The final match of the round robin stage of the DP World ILT20 League involved the Gulf Giants, sitting in second place, and the Sharjah Warriors, who needed to win to clinch fourth spot and a place in the playoffs.
On paper, the favorites were the Giants, having won six of their nine games, with one loss and two rain-abandoned matches. And so the result would ultimately go with form, with home team Sharjah Warriors dropping out of the top four, to be replaced by Dubai Capitals.
Gulf Giants won the toss and chose to bowl first. The resting of Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Lynn gave the batting a diluted look.
Chris Jordan was also rested, as was Rehan Ahmad, but the bowling was still very strong. Sharjah Warriors had to pick its strongest team, relying on Marcus Stoinis, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Evin Lewis, Joe Denly and Moeen Ali to post a competitive total.
The Gulf Giants’ devotion to bowl first was unsurprising given their bowling attack on a wicket known for its low bounce. However, Dominic Drakes’ second ball flew, taking the keeper by surprise. The fifth ball was hit to mid-wicket for six by Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who perished in the second over, pulling Sanchit Sharma to be caught on the square leg boundary.
Captain Moeen Ali took the responsibility of batting at three. He watched Tom Kohler-Cadmore taking a liking to Tom Helm, striking 4, 4, 6, 4 before succumbing to a superbly judged catch in the deep by James Vince. Sometimes one wonders why batters, even in T20 when on a roll, try and hit every ball to the boundary. Why not say to oneself after striking 18 in four balls, take one and move on to the next over?
Carlos Brathwaite was introduced in the sixth over, inducing Moeen to drive to deep cover where Drakes dived forward to take the catch but injured himself in painful fashion. He took no further part in the match. Another Afghani, Qais Ahmed, took the seventh over, conceding only four runs.
At 57 for three in the eighth over, David Wiese pinned Evin Lewis in front. From a distance, it looked too high but, it was out on review. Wiese then went on to clean up Joe Denly and then Stoinis, lbw, to balls which seemed to keep low. Then, he got one to fly off Woakes’ glove to point. This was an extraordinary performance from Wiese, who went on to claim 5 for 20. The Warriors could not come back from that, closing on 107 in 18.3 overs, a disappointing effort.
Their cause was not helped by Woakes’ first delivery, which speared off down the legside for five wides. On occasions such as that, as captain and team members, you can be forgiven in thinking that this is not our day. Nevertheless, the Warriors soldiered on. At 31 for no wicket after four overs, Stoinis was brought on and he cleaned up Tom Banton.
A throw of the dice was needed. Woakes returned at the end opposite to the pavilion, with only two men on boundary — deep square and fine leg. The wily Vince and Colin Grandhomme took no risks against either Woakes or Stoinis, knowing that to bat out the latter’s four overs without loss would open up scoring opportunities against other bowlers.
Only until the fifth ball of Stoinis’ last over did Grandhomme restrain himself, smacking six, before receiving a bouncer at head height in riposte. Undeterred, he took pickings from Mohammad Nabi but, hooking Siddique at pavilion end, he was caught on the square leg boundary.
Despite the Giants’ slimmed down batting, at 82/2 all looked straightforward. Local UAE player, Aayan Khan, who did not bowl came in at number four, only to see Vince lose his off stump to Junaid Siddique. His job to hold the innings together was done. Khan and Erasmus were left to steer the Giants to their target, Khan finishing with a six to close the innings on 108 for three after 16.3 overs.
The Gulf Giants underlined their all-round strength in this performance to finish top of the table in the round robin stage. It was, however, a disappointing night for the Sharjah Warriors, who, as Moeen Ali admitted, were not good enough to qualify for the playoffs. In particular, he felt that the batting lineup had not maximized its potential.