this moment, we only have the number of contracts that we have and hopefully over time we can have more.”
One of the players on a central contract is batsman Adnan Mufti. The 33-year-old has become a key member of the squad since making his debut in December 2016.
And the Pakistan-born player saying he’s reaping the rewards of being a professional cricketer.
“It’s been very good for us,” he said. “We have been going through a good process. After working full day, it can be hard to then go to practice. But these contacts is very good for UAE cricket.
“You can see in the results that we have been producing. The victory over Zimbabwe has shown how far we have come.”
He added: “Working every day in training is a big plus as it helps develop your knowledge while also making sure you’re physically fit as well.”