An average Chitwan Tigers, with the least presence of celebrated domestic cricketers, defied all the odds to claim their maiden Everest Premier League title on Saturday.
At a buzzing TU grounds, Tigers defeated Pokhara Rhinos, who were also playing their first final, by four wickets as their domestic players wrapped up the tournament with yet another match-winning performance.
Chitwan, ranked outsiders with only skipper Sompal Kami being the biggest name in the side barring three foreign recruits headed by Afghan hard-hitter Mohammad Shahzad, skittled out Rhinos for just 111 in 17.5 overs. Bhim Sharki then starred with the bat with his second half century of the tournament guiding Tigers to 114-6 in 15.5 overs.
Chitwan didn’t have the best of the start when Shahzad (11) was among top three batsmen to head back to the pavilion with just 20 runs on the board. But Bhim, the only consistent domestic batsman in the tournament, produced a gritty knock under pressure to set sail the ship.
Bhim was involved in crucial 54-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Dilip Nath (18) and when he was dismissed in the 16th over, Chitwan were just two runs sigh of victory. Sompal hit the winning boundary.
Tournament’s second top scorer Bhim made a 45-ball 63 with seven fours and two sixes.
Kishor Mahato was the pick of the Rhinos bowlers taking 4-27 from 3.5 overs and Nandan Yadav had the figures of 2-26.
Earlier, Rhinos were off to a quick start when South African juggernaut Richard Levi and Bipin Rawal (17) raced 37 without loss inside four overs. But after Karim Jannat had Levi caught by Dilip Nath, Rhinos lost three wickets in a space of six runs.
Sri Lankan Ashela Gunaratne and skipper Binod Bhandari brought Pokhara’s second biggest partnership of the final, 35 runs, for the fifth wicket and once Sekkuge Prasanna had his countryman dismissed, Rhinos lost six wickets in a space of just 17 runs.
Bhandari was the last man out with 22 off 26, his best score in this season’s EPL. Gunaratne top scored with a 24-ball 34 hitting three fours and a six. Man-of-the-final Kamal Singh Airee took 4-20 from four overs for Tigers.
Kamal, hit for 13 runs in his first over, took four wickets giving away just seven runs in the next three. Jannat (2-15) and Prasanna (2-15) also share four wickets between them for Tigers.
Everest Premier League winners
|Champions||Chitwan Tigers||Rs 5 million|
|Runners-up||Pokhara Rhinos||Rs 1.5 million|
|Man-of-the-series||Sagar Dhakal (Chitwan Tigers)||Pulsar NS 100|
|Emerging Player||Bhim Sharki (Chitwan Tigers)||Rs 51,000|
|Dare to Dream (Two best performance)||Kamal Singh Airee (Chitwan Tigers)||Rs 51,000|