Dubai: The play-off, a do-or-die game. If you blink the other team will run away to the final. Gulf Giants blinked towards the final overs of the Desert Vipers’ innings and allowed far too many runs to end up losing the key contest on Wednesday. Vipers won the DP World ILT20 Qualifier 1 by 19 runs at Dubai International Stadium and become the first team to enter the final in the inaugural edition of the professional franchise league.
The key performers for the Vipers were Tom Curran, Wanindu Hasaranga and Sherfane Rutherford, the braveheart who played with a hamstring injury to guide his team to a challenging total of 178 for seven in 20 overs.
Chasing a stiff target, the Giants were off to a perfect start in the first six overs on wicket that didn’t hold any demons and allowed the batters the freedom to play their shots. But the introduction of Hasaranga in the seventh over turned the match on its head. The Sri Lankan leg-spinner struck in his first ball and went on to claim two more in his second over to wrest the initiative back to the Vipers. After the openers, Shimron Hetmyer scored a chancy 31, but the pressure of the increasing run-rate took its toll on all the subsequent batters to be dismissed for 159 in 19.4 overs.
It was the late counter-assault by lion-hearted Rutherford that took the Vipers to a big total. The West Indian left-hander hobbled off with a hamstring injury only to limp back in the 17th over when the Vipers were in trouble at 126/6 in 16.3 overs.
Otis Gibson, Gulf Giants bowling coach, 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.”
Lack of strategy
Instead of tightening the screws, the Giants bowlers were guilty of feeding Rutherford at the right areas, and the left-hander feasted on the offerings to make merry without moving his feet. A poor ploy and a lack of strategy let Giants slip their advantage when Vipers added 52 runs in 21 balls with Tom Curran, who finished with four-wicket haul along with 29 to grab the Player of the Match award.
Giants skipper James Vince must have rued his decision to bowl the paces in the final overs after seeing Hasaranga wreak havoc. UAE teenager Aayan Khan first gave a glimpse of what the wicket has to offer by bowling an economical over where he got the prized wicket of Sam Billings, conceding just two runs in the 15 over. Sadly, it was just the only over bowled by a spinner during the Vipers’ innings.
Hasaranga had earlier released Giant’s stranglehold with a counter-attacking 31 and added a 60-run partnership with Billings that set the launchpad for the Vipers’ innings to take off in the second half of the innings.
Giants will get another chance to make amends at the same ground on Friday when they meet the winners of Thursday’s Eliminator. The table-toppers, however, need to reproduce their A game to join the Vipers and need to ensure that they don’t have another off day.