Riding on a fine all-round show from Tom Curran and Wanindu Hasaranga, Desert Vipers stormed into the final after defeating Gulf Giants by 19 runs in the Qualifier 1 of the ILT20 at the Dubai International Stadium on Wednesday.
Curran bagged four wickets for 31 runs while Hasaranga took three wickets for 36 runs and restricted table toppers Gulf Giants’ mighty batting lineup to 159 in 19.4 overs. Desert Vipers had posted 178 for 7 in 20 overs with Hasaranga scoring 31 and Curran hitting a timely 29 runs. Sherfane Rutherford, enduring the pain of a pulled hamstring, top scored with 37 off 19 balls with four sixes and one boundary.
Gulf Giants will now play in Qualifier 2 on Friday against the winner of the Eliminator for another chance to reach the final. The MI Emirates will take on the Dubai Capitals in the Eliminator on Thursday.
Gulf Giants won the toss and elected to bowl with opening bowler Dominic Drakes giving away just four runs. In the second over, Desert Vipers openers Rohan Mustafa hit Sanchit Sharma for two sixes, first to the deep mid-wicket fence and another over backward square leg. Mustafa did not spare Drakes too hitting him for his third six to deep mid-wicket. David Wiese, fresh from his five-wicket spell against Sharjah Warriors in his last match, was introduced for the fourth over and he struck with the first delivery forcing Mustafa to mistime his shot and get him caught by Chris Jordan at mid-on for 23.
Opener Alex Hales lasted only eight balls to score three runs before he was bowled by Carlos Brathwaite’s second ball of the fifth over while attempting a big shot. Skipper Colin Munro too departed top edging to wicketkeeper Tom Banton off Chris Jordan for 2. By the end of the powerplay, Desert Vipers were struggling at 36 for 3. Wicketkeeper Banton, who had injured his finger, had to leave and Ashwanth Chidambaram took his place.
The mantle of lifting the team out of trouble fell on Wanindu Hasaranga and Sam Billings. The pair took the score past the 50-run mark in the eighth over and by the halfway mark they were 74 for 3. They put on a 50 runs partnership in 5.3 overs. Hasaranga hit Drakes for two consecutive boundaries in the 12th over but fell to the third delivery while going for a slog and edging to new wicketkeeper Chidambaram for 31. The pair added 60 runs in 38 balls for the fourth wicket.
Sherfane Rutherford joined Billings and took the score past the 100-run mark in the 13th over. In the next over, Rutherford, going for a quick single, pulled his hamstring and had to retire hurt at 5. In the 15th over, UAE’s 17-year-old spinner Aayan Afzal Khan was asked to bowl. He struck with the third ball of his first over when he had Sam Billings, who went for a mighty shot, and Jordan taking a well-judged catch for 31.
A limping Rutherford returned to hit Jordan for a six and a boundary and take 16 runs off the 17th over. In the 18th over, he hit Wiese for three consecutive sixes – first six to long-on, second over extra cover and third over the bowler’s head. Twenty runs came off that over. In the 19th over Curran hit Brathwaite for a six to deep wicket and a boundary to long off. All these big hits swelled the total to a respectable one.
Curran felt to last ball of the innings slashing at Jordan and edging to wicketkeeper Chidambaram for 29. Rutherford retired with one ball remaining at 37. In the last five overs 69 runs were scored losing just two wickets.
Chasing at a run rate of 8.90 needed a steady start. Chris Lynn opened with James Vince in the absence of injured Banton. Boundaries were scored steadily with Lynn hitting Sheldon Cottrell for two boundaries in the second over and also Gus Atkinson for another two in the third over. Vince too hit Luke Wood for two boundaries and the 50-run partnership was recorded in 5.3 overs.
Hasaranga provided the breakthrough with the first ball of his first over clean bowling Lynn through the gates for 26. Tom Curran struck in the next over clean bowling Vince too through the gates for 21. Shimron Hetmyer who won many matches for Gulf Giants joined Colin de Grandhomme. He got dropped by Ben Howell at slip-off Rohan Mustafa at his score on 2. At the halfway mark Gulf Giants were 75 for 2 needing another 104 runs to reach the target.
With the first ball of the 11th over, Hasaranga trapped De Grandhomme leg before 11. One ball later, Hasaranga also trapped Wiese leg before for a duck. Hetmyer began his big hits in the 13th over smashing Hasaranga for three sixes. He escaped for the second time being caught at his score on 32 when Hales dropped him at mid-off off Atkinson. At the score on 110, Hetmyer finally fell when he was caught at deep square leg by Howell for 36.
Banton walked in and hit two successive boundaries off Curran but fell to the third delivery edging to wicketkeeper Billings for 8. This virtually pulled the curtains down on Gulf Giants’ chase. Wood continued to strike and had Drakes caught at long leg for 9 and Curran removing the danger man Brathwaite caught by Munro at covers for 18 and Sharma too in identical manner for a duck. Last man Aayan got run out for a duck.
Speaking about their performance, Desert Vipers’ captain Colin Munro said, “Sherfane showed great character today. This is the kind of environment we have created in the dressing room. The players want to go out there and perform for the team. Sherfane’s innings was the turning point in the game. He hit the ball beautifully and put us in the driver’s seat.”
Meanwhile, Gulf Giants’ bowling coach Ottis Gibson said, “We were in a pretty good position until Rutherford came back and played some good shots. His innings helped them to get 178 which turned out to be a difficult chase for us.”
Brief scores: Desert Vipers 178 for 7 in 20 overs (Rohan Mustafa 23, Sam Billings 31, Wanindu Hasaranga 31, Sherfane Rutherford 37, Tom Curran 29, Chris Jordan 3 for 40) Gulf Giants 159 in 19.4 overs (James Vince 21, Chris Lynn 26, Shimron Hetmyer 36, Luke Wood 2 for 26, Tom Curran 4 for 31, Wanindu Hasaranga 3 for 36).(ANI)