Rashid Latif’s new-look side succeeded in capturing the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people on the night of April 10 after a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the final of the Sharjah Cup 2003 tournament. The prize money for the Sharjah Cup 2003 is $105,000. 
The victory was fashioned when they skittled out Zimbabwe for 168 runs on a perfect batting track, and then Taufeeq Umar and Yousuf Youhana produced a powerful undefeated stand of 144 runs for the third wicket to complete an easy win with 8 balls to spare. It was the highest stand of the tournament. Taufeeq Umar ended up scoring 81 from 123 balls with 10 fours, and Youhana scored 61 from 69 balls, including six fours and one six.
After the massive disappointment of the 2003 World Cup, this title win here, which was Pakistan’s 14th final win in Sharjah, has come as a morale booster for Pakistan cricket, particularly after the board and selectors swallowed a bitter pill and axed eight seniors’ players for this tournament.
And while credit clearly goes to the enthusiasm and hard work of coach Javed Miandad for managing to prepare and guide a relatively inexperienced side through this four-nation tournament without a defeat, the man who really made the difference on and off the field was skipper Rashid Latif.
Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut made the ball swing and bounce and the former claimed Mohammad Hafeez caught in the slips and Faisal Iqbal caught at square log in the first seven over’s when the total was just 28 runs. But once the new ball shine had gone and dew was not causing a problem, Youhana joined Taufeeq Umer and used his experience to guide the side to a comfortable win.
Earlier, paceman Mohammad Sami produced the much-needed lethal spell with the new ball and enabled Pakistan to shoot out Zimbabwe for just 164 runs in 49.1 over’s, giving Rashid Latif’s men a very good chance of clinching their 16th title at this venue.
Young Kumar Sangakkara scored two centuries in the Cherry Blossom Sharjah Cup 2003
Young Kumar Sangakkara scored two centuries in the Cherry Blossom Sharjah Cup 2003
Muhammad Sami set the tone for the Zimbabwe innings with a hostile spell of three for 11 in just four over’s at one stage. Sami removed Craig Wishart on the third ball of the final and later picked up Gavin Ronnie and finally Marillier to leave Zimbabwe reeling at just 3 for 22 in the ninth over. But in the middle of such a crisis, one was privileged to witness one of the finest innings by the chirpy little wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu, who ended an undefeated run at 74 from 118 balls.
Off-break bowlers Shoaib Malik bowled well for his three for 29, Mohammad Hafeez impressed again with two for 14, and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria two for 32 also lent good support. It was also a memorable day for Pakistan wicketkeeper Rashid Latif, who completed 200 dismissals in one-day cricket in his 152nd match in the afternoon.
Pakistan’s revamped cricket team under Rashid Latif made a winning start with a 68-run romp over Zimbabwe in the opening match of the four-nation Sharjah Cup. Younis Khan and Abdur Razzaq hit half-centuries as Pakistan piled up 278-7 from 50 over’s after electing to take the first strike on the slow wicket at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Debutants Umar Gul and Mohammad Hafeez then joined Razzaq and Danish Kaneria with identical two-wicket hauls to bowl out Zimbabwe for 210 in the 45th over. Douglas Marillier top-scored with 59 but found little support at the other end as Pakistan earned an extra bonus point.
Douglas Marillier top-scored with 59 but found little support at the other end as Pakistan earned an extra bonus point in the Sharjah Cup 2003
Douglas Marillier top-scored with 59 but found little support at the other end as Pakistan earned an extra bonus point in the Sharjah Cup 2003
Pakistan virtually ensured their place in the Sharjah Cup final with a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka. Pakistan has restricted Sri Lanka to a modest 223-6, despite a maiden one-day century from Kumar Sangakkara. Pakistan’s young batsmen flourished under lights to cruise home with 16 deliveries to spare. Mohammad Hafeez scored 50 in only his second match, and Faisal Iqbal, the nephew of current coach Javed Miandad, hit 32 in a second-wicket stand of 76.
After both batsmen were run out in the space of four deliveries to reduce Pakistan to 101-3, seniors Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan took over to add 124 off 110 balls for the unbroken fourth wicket. Youhana returned unbeaten on 64, while Younis made 57 not out. It was Pakistan’s second win in two days after crushing Zimbabwe by 68 runs, and even a tied result in their last match against Kenya would have seen them through to the next week’s final.
Pakistan could not have hoped for a better start to their rebuilding process under new captain Rashid Latif after eight top stars, including Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Inzamam-ul-Haq were sacked following the first-round exit from the World Cup. Sri Lanka needed to defeat fellow World Cup semifinalists Kenya and Zimbabwe in their remaining matches to stay in contention for the final. The defeat overshadowed Sangakkara’s first three-figure knock in his 86th one-dayer, which allowed Sri Lanka to recover from a shaky start and post a challenging total.
Douglas Marillier smashed his maiden one-century as Zimbabwe beat Kenya by five wickets to avenge their stunning World Cup loss. Opener Marillier, who hit 100 to beat his previous best score of 59 he recorded against Pakistan, prospered in a 130-run stand with Grant Flower to overhaul Kenya’s modest 225 for six in 49 overs.
David Obuya (57), Steve Tikolo (37), Thomas Odoyo (46), and Hitesh Modi (27 not out) made useful contributions to build the Kenyan innings. But Zimbabwe, given a solid start by Marillier and Craig Wishart, who put on 56 runs for the opening wicket, went about their task with relative ease to erase the memories of their seven-wicket loss to Kenya in the Super Sixes of the World Cup.
Grant Flower made 59 off 70 balls in five hours before falling to Tony Suji, and in the process, he became the second Zimbabwean player after his brother Andy to cross 6,000 runs in one-day cricket. When Grant Flower departed, Zimbabwe still needed 28 off 30 balls. Marillier duly completed his century, but there was hardly anyone present in the stadium to cheer his efforts.
Kumar Sangakkara hit a second century in three days as Sri Lanka avenged their World Cup humiliation by Kenya with a 129-run romp in the Sharjah Cup. The left-hander hit an unbeaten 108 to fire Sri Lanka to 256-5 before Muttiah Muralitharan grabbed three wickets in four balls to bowl out Kenya for 127 in the day-night international. Kumar Sangakkara, who hit an exact 100 against Pakistan, reached the three-figure mark again with a boundary off the final delivery of the first inning.
Kumar Sangakkara’s second one-day century, studded with nine hits to the fence, once again held the Sri Lankan innings together after Jayasuriya won the toss and elected to bat. Tillakaratne made 43 before he became Obuya’s second victim, and Kaushal Lokuarachchi was bowled by Tony Suji for eight to make Sri Lanka 220-5. Kumar Dharmasena helped Kumar Sangakkara add 36 valuable runs for the unbeaten on 16.
Zimbabwe produced a sterling performance to qualify for the final of the Sharjah Cup at the expense of the fancied Sri Lankan team. Zimbabwe, chasing a target of 194 runs, completed the victory with eight balls to spare after veteran Grant Flower anchored the innings with a sedate but vital innings of 61 from 88 balls.
Grant Flower came into bat at the fall of the second wicket on 65 in the 16th over and stayed till the end. He shared match-winning stands of 38 with Gavin Rennie, 26 with Tatenda Taibu, and 27 with Heath Streak after a tense battle out in the middle with the four-pronged Sri Lankan spin attack that bowled beautifully to valiantly try to defend an adequate total.
The young leg-spinner Kaushal Lokuarachchi returned figures of 3 for 37, while Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Dharmasena, and Sanath Jayasuriya conceded just 101 in 30 overs but could take only two wickets between them, which was another deciding factor in the match.
The new-look Pakistan side continued its upward trend with a crushing 143-run win over World Cup semifinalists Kenya to end the league round of the Sharjah Cup on an unbeaten note. Pakistan entered the final with convincing wins over Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, plus two bonus points. The Pakistanis were in complete command and didn’t take the match lightly, even though they had qualified for the final, as they took the last five Kenyan wickets for just six runs and in 22 balls as Kenya crashed from 136 for five to 143 all out in just 31.4 over’s.
Kenya never looked like successfully chasing Pakistan’s big total of 286 for six, and their plight only worsened when they crashed to 31 for four in only eight over’s. The damage was being done by young fast bowler Mohammad Sami, who ended with fine figures of four for 25 runs to rock the Kenyans. It was only a solid and enterprising fifth-wicket stand of 53 between veteran Maurice Odumbe, who played brilliant innings of 54 from 65 balls, and Hitesh Modi, who contributed 27 from 49 balls, that the Kenyans didn’t collapse completely.
The Kenyans, who were the surprise qualifiers for the World Cup semifinals in South Africa, ended the tournament with three straight losses, and their batting remained their weak point against Pakistan as well. Earlier, Pakistan’s late order fired on all cylinders. Young Shoaib Malik (76) unleashed the fireworks in the last ten over’s as Pakistan added 106 runs as the Kenyan bowlers and fielders lost control amidst the increasing pressure of restricting Pakistan to a reasonable total.
Till the 35th over, Kenya had done a reasonable job, allowing Pakistan to score just 151 for 5 and holding them to 180 for five in 40 overs, but it was a brisk stand of 72 in 62 balls between skipper Rashid Latif (38 from 31 balls) and Malik, which changed the tide in Pakistan’s favor in just the fourth ODI between these two teams. But despite the fact that the finalists have already been decided, a decent crowd showed up for the match, which was important to both teams.
Cherry Blossom Sharjah Cup 2003 - The victory was fashioned when they skittled out Zimbabwe for 168 runs on a perfect batting track
Cherry Blossom Sharjah Cup 2003: The victory was fashioned when they skittled out Zimbabwe for 168 runs on a perfect batting track
Pakistan, since they were trying out a new combination, and Kenya, who required maximum international exposure to prove their World Cup performance, were not a flash in the pan. Unfortunately, today they found out that the Pakistanis can be ruthless on their day, and their most successful and effective bowler, the leg-spinner Collins Obuya, went for 56 in his nine over’s for just one wicket, never being allowed to settle down by the batsmen.
Misbah-ul-Haq in particular treated him with disdain in his fine innings, and he was unlucky to be given out caught at long-on by Brijal Patel off Steve Tikolo bowling in the 35th over when television replays clearly showed the fielder had touched the boundary rope with his shoes while taking the catch.
Earlier, Kenya had done well to keep a tight leash on the Pakistani batsman, with just two boundaries coming in the first ten over’s as Thomas Odoyo produced a fine spell of 7-1-15-0 while his new-ball partner Peter Ongondo had two spells of 8-0-36-1. Therefore, victory in Sharjah Cup 2003, boost the morale of new look Pakistani team. 
Rashid Latif's new-look side succeeded in four nations Cherry Blossoms Sharjah Cup 2003 capturing the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people
Rashid Latif’s new-look side succeeded in winning the Cherry Blossoms Sharjah Cup 2003, capturing the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people. Photo credit: Cricinfo