Manchester have retained the ECB T20 City Cup title, beating South London in a low-scoring final in glorious September sunshine at the Fischer County Ground in Leicester.
New eligibility rules for the competition in 2017 forced Manchester to make major changes to the squad who won the 2016 title.
But the young brigade showed the raw talent which is the major feature of the City Cup, coming through a tight semi final against Bradford at the redeveloped Park Avenue ground on Saturday before condemning South London to their second successive final defeat at Grace Road.
The Londoners made a dream start with the new-ball pair of George Jackson and Nick “Tricky” Wilson, both from the Sanderstead club in Croydon, combining to reduce the holders to 10 for three.
But Asad Alirizvi and Hashir Khan, a pair of 18-year-olds who were to prove the two key performers in Manchester’s triumph, started the fightback with a fourth-wicket stand of 47.
Alirizvi, who lives in Cheetham Hill and plays for Sale, was dismissed for 30 by a brilliant catch at backward point from Bilal Muhammad.
But Hashir, who plays for Didsbury, batted on to reach an unbeaten 57 from 51 balls, allowing Manchester to post a competitive total of 142 for seven.
Then Alirizvi combined with captain Adil Hussain to reduce South London to 33 for five – and despite a defiant half century from Jackson, that new-ball spell proved decisive.
South London were dismissed for 106, with Alirizvi named bowler of the day for his figures of two for 15, and Hashir earning the fielding award as he also claimed two stumpings – although Jackson received a deserved consolation as he was judged best batsman.
“I started playing with Chance to Shine and had the chance to play in the City Cup this year thanks to the Lancashire Cricket Board,” said Alirizvi. “It’s amazing to have the chance to come and play at a county ground and be watched by the people that are here today.”
"It’s amazing to have the chance to come and play at a county ground and be watched by the people that are here today."
The individual award winners received trophies from Lord Patel of Bradford, a longstanding supporter of the City Cup. “It’s a fantastic competition and a very important one to us at the ECB because it provides a different platform from the usual Pathways, which means a chance for talent to shine – and hopefully to be spotted and further developed,” he said.
Mike Gatting presented the ECB City Cup trophy to Hussain, and added: “It’s always a pleasure to be here on days like today, and to see the amount of talent out on the pitch. I think both teams deserve congratulations, both for getting to the final and then the way they’ve played.”
Mohammed Arif, the ECB’s National Growth Manager – Diverse Communities, said: “We were determined at the start of the year to begin a step-change in the City Cup. We’ve gone from 12 competing cities to 14, and also changed the eligibility criteria, which was never going to be pain-free.
“But we think that’s been a big step forwards in terms of ensuring that we’re giving experience and exposure to talent that hasn’t already been spotted. In many cases we’re talking about a first hard-ball experience for players who have come through tape-ball cricket. And you can see in the way the teams look in the kits we’ve had produced, and the way they were treated in the build-up to the final with an overnight stay, that we are determined to give this competition the prestige it deserves.
“We’ve got exciting plans for the future, both in terms of a more thorough way of exposing players from all 14 cities to top-level coaching, and in working with other initiatives run by organisations like the Club Cricket Conference and the MCC.”
Steve Kirby, the former Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset fast-bowler who is now the MCC’s Head Coach, was another of the special guests at Leicester for a late-season festival.
The CCC were running their annual trials for a Spin Scholarship to India in the Indoor School, helped by the former Kent and England left-arm spinner Min Patel.
And the day ended with the battle for the Regal White Ribbon Trophy between the Lords and Commons XI, captained by Lord Patel, and a White Ribbon XI, led by the Leicestershire chief executive Wasim Khan – in aid of the campaign for the eradication of male violence against women.
“It’s fantastic for us at Leicestershire to be able to host the City Cup, because it’s something we believe passionately about,” said Wasim. “It’s a really excellent initiative, and one that deserves to go from strength to strength.”