SHARJAH // Lightning, if an old wisdom is to be believed, never strikes twice in the same place. But that is just what happened at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium last night as the UAE and Oman wrote an exciting new chapter in their fledgling rivalry with a nail-biting finish to the second Gulf Cup final.
The match ended in a tie, but both sides were equal in the single-over eliminator as well, perhaps the first such instance in the history of Twenty20 cricket. A second Super Over was needed to decide the champions and UAE eventually emerged the winners.
It was an incredible finish to a game that seemed well within UAE's grasp by the 11th over of the second innings.
Chasing the UAE's 138 for eight, Oman were on the ropes after losing seven wickets for 58, but Yousuf Rahim, coming at number nine, played an incredible innings of 51 as the defending champions tied the game and forced the bowl-out.
Rahim continued his onslaught into the extra over, smashing two sixes and a four in his four-ball innings that gave Oman a score of 19. Mohammed Tauqir and Fahad al Hashmi matched that for the UAE and a second Super Over was needed.
Tauqir and al Hashmi, batting for the third time in the game, then put on 15 runs for the UAE and Oman failed to overhaul that score, finishing seven short.
“These are my mum’s prayers coming true,” said al Hashmi, who was voted the best batsman of the tournament, holding back his tears after an emotionally draining night. “She has always been praying for me.
“It was really emotional, really exciting. I was really charged up as we wanted to win this match after three defeats to Oman. I was really glad to get those three wickets at the start and then I asked my captain to let me bowl the Super Over.”
The UAE should have won the game without such drama as Oman were 40 runs short of the target entering the final three overs. Rahim's lusty hitting, however, took them into the final over with 14 runs to get; they needed two off the final ball, but Mohammed Ali Rasool was run-out going for the second.
The UAE fans rushed out into the ground, thinking they had won the game, but then the cruel reality dawned on them. They waited nervously over the next two overs, but there was still no decision. Their nerves on the edge, the home fans had to endure another two overs before they could celebrate.
Al Hashmi was, of course, their hero. He bowled the over in the second eliminator to complete a memorable night, during which he top-scored for the UAE with 36 and took three wickets for 17 from four fiery overs.
Defending a modest total, the Emirati speedster, a Dubai Police warrant officer who has represented the UAE on the international stage, caused chaos.
The 28-year-old quick finished with three for 17. His superb effort and Marwan Khamis' dismissal of Khalid Moosa left Oman staring down the barrel at four down for 41 in the seventh over. Replacing al Hashmi in the attack, Salman Farooq, who has also appeared for the UAE, captured two wickets in his first over and added a third in the second to leave Oman tottering at seven down for 58 in the 11th over.
There seemed no way back for Oman from thereon, but Rahim turned the tide and put the UAE celebrations on hold. However, the home side, who had lost three consecutive games to their southern rivals including last year's final, eventually got their revenge. Oman's unbeaten streak of seven games in the tournament had finally come to an end.