Indoor Cricket: New Zealand crowned NZ-Asia Cup Champions after thrilling finale
The Big Picture
Grand Final: New Zealand 71 (M Gardner 16, Perrett 15, Kuruppu 3/-8, Rodrigo 1/6) def. Sri Lanka 60 (Rodrigo 17, Kuruppu 10, B Crook 3/-6, Perrett 2/0) by 11 runs
New Zealand were crowned the inaugural NZ-Asia Indoor Cricket Cup Champions after an exhilarating climax saw them prevail against a game Sri Lanka side 71 to 60 in the grand final at the Indoor Premier Cricket Stadium in Singapore on Saturday evening.
It brought to an end a an excellent four days of competition which saw New Zealand go undefeated in their eight matches at the tournament, underlining themselves as the best team at the Cup and extremely worthy winners of the trophy.
Sri Lanka were not far behind, pushing New Zealand all in the way in the final after dropping their only game to the Kiwis in their first outing on day one.
For the Sri Lankans, it was a measure of redemption after they failed to make the final of the Australasia Cup back on home soil last September.
They are developing into a better side along with the other Asia nations, who continue to play a more refined style of indoor cricket in their bid to challenge the major nations.
New Zealand win inaugural title in thriller against Sri Lanka
New Zealand had batted first in six of their seven matches and reached the final on the back of a comprehensive 95-51 win over India in their semi-final (first vs fourth play-off).
They did so again against Sri Lanka, who made their own way into the final with a 68-30 win over UAE in their semi-final (second vs third play-off).
UAE had surprised many with a courageous win over India in their group match which saw them finish third and avoid New Zealand in that semi-final match.
New Zealand's captain Victor Davies and Vice-Captain Brendan Crook opened the batting as they had done for the majority of the tournament, where they had excelled as a pair in scoring almost 30 on every occasion.
However the Sri Lankans had them well scouted this time, attacking them with a mixture of off-spin, left-arm orthodox and leg-spin in the first four overs to stifle them. New Zealand's achilles heal for the tournament had been their batting against spin and it had not gone unnoticed by the Sri Lankans.
The pair lost three wickets as indecision set in and the front court fielding set their territory, eventually settling for 17.
From there the innings was a topsy-turvy affair full of attritional cricket. Kamal Kuruppu struck twice in the fifth over, before Mitch Gardner and Bryce Fellows recovered well to make 21 and take New Zealand to 38 at the half-way mark.
Corey Perrett and Darrin Crook looked to be taking New Zealand into the ascendancy again before Kuruppu struck in the 12th over to take the skin back to 19.
Michael Dodunski and Braden Gardner looked to be on track in the closing pair before Salman Faris and Tharindu Mendis took a wicket piece to reduce them to 14 and leave Sri Lanka 72 to win in their 16 overs.
But as they so often had done during the tournament, New Zealand's fielding again proved exceptional and matched Sri Lanka for energy as the Kiwis had the Lions on the ropes early on.
Braden Gardner got his line right to shatter the stumps of skipper Kolitha Hapuarachchi, before tournament MVP Brendon Crook took two vital scalps in the last to keep Kolitha and Heshal Silva to just six runs.
Thivanka Dabare and Kuruppu didn't fare a lot better as the front court piled on the pressure; this resulted in wickets for Fellows and Perrett as the pair scraped through to 15 and Sri Lanka just 21 mid-way through the innings.
The stress was starting to build as Sri Lanka required 50 from the last eight overs (two pairs). Salman Faris and Rumesh Perera negotiated the first two overs for 11 runs, and with 39 needed off six, again succumbed to the pressure of the front court as Davies and Dodunski effected two run-outs in their over.
It left the Sri Lankans needing an imposing 38 to win in the final pair. However, they were not going to die wondering. Rodrigo and Mendis took to Fellows in his last over, slapping a five and seven as the over went for 16, before Darrin Crook conceded nine to have the match on a knife-edge, with 13 needed off the last two overs.
But it was Perrett who came up trumps, as Mendis' attempted cut outside off-stump found a edge right into the gloves of wicket-keeper Dodunski, much to the delight of the New Zealand side.
