Day Three of the National Finals at the Woodbridge Oval proved to be a fitting event for the closing of the 2017 League season. With Pak-Barcelona and Sporting Alfas having seen of the challenge of Lanzarote CA on previous days it was effectively a winner take all contest to be crowned the National Champions of Spain.
The hosts won the toss and unsuprisingly elected to bat. Openers Phil Pennick and Gary Crompton started sprightly, scoring 21 of the first three overs, but then found runs heavy going as they looked to time the ball on an outfield with still a little dew in places.
In the ninth over, and with 40 on the board Pennick was the first to go, clean bowled by the first change bowler Adil Zafar. Adam Alger only lasted six balls before holing out to a catch by Shahid Aslam off the bowling of Hamza, and when Munoz was bowled soon after, the home side were struggling at 65 for 3.
Faran Afzal put on 50 for the fourth wicket with Crompton before the former was caught at slip with the score on 105. A fifth wicket went nine runs later, when Crompton (53) holed out in the deep, trying to push the score along.
The last five wickets only managed to provide Alfas with 32 runs as Tanveer Iqbal returned from his opening hostile spell to mop up the tail end. The former Spanish International ended with figures of four for 24 as lunch was taken early. Sporting Alfas all out for 146 in 38.4 overs.
Very few spectators felt that Pak-Barcelona would struggle to pass the sub-par total but the Alfas bowlers had other ideas.
After a wayward first over that yielded 14 runs Darren Walker and Munib Hussain stemmed the flow of runs. In the sixth over Walker got the breakthrough having Awais caught behind. Still the visitors looked in control and although not entirely convincing they had reached 47 for 2 when the evergreen Paul Taylor entered the frame.
The former Notts opening bowler, who played for the county in the late 50’s and 60’s, continues to be one of the best bowlers in Spain, and the side from Cataluyna had no answer to his left hand spin. With Faran Afzal bowling tightly and menacingly at the other end, and the Alfas fielders attacking every ball, the hosts began to claw their way back into the game.
Taylor got the wicket of Mohammad in his very first over and although Tanveer Iqbal (43) and Ullah (12) stayed for a while they never really got to grips with the Alfas pair. Two quick wickets had the visitors at a 104 for 5 and the lower order then struggled to cope with the pressure Taylor and Afzal were exerting.
The two Alfas bowlers got four quick wickets to have Pak Barcelona at 124 for 9 but by that stage the pair had also reached their overs allocation. Taylor ended his spell with 1-16 from his nine overs (that included four maidens), and Afzal concluded with four wickets for 46 runs.
With Adeel Arif and Karam Raja requiring 25 for victory it seemed that the favourites were now the hosts. However, the Barcelona duo had other ideas and inched closer and closer to the required score with every over. The winning blow was a lusty six from Arif that sent the Catalans into wild scenes of celebration.
The game was played in excellent spirit by both sides and supporters of cricket were the winners on the day. The Alfas sports councillor presented the trophy to Pak Barcelona to close the door on another season of successful league cricket.
Thanks to everyone involved in this years campaign, all the players, officials and admin. staff and especially to the three finalists Lanzarote CA, Sporting Alfas CC and Pak Barcelona CC for providing fans with an excellent three days of cricket.