It might have taken a week, but ultimately, after five out of five wins, Team Abu Dhabi’s winning streak came to an end thanks to the Bangla Tigers.
This was despite a thrilling blow from none other than Chris Gayle, who – with an unbeaten 52 of 23 – threatened to pull off another remarkable pursuit for holding Abu Dhabi. But he ran out of partners as the Tigers continued their winning streak to get closer to the Abu Dhabi squad by two points.
With 18 out of four needed and Gayle on strike, no one would have counted on the Abu Dhabi team. Notably after Gayle and Jamie Overton – with two sixes on the last two deliveries – plundered 18 of the final against Dwayne Bravo on Wednesday night to seal a resounding victory. This time around however, there was no Overton to pull off a few feats and instead, Isuru Udana kept his cool to take the Tigers to a fourth straight victory.
Carried by a large crowd and after losing the toss, the Tigers’ batting order took the attack on the first ball as Johnson Charles sent a short delivery of Ahmed Daniyal for four, but he was gone the next ball hitting a straight at Marchant de Lange long range.
Will Jacks, in great shape, started off with two unconvincing scoops to the limit, before being remarkably knocked down twice by Muhammad Farooq of de Lange’s bowling alley in the same over. But there was nothing unconvincing about the way he sent Liam Livingstone for six straight in the next.
Many hitters struggled with the England international throughout the recent T20 World Cup and Abu Dhabi T10, but Jacks showed what he is, first by hitting Livingstone on the cow’s wedge , then dancing on the track to pull one up above the melon head.
Jacks finished with a dazzling 43 of 17, and accompanied by Hazratullah Zazai with 41 of 20, set up the Tigers, before a late bloom from skipper Faf du Plessis with 22 of eight, allowed them to put in 130 for 5 on their ten overs.
The Abu Dhabi team opened without a fit Phil Salt who, after two player-of-the-match performances, suffered an injury after receiving a knee blow on the pitch. And when James Faulkner eliminated Paul Stirling and Colin Ingram in successive deliveries, the Tigers were indeed in the driver’s seat.
Livingstone may have taken a beating with the ball in hand, but he made sure he got his say with the bat. Luke Wood was crushed for three sixes in a row. The last the choice of the bunch – majestically offering a more complete delivery for a long time. However, with the next delivery, Wood slowed down a bit and deceived the skipper of Team Abu Dhabi. Livingstone rocked and missed and saw his stumps fly. Wood, was ecstatic, roaring past Livingstone in a mixture of relief and glee.
Despite losing regular wickets, the league leaders kept themselves going with vigorous punches from Gayle and a fighter Salt, who bravely came to No.6. Benny Howell was fantastic, playing two rounds for just 13 and dismissing Chris Benjamin and Salt. The latter played after looking to scoop.
With 37 required from two overs and the self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” still on the fold, anything was possible. Mohammad Amir was pummeled for 18 on the penultimate lap as Gayle used his effortless pace to send the ball to the limit and the crowd was treated to another final with the Abu Dhabi squad.
Above all, the 42-year-old wasn’t on strike at the start of the last round and perhaps the two balls he couldn’t face against Udana saved the Tigers. Gayle had already reached three limits in Sri Lanka’s opener. This time around he could only handle a maximum more, which sent a pretty brilliant half-century back in 22 deliveries, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
For the skipper of Tigres Du Plessis, it was the first time he had reached double digits in the tournament and above all, his two sixes in the last over proved to be the difference between winning and losing. “It’s a big step in the right direction for us, especially after losing the draw,” he said.
Eight years ago to the day, he was playing against Australia one of the best hits in the Test with 110 * from 466 deliveries against Australia, with a hit rate of less than 30. This time, du Plessis has finished undefeated with a strike rate of 275. If the Tigers are going to use that momentum for the Abu Dhabi T10 title, then they’ll need one of the most versatile multi-format cricketers of this generation to further show their class with the bat.