Bangla Tigers 130 for 5 (Jacks 43, Hazratullah 41, du Plessis 22) beat Team Abu Dhabi 120 for 7 (Gayle 52, Howell 2-13, Faulkner 2-23) by 10 runs
It may have taken a week but finally, after five wins out of five, the winning streak of Team Abu Dhabi came to an end courtesy of the Bangla Tigers.
That was despite a thrilling knock from none other than Chris Gayle, who – with an unbeaten 52 off 23 – threatened to pull off another remarkable chase for the Abu Dhabi outfit. But he ran out of partners as the Tigers continued their winning run to move to within two points of Team Abu Dhabi.
With 18 needed off four and Gayle on strike, no one would have counted out Team Abu Dhabi. Not least after Gayle and Jamie Overton – with two sixes off the last two deliveries – plundered 18 off the final over from Dwayne Bravo on Wednesday evening to seal a stunning victory. This time however, there was no Overton to pull off some last-over heroics and instead Isuru Udana held his nerve to take the Tigers to a fourth consecutive win.
Buoyed by a capacity crowd and after losing the toss, the Tigers’ batting order took on the attack from ball one as Johnson Charles dispatched a short delivery from Ahmed Daniyal for four, but he was gone the next ball hitting one straight to Marchant de Lange at long-off.
Will Jacks, in fine form, began with two unconvincing scoops to the boundary, before remarakbly getting dropped twice by Muhammad Farooq off the bowling of de Lange in the same over. But there was nothing unconvincing about the way he dispatched Liam Livingstone for consecutive sixes in the next over.
Many a batter has struggled with the England international throughout the recent T20 World Cup and at the Abu Dhabi T10, yet Jacks showed what he was all about, first slogging Livingstone over cow-corner and then dancing down the track to loft one back over the bowler’s head.
Jacks ended with a blistering 43 off 17, and accompanied by Hazratullah Zazai with 41 off 20, set up the Tigers, before a late flourish from skipper Faf du Plessis with 22 off eight, enabled them to put up 130 for 5 off their ten overs.
Team Abu Dhabi opened without the in-form Phil Salt who, coming off the back of two player-of-the match performances, injured himself after taking a hit to the knee in the field. And when James Faulkner removed Paul Stirling and Colin Ingram in successive deliveries, the Tigers were well and truly in the driving seat.
Livingstone may have taken a beating with the ball in hand, but he ensured he would have his say with the bat. Luke Wood was smashed for three sixes in a row. The last one the pick of the bunch – majestically lofting a fuller delivery off long-off. Yet, with the following delivery, Wood took a little pace off and deceived the Team Abu Dhabi skipper. Livingstone swung and missed and saw his stumps go flying. Wood, was ecstatic, roaring past Livingstone in a mix of relief and jubilation.
Despite losing regular wickets, the league leaders kept themselves in the chase with lusty blows from Gayle and a fighting Salt, who courageously came in at No. 6. Benny Howell was fantastic, bowling two overs for just 13 and dismissing Chris Benjamin and Salt. The latter bowled after looking to scoop.
With 37 required from two overs and the self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” still at the crease, anything was possible. Mohammad Amir was clubbed for 18 off the penultimate over as Gayle effortlessly used his pace to send the ball to the boundary and the crowd were treated to yet another last-over finish with Team Abu Dhabi.
Crucially, the 42-year-old was not on strike for the beginning of the last over and perhaps the two balls he didn’t get to face off Udana saved the Tigers. Gayle had earlier hit three boundaries in the Sri Lankan’s first over. This time, he could only manage one more maximum, which brought up a quite brilliant half-century in 22 deliveries, but it was ultimately not enough.
For Tigers skipper Du Plessis, it was the first time he had reached double figures in the tournament and crucially, his two sixes in the last over proved to be the difference between winning and losing. “It’s a big step in the right direction for us, especially after losing the toss,” he said.
Eight years ago to the day, he played one of the great match-saving Test knocks with 110* off 466 deliveries against Australia, at a strike rate of under 30. This time, du Plessis ended unbeaten with a strike rate of 275. If the Tigers are going to use this momentum to the Abu Dhabi T10 title, then they will need one of the most versatile multi-format cricketers of this generation to showcase more of his class with the bat.