From there it was going to be tough for Sri Lanka, and some continuously tight bowling from the Kiwis sealed the win for them by nine runs, sparking celebrations in the New Zealand camp.
"Extremely proud of this side"
Skipper Davies reflected on what was very tough final against a courageous Sri Lankan side.
"I didn't expect anything less, but Sri Lanka came right at us from the start, and it proved to be very difficult", Davies said to Sportskeeda.
"We worked hard though, we ground it out against some testing bowling and aggressive fielding, and I think at the half-way mark, I would have backed us to defend 71".
"That we got there was down to the determination of this side; we've been very good in the field the last few days and I'm extremely proud of this side for how we held our nerve in some tense moments", Davies said. "We are going to enjoy and celebrate this tournament win, it's been a fantastic competition, and we really look forward to the next one".
A Well Received Competition
The tournament was seen as one to help the development of indoor cricket in Singapore and across Asia, and with a new Asian tournament cycle announced for the next three years, shows some encouraging signs for the future. World Indoor Cricket Federation Asia delegate and Singapore Men's Coach Rashid Ahmed Khan contemplated on this to Sportskeeda.
"I'm extremely proud of the entire working committee who assisted with all aspects regarding the tournament. The feedback I had from all teams, spectators and online viewers alike was very positive. The way the production of the live streaming and media was carried out was excellent; it certainly took the tournament to the next level where the audience felt they were involved throughout despite being remotely based. That makes me very proud", Khan said to Sportskeeda.
"We know there is definitely work to be done from here and will debrief accordingly, but this is a great start and a I hope a base from which we can work from into building this sport in Singapore and Asia in the near future".
On the performance of his own Singapore side he said "It was good to win the Plate title; disappointed overall but I can see from our performances that we are competing. We are maturing as a side and getting better every time we step out on to the courts. We have passionate players who know what to do, it's now about executing those strategies and not falling away mentally", Khan said.
Most Valuable Player Awards
1st Place - Brendon Crook, New Zealand
2nd Place - Mohammed Khizer Ahmed, India
3rd Place - Sharan Swaminathan, Singapore
Player of the Final - Kamal Kuruppu, Sri Lanka
Full Results, Scorecards and Final Leaderboard
These are available on the Singapore Spawtz scores website, through the link here.
Full Coverage, Social Media and Live Streaming of Matches
The entire tournament was live streamed through the Singapore Cricket Association - Indoor Cricket Facebook page and streaming partner SportyGo, through the link here to all matches and coverage:
New Zealand 86 (3) def. Singapore 54 (1)
India 191 (4) def. Malaysia -17 (0)
UAE 151 (3) def. Singapore A 15 (1)
New Zealand 91 (3) def. Sri Lanka 64 (1)
India 135 (3) def. Singapore A 55 (1)
Singapore 112 (4) def. Malaysia 45 (0)
Sri Lanka 91 (3) def. UAE 44 (1)
Singapore A 120 (4) def. Malaysia 60 (0)
UAE 82 (3) def. Singapore 51 (1)
Sri Lanka 67 (3) def. India 53 (1)
New Zealand 163 (4) def. Singapore A 15 (0)
Sri Lanka 92 (3) def. Malaysia 25 (1)
India 116 (4) def. Singapore 56 (0)
New Zealand 90 (3) def. UAE 57 (1)
Sri Lanka 143 (3) def. Singapore A 76 (1)
UAE 92 (3) def. India 76 (1)
New Zealand 128 (4) def. Malaysia -33 (0)
Singapore 143 (4) def. Singapore A 67 (0)
UAE 140 (4) def. Malaysia 16 (0)
New Zealand 76 (3) def. India 58 (1)
Sri Lanka 78 (3) def. Singapore 67 (1)
Day Four - Finals:
Semi-Final 1: New Zealand 95 def. India 51
Semi-Final 2: Sri Lanka 68 def. UAE 30
Plate Final: Singapore 98 def. Singapore A 77
Grand Final: New Zealand 71 def. Sri Lanka 60
Final Points Standings after round-robin play:
New Zealand 38, Sri Lanka 31, UAE 27, India 23, Singapore 17, Singapore A 10, Malaysia 1