Northern Strikers win inaugural Malaysian T10 Bash: Finals Day wrap

Isaac Lockett wraps up the final day's action from the Malaysia T10 Bash

The Northern Strikers have won the inaugural Malaysian T10 Bash, defeating the Southern Hitters by 29 runs on Sunday after the event concluded with finals day.

Day 1 and 2 of the Malaysian T10 Bash were high quality and provided some real insights into the quality of cricket being played in the country. Sunday saw the two semi-finals, followed by the playoff for third place, then culminating with the championship match. With there only being 4 teams competing in the tournament, all were still in with a chance of winning as the event moved into knock-out mode.

Virandeep Singh whips one off his legs against Denmark at the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League in 2019 (Photo Credit: ICC)

Semi Final 1

The first semi-final saw the Southern Hitters, who finished top of the group stage, come up against the Western Warriors who had looked competitive during days one and two of the tournament but were yet to win a game. The Western Warriors won the toss and elected to bowl, which can often be the choice captains prefer during knock out cricket as it puts pressure on the opposition to set a competitive target. The Warriors started brightly with the ball, with the first over bowled by Dhivendran Mogan only going for 8 runs; however, after the first over the Warriors struggled to contain the Hitters and ended up being the only over that went for less than 10 runs. Having previously posted scores of 40* off 23 and 20 off 9, Virandeep Singh had been in immense form during the tournament and once again proved his quality. Coming in at number 3 for the Hitters, Virandeep once again found his timing and helped march the team to an extremely competitive total. Virandeep top-scored during the innings with his 64* off 25 balls consisting of 4 fours and 6 sixes; a performance that cemented Virandeep’s position as one of the best batsmen of the competition. Alongside Virandeep’s innings, there were some fantastic contributions from Bushan Save (26 off 14) and Aminuddin Ramly (20 off 8). The combined effort of the Hitters batting line up meant that the team finished on 139/5 off their 10 overs. This meant that the Warriors would have to score the highest score of the tournament, which was just set by the Hitters, to qualify for the finals. 

It can often be difficult to truly comprehend just how competitive a first-innings total is until both teams have batted. Despite the Warriors not having the most fruitful tournament, this match was far from over. Despite the early loss of his opening partner, Warriors batsman Mohd Shafiq Sharif ensured that the team remained close to the required run rate. In a truly scintillating innings, Shafiq Sharif scored 43 off 14 balls, with 40 of those runs coming in boundaries. At the end of the fourth over, the Warriors looked on course to chase down the total set by the hitting. But the 5th over proved to be a crucial one for the Hitters; with the scoreboard reading 64/1 after 4 Virdandeep bowled a crucial set. His left-arm off-spin provided a momentum swing in the favour of the Hitters only conceding 5 runs and getting the vital wicket of Shafiq Sharif, with the wicket being competed thanks to a fine catch from Amir Azim Abd Shukor. But the Warriors batsmen continued to find the boundary with valuable cameos being played by Sharvin Muniandy (20 off 13), Rajkumar Rajendran (12 off 5) and Rohit Vyas (14 off 7) applying continuous pressure on the Hitters bowlers. However, after Virandeeps’s tight fifth over, Shukor then bowled a fantastic sixth, restricting the batsman to 9 runs off the over, which proved how important bowlers are in the format. Whilst, two overs does not define a game, these two tight overs were definitely hugely important in restricting the Warriors and ultimately helped the Hitters win the game. The Warriors despite scoring the second-highest score of the tournament were unable to chase their target. The team scored 133/7 off their 10 overs meaning the Southern Hitters won the game by 6 runs and advanced to the final. 

Nazril Rahman, pictured here at the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League in 2019, was named Player-of-the-Match against the Central Smashers (Photo Credit: ICC)

Semi Final 2

The second semi-final saw the teams that finished second and third in the group stage compete for the final spot in the final. After seeing the first game, the Northern Strikers won the toss and decided to bat first against the Central Smashers. Throughout the Strikers innings, all of the batsmen were able to make a valuable contribution towards the overall team total, with only one batsman not reaching double figures. The opening partnership of Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak and Ainool Hafizs Md Yatim was able to set a platform the other batsman with a partnership of 28. After the first wicket fell, with the score 28/1 after 1.5, Mohamed Imam Jawfer came to the crease and ensured that there was no break in momentum for the Strikers scoring 22 off 10 balls. When Yatim fell for 11 off 7 balls, Mohd Nazril Abd Rahman (35* off 22) came to the crease and was able to build a vital partnership with Jawfer. This partnership provided stability whilst ensuring that runs continued to flow. However, this did not mean that there were moments were the bowlers gained the upper hand. Both Mohd Suharril Fetri (2-0-16-0) and Amir Khan Malik (2-0-16-1) bowled fantastic spells and were able to restrict the batsmen from scoring with some skilful bowling. A final last push of impetus from Harinderjit Singh (20 off 11) helped the Strikers post 117/5 off their 10 overs. 

Thanks to a fantastic effort by the bowling unit of the Strikers, the Smashers were unable to chase the target from their 10 overs. Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak (2-0-11-1) opened the bowling for the Strikers and really set the tone for the bowling unit to follow. The right-arm medium-pace bowling of Mohd Nazril Abd Rahman (2-0-11-0) proved to be very effective only conceding 11 runs off his two overs with a skilful display of bowling and a perfect example of bowling to the set field. Anwar Rahman (1-0-3-1), who only bowled the one over, only conceded three runs and got the wicket of Shankar Sathish. Prior to Sathish being bowled by Anwar, he was arguably the best performer with the bat for the Smashers. With wickets falling around him, Satish remained calm at the crease and looked to continue his team’s innings, he top-scored with 33 off 21 and despite being in a losing cause is a performance to take a lot of positives from. The Smashers finished on 85/6 off their 10 overs meaning the Strikers won by 32 runs but the Smashers can take a lot of positives from their performance over the course of the three-day tournament.          

