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Tanzeel heaps praise on Bhagath as Stray Lions seal T20 double

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Stray Lions
Stray Lions A Tanzeel Sheikh receives the trophy from the NPCA chairman
  • Bhagath hit a match winning six from the last ball
  • Stray Lions won the Div One title
  • They beat defending champions Swamibapa

Skipper Tanzeel Sheikh has sung the praises of indefatigable Indian pro Bhagath Varma whose match-winning last ball six earned Stray Lions A the coveted Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) Super Division Twenty20 title.

Stray Lions ‘A’ decimated last year’s champions Swamibapa ‘A’ by 5-wickets following a dramatic finish to a pulsating T20 final that treated fans to some exhilarating displays of cricket artistry at Sikh Union grounds.

And it was double celebration for the Lions after their B side defeated Kanbis B by 7 wickets to rack-up this year’s Division One title at Nairobi Gymkhana.

“It’s an incredible feeling winning this dramatic final. And winning it off the last ball is even merrier. Congratulations to the boys and Swamibapa as well for a well-fought final.”

“The innings Bhagath played throughout, he was hitting the ball well so we all believed even if it’s six off one ball he would win it for us and he did. He (Bhagath) played an incredible game,” Stray Lions skipper Tanzeel said.

Stray Lions chase after Swamis won the toss

Stray Lions

Swamibapa’s Peter Koech in action during the final

Swamibapa A won the toss and elected to bat first. They savored a good start in the first innings; setting a decent target of 165 for 9 in their allotted 20.0 overs. Chasing the target, the Lions hit 166 for five in 20.0 overs to carry the day with vim and vigor.

Bhagath was named man of the match with 84 off 44 deliveries whilst Swami’s Dhwanil Patel smacked 77 off 49 balls. Bhagath hit 8 boundaries and 5 sixes.

The tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) was Cutchi Leva’s Manish Kerai while Swamibapa A skipper Rushabh Patel emerged the best batsman after he topped the leaderboard with 416 runs.

Tanzeel sounded quite febrile on their spirited chase, saying: “I think 160-plus on this wicket was a really chasable target. The wicket was good, but they also batted well. And again, Bhagath pulled us through. By and large, we have played incredible cricket in the T20 season and teamwork paid off.”

Asked about his match-winning six for Stray Lions, Bhagath commented: “I didn’t know that I would hit it but I just went for it. We were just one ball away and I knew with one good hit, we would be home and dry. We were also confident that anything between 170 and 180, we would give it a good chase.”

Going into the last ball, the Swamis thought it was a done deal, but not until Bhagath’s six sent the victors into a frenzy.

Swamis’ veteran batsman Maurice Ouma was left to rue the last ball that denied the 2023 T20 champions back-to-back titles.

Bhagath took the game away

Stray Lions

Swamibapa James Ngoche bowls during the final.

Ouma, a former Kenya team skipper, said: “Basically, Stray Lions man Bhagath took the game away from us, single handedly. We had our plans when we were going to defend the 165, and we stuck to our game plan until the 12th over. But again, we lost it at the 13th and 14th when we gave them too many runs. I think that’s what brought them (Stray Lions) back to the game.”

NPCA Hon. Secretary Narendra Patel (NK) congratulated all the teams, saying: “We’ve had eight good weeks of competitive cricket, with Cutchi Leva A topping the group stages for the first time, which goes to show the improvement of teams across board.

The 50 Overs League champions (Ruaraka) could not even qualify for the knockout stage. I must also  admit that we have seen quite a few youngsters who have performed really well; that’s a good sign.”

NPCA Chairman Kantilal Rabadia, on his part, remarked: “When it comes to T20, it’s usually more exciting than the 50 overs League. And come to think about the high-flying professionals, the teams, the level of competition and the fighting spirit, I mean, it’s absolutely brilliant.”

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