Midleton picked up their first piece of silverware in twelve years tonight at The Farm as they battled their way past a spirited UCC Pirates side in the Cork T20 Cup Final.
Midleton were rocked before the start of the game as influential captain Darragh O’Shea was forced to withdraw from the squad with an eye injury, elevating Adrian Stack from the position of 12th man. Their plans were thrown into further disarray by an impressive display of accurate bowling by the UCC opening bowlers. After two dropped catches saved the opener’s bacon, Abdul finally made the breakthrough in the fourth over, dismissing Simon Casey for 8. Three balls later, he dismissed fellow opener Atif Jameel, before catching Danish Iqbal LBW on the next ball. Midleton were in complete disarray, but the big man Mannan Gujjar was on hand to steady the ship. By the time Balaji was run out, the score had leapt from 17/3 to 45/4, and Gujjar kept the steady flow of runs coming, ably assisted by Mohammed Maqbool. Gujjar finally fell for 20 to a catch at mid on, and Midleton suffered another dose of the jitters, as firstly Magsi (2) and then Fayyez (6) were quickly dismissed, but Boom Boom Atif Akbar was on hand to blast the run rate into overdrive with an incredible display that included two huge sixes. Maqbool finally fell for an impressive 18, leaving Thackeray and Akbar to see out the 20 overs, Akbar’s 22 not out the highest score of the innings and UCC left with a target of 106 to win.
UCC had previously made short work of Midleton’s bowlers in both T20 and league games, Rohit Dhamane proving to a particular problem for the Midleton attack, and Midleton looked to be in serious trouble as opening bowler Iqbal was smashed for 10 runs in his first over. But Darragh O’Shea has instilled a strong streak of self-belief in his side this season, and Atif Akbar crafted the perfect response in the second over, Magsi taking an incredible catch out of the sun to dismiss Kaleem. Dhamane started strongly as UCC surged ahead of the run rate, but Akbar hit again in the 6th over to bowl Fahd. Thackeray and Mannan then ratcheted up the pressure, and it was to be Thackeray who would temp Dhamane into one risk too many, Casey catching a ball that had snow on it, the dangerman departing on 21. By the time Thackeray bowled Gul in the 14th over, UCC were in deep trouble as the tight bowling of Gujjar and Thackeray had dragged the once rampant hosts below their target. Akbar was recalled to tidy up the tail, claiming two more wickets, as Fayyez Khan’s bowling offered Bala and Maqbool difficult catches, both of which they held to leave the hosts decimated. It was a brave effort from the UCC boys, but with 18 runs required from the last over, they struggled to get a bat to the incredible bowling of Iqbal, who bowled the over for the loss of only run run, giving Midleton a 17 run victory.
For Midleton, the long wait was finally over.