Abu Dhabi // Mohammed Zulfikar captained his House Keeping Gold Star team to victory yesterday in the first Abu Dhabi Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel staff cricket final.
And he made some personal history in the league tournament by being named best bowler with a haul of seven wickets, and also top run scorer with 139 in total.
His HK Gold Star squad and supporters celebrated wildly at the end of a tense match against the Front Office's King's Eleven, which went down to the very last over before HK won 160-159 run with five wickets in hand and three balls remaining from the 12-over match.
"It's an amazing feeling to win the very first tournament." Zulfikar said. "The team have been great all the way through and despite it going down to the last few balls, I was confident we would get there because we have good batting right throughout the team.
"I'm really proud because I'm sure this tournament will run for years and our name is first on the trophy. It has been a great experience of us all. We would like to thank the organisers who worked so hard to get the pitch ready and gave is the chance to play in a proper cricket league."
The first round took place four weeks ago on what had been spare ground at the Abu Dhabi venue; just a month before there were no players, teams or even a pitch.
A concrete wicket was laid and the ground was flattened so 15 squads of 15 players, from all areas of the staff, could battle in a league format ahead of the finale.
The two finalists were well matched for most of the game and there were plenty of sixes and boundaries to be cheered, including Lt Gen (Rtd) Mohamed Hilal al Kaabi, the chairman of the Armed Forces Officers Club.
King's Eleven won the toss, elected to bat and put down a marker of 159 runs, a score that would have been better if all-rounder Zulfikar had not taken three for 32 in his bowling spell.
HK Gold Star enjoyed great success with the bat throughout the league and the man of the match Mohammed Rohan, 62 not out, and Mohammed Fazal, 49, led the way and they reached 160 with five wickets and three balls to spare thanks to some big hitting.
Mahmood Ahmad, the captain of the King's Eleven, was philosophical about his team's defeat, which saw him top scorer with 55 runs.
"We made too many mistakes in the first six overs, but we have battled back really well and it was really close at the end," he said.
"We were delighted to get to the final and played some good cricket along the way. It's just a shame that we came up a bit short. There is always next year."
And organisers of the newest cricket league in the UAE hope it will be even bigger and better next time. John Noronha, one of the organisers and the club's environment and health and safety manager, promised that this was only the beginning.
"The past four weeks have been amazing. It turns out we have some seriously good players on the staff and there has been some great matches," he said.
"Next year, the whole pitch will be green. The outfield is brown now, however, we will change that to help make us 10 per cent greener, and I'm absolutely confident there are going to be more teams next year. The league is only going to get bigger."