9th Feb, 2023
MI Emirates ticked all the boxes, producing a clinical performance to beat Dubai Capitals by 8 wickets in the Eliminator at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and set their date with the Gulf Giants in the second qualifier to be played in Dubai on Friday.
In their hunt for a middling 152, MI Emirates lost their top performer Muhammed Waseem early on but the experienced pair of Andre Fletcher (68 not out off 45 balls) and Nicholas Pooran (66 not out off 36 balls) led the counter attack with cracking unbeaten half centuries to guide the side home with 20 balls to spare.
Fletcher, who got to his fastest fifty of the tournament off mere 33 balls, started the onslaught with three consecutive boundaries, including a six off Reece Topley before welcoming Dasun Shanaka for a six over backward square, to set the tone for the chase. In the process, he added 46 runs for the second wicket with Lorcan Tucker (10) before being joined by Pooran, whose 25-ball 50 injected the pace into the chase.
Pooran, who has been in red-hot form, announced his arrival at the crease by depositing Shanaka out of the park twice on consecutive occasions to get the required run-rate under control, and allowed the left-right combo to bring up a match-winning 104-run partnership off 65 balls for the third wicket in style and take the side over the line in 16.4 overs.
Heaping praises on the way the team adapted to the tricky conditions in Sharjah, MI Emirates bowling coach Vinay Kumar said, “The pitch might have got better as the game progressed. Also the way the team bowled, if you see the first six overs, and the areas which we kept on bowling, that is what was required in this kind of a wicket.”
Rashid Khan debuted, and controlled the game in the middle overs, once Kieron Pollard opted to field and wanted his team to put the pressure on the opposition.
Rashid Khan (2/20) displayed his class and justified his selection by breaking a crucial fifty-run partnership between Sikandar Raza (38) and George Munsey, after the latter had scored 51 to set the opposition up for the final flourish, only to be halted by the champion leg-spinner with Yusuf Pathan’s scalp to mark a memorable debut in the competition.
“Rashid comes straight in to the XI. He's a class player and once you have a player as good available, and has the opportunity to play, then why not take it?!” Pollard said at the toss.
Earlier, right after putting the opposition to bat, MI Emirates bowlers kept things under check for a major part of the first innings, with star pacer Trent Boult leading the pack with a miserly spell of 2/19 off his four overs before the likes of Dwayne Bravo (1/35), and Rashid maintained the pressure from the other ends. Towards the end, Rovman Powell (30) got the Capitals to 151/5.
“Getting those early wickets in the power play overs is crucial for any bowling attack. We can’t trust the bounce on this wicket, because the balls were keeping low. The balls were coming to the bat but the bounce was low,” Kumar said.
On the prospect of playing the second qualifier in a matter of 24 hours, the MI Emirates bowling coach said, “We are taking one game at a time, it will definitely be a big game. With the kind of squad we have, most of them are matured enough to understand the importance of the game. We don’t have much time but the talk in the team is to treat it as just another game and go and give your best.”