The Under 14 Final of ADIB National School League Cricket was an all Sharjah affair that played out in the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. The action did not disappoint as Our Own Zenith and DPS Sharjah fought hard for NSL glory.
Our Own Zenith will have to make space for two new trophies in their cabinet as they put themselves into the record books of the ADIB NSL after a double victory over neighbours DPS Sharjah.
Both schools made the short trip to Sharjah knowing they could make history of becoming the first teams to win both the age categories in the same season since the competition launched in 2014.
And it was Zenith who rose to the occasion and delivered when it really mattered to claim the Under-14 and U-17 crowns on Saturday.
Given the magnitude of the feat, it was only fitting that the matches were played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which is fully aware of what it’s like to be part of history – having hosted more ODIs (226) than any other ground.
From Sachin Tendulkar’s memorable ‘sandstorm’ innings against Australia in 1998 to Javed Miandad’s famous last ball six against India in 1986, the stadium boasts some rich memories and it was a chance for the players to create their very own on the same field.
In a vibrant atmosphere in the U-14 final, DPS Sharjah were dealt an early blow after winning the toss when Aayan Khan removed Nathan Shibu in just the fifth delivery.
Aryansh Sharma (5) and Arkadeep Das (25) kept the scoreboard ticking with a 25-run stand but that was as good as it got as Zenith gradually took control.
Their cause wasn’t helped by Khan’s lethal bowling as well as smart keeping from Shree Vishnu, who was alert behind the stumps.
The 13-year-old punished the DPS batsmen with one run-out and three stumpings as DPS reached 63-7 in their 15 overs.
Although it was a low target, Zenith did not get off to a bright start, losing Khan on a run-out with 17 on the board. But with in-form skipper and top run-scorer Shoun Roger at the crease, there was still hope.
If there was one person DPS needed to get rid of, it was Roger. But having started slowly, it didn’t take long for him to unleash his batting potential. The 14-year-old found fired two consecutive boundaries with his team at 42-1 at the half-way mark.
As each run was scored, it was celebrated with a chorus of noise from the vuvuzelas from the Zenith players. DPS temporarily delayed the celebrations when Aryan Sexena was dismissed but ironically it was one of their most consistent players – Roger who wrapped up the seven-wicket victory with a boundary.
That saw him hoisted on the parents’ shoulders but it was Vishnu who was awarded Player of the Final. “It’s a proud moment for me and the team and I just wanted to make sure I kept focused and stick to my game behind the stumps,” said Vishnu.
Their celebrations were watched by Zenith’s U-17 side and they matched the feat with a clinical performance over the same opponents.
Having lost an early wicket, skipper Niel Lobo (90no) and Brandon Martis (71no) took charge with a mammoth 169-run stand for the second wicket.
Even towards the end, they showed no signs of slowing down, scoring 26 off the last over to set DPS a target of 182 in 20 overs.
Prior to the game, DPS coach Vikram Dutt admitted his troops would have to deal with Zenith’s bowling attack but they had no answer. Captain Devnath Menon (21) was just one of two to reach double figures as Syed Ashir (2-15), Pradhyuma Jagdish (2-10) and Glenn Fernandes (2-12) wrapped up the 84-run win and another NSL crown.
For Martis, he was named MVP and could not hide his delight.
“I wasn’t involved in last year’s U-15 title win and I really wanted to win this trophy really badly and now I have.”
Abdu oversaw the seven-wicket and 84-run victories to claim the Under-14 and U-17 titles at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. That completed a remarkable treble in the competition after the Sharjah-based school got their hands on the inaugural U-12 trophy in Dubai last month.
While Abdu is thrilled with the achievements this year, he believes this could be just be the start.
“I’m really happy that we have won today,” he said. “Although I’m the coach, I’ve only played a small role. The credit has to go to each and every player because they are the ones who have worked so hard in training and come up with strong performances on the field.
“The NSL has allowed schools from across the UAE to play for glory and of course, we want to work on winning more silverware in this competition.
“Once you become champions it’s a good feeling. We know we have done it. But we know as champions, there will be pressure on us next season because everyone wants to beat us and we have to be ready to cope. The fact we won the U-12, U-14 and U-17 titles, show that we have strength across all ages so that gives us confidence that we can do well in the future.”
His views were echoed by the team captains Shoun Roger and Niel Lobo, who both believe there’s no reason why they can’t become a force in NSL.
“This is one of the best tournaments I’ve won in my life and I want to win more NSL titles,” said U-14 skipper Roger, who will play in the U-17 category when the fourth edition begins later this year.
“It’s given us confidence that we can go out there and beat any team whoever it is.”
Lobo, who skippered the team to last season’s U-15 title, added: “Yes definitely we can win more. We won last year and although the U-14 side couldn’t win in 2016, they showed signs of improvement and today they won.
“If we carry on in the same morale and keep the same spirit, I’m sure we can do that again. We are all united as one.”
For U-17 coach Vikram Dutt, he admitted the best team won but says he cannot fault his players.
“Zenith are deserving champions and they showed their mettle throughout the competition by beating strong sides,” he said.
“When I came to the stadium, I could see the body language of my players wasn’t there and we didn’t play well.
“But I’m proud of my players. They proved me wrong by reaching this far and can hold their