Kilmarnock win thrilling CS Challenge Cup Final

28 Aug

Kilmarnock 207/9 beat Irvine 206 all out by 1 wicket [Scorecard]

On Sunday, Kilmarnock travelled to New Williamfield, the home of Stirling County Cricket Club, to take on local rivals Irvine in the final of the Cricket Scotland Challenge Cup. The ground has two full size ovals separated by a sloping bank, which allows for two matches to be played simultaneously. It was a fitting venue for the national ‘Finals Day’, as PSL Team Sports Clydesdale took on Mazars Grange in the Scottish Cup final on the adjacent pitch.

The ground staff at New Williamfield had done an excellent job with the pitch, preparing a hard surface and lightning fast outfield which was sure to suit the batsmen. Unsurprisingly, when Irvine captain Stuart McCallum won the toss, he opted to have a bat first. With their solid batting line up, led ably by professional Sachin Chaudhary, Irvine were hoping for a big total to defend.

Kilmarnock got off to a great start with the new ball as Niamat Ali (2 for 15) continued his excellent form with the ball, removing the Irvine skipper in the third over of the match. He was quickly followed by Graeme Owens for a quick-fire 16. However, this brought Mahmood Alam (21) and Chaudhary (34) to the crease. The batsmen were quick to punish any loose bowling, taking advantage of the favourable conditions.

When Kilmarnock captain Zubair Pasha picked up the wicket of Alam with the total on just 58, Kilmarnock were hoping that they might be able to bowl Irvine out for a below par total. Gurupreet Singh had other ideas. The big hitting batsman played himself in before launching the ball to all areas of the ground with immense power.

As the total raced passed the 130 mark in the 24th over, Irvine were looking at posting a total well in excess of 250. Pasha turned to Hafiz Afzal (2 for 26) hoping for some magic, and it wasn’t long before he got it. With only his third delivery, Chaudhary smashed the ball back in his direction and Afzal managed to pull off an astonishing low return catch.

As the Kilmarnock team celebrated this moment of brilliance, they knew the door was open for them once again. Afzal removed Singh for a well made 64 a few overs later and slowly the Irvine batsmen began to fall as they tried to push for runs. A sensible 25 from Josh Conway took the total to 206 before he fell LBW to Sayed Rizvi (3 for 23), becoming one of his three wickets.

A total of 206 was very competitive, but about 50 runs short of where Irvine would have hoped to finish up when Chaudhary and Singh were at the crease. Kilmarnock knew they had their work cut out for them, but with all of their batsmen firing lately, it was definitely achievable. 

Kilmarnock’s reply could not have started in a worse fashion, as they lost Muhammed Azeem to the last ball of the first over. Batting at number three, Munir Ahmed has been in excellent form for Kilmarnock of late and it was clear he wanted to make his mark on the cup final from the outset. He played sensibly, punishing any loose deliveries that were bowled his way. Along with Hafiz Afzal (29), he put on 109 for the second wicket before a mix up led to the run out of his partner in the 22nd over.

Fazal Jawad strolled to the crease at number four, hoping to continue his fine form this season. Along with Ahmed, they looked to take Kilmarnock home and appeared to be cruising towards their target before Munir fell to a cut shot on 94. With Irvine’s hopes renewed, they set about the Kilmarnock middle and lower order. Wickets tumbled at one end as the total slowly crept towards the 200 mark.

Jawad has scored buckets of runs for Kilmarnock this season and continued his fine form with a well constructed 50. As the tension grew, Kilmarnock got to the last over. Seven runs were required from six deliveries, with two wickets in hand.

Disaster struck for Kilmarnock with the first ball as Jawad turned to run two and was superbly run out by Graham Owens at deep third man. Irvine celebrated wildly, anticipating victory, as the Kilmarnock players sat on the sidelines in disbelief. With ten and eleven batting at the crease surely a miracle was needed.

A dot followed by two singles left Kilmarnock needing four runs from two balls. Muhammad Saleem played a cut shot and managed to find a gap. As the ball ran towards the boundary, the Kilmarnock players ran onto the pitch in celebration. The Cricket Scotland twitter feed was in meltdown with the drama. 

“That's it! Drama. The penultimate ball is edged past third man and Kilmarnock wins the CS Challenge Cup.” 

Kilmarnock were victorious by one wicket with one ball remaining. The cup final had everything. There was plenty of runs and wickets, some superb fielding and drama until the very last ball. Until the ball crossed the boundary rope the outcome of the trophy was unclear. 

This cup success was Kilmarnock’s first major trophy in 15 years and with another final to come in the Glasgow Cup, Kilmarnock will be hoping to add another piece of silverware to their cabinet before the 2014 season is out. 

Kilmarnock would like to thank Stirling County Cricket Club for their hospitality and providing an excellent ground, worthy of a cup final. They would also like to thank Cricket Scotland for organising this fantastic competition. Finally Kilmarnock would like to thank their opposition, Irvine. The clubs have competed in many battles in the past and there are sure to be many more entertaining encounters in the near future.

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