5th Feb, 2023
MI Emirates debutants Zahir Khan (2/32) and Craig Overton (1/14) came up with impressive bowling performances before the team went down fighting against Dubai Capitals by seven wickets in their final league stage encounter of the ILT20 tournament, played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.
Having already qualified for the play-offs, the MI Emirates went in without the big four in their last league match of the tournament. Captain Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Imran Tahir and Trent Boult were rested as the franchise looked to test the bench before the business end of the tournament.
The onus was on the seasoned West Indian Nicholas Pooran to lead the side and the stand-in skipper shouldered the responsibility with an authoritative 43 off 31 deliveries, when the chips were down for the MI Emirates after being put in to bat.
Coming in at the end of the powerplay, the skipper struck five boundaries and a six during his stay for the next 10 overs, where he was involved in a crucial 56-run fifth wicket stand with Dan Mousley, to set the tone of MI Emirates’ eventual total of 164/6.
Mousley, the 21-year-old from England, utilised the initial reprieve well as his 35-ball unbeaten 31, ensured that the MI Emirates’ innings got the late flourish by adding 48 runs in the last five overs, with Jordan Thompson contributing a vital 8-ball 16.
Earlier, Muhammed Waseem struck a blistering 24-ball 31, powered by a couple of boundaries and as many sixes, to help MI Emirates arrest a faulty start. Waseem got the perfect partner in Lorcan Tucker as the right-handed combo revived the MI Emirates’ innings with a 46-run third wicket stand after Jake Ball struck twice in one over to remove Andre Fletcher (9) and Bas de Leede (2) in a span of three deliveries.
Commenting on his batting form, Waseem, who’s the only UAE player to be in the list of the top three run-getters, said, “I always prioritise the team’s performance, and try to contribute as much as I can with my batting to help the team win. If I contribute to the team’s performance, my name will automatically be in the list of top run-getters.”
“I look forward to continue in the same vein and contribute to the best of my abilities to help the team win the next three games in the play-offs and win the title,” he added.
However, the flourishing partnership was clipped by Sikandar Raza on the last ball of the powerplay, reducing the MI Emirates to 58/3 before Pooran arrived. Waseem’s knock was a perfect mix of caution and aggression, as he showed great maturity in holding one end with wickets falling at the other, and switching roles once Pooran joined him in the middle.
Waseem also said that he plans to take the learnings from the experience of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Pollard, and the other seasoned campaigners in the MI Emirates’ set-up to good use when he represents the national side.
“I have learnt a lot from this tournament, and would look forward to imbibe more during the playoffs from the senior players like Bravo, Pollard, Pooran and Imran Tahir, and try to pass those when I play for my national team,” he said.
In their defence of 164, Afghanistan left-arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan produced a spectacular show in his very first over, that ended up as a double-wicket maiden.
“I feel 164 was a fighting total, our bowling was also decent enough but we must give credit to the opposition for the way they batted,” Waseem said at the post-match presser.
Playing his first match of the tournament, Zahir’s fiery spell did apply the brakes on the Capitals’ scoring as he retained the pressure exerted by Craig Overton at the other end by getting the first breakthrough for the Emirates with the wicket of Robin Uthappa (29). In the very next over, the Afghan chinaman removed the other opener George Munsey (14) and Rovman Powell for nought in a span of three deliveries to reduce the opponents to 44/3.
With dew playing a role in the second innings, the MI Emirates bowlers had to deal with the challenge, and the duo of Dasun Shanaka (58 not out) and Raza (56 not out) took full advantage of it by forging together a 122-run unbeaten partnership to eventually help the Capitals get over the line and keep themselves in the hunt for a place in the play-offs.