Third Place Play Off

The results from the first two games meant that the third-place play-off would be between the Western Warriors and the Central Smashers with the conclusion of the tournament seeing the Northern Strikers come up against the Southern Strikers. Both games provided each team with one last chance to showcase their talent and provide the fans following the game, via live stream, one last opportunity for some excitement. 

After scoring the second-highest total of the competition in the semi-final it is no surprise that when the Western Warriors won the toss they chose to bat. However, their innings got off to a less than ideal start with both openers being removed for less than 10. However, in the form of number 3 batsman Sharvin Muniandy, the Warriors found some resistance to an exceptional bowling and fielding performance by the Smashers. Muniandy scored a vital 67 off 30 balls to ensure that the Warriors were able to get themselves into a position to set a competitive target. However, with little support for Muniandy and nobody to pick up the mantel once he was dismissed the Warriors struggled. The team posted 96/6 off their 10 which looked under-par;  praise must be given to the Smashers for their bowling performance. Mohd Suharril Fetri Shuib (2-0-10-1) and Amir Khan (2-0-18-1) both gained attention for their bowling performance with both bowlers going at less than 10 an over, which in the context of the tournament is hugely impressive. Overall the entire bowling unit of the Smashers should be given plaudits for their performance and maintaining the exceptional standard of fielding that was seen throughout the tournament. 

Mohd Anwar Arudin captured the attention of fans watching the stream during the second innings. With 97 needed to win the match, Arudin scored 60* off 29 and put his team in prime position to win the game. The Warriors were just unable to put enough pressure on the Smashers to challenge them during the run chase and lost by 8 wickets, with both Arudin and a cameo from Ahmad Faiz Mohd Noor (20 off 8) helping their team to victory with 2.5 overs to spare. 

Anwar Arudin, pictured here in action at the 2020 ACC Eastern Region T20 Tournament, has been in fine form throughout the Malaysian T10 Bash

The Final

After the third-place playoff, which gave both teams competing a rest, it was time for the final. There had been some fantastic cricket played by both teams and it was impossible to pick a favourite coming into the game. The Northern Strikers won the toss and elected to bat, a tactic which would later apply scoreboard pressure on the Southern Hitters. With the score at 26/0, the first two overs put the Strikers in a prime position to set up a high total for the bowlers to defend, but then there was an almighty fightback from the Smashers bowlers. A fantastic spell from off-spinner Vijay Unni Suresh Unni (2-0-16-1) and then tight overs from Amir Azim Abd Shukor (1-0-7-0) and Virandeep Singh (2-0-21-0), who both bowl left-arm orthodox, proved just how important spin bowling can be in the T10 format. The Northern Strikers innings was aided through three large contributions, with the largest coming from Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak (47 off 24). Mubarak’s innings was filled with class and excitement as he found the boundary rope 5 times and cleared the rope on three occasions. Until his dismal in the 7th over, Mubarak was able to put bowlers off their line and lengths with his clean striking of a cricket ball. Mohamed Imam Jawfer (20 off 18) played a different type of innings but was no less important. Jawfer’s innings consisted of 2 well-struck boundaries but also was the perfect example of how important strike rotation and being able to find a single is. Jawfer ensured Mubarak and Mohd Nazril Abd Rahman (22 off 10) were given the strike and were allowed to play freely. Rahman’s innings gave real impetus towards the end of the Strikers innings. After their 10 overs, the Strikers set the Southern Hitters the target of 108 after scoring 107/5.

A fantastic bowling performance from the Strikers then put the team in a prime position to win the final. Despite not picking up a wicket, Anwar Rahman was probably the pick of the bowlers for the Strikers, once again Rahamn (2-0-3-0) provided evidence of just how important spin can be in this form of the game. His left-arm off-spin restricted the batsman to 6 off his two overs and bowled with real skill and control. Mubarak then added to his impressive performance with the bat with figures of 2-0-11-2 and Abdul Rashid Ahad not only gained the vital wicket of  Virandeep Singh, who was awarded the player of the tournament, for 18 but also helped the Strikers mission to control the Hitters scoring. The Hitters were unable to gain any momentum during the run chase with only one batsman scoring over 15; which was a real shame given the ability of the batting line up. The Hitters fell 29 runs short of their target finishing on 78/7 off their 10 overs meaning that the Strikers won the inaugural Malaysia T10 bash. 

The final standings read as the Northern Strikers winning the tournament, with the Southern Hitters being the runners up, the Central Smashers coming in third and the Western Warriors placing fourth. But with the Warriors scoring the second-highest team total in the semi-final, it really does show just how competitive the tournament was and is a real credit to the standard of cricket being played in Malaysia.

The quality of this tournament was high throughout and players from each team should be congratulated for maintaining this high standard. Alongside the players, there should be praise given to all of the officials involved in the T10 Bash and the Malyasiysia Cricket Association for staging such an event. From the Pacific to Africa, across Europe and now in Asia, T10 cricket continues its new role in enabling ultra-short tournaments such as the Bash to maximise participation and quality of play, while keeping costs – and event running time – to a minimum. Time will only tell if events such as the Bash can help capture the imagination of the wider audience, with people who may not have been cricketing fans before being drawn into the appeal of the format.  

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