By Richard Boxall

The semi-finalists in the 2023 CCA BAOFinancial T10 Cup were decided at the weekend, but not without a few twists and turns.

The stand-out result of the week was Sri Lankan CC’s victory over Punjab Lions. The Lions, just back from a disappointing few days at the European Cricket Series in Spain, posted 93-6. Neeraj Tiwari made 29 and Tejwinder Singh 27, but the needless run-out of Tejwinder, as well as the fine swing bowling of Buddika Ranasinghe (2-9), kept the total within reach.

For a long time Sri Lankans failed to keep up with the required run rate, despite four fours in an over by Randunu Ranathunga. Opening bat Mangala Gunasekara, who has been one of the most destructive batsmen in Cyprus for several years but is recovering from a year’s absence with a serious knee injury, struggled to get going, and after 7 overs the score stood at 57-3, with another 37 runs needed from the last 3 overs.

At this point Mangala’s eye was in and his form returned, to the extent that he hit a four and two sixes in the 8th over and three sixes in the ninth, to bring his team to a remarkable 7-wicket victory with more than an over to spare. Mangala finished on 53 and Randunu 19.

The win brought Sri Lankans level on points with Punjab Lions but with a superior net run rate, so the top spot in the group appeared to be theirs. Or so it seemed!

In the very next game Limassol Zalmi had the chance to draw level on points, but with a vastly poorer run rate their chances of passing Sri Lankans seemed very slim. After restricting Limassol Bangladeshis to 68-4 (Anwar Hossain 29*), the calculations showed that Zalmi had to score the runs in 19 balls or less to achieve a better net run rate than the Sri Lankans.

It seemed an impossible task, but there was no harm trying. Jawad Shah hit 6-4-4-6 from the first four balls, and the chase was on. Umar Shah hit his first three balls for 4 and was out on his fourth, and then Noman Zeb started with a 4 and a 6.

The score was 50-1 after 2 overs, and in the third Jawad and Noman collected the 19 runs still needed to win the game and secure top place in group C. Jawad with 29 not out and 1-5 from 2 overs was the man of this extraordinary match.

Moufflons won group B after two tricky games over the weekend. On Saturday they had to chase Amdocs’ score of 91-7, after Preetaj Deol (39) and Chatas Shah (24) made a good start before Waqar Ali struck back with 4-12.

A good start (59-2 after 5 overs) from Muhammad Husain (42) and Gurdeep Sharma (25) was undone when the batsmen became bogged down in the later overs, with Avinash Rane conceding only 7 runs in his two overs.

Muhammad got the scoreboard moving with two more sixes before being run out by a direct hit, leaving two new batsmen to score 6 from the last over, which they managed with just one ball to spare.

Next day Moufflons faced Kings XI Punjab, who had an outside chance of overtaking them with a big victory. Moufflons made 98-5, Muhammad continuing his good form with 31, supported by Gurwinder Singh (29). Again the calculators were out, and the Kings needed to win the game inside 7 overs in order to surpass Moufflons’ net run rate.

They set off with intent, with Lovedeep Singh smashing 48 from 23 balls, including 22 in one over. But there was little support from his teammates, and the innings petered out at 81-3 at the end of the 10 overs, leaving Moufflons winners by 17 runs and assured of a semi-final place.

The remaining game saw a comfortable 65-run win for Nicosia Tigers over Cyprus Super Kings, assuring the Tigers of top spot in group D. Abdullah Al Tasmin (33) and Roman Mazumder (27) led the way as Tigers reached 133-7. Thirupathi Sandireddy took 3-16 for the Super Kings, whose reply was a disappointing 71-7. Tigers’ Al Tasmin took 1-2 from two overs, and Yasir Mehmood 2-11.

The semi-finals will take place on Sunday – Markhor playing Nicosia Tigers at 8.00 followed by Moufflons v Limassol Zalmi at 10.00. The winners will meet in the final at 1.00pm.