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Superstars crowned ICL Champions

The Chennai Superstars have won the introductory ICL Indian 20:20 Championship amidst an electrifying ambiance, in majestic style, defeating the Chanidgarh Lions by 12 runs in the grand finale.

Hat-trick hero Shabbir Ahmed was the star bowler for the triumphant team, claiming four wickets, inclusive of a hat-trick.

Ian Harvey was adjudged the player of the series for his fantastic overall performance throughout the tournament. The versatile Australian all-rounder emerged as the leading run-scorer in the competition by scoring 266 runs in 7 matches. He also took 9 wickets to add to the spectacular starts he had provided to the Chennai Superstars with the bat.

The thrilling ambiance was the perfect setting for the championship tie – the fans were rapturous – there were colourful performances from entertainers and cheerleaders – the overall atmosphere was larger than life. Cricket was the eventual winner as the battle for the title went down to the wire. “This is an unforgettable moment,” said Stuart Law, captain of the victorious Chennai Superstars.

Shabbir Ahmed achieved a hat-trick during the 13th over when he came back for his second spell. He had already dismissed Hamish Marshall earlier and claimed the wickets of Chetan Sharma and Dinesh Mongia to compete the first and only hat-trick of the inaugural season.

The courageous Sarbajeet Singh (28) was dismissed off the very last delivery by Ian Harvey when the wicket-keeper batsman smashed the ball to the deep mid wicket boundary and the catch was safely pounced by Ganapathi Vignesh.

All eyes were on Ian Harvey who was under pressure to bowl the very last over with the Lions requiring an improbable 23 runs to win. Sarabjeet Singh and Andrew Hall continued to find the boundary, but unfortunately for them, there was too much left for them to do, to attain victory. It was too thorny to pave a path for revival after the Superstars bowlers rocked the Lions middle-order.

Although, Andrew Hall and Sarabjeet Singh were just not willing to give in to the Chennai Superstars, despite their team in totters on 84/7 with captain Cairns back in the dug out, but the duo was determined to fight like their team had en route to the final.

The most prolific run-scorer for the Lions the tournament, Imran Farhat, was dismissed early, which spelt disaster for the home team. His opening partner Hamish Marshall was quick to follow – both wickets were claimed by Shabbir Ahmed – who bowled a fearsome opening spell. The fiery Pakistan quickie continued to trouble TP Singh and Manish Sharma, ensuring the required run-rate continued to creep on.

Tejinder Pal Singh (35) countered the early adversities with great valor, striking boundaries and playing attacking strokes. He gave a glimmer of home to the heaps of fans that were firmly behind the Chandigarh Lions. One fan exclaimed “We are all supporting the Chandigarh Lions and hope to see them win the cup.”

Manish Sharma fell victim to the Superstars’ most successful bowler in the tournament, Thiru Kumaran, for 4, caught by Sarvanan at point. Dinesh Mongia joined TP Singh at the crease; the duo added 36 runs for the fourth-wicket before the definite point of the match occurred when part-time seamer snapped TP Singh for a well made 35.

Mongia was the next victim of Shabbir, when the fast bowler came back for his second spell, uprooting Mongia’ middle-stump with a quick reverse swinging yorker. It spelt doomsday for the Chandigarh Lions. Sharma’s wicket in the next delivery gave Shabbir the hat-trick.

Chris Cairns (5) stepped in after Mongia’s dismissal and all of Chandigarh pinned their hopes on the explosive Kiwi but Harvey had other plans. It took a peach of a delivery from the Aussie to see the back of Cairns. The fans at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium had succumbed to complete silence and shock when the Lion’s captain walked back to the dug out.

Earlier, the Chennai Superstars experienced fluctuating fortunes right through out their innings after Chris Cairns won the toss and inserted them into bat. Ganapathi Vignesh got the team off to a blistering start by smashing two boundaries and a massive six before Daryl Tuffey snapped him over an overambitious attempt for 15, caught by TP Singh at mid off.

As has been the trend right throughout the tournament, Stuart Law (36) and Chris Read (21) picked up the pieces and maintained the steady flow of runs with precision. The duo added 43 runs from just 30 deliveries to entertain a jam-packed audience in Panchkula.

Chandigarh Lions’ wicket-keeper Sarabjeet Singh was quite swift behind the stumps, sending both Read and Harvey back to the dugout in the space of three overs. Chris Read’s run-out was a lot more conventional with the ball racing away to the mid-wicket and a little bit of confusion beween the Aussie-English pair led to his dismissal.

Harvey, on the other hand, suffered due to a piece of brilliance from keeper Sarabjeet. The 22-year old ran towards forward short leg and a single-handed throw had Harvey stranded outside the crease – a terrific piece of fielding.

Hemang Badani (20) and captain Stuart Law (34) played definitive roles after Russell Arnold fell victim of a well disguised flighted delivery from Dinesh Mongia (1/19). The duo added 33 runs for the fifth-wicket until Badani was cleaned up by Daryl Tuffey (2/32).

Stuart Law was stranded at the middle, losing partners at regular intervals, but managed to steer the team to a respectable total of 155/8. Looking back, the total proved to be an effective one, especially since teams have found it hard to chase totals in excess of 150 under lights.

The Chennai Superstars have emerged as the champions of the inaugural ICL season. Subash Chandra and Kapil Dev have already announced the plans for the future. The tournament in Feb-March will pay tribute to the domestic talent in the nation and will be the next step for the ICL – one towards greater heights.

The 2007 season will be one to remember, especially years down the road when fans would recapitulate the sensation it created.

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