Hardus Viljoen
Hardus Viljoen of Northern Warriors celebrates the wicket of Shahid Afridi of Pakhtoons during the T10 League at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Sharjah: It was Northern Warriors medium pacer Hardus Viljoen’s night in the final of the T10 League at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Sunday. Not only did he bag the prized wicket of Pakhtoons captain Shahid Afridi but also the Player of the Tournament award to ensure that Warriors emerged as the champions of the second T10 League.

Viljoen knew they wanted Afridi’s wicket early for his team to win the championship on debut. It was Afridi who thrashed Warriors’ bowling attack in the first qualifier to reach the final and Viljoen’s focus was fully on sending Afridi back. “I went to bed last night, thinking, Please, just let me get him once. Fortunately, tonight was my night but hopefully, there will be many more battles like that,” he said.

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The South African spoke about his battles with Afridi, for whom majority of the fans had come to watch and cheered for him.

“Me and Afridi have had a few battles and he has always come out on top,” he said. “I played him in a quarter final in England where he smashed a hundred off 40 balls. Then in the knockout game in the T10 League on Saturday, he also came off. It helps the viewers feel part of the competition, because they want to see the best batters in the world be competitive with great bowlers that can put them under pressure. That is the nature of this game.”

When asked what was the secret behind his success in the T10 format, Viljoen said: “I think the biggest break was the owners who gave the opportunity to be in the team as replacement. I think at the end of the day it was all about the teammates. I would not have been able to take the wickets if it wasn’t for the other guys who contributed. They just made it a bit easy. Our batters put pressure on the top and I fortunately got the wickets. All credit goes to the team I was just a lucky guy that got all the accolades which came on the way.”

For Viljoen, it’s the unpredictability of T10 format that excited him. “T10 is a funny game. At one stage one may think that the game is in our bag but it can slip away. When Bengal Tigers played Maratha Arabians in the eliminator Bengal was in control, but Alex Hales took the game away. This is what makes T10 so exciting as we never know what can happen. The game only finish when the last ball is bowled. So everybody stuck to their guns till the last ball is bowled to celebrate the victory.”

Viljoen went on to hail his captain Darren Sammy. “Sammy’s experience as a captain came out and all credit to him. He never put any bowlers under pressure and kept on telling us to don’t try and fix something that is not broken so keep on doing what we are doing. He kept on saying to back our skills and so all credit to him that he captained the team so well.”