Dubai: England’s World Cup-winning stars Alex Hales and Sam Billings guided Desert Vipers to an easy seven-wicket win and inflict more misery on Sharjah Warriors in the International League T20 at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
Right from winning the toss, the Colin Munro-led team did not put a foot wrong and the clinical performance certainly put the Vipers as one of the top favourites for the inaugural title. Their job was made a lot easier by another lacklustre performance from Sharjah, who need to address their top-order issues to stay in the race after suffering their second straight defeat.
After reducing Warriors to below par score, Vipers opener Hales ensured that he stayed till the end to take his team over the line. Though the Vipers lost two quick wickets in the second over, Hales found an able ally in Billings and the duo put on a 128-run third wicket partnership that took the match away from Sharjah.
Both the English batters took their time and shifted gears in the final powerplay over when they were severe on fellow England pacer Chris Woakes, scoring 16 runs in the sixth over and 22 in the 15th over to almost seal the match in Vipers’ favour.
The only blip in Hales’ innings came towards the end when he was put down off two consecutive deliveries and UAE pacer Junaid Siddique, who worked up a good pace, was the unfortunate bowler. The catches would not have really altered the outcome of the contest, which was pretty much under Vipers control.
“We just wanted to be busy, play some good shots. We were lucky there was not a lot of scoreboard pressure,” said Hales, who won the Player of the Match award. “It is has been an enjoyable year — 2022.”
Siddique had the consolation of breaking the partnership when Vipers were three runs away from win when he dismissed Billings, who agonisingly fell short of a deserving half-century by one run.
Put in to bat, Sharjah’s batting once again let them down, losing early wickets. From 40 for three at the end of the power play overs, it was an uphill task for the Sharjah team to get a big score. Thanks to some big hitting towards the end by England’s Joe Denly, who is looking resurrect his England career.
The all-rounder, who will turn 37 this March, grabbed the opportunity to showcase his bit-hitting skills that will give him the confidence to stake his claim for a place in the England side. Denly and veteran Afghanistan all-rounder Mohammad Nabi showed the right approach on a wicket that gives plenty of scope to play through the line, but only after spending some time on the pitch, but still ended 20 runs short of a par score that could have put the rivals under pressure in their chase.
“We did not score enough runs. The wicket wasn’t as easy as they made it look. The dew did come into play. The wickets have done us in a little bit,” Warriors skipper Moeen Ali, who is yet to rediscover his form, told the broadcasters during the prize presentation ceremony.
Sharjah must be hoping to turn the tide in their favour on home turf when they play MI Emirates on Tuesday, but still the batters need to show some patience.
“Our spinners will have a role in Sharjah in two days. We have good guys and good coaching staff, it is just about not getting too disappointed and losing confidence,” Moeen Ali added
In the first contest of the double-header, UAE pacer Sanchit Sharma shone for Gulf Giants, who began their campaign with a clinical win over Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, who suffered their second straight loss.
Sharma picked up excellent figures of 3 for nine and helped the Giants restrict the Knight Riders to 114 for nine at Sheikh Zayed Stadium. Thereafter, the Gulf Giants captain James Vince led from the front with 65 off 44 balls as his team raced to their target in 14.1 overs.
Abu Dhabi seems to be a happy hunting ground for UAE players. MI Emirates opener Muhammad Waseem won the player of the match award for his scintillating knock, while Sanchit Sharma also bagged the player of the match award for his brilliant spell in which he dismissed the three of the top four batters to make early inroads.
“I am very happy with my performance. This is a dream start for me. I took three big wickets — opener, number three and number four batters. Those wickets set the game up for us. I bowled with the new ball in the practice games, so I was sure that I would take the new ball in today’s game,” Sanchit Sharma said.
Even though the Abu Dhabi Knight Riders had a relatively low total on the board, Ravi Rampaul kept his team’s hopes alive by getting an early wicket. But all those hopes were shattered when captain Vince took control of the match and brought up his half-century following consecutive sixes off Akeal Hosein in the ninth over.
The Abu Dhabi Knight Riders batting coach Ryan ten Doeschate said: “We’ve had two poor performances with the bat. The guys are aware of that. The Sri Lankan guys are getting in tomorrow, so we’ll have a few more options for our next game. It’s going to be important for us to react well to our last two performances. We need to maximise what we have at our disposal.”
Desert Vipers beat Sharjah Warriors by seven wickets. Sharjah Warriors 145-5 (Joe Denly 36 not out, Mohammad Nabi 34 not out, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 22, Tymal Mills 1-11) Desert Vipers 148-3 in 16.4 overs (Alex Hales 83 not out, Sam Billings 49).
Gulf Giants bt Abu Dhabi Knight Riders by six wickets. Gulf Giants 115 for four in 14.1 overs (James Vince 65, Sunil Narine 2 for 21) Abu Dhabi Knight Riders 114 for 9 in 20 overs (Andre Russell 26, Paul Stirling 20, Sanchit Sharma 3 for 9, Chris Jordan 3 for 28).