Dubai-based Gemini are inaugural MCL champs
Rana bags hat trick as Sehwag-led side downs Leo Lions
The Gemini Arabians' batting misfired, Brian Lara showed a bit of his old charm, after which Rana Naved-ul-Hasan became the unlikeliest of heroes, turning the game on its head to help his side win the inaugural Masters Champions League.
The now burly Pakistan pacer whipped up a brilliant spell as the Dubai-based Arabians breasted the tape ahead of the Leo Lions by 16 runs in the final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Saturday night. The 37-year-old took a hat-trick and ended up with dream figures of 4-0-9-4 as the Leo Lions were all out for 114.
The Gemini Arabians had fired their way to tall scores in the competition but the batting-heavy side huffed and puffed and spluttered to 130 for seven in their 20 overs.
Lara marshalled his resources astutely and tactfully yet again due to which the Gemini Arabians batting had a subdued look about it.
Even the enterprising Kumar Sangakkara was tied down by a tight Leo Lions outfit as the southpaw scratched his way to 13 from 15 balls without a boundary or a six in the first 10 overs.
First up though, Gemini Arabians captain Virender Sehwag smacked a boundary but the dashing opener couldn't carry on as he was stumped by Brendon Taylor off Robin Peterson for nine.
The other opener, the hard-hitting Richard Levi too wasn't allowed to free his arms and he wouldn't have been too happy with his 21 that came from 29 balls.
Boundaries were at a premium with only three coming in the first 10 overs. Sehwag had scored one, Levi one while new man Brad Hodge came in and released the pressure a bit by smashing the first ball he faced for a boundary.
With the Leo Lions not giving anything away, the Gemini Arabians found it difficult to plot their path from the quagmire.
Brad Hodge lasted nine balls for his 14 after which Sangakkara's rearguard came to end when he was caught by Johan Botha off Scott Styris for 30 from 26 balls with three boundaries.
It was pretty much downhill from there on with only Justin Kemp working his way to an unbeaten 32 from 29 balls with two sixes and a boundary.
Lara had let the cat out of the bag after winning the semifinal, by saying that he would let the bowlers have a go at the strong Gemini Arabians batting line-up and keep them down, if he won the toss.
The first act had gone accordingly for Lara. But part two, not quite. The chase couldn't have been any more dramatic than this with the Gemini Arabians new-ball attack of Kyle Mills and Graham Onions slicing through the Leo Lions top order of Neil Carter, Brendon Taylor and James Franklin.
The Leo Lions found themselves three for three after twin strikes from Mills and one from Onions. It was nicely set up for Lara yet again and the great West Indian found a bit of his old touch.
There was no edginess as Lara went about it confidently. Flashes of his old brilliance resurfaced in four of those shots that he dispatched to the fence, that quick shuffle and then creaming it away.
After that initial blip, the Leo Lions innings was back on track and in the able hands of Lara. Sehwag then summoned the wily old fox Muttiah Muralitharan and the off-spinner strode out to bowl the ninth over with the Lions on 45 for three, with Lara on 24 from 18 balls and opener Hamish Marshall on 15 from 17 balls.
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