Dubai: England opener Alex Hales has warned his rivals that the Desert Vipers are wearing a “dangerous” look for Season Two of the DP World ILT20 after the addition of three Pakistan stars.
Vipers, who lost the inaugural final against Dubai Capitals earlier this year, have roped in Pakistan trio Shaheen Shah Afridi, all-rounder Shadab Khan and wicketkeeper batter Azam Khan for the second edition. The move has excited Hales, who was the highest run-scorer in the first edition with 469 runs in 12 innings.
Hales has had previous experience of facing Afridi in both the international and franchise arenas, as well as playing alongside him for Nottinghamshire in this year’s T20 Blast in the UK, and he said he knows just how much of a threat the fast bowler is to any opposition.
Speaking about the signing, Hales, during his brief visit to Dubai, said: “You could put the case forward that he is probably the best seam bowler in the world at the moment. Certainly, the best new-ball bowler. (Shaheen) swings it with extreme pace from a six feet six (inches) frame, left-arm around the wicket, and it is a right-hander’s nightmare. I am just lucky that he is on our team this year. I think it is an unbelievable recruitment for us, especially with the swinging conditions we will probably have in the UAE.”
A definite advantage
Hales is equally excited about the two other Pakistan signings, Shadab Khan and Azam Khan.
“With the three we have signed, it definitely gives us the advantage. Three of the best T20 players in the world right now are already added to the ranks of what we had last year, where we reached the final, and I think it looks a really dangerous squad,” he added. “Shadab Khan is a complete cricketer. He is excellent in the field, he is also a good leg-spinner, with a lot of mystery to his leg-spin. He is a wonderful utility player.”
Hales has had previous experience playing with Azam Khan and is in awe of his power-hitting. “He is one of the best hitters of a cricket ball. The bat looks so small in his hands, he is just a big strong unit, and he can hit it for a mile. (Azam Khan) plays spin and seam very well.”
The Vipers, in addition to the three Pakistan players, have also roped in Adam Hose and Michael Jones, to ensure they cross the final hurdle in this time around.
Dip in form
Talking about his own dip in form, were Hales found the going harder as the tournament progressed, the 34-year-old felt it is part and parcel of Twenty20 cricket.
“As an opener you are expected to go out there and take the game on. It is often the best time to bat in the first six overs, but sometimes the ball can swing, and seam and you can have one with your name on it. I think the pitches were definitely better at the start of the tournament, so I cashed in then, I think, but now I have a bit more experience about how the pitches will behave in the backend and that will hold me in good stead next year when it comes to consistency.”
The second edition of the ILT20 is scheduled to start in January 2024.