Gemini Arabians all the way in Masters Champions League after beating Leo Lions in thrilling final
Arabians 130-7 (Kemp 32 not out, Sangakkara 30; Styris 2-18, Edwards 2-27)
Lions 114 (Marshall 46, Lara 28 retd; Naved-ul-Hasan 4-9)
DUBAI // Full-length diving catches. A hat-trick. Violently hostile pace bowling. Switch-hit six-hitting. A seesawing, nerve-jangling run-chase. All-time greats recalling their primes. Thousands of people watching in the stands.
Has the Oxigen Masters Champions League got a future? Assuming the wages survive the international transfers and make it into the players’ bank accounts, and the hotel bills get settled, then the answer feels like a very definite yes.
It goes without saying the first running of the MCL had its “teething issues,” as the tournament’s founders termed it. Happily for all concerned, they survived them, and even thrived by the conclusion.
Even the final match was not without its controversies. They needed a shocker of an umpiring decision at a crucial stage, as well as ill-luck to the opposition’s captain and lead batsman, to get the job done.
But, in the end, the new Twenty20 league for old players was won by its best and most popular team, Gemini Arabians, in front of a thrilled crowd of 7,126 spectators waving flags and dancing to a Bhangra beat drumming out.
Zarah Shah, the chief executive of the MCL, was proud of what has played out over the past two weeks in Sharjah and Dubai. “It has far, far exceeded our expectations, especially in terms of the standard of cricket,” she said.
It is difficult to pick the most pivotal point of the final. The glaring inside-edge not spotted when Hamish Marshall, who was seeing the Leo Lions home to a shock victory, was given out leg before on 46.
Brian Lara’s strained hamstring, as he was in the midst of reminding everyone of his glory years, while captain of the Lions. Rana Naved-ul-Hasan’s three wickets in three balls, which concluded with the wicket of Lara on his first ball after returning following his injury break.
Perhaps the seminal moment was its most visibly arresting, when a player, who was not even listed in the starting line-up swung the game towards the Arabians.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul gave up his international career especially to play in the MCL.
In the final shake up, his side decided he was not even worth a place in the team.
And yet, on as one of the many fielding substitutes permitted by this tournament’s playing conditions, he held probably the finest catch of a career that started 22 years ago.
His son Tagenarine, a 19-year-old aspiring West Indies international, would have been proud of the athleticism of Chanderpaul senior.
Scott Styris, the Lions vice captain, swung Muttiah Muralitharan, the leading wicket-taker in international cricket history, away to the deep square leg boundary.
It was not going to make the ropes. Given the age of the participants in this competition, though, Styris must surely have felt safe as it sailed into a huge gap between fielders.
Then Chanderpaul emerged into view, charging around the rope like a sprinter half his age, dived full length, grabbed the ball, and held on.
“Most of the tour, I haven’t done much, but today was one of those days,” Chanderpaul said. “It takes catches like that to win matches, and I was happy I held on.”
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Updated: February 14, 2016 04:00 AM