MCC U-20 Winners of Indoor-Cricket Tournament
On 1st April 2001, Malmö Cricket Club sent its Under-20 cricket squad to Gothenburg to play an indoor championship, and surprisingly it was not an April fool's joke. After have had been on a break from cricket for nearly seven months, the Under-20 team was to be tested against the finest youngsters of Swedish cricket again.
The team was led by the 20-year old pace-man and middle-order batsman, Hassan Zaigham. Other members of the squad were pace-man Umair Khan, wicket-keeper Jon Assim Abbas, middle-order batsman Hassan Niazi, pinch-hitter Omar Mirza, middle-order batsman (and superb fielder) Omar Ghafoor and opener and pace bowler Bilal Zaigham. The chairman of MCC Masood Zaigham, and Mirza Askari, a member of the Malmö Cricket Club's A-team also accompanied the under-20 team as supporters and advisors.
There were five teams in Gothenburg to compete for the Gothenburg Youth Indoor Tournament, Gothenburg Cricket Club's U-20 A-team, Gothenburg Cricket Club's U-20 B-team, Mariestad Cricket Club's U-20 A-team, Mariestad Cricket Club's U-20 B-team and Malmö Cricket Club's U-20 team. The matches would be played at 10 overs per innings, except for the final, which would consist of two twelve-over innings. Each team was to have six players in the team, whereof five had to bowl a maximum of two overs each, except in the final, where the two finalist teams would play seven players, with six bowlers each.
The rules of indoor-cricket were vastly different from the common outdoor-cricket rules. Some of the main differences were that a wide ball gave two runs, instead of one, but no extra ball was awarded. In addition, the ball hitting the sidewall or the back-wall of the hall resulted in one run. If an extra run was taken by the batsmen between the wickets, three runs were claimed. If the batsman played a shot straight to the forward end of the hall, and hit the front wall he had earned four runs, unless he hit the wall directly, i.e. the ball hit the wall at first contact after have had travelled through the air. In that case, the batsman received six runs. However, there was always a danger in playing a shot in the air, since if the ball hit the sidewall above a certain limit at a height of roughly one metre, he was out.
After a long car trip of roughly three hours, and trouble finding the indoor cricket hall, the players were fit to play their first match, against Gothenburg Cricket Club' Under-20 A-team. This same team played MCC's Under-20 team in Malmö back in June 1999. On that occasion, brilliant bowling by Sunny Sharma, a player not in the squad for the indoor tournament, and sensible and patient batting by Bilal Zaigham won the match for MCC U-20. After some tentative, but entertaining, batting by MCC U-20 team, a target of 84 runs was set for GCC U-20 A-team. The scoring of the team was evenly poised between all six players, but the captain Hassan Zaigham and Omar Ghafoor stood out among the rest.
The opener, and attack bowler, Bilal Zaigham began bowling in the second innings, and due to some relatively poor fielding in the beginning GCC U-20 team were ahead of their required run rate after the first four overs. It nearly seemed as if the match was being lost because of some mediocre fielding, but at the same time credit goes to the openers of GCC U-20 A for taking advantage of the misfields, and playing very clever cricket. After nine overs, GCC U-20 A needed 14 runs off the last over, which was to be bowled by wicket keeper and all-rounder Jon Assim Abbas. After two successive fours by the captain of the opposing team, Sunny (not to be confused with Sunny Sharma, previous member of MCC), it seemed as if the match was lost. GCC U-20 now needed six runs off the last three balls. Then, after bowling one dot ball, and costing three runs off one ball, the target stood at three runs off the last ball of the match to win or two runs to equal. After some controversy, where Jon Assim Abbas intentionally bowled a wide and was forced to re-bowl the last ball, because he violated the "Spirit of Cricket", Malmö Cricket Club's Under-20 team won by one run, as GCC U-20 A only reached 82 runs.
After have had gained confidence from the first win, MCC went on to win the next two matches easily with a fifty from Bilal Zaigham (containing three sixes and one four) in one match and splendid bowling by Umair Khan and skipper Hassan Zaigham in both matches. Hassan Niazi and Omar Mirza also gave their share in the team with some useful contributions to the batting, whereof Hassan Niazi hit one six in each of these two matches and Omar Mirza showed great progress in his batting skills. The team then went on to meet their rival team again, this time in the championship final.
Again MCC started batting but faced early difficulties when new opening pair Jon Assim Abbas and Bilal Zaigham were out after only four overs. Then, number four batsman Umair Khan was run out after some extraordinary confusion, where he ran for the quick single, despite no call from the captain batting on the other end. However, some sensible and smart batting by captain of the side Hassan Zaigham, and some intelligent batting by Omar Ghafoor, took MCC to a reasonable total of 90.
Despite getting an unconvincing total, the MCC remained confident. The captain took responsibility and for the first time in the tournament he attacked and began bowling in the second innings of play. The change turned out to be perfect. The opener of GCC U-20 A was out after playing across the line at a middle-stump ball, and got the leading edge, only to give Bilal Zaigham an easy catch at extra-cover. After one over, GCC were 1-1. The second over was bowled by Umair, who struck immediately. He clean bowled the skipper of GCC U-20 A, Sunny, for a duck. GCC were now in deep trouble, and matters were not improved when Bilal Zaigham who bowled the third over of the innings, knocked off middle-order batsman and pace bowler, Gaggan's off stump with his first delivery. GCC were three wickets down after three overs had been bowled. Despite a brave fight-back from middle order batsman Daniel, GCC never came close to the MCC total. They ran short by nearly forty runs, after Hassan Zaigham rounded off the tournament by removing Daniel's middle stump.
In the tournament ceremony, Hassan Zaigham gratefully accepted the winner's trophy, and received a personal award for Best Batsman of the tournament, after the opponents had failed to dismiss him at any occasion throughout the tournament. Each player received a personal miniature trophy, declaring them part of the Malmö Cricket Club's Under-20 winner's of the Gothenburg Youth Indoor Tournament.