ASSARAIN REGAIN GLORY
Assarain celebrated their third title in four years as they emerged champions of the Oman Cricket Premier Division (50 overs) title on Saturday.
The confirmation of their title triumph was achieved on the concluding day of the top-flight league following the result of the match between title-chasing Passage to India (PTI) and Muscat CT. Holders PTI needed to win big against Muscat CT to topple Assarain, which had finished their campaign last month with 32 points and a net run-rate (NRR) of 2.137.
PTI gave a good fight till the end and though they managed to tie with Assarain on points, their win on Saturday against Muscat wasn't big enough and they finished with a NRR of 1.480 to end as runner-up. Assarain have been a dominant force in domestic cricket for the past few years.
A lot of credit to their impressive strides is a result of their teamwork, never-say-die spirit on the ground and excellent leadership skills of their longserving manager Vinu Mathew. In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily from India, Mathew said, “This has been a wonderful season. It is always a great feeling to clinch the coveted Premier Division title.
“The victory was a result of total team effort and my players excelled in all departments of the game. Our top-order came good and this was one of the key reasons for out success.” Mathew said, “We have five batsmen among the top-ten scorers this season with Sanuth Ebrahim leading the way with 433 runs [highest run scorer of the season].
Khalid Kail was also among the runs with a total of 376. Our bowlers - Mohammed Nadeem and Shakeel Ahmad picked 15 wickets each this season to be among the top wicket-takers.” Mathew, known for his understanding of the game, admitted that the 'team always had NRR in their minds while playing' as we knew the competition is going to be tough. “Our wins against Muscat CT and IT Works in the last two games were an example of our emphasis on better NRR.”
Mathew thanked the Assarain management for keeping faith in the team management, which has delivered success over the past few years. Assarain won the Premier Division in 2016-17 and retained it in 2017-18 before losing the title to PTI last year. Assarain skipper Gustav Burger thanked Mathew and the team management for the success. “I am proud of the whole team on how we played throughout the season.
We have again showed why we are a formidable team in local cricket.” Burger credited all his teammates for the title and said it was a 'tough season' but we 'fought hard'. “Hard work and consistency was our key and the fighting spirit dominated our display,” he added. The 32 year old Burger, who is from South Africa, said, “Sanuth [Ebrahim] was our standout batsman with two centuries and one of them coming against a strong PTI team.
The main reason for our success was the major contributions from top-order and good partnerships. Also our bowlers got us wickets at critical junctures with Nadeem and Shakeel leading the way.”
On Saturday, PTI put up 245 for nine with Abdul Rauf Attaullah top-scoring with 95. Muscat Rajesh Ranpura picked four for 19. PTI then bowled Muscat for 200 in 45.2 overs with Khawar Ali taking four for 23 and Syed Aamir Kaleem picking three for 45. Jatinder Singh was the highest run-getter with 39. Despite the disappointment of losing the title, PTI owner K K Mohandas was gracious in defeat.
He said, “Congratulations Assarain. It was a close fight and we made sure that the title was hard-fought. We were tied on points with Assarain and lost by a whisker as the championship was decided on net run-rate.