Dubai [UAE], February 5 (ANI): Gulf Giants overpowered Desert Vipers by 25 runs and confirmed a top-two finish through Shimron Hetmyer's hard-hitting half-century in the 27th match of the ILT20 at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday.
Hetmyer, who was Gulf Giants' hero