The Zayed Cricket Academy (ZCA) proved that the future of cricket in the UAE is bright today after beating competition from England and Kenya to lift the U-16 Emirates Airline School ARCH Cup. 

The Abu Dhabi-based team came out on top in the eight-team international event, defeating England’s Eton College by 126 runs in the final.

At the Nursery Ovals in the capital, ZCA posted a superb total of 237 in their 40 overs, thanks largely to a ton from Justin D’Souza (105) and half-century from Jonathan Figy (73). 

In reply, Eton College, previously unbeaten, had no answer to ZCA’s bowlers with captain Yodhin Punja claiming three wickets. The visiting team were eventually all out for 111.

The victory not only meant ZCA finished unbeaten in the tournament, but also retained their title.

ZCA are no strangers in taking on international opponents, having toured India and Sri Lanka in the last year.

And Punja believes those tours have proved beneficial in this tournament. “The matches outside the UAE have definitely been a big help,” said Punja,  who travelled to Sri Lanka last July.

“Whether playing in or outside the UAE, it has made us much tougher as cricketers – physically and mentally as we would know what to expect from opposition of different countries and we have applied the knowledge in this tournament.” 

Speaking of the victory, the U-19 UAE player added: “We really wanted to win this year because we had lost a few key players due to age restrictions but we all worked hard to achieve this great result.”

When asked what the difference was between the two teams the 15-year-old replied: “In bowling and batting we were exceptional throughout the tournament and we carried that in the final. 

“I think that was the difference as we had to overcome a very tough side.”

Punja, skippering the team in the ARCH Cup for the first time paid tribute to his team-mates.

“I couldn’t have done it without the boys and everyone contributed well to the team.”

Eton College coach Paul Gillam insists the tournament will be a learning curve for his team.

He said: “Zayed are playing at a level that we don’t encounter often in England. The quality of their all-round game is something the boys can learn a huge amount from.”

He added: “I hope my boys have learnt that cricket is a global game and there are emerging countries whose standard is getting higher and higher and the UAE is certainly one of those countries.”

It was the ninth edition of the ARCH Cup and Matthew Jackson, managing director of organisers Sporta Tours, said: “We have already got some teams signed up and we are looking forward to making it another success next year.”

Article courtesy of our media partners, Sport360