Nail-biting finish

The victorious Hyderabad Heroes.-AP

Close finals, big crowds. What more could the ICL organisers ask for? Over to V. V. Subrahmanyam.

After an unbeaten run of seven matches, the Badshahs from Lahore were brought down to earth in the final by the Heroes from Hyderabad. In front of unprecedented crowds at the floodlit Lal Bahadur Stadium, the Heroes, led by Chris Harris, scored an emphatic 2-0 win in the best-of-three-finals of the Edelweiss 20s Challenge championship.

For the Lahore outfit, it was a shock. The team had a formidable line-up headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq, but was made to look like an ordinary side. To its chagrin, the Heroes, which had some big names like Nicky Boje, Justin Kemp, and Jimmy Maher and was coached by Steve Rixon, raised its level in the crucial stages.

“We stuck to the basics. The message to the boys was: play a tension-free game and the rest will fall in place,” said assistant coach Abdul Azeem.

This was evident by the way the Hyderabad bowlers fought back in the second session of the first final at Panchkula (Chandigarh).

Chasing a modest 144, it looked as if Lahore was well and truly on way to victory. But a Pakistani, Abdul Razzaq, playing for Hyderabad, produced an over which turned the tables. The over, paradoxically, began with three wides. But Razzaq later picked up two wickets to clinch a thriller for his team as Lahore lost by six runs. The effort was also symbolic of the intensity of the competition despite the tournament being dubbed as one for ‘rejected and retired cricketers.’

The second final was outstanding in many respects: for the intensity of the mind-games on the field, the passion for the game and the huge crowd response. It was the biggest-ever crowd for any cricket match — official or unofficial — in the history of the Lal Bahadur Stadium. The spectators enjoyed every bit of the contest.

For once, it looked as if India and Pakistan were locked in a battle for a prestigious trophy as there were many national flags of both the countries in the stands.

If Inzamam thought his team would make amends in the second final, he was disappointed. Firstly with himself for yet another failure (5), totalling a miserable 127 from nine matches, and then also with his team for putting up a modest 130 for nine in 20 overs. Only Imran Nazir (30) and Imran Farhat (30) batted with authority. The rest of the batting came a cropper against the left-arm spin of Indra Sekhar Reddy (four for 19) and gentle medium-pace of Stuart Binny (three for nine).

And when the chase began the atmosphere was surcharged. Each stroke and every wicket was cheered lustily. And, the exciting Ambati Rayudu delighted the home crowd with a splendid unbeaten 46 (39 balls, 4 x 4, 1 x 6). Another dramatic final over, this time by Rana Naved, who picked up two wickets to finish with a five-wicket haul, provided the twists and turns to ensure an exciting finale. The scores were level when Hyderabad was bowled out for 130 with two balls to spare.

Then, the Hyderabadis got their first chance to see the ‘bowl out’ concept in action. And it was double delight for them as Nicky Boje, Indra Sekhar Reddy and Chris Harris were bang on target while Rana Naved, Shahid Nazir and Naved Latif failed to pull it off.

Rayudu and I. S. Reddy were adjudged ‘Best Batsman’ and ‘Best Bowler’ of Hyderabad Heroes by the team sponsors, bharatstudents.com, which also announced an additional incentive of $1 lakh besides the assured winner’s purse of Rs. 2 crores. Inzamam’s team had to be content with Rs.1 crore.

All-rounder Abdul Razzaq, the Player of the Series.-AKHILESH KUMAR

More than the money, it was a question of pride for the Hyderabad players like Rayudu, Khaleel, Absolom and I. S. Reddy, who it was perceived had taken a great risk in joining the ICL. Now, they have the satisfaction of having achieved something in front of home crowds against some of the big names of world cricket.

“We thank the local administration and the crowds for their wonderful response. The success story of ICL is a reflection of the passion of Hyderabadis for the sport,” said a delighted Kapil Dev, chairman of the ICL executive board, later.

Abdul Razzaq of Hyderabad Heroes was named ‘Player of the Tournament’ for being the highest wicket-taker (18) and scoring 183 runs. One of the highlights of the championship was the amazing spell of seven for 15 by Hyderabad Heroes’ medium-pacer Alfred Absolom against the star-studded Ahmedabad Rockets. Incidentally, this is the best-ever figures in any Twenty20 match, but obviously will not get its due as the ICC doesn’t recognise the ICL.

THE SCORES First final (Panchkula, Chandigarh)

Hyderabad Heroes 143 for six in 20 overs (Jimmy Maher 33, Ambati Rayudu 44, Rana Naved two for 47) beat Lahore Badshahs 137 for nine in 20 overs (Taufiq Umar 43, Azhar Mahmood 34, Abdul Razzaq three for 18).

Second final (LB Stadium, Hyderabad)

Lahore Badshahs 130 for seven in 20 overs (Imran Nazir 30, Imran Farhat 30, Indra Sekhar Reddy four for 19, Stuart Binny three for nine) tied with Hyderabad Heroes 130 all out in 18.4 overs (Ambati Rayudu 46, Mushtaq Ahmed two for 19, Naved Rana five for 22).

Hyderabad won 3-0 in ‘bowl-out’.