Oman Inch A Thriller

The Middle East Cup, Final

It couldn’t have been any closer!

The scores were tied, with Bahrain needing just one run for victory with one ball of the innings left to go. No.11 Shafiq Ahmed is on strike, facing up to Oman’s premier allrounder Rakesh Sharma - the ball is fast, and on the stumps. Shafiq prods forward, content to defend.

So the Bahrain innings finishes on 253-9, matching Oman’s 253 all out. Because Oman had been all out for that score, and Bahrain had made it for the loss of only 9 wickets – almost everyone at the ground, Shafiq Ahmed especially during those last moments, thought that Bahrain had done enough to be declared the winners of the Inaugural ACC Middle East Cup.

Yet according to the tournament rules as stipulated by the ACC referee at the Tournament, Iqbal Sikander, irrespective of the tied score, under the playing conditions laid out at inception, victory in the tournament was awarded to Oman because they had beaten Bahrain in the preliminary group stages (another close game, Oman winning by 12 runs).

Oman : Winners to a man

Iqbal Sikander was full of praise for the manner in which the game was played, “These were two teams who gave it their all and the tied final is testimony to the level of competitiveness of the top teams in this region.”

Oman’s performance is to be commended as is Bahrain’s, particularly for the way in which they came back in the final from being 44 for 6 in the 12th over. Late middle-order batsman Muhammad Yaqoob rescued the innings with some enterprising partnerships with his fellow tail-enders. 21 runs were still needed with the last man, Shafiq Ahmed in, and going into the last over, Bahrain still needed 15. Yaqoob, 84 not out at this stage, was on strike – first ball :4; second ball: 6; third ball: no score; fourth ball: (dropped chance) 4; fifth ball: 1 – Yaqoob took the single, thinking 99 not out was enough for a tie and ultimate victory.

The game is full of ifs and buts. One thing is certain however, competition of such intensity can only strengthen match-playing capabilities. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, particularly, impressed in this tournament and all signs augur well for their cricketing future. The Middle East Cup, hosted this time in exemplary fashion by the Kuwait Cricket Association, was an excellent tournament.

Filed October 9th 2004