Dubai: The pitch was perfect, the ploy was perfect and the execution was immaculate by Gulf Giants skipper James Vince to end MI Emirates’ hopes with a four-wicket win in Qualifier 2 of the inaugural DP World ILT20 at Dubai International Stadium on Friday.
After restricting MI Emirates to under-par 167/5, Giants must have realised that they have won the battle when MI Emirates skipper Kieron Pollard used his ace Rashid Khan in the fourth over after James’ blunted another opening salvo of Trent Boult.
Vince got his strategy wrong during the loss to Desert Vipers in a rare slip up at the same venue in Qualifier 1 on Wednesday, after topping the league table. Against MI Emirates he kept it plain and simple, not losing his wicket and stay till the end, while the rest would go after the MI Emirates bowling.
In fact, Giants batters didn’t have to try hard on a pitch that gave the batters full freedom to play their shots. MI Emirates skipper Pollard employed six bowlers and resorted to mind games, but nothing could move a resolute Vince, who remained unbeaten on 83 when the Giants romped home with 11 balls to spare.
“Got off to a quick start, which took the pressure off us. We lost a few wickets through the middle, but the guys who came in didn’t chew up too many balls and found the boundaries. The bowling has been fantastic all through the tournament. If we had fielded better, we could have kept them to 10 fewer. But we adapted well today. Good response to losing the first qualifier. We get a chance to put it right against the Vipers on Sunday,” Vince told the official broadcasters during the presentation ceremony.
In reality MI Emirates, put in to bat, had lost the match in the first 10 overs when they were batting. The Men in Blue were reduced to 67 for four in 10.1 overs. UAE opener Muhammad Waseem and Ireland star Lorcan Tucker were guilty of losing their wickets after getting off to cautious starts. The lack of big partnership put MI Emirates in a spot until Nicholas Pooran and Pollard pulled their team out of the woods. Things could have been worse had Giants taken any of the three catches they had dropped off the West Indian left-hander, who rode his luck to forge a 71-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Pollard alone managed to score at a strike-rate of over 150, which is a basic for Twenty20 matches. Giants bowlers deserved to get the credit for keeping it tight, not allowing the MI Emirates batters to run away to a big score. England all-rounder Chris Jordan was the pick with pick of the bowlers with two for 25 in four overs, while David Wiese continued to get accumulating wickets with two for 31.
After finishing at least 20 runs short of the target, MI Emirates hopes started to evaporate in the cold air when Chirs Lynn and Vince raced to 64 in the powerplay six overs.
“We didn’t get off to the greatest start. They bowled well and kept us in check. We finished with a decent total, but were 15-20 runs short. We could have been tighter with the ball, get early wickets and get into them. They started well and we were always playing catch-up. Things went their way, so congratulations to them,” Pollard said.
Great sign of a good captain
The MI Emirates bowlers almost threw in the towel when Dwayne Bravo gave them a breakthrough against the run of play. Though the Orange oufit kept losing the wickets, the cameos from the other end ensured that Vince need not take undue risk and stay well ahead of the chase. By winning the clash, Giants have maintained a clean slate and went 2-0 up against MI Emirates in head-to-head record, with one game being a washout.
“We plan very well for our games and stick to them. The credit has got to be given to our coaching staff for preparing the players as best they can. And our captain Vince doesn’t get flustered at all, which is a great sign of a good captain. He’s a big-game player as well and that’ll give us confidence going into the final,” said Lynn.
With both Vipers and Giants booking a place in the final, it vindicates the form of these two teams who finished on top of the league table. A mouth-watering clash awaits fans at Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.