Emirates XI shock Sussex to take title
Fly Emirates XI 85 (Khuram Khan 24, Liddle 3 for 15) beat Sussex 71 (Kirtley 17*, Arshad Ali 3 for 7) by 14 runs
On a night when Monty Panesar might have hoped to influence the headlines the former England spinner was reduced to the role of reluctant observer as Arshad Ali, a visa services officer for the national airline, cleaned up with 3 for 7 to beat Sussex in a low-scoring final of the Emirates Airline Twenty20.
Panesar watched events unfold from the VIP hospitality marquee at 7he Sevens Stadium in Dubai having failed to make the starting XI for the previously unbeaten Sussex. How he must have longed for a star turn after seeing wrist spinner Arshad finish with figures of 4-2-7-3.
Needing only 4.25 an over to lift the inaugural trophy, Sussex succumbed inside 18.2 overs leaving the part-time team made up of workers from the airline to cause the major upset of this two-day event and take the title.
After Arshad had worked wonders, host captain Nigel Fernandes, a wiry and wily left-arm spinner, polished off the job with 2 for 4 as Sussex tasted defeat for the first time on this pre-season trip to United Arab Emirates.
They made the poor to their run chase when Luke Wells fell without scoring after miscuing an attempted cover drive against Amjed Javed low to Mohammad Iqbal diving forward at point. Alarm bells were already sounding for Sussex coach Mark Robinson when Andrew Hodd ran down the pitch and miscued to mid-on.
Chad Keegan soon went leg before and though he became the first of two to reach double figures, Ollie Rayner (12) added to his own downfall by dancing past one from Arshad.
With spin at both ends Fly Emirates strangled the run rate with three maidens and wickets tumbled thereafter, the last six going for 19 despite a cameo rearguard from James Kirtley, the top-scorer with an unbeaten 17.
Sussex had been made to feel welcome ahead of the game when the PA announcer played 'Sussex by the Sea' across the ground, but buoyed by the influence of Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi, the hosts had just enough confidence in the tank to win despite Afridi's late withdrawal with a knee injury.
Left-arm seamer Chris Liddle picked up three of the first four wickets to go and Keegan gave good support with two in consecutive deliveries, but on a rapidly deteriorating pitch Fly Emirates edged to 85. A total that, in these extreme conditions, their bowlers were able to defend.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport