Dhahran Cricket Association – Team Warriors led by Avais Qureshi clinched the inaugural Champions Trophy organized by Abqaiq Cricket Club. This was the first cricket tournament held at the newly constructed Shamal Cricket Ground in Abqaiq. The new cricket facilities are the result of combined efforts by the Abqaiq Community and Saudi Aramco Community Services. The ground truly has world class facilities with a green outfield and lights which enable teams to play during the night. Although wind storms are common in Abqaiq the weather on the day of the final was superb with perfect playing conditions. Five teams participated in the tournament including two teams from Abqaiq (Abqaiq Knights & Abqaiq Tigers), two teams from Dhahran (DCA Warriors & DCA Stallions) and one team from Ras Tanura.
The journey leading to the final had been a perfect one for Abqaiq Tigers who had secured victory in all games leading up to the final. The Tigers led by Mohsin Bashir had a perfect scorecard and had comprehensively out played all teams in the tournament. The DCA Warriors, led by Avais Qureshi however got a early wake-up call when they were beaten by ACC Tigers in the first game of the tournament. The Warriors seemed rusty at the start of the tournament, however the team quickly gained momentum by going on to beat ACC Knights, DCA Stallions and Ras Tanura to secure a spot in the final. Both teams were evenly matched and the crowd of over 200 which came to the witness the final were in for a treat. This being Abqaiq’s home ground they definitely had an advantage with the community backing the local team. It was well known that the Abqaiq team went through some intense coaching sessions and a lot of planning to ensure victory in the final. However Dhahran Warriors also had a point to prove given that they had lost to Abqaiq early in the tournament.
Avais Qureshi won the toss and the Warriors captain decided to bat first under perfect batting conditions. The warriors got off to a shaky start with Ayub getting out early to a magnificent delivery bowled by Rashed Choudhry. Zuhair Bukhari and Rehan Khan then looked set to ensure a good foundation, however Zuhair was unfortunately run out due to some excellent work in the field by Umar Ahmed. Rehan Khan then took charge with gutsy hitting all over the ground and had a productive partnership with Mohammed Khurram who was the top scorer for DCA Warriors. Tanvir Hashmi and Saad Sikander also contributed in the lower middle order, however wickets fell at regular intervals. DCA Warriors were all out for 172 in the final over. Abqaiq had managed to contain Dhahran to a respectable total and were favorites to clinch the title at the mid-way mark.
When chasing its always critical to have a good start, however Abqaiq faltered from the beginning when Irfan Afzal clean bowled by Saad Sikander in the first over. It was a classic dismissal that gave DCA Warriors the inspiration that they needed to really put pressure on Abqaiq. In the next over Mohammed Zubair who looked in good touch was run out due to some brilliant work in the field by Avais Qureshi and complemented by Asim Khan who was sublimely superb behind the stumps. Saad and Zuhair bowled well together to ensure that ACC had to work hard to keep the scorecard ticking. However Mohsin Bashir and Zishan Afzal had a good partnership and put together 48 runs in quick time. The chase was going well until Aun Mela was brought into the attack. Initially Aun was wayward but then struck gold when he was able to get Mohsin Bashir clean bowled. The Warriors knew they were in with a chance with Mohsin no longer posing a danger. Sharjeel Anjum came in and then steadied the ship and the Champions trophy seemed in sight. However in a moment of cricketing brilliance a field change was made by the Captain who was able to get Zishan out. Zishan clipped a delivery outside leg stump and was magnificently caught by Saad Sikander who was just perfectly positioned to take the catch. The fall of Zishan’s wicket resulted in Abqaiq feeling the pressure of a chase which eventually resulted in a flurry of wickets. Hope was still there with Umar Ahmed at the crease however he too was caught at the boundary off the bowling of Rehan Khan. Abqaiq were eventually all out for 136 runs, falling short of the target by 36 runs.
Saad Sikander received the man of the match award for his superb all round performance. However it was truly a team effort with all DCA Warriors team members equally responsible for ensuring the team’s first victory in a tournament outside of Dhahran. Farooq Khan, President of DCA was extremely proud of the team’s accomplishment and even joined the team for a victory huddle at the end of the game. Abqaiq Cricket Club led by president Sardar Balal did a fantastic job in organizing the tournament and must be recognized for making sure that all teams were provided with excellent hospitality. The season is not yet over with DCA now looking to clinch the 2015 Invitational Cup which is expected to be organized at the new cricket facilities in Dhahran.
(Author: Farhan Kasbati)