Shabbir Ahmed’s hat-trick seals ICL title triumph for Chennai Superstars

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

PANCHKULA, India: Chennai Superstars became the champions of the inaugural ICL tournament, with all-round team work helping them beat the Chandigarh Lions by 12 runs. After being put into bat, the Superstars made 155 for 8 which seemed to be short of their expectations, but Shabbir Ahmed tamed the Lions with his 4 for 23, which included the first hat-trick of the tournament.

The grand finale lived up to its reputation with a Super Bowl-like atmosphere: a fashion show, Bollywood stars, a full house, fireworks, and big hits. Panchkula, on the outskirts of Chandigarh, was alive and reverberating. Sadly, only part of the cricket matched the entertainment off the field.

Shabbir packed off the Lions’ openers quickly. Imran Farhat’s slash ended in the hands of wicketkeeper Chris Read and Hamish Marshall’s waft at a beautiful outswinger gave Read his second catch. 19 for 2 quickly became 30 for 3 when Manish Sharma’s lofted on-drive was snapped by S Saravanan just a yard from the boundary.

TP Singh along with Dinesh Mongia then did the repair work with Singh adapting well to the frequent changes in the bowling made by the Superstars’ captain, Stuart Law. But just when the Lions seemed to have turned a corner, Singh’s paddle sweep landed in the hands of Thiru Kumaran at short leg.

Mongia, who had played a crucial knock in the semi-final, seemed to be doing an encore but Law once again played his card smartly bringing back his match-winner Shabbir. The Pakistani struck twice getting Mongia and Chetan Sharma off consecutive balls. Mongia tried to defend an offcutter which took his off stump while Sharma was out lbw, rapped in line with the leg stump. It completed a hat-trick for Shabbir who had got Marshall off the last ball of his second over.

Cairns, the danger man, was done in by a beauty from Harvey; bowling wide of the crease, Harvey sneaked one past the strong defence of Cairns. Andrew Hall and Sarabjit Singh tried their best to fight back but they could not match the mounting asking-rate or Law’s shrewd thinking. In the process, the Superstars lived up to the billing of being the form team, with five victories in the seven games they played.

Batting first, the Superstars failed to capitalise on an enterprising start given by Ian Harvey, who finished as the tournament’s leading run-getter, and G Vignesh. After Vignesh holed out to cover, Read walked in and sent a fuller one from Hall to the cover boundary. Harvey punched one in the gap between cover and mid-off against Amit Uniyal, the left-arm seamer, who tried to angle one away but pitched it short. A slow ball which came out as a full toss was pushed past Cairns to mid-off for another boundary.

Mongia, who was brought on in the seventh over, soon had a smile on his face as on his second ball, Read was run out while attempting a cheeky single. Russel Arnold fell soon after, but,Harvey remained unruffled at the other end.

His immaculately-timed punch off Cairns forced mid-off to be pushed back. Cairns then had to swallow the pain first of a no-ball and then bowling Harvey on the resulting free-hit. But Harvey’s cup of luck had run dry; he pushed an innocuous Mongia delivery to the unguarded leg side, but wicketkeeper Sarabjit Singh rushed to short leg and picked and threw in one motion to run Harvey out.

Harvey’s departure slowed the scoring, as the Superstars could manage only 30 runs between overs 10 and 15. Hall lived to his death-bowler reputation giving away only four runs in the final over which saw two run-outs, including that of a desperate Law trying to finish a tight double. Even if the Superstars might have thought they fell short by at least 20 runs, in the end Shabbir’s bowling clinched the title and the US$1 million prize money.

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Will Pakistan Premier League gain success just like Indian Premier League ?