Stokes guides Durham to title
Durham 279 for 6 (Stokes 81, Mustard 84, Qasim 3-45) beat UAE 193 for 9 (Khurram Khan 55, Breese 4-34) by 86 runs
England Under-19 batsman Ben Stokes showed exactly why Durham have him signed up on a two-year contract with an eye-catching innings of 81 from 40 balls that helped the county to an emphatic victory over UAE to clinch the Emirates Airline Forty40 title.
Stokes, who was one of England's leading players at this year's Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, clattered seven sixes and four fours as the reigning county champions rattled along at seven an over to post a matchwinning 279 for six at the Sheik Zayed Stadium.
After the early loss of Ian Blackwell, who edged a defensive push to the keeper for seven, Durham's one-day opener Phil Mustard bossed a steady partnership with Ben Harmison (38) that took the score on to 121 before the latter holed out to wide long on. Having been given a life on 57 when host keeper Naeemuddin Aslam missed a stumping chance, Mustard finally went for a run-a-ball 84, clipping straight to long on where Fayyaz Ahmed took a stunning catch on the run.
That brought in Stokes at No. 5 for a stand of 124 in 14 overs with the experienced Gordon Muchall, who was happy to give way to youth by playing second fiddle to Stokes's virtuoso. He raced to 50 from 29 balls and celebrated by clubbing three sixes in an over from Arshad Ali, whose six, wicketless overs cost 60 runs.
Stokes blotted his copybook slightly by failing to see the job through and fell 19 short of a century when he toe-ended another leg-side bludgeon into the hands of Mohammad Iqbal at deep midwicket to make it 254 for five. Muchall marched on to complete a workmanlike unbeaten 52 with only two fours in the final over, but he lost Gareth Breese in the quest for late runs and then his skipper Will Smith, who was run out from the final ball of the innings.
The hosts were in deep trouble at 16 for two after early strikes by Neil Killeen and Callum Thorp sent back Arshad Ali and Mohammad Iqbal. But once the hardness went off the new ball and the floodlights came into full use, they started to look a little more comfortable against the pace of Killeen and Steve Harmison.
Captain Khurram Khan and Nigel Fernandes added 94 for the fourth wicket before both fell in successive overs. After a bright 55 from 51 balls, Khan miscued a cut to backward point, and Fernandes was caught at long on in the next over from Ian Blackwell.
Harmison took his third successive catch to account for Naeemuddin off Breese, who pegged back Salman Farook's off stump three balls later. In his next over, Shoib Sarwar obligingly holed out to deep midwicket to give Breese the tidy figures of 4 for 34. Fayyaz Ahmed then heaved across the line to go leg-before to Killeen and Chris Rushworth claimed his first wicket for Durham as the hosts' run-chase ran out of steam.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport