The first season of Major League Cricket (MLC), the newest T20 league in the United States, came to a thrilling conclusion on July 30, 2023, as MI New York defeated Seattle Orcas by seven wickets in the final at the Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina.
The star of the show was none other than Rashid Khan, the world's No. 1 T20I bowler and MI New York's marquee player. The Afghan spinner produced a sensational spell of 4 for 12 in four overs, including the wickets of Seattle's top-scorers Heinrich Klaasen (54) and Rassie van der Dussen (43), to restrict the Orcas to 149 for 9 in 20 overs.
Rashid was equally brilliant with the bat, smashing an unbeaten 37 off 18 balls, including four sixes, to seal the chase for MI New York with 10 balls to spare. He was well supported by Nicholas Pooran, who made a quickfire 32 off 16 balls, and Trent Boult, who chipped in with two wickets and a crucial cameo of 15 not out.
Rashid was deservedly named the Player of the Match and the Player of the Series for his outstanding all-round performance throughout the tournament. He finished as the leading wicket-taker with 18 scalps at an average of 9.72 and an economy rate of 5.40. He also scored 147 runs at a strike rate of 196.00 and hit the most sixes (14) in the competition.
Rashid's heroics helped MI New York complete a remarkable turnaround after finishing fourth in the league stage with two wins and three losses. They then knocked out Washington Freedom and Texas Super Kings in the Eliminator and Qualifier 2 respectively, before overcoming Seattle Orcas in the final.
MI New York's captain Rohit Sharma praised Rashid for his match-winning performance and thanked the fans for their support. "He is a genius, a magician, a legend. He has been phenomenal for us throughout the tournament and today he showed why he is the best in the world. I am so proud of him and the whole team. We had some ups and downs but we never gave up. We played like champions and we are very happy to lift this trophy. I want to thank all our fans who came out to support us and cheered us on. This is for you guys," he said.
Seattle Orcas' captain Kane Williamson congratulated MI New York for their victory and expressed his disappointment at falling short in the final. "They played better than us today and they deserve to win. Rashid was outstanding with both bat and ball and we couldn't handle him. We tried our best but it wasn't our day. We are disappointed but we are also proud of what we have achieved in this tournament. We have a lot of positives to take from this experience and we hope to come back stronger next year," he said.
The inaugural season of MLC was a huge success, attracting some of the biggest names in world cricket and drawing large crowds across various venues in the US. The league also showcased some exciting local talent and generated a lot of interest among the American public. With plans to expand to more teams and cities in the future, MLC is set to become a major force in global cricket.
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