Bradford won the ECB City Cup for the first time in Leicester on Sunday with a 22-run victory in an all-Yorkshire final against Sheffield.
A half century from Hamza Iqbal, their 20-year-old captain from Baildon, set up the win – and could earn Iqbal the chance to impress former Yorkshire seamer Steve Kirby at Lord’s this winter, in his role as head coach of the MCC Young Cricketers.
Two players from each of the 16 cities represented in the competition, which is in its 10th summer and has been incorporated into the ECB’s South Asian Action Plan, will be invited to development days at Lord’s in November.
Appropriately, Iqbal was presented with the trophy by Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford, the ECB’s Senior Independent Director and a lifelong cricket enthusiast.
The win was another feather in the cap of Yorkshire’s recent redevelopment of Park Avenue, where head groundsman Nasa Hussain – also vice-chairman of the National Asian Cricket Council – held open trials in the all-weather nets earlier this summer in an effort to unearth fresh talent.
“That’s the aim of this competition,” explained Mohammed Arif, the ECB’s National Growth Manager for Diverse Communities.
“It’s for under-21s who haven’t previously been selected on any national or county pathway programmes, and the link-up with Steve Kirby and the MCC is fantastic as it’s an exciting chance for the lads who impress, and will also allow a range of coaches to take a look at their talent.”
Bradford’s coaches have included the former Yorkshire and England seamer Ajmal Shahzad and also Usman Arshad, who has played first-class cricket for Durham and made his Leicestershire debut last week.
“It’s great for Bradford that we’ve won the City Cup,” said Hussain. “I’ve always said there’s a lot of cricket talent in the city. It’s been a great experience for the lads, winning the regional finals at Park Avenue, getting through the semis in Birmingham, and now this weekend in Leicester, with a dinner last night and then the chance to play at a first-class ground.”
Leicestershire’s chief executive Wasim Khan congratulated the players of both teams, and Arif added: “They’ve been superb hosts for the ECB City Cup for a few years now, and we’re really grateful to Wasim and his team for making us so welcome.”
Sheffield won the toss and chose to bowl, but Iqbal’s 51 from 39 balls put Bradford on the front foot – and with opener Junaid Jamshed making a sensible 32 from 43 balls, they posted a total of 143 for five in their 20 overs.
Off-spinner Arsalan Tariq was the pick of Sheffield’s attack taking three for 20 from his four overs, but their batsmen found Bradford’s bowlers difficult to get away.
Mohammed Haris only conceded 16 in his four overs, Jamshed took two for 14, and Zeeshan Haider claimed two for 25.
Tariq provided some late defiance to top-score for Sheffield with an unbeaten 24 from 14 balls, but they ended on 121 for eight.