They are not known as Strikers for no good reason.
The team from the Bronx and the Commonwealth League struck at the exact right moments to kill off New York Destroyers and capture the Sam’s Foods Twenty20 title in the final at Whitestone Park on Sunday.
A scintillating batting performance brought the New Upscale sponsored Strikers back into the game and to an eventual seven -wicket victory with 10 balls remaining, to deny the recently formed NY Destroyers their second title in four competitions.
Shabaz Ahmed, a portly but hard hitting right-handed batsman, took the match away from Destroyers by making their bowlers feel what it is like to be destroyed, with a crushing half century. He slammed 58 as Strikers successfully chased down 166 for the loss of four wickets after Destroyers posted their highest score of the competition in 165-7 in their allotted 20 overs.
Although Destroyers coach Linden Fraser was eyeing a 175 total, it was still felt their eventual total of 10 less was good enough to cart off the title and the trophy and $5000 cash prize that went with it.
But Shabaz whose team uses Whitestone as its home base, tore into the much vaunted Destroyers attack led by United States national fast bowler Kevin Darlington.
He attacked from the get go, hammering 58 off a mere 33 balls that included five fours and four sixes which was solidly aided by Vijai Seonarine with an unbeaten 46. Seonarine’s knock contained three fours and three sixes from 34 balls and was part of a match winning third wicket partnership that left Destroyers shell shocked.
The pair viciously took on Javein Thomas’ off spin for 24 runs in one over that was the pivotal moment in the game that turned the tide in Strikers’ position for good.
Thomas was brought on from the Long Island bay end, and after capturing the second wicket, of Mohamed Aktar, was kept on for one over too long. Darlington gave Destroyers the ideal start when he shattered Abdil Ali’s stumps after unnerving him with a wicked bouncer that breached the left hander’s helmet grill and cut his jaw, in the previous delivery.
And when Thomas bowled Akhtar following a brief flurry, it set the stage for Shabaz and Seonarine to take the attack to Destroyers.
The pair found the boundaries with beautifully timed shots so frequently, it so rattled Destroyers’ captain Barrington Bartley, he failed to use his most prolific wicket-taker leg spinner Dwayne Smith until much too late.
Shabaz and Seonarine brought the run rate down to six runs an over during the assault and when the former was eventually well caught on the mid wicket boundary by Azeemundin Khan, the match was as good as over.
Even a second spell from Darlington made no difference as he was also belted over and beyond the boundary by Seonarine, a former Guyana first class player for Berbice, whose all-round brilliance in the competition would surely earn him a tournament MVP award if one was up for grabs. Darlington’s one wicket cost 36 runs while Thomas’ two cost 46.
Earlier Destroyers who lost the toss and were sent in to bat first for the first time in the series, set a brisk pace and seemed set to top 180 runs after Akeem Dodson, Bartley and Clain Williams combined for entertaining cameos.
Dodson cracked 38 in 29 balls, including four fours and one six and Bartley chipped in 34 from 24 with three fours and one six. But just when he was getting ominous, Bartley was yorked by a beauty from paceman Mohamed Nadir, brought on specifically for that purpose.
It slowed the pace although Williams,batting down the order at number six came good with 24 not and Zaheer Saffie hit 27.
Thomas, who was included in place of an MIO Kaleem Bux, had started his forgettable day by allowing three dot balls from the last three innings deliveries, with a rampaging Williams stranded at the other end.
Nadir ended with 2-30 and Sudesh Dhaniram continued with the fine off spin bowling form he left off from the United States national team’s recent tour of Dubai and Nepal, with 2-30.
Strikers advanced to the final by taking out tournament find Bolling Brook of Chicago by four wickets. Batting first Bolling Brook struggled to 128-8 in their 20 overs with 18 year old Fahad Babar topscoring with 44, but spent too long compiling it. Dhaniram took two wickets amid four run outs. In reply Strikers hit off the target, ending with 130-6 with Seonarine making 38 that included six fours and one six. Nadir contributed 28. Rashid Afzal bagged 4-29 for Bolling Brook.
Destroyers had an easier time in eliminating Prince cricket club of New Jersey by nine wickets due mainly to a punishing 76 not out from opener Andrew Gonsalves. He cracked five fours and four sixes in his team’s runs chase which ended at 121-1. Prince were restricted to 120-9 of which Mohamed Asad Gouse topscored with 28. Smith captured 3-27.
Shabaz was named Man of the Match in the final, one which he sure will not forget in a hurry.