Indian pro Bharath Varma says winning Nairobi T20 title for Stray Lions best feeling


Indian professional Bhagath Varma has described his match-winning antics in the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) T20 Cup final as his best feeling ever since joining Stray Lions earlier in the year.

Bhagath sent hundreds of Stray Lions A fans into a frenzy with that towering match-winning six as they beat rivals Swamibapa A by five wickets to claim the Super Division T20 trophy.

Chasing a target of 165, Stray Lions rediscovered their good form later in their innings to pulls through when Bhagath did the unexpected.

“We were sure the wicket was really good to play, so we were sure anything between 170 to 180 we were able to chase so we had a plan to stay through the end and it happened,” Bhagath said.

Asked about his stunning last ball six, Bhagath went on: “I just went for it, i didn’t know I would hit it. It was just one ball away and one good hit.Its always a good feeling winning the final to your team and with this atmosphere so we believed in ourselves and gave it our best shot. You always hope to fight to the very end and you never know, you might win or lose.”

It was double celebration for the Lions after their B side defeated Kanbis B by seven wickets to rack up this year’s Division One title at Nairobi Gymkhana.

Swamibapa’s Peter Koech in action at the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) T20 Cup final.

Stray Lions skipper Tanzeel Sheikh said: “It’s an incredible feeling winning this dramatic final. And winning it off the last ball is even merrier. Congratulations to the boys and Swamibapa as well for a well-fought final. The innings Bhagath played throughout, he was hitting the ball well so we all believed even if it’s six off one ball he would win it for us and he did. He (Bhagath) played an incredible game.” 

Swamibapa A won the toss and elected to bat first. They savoured a good start in the first innings; setting a decent target of 165 for 9 in their allotted 20.0 overs. Chasing the target, the Lions hit 166 for five in 20.0 overs to carry the day with vim and vigour. 

Bhagath was named man of the match with 84 off 44 deliveries whilst Swami’s Dhwanil Patel smacked 77 off 49 balls. Bhagath hit 8 boundaries and 5 sixes.

 The tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) was Cutchi Leva’s Manish Kerai while Swamibapa A skipper Rushabh Patel emerged the best batsman after he topped the leaderboard with 416 runs.

Tanzeel sounded quite febrile on their spirited chase, saying: “I think 160-plus on this wicket was a really chasable target. The wicket was good, but they also batted well. And again, Bhagath pulled us through. By and large, we have played incredible cricket in the T20 season and teamwork paid off.”

Going into the last ball, the Swamis thought it was a done deal, but not until Bhagath’s six sent the victors into a frenzy. 

Swamis’ veteran batsman Maurice Ouma was left to rue the last ball that denied the 2023 T20 champions back-to-back titles.

Stray Lions’ Gerald Mwendwa in action at at the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) T20 Cup final.

Ouma, a former Kenya team skipper, said: “Basically, Bhagath took the game away from us, single handedly. We had our plans when we were going to defend the 165, and we stuck to our game plan until the 12th over. But again, we lost it at the 13th and 14th when we gave them too many runs. I think that’s what brought them (Stray Lions) back to the game.”

NPCA Hon. Secretary Narendra Patel (NK) congratulated all the teams, saying: “We’ve had eight good weeks of competitive cricket, with Cutchi Leva A topping the group stages for the first time, which goes to show the improvement of teams across board.

 The 50 Overs League champions (Ruaraka) could not even qualify for the knockout stage. I must also admit that we have seen quite a few youngsters who have performed really well; that’s a good sign.” 

NPCA Chairman Kantilal Rabadia, on his part, remarked: “When it comes to T20, it’s usually more exciting than the 50 overs League. And come to think about the high-flying professionals, the teams, the level of competition and the fighting spirit, I mean, it’s absolutely brilliant.”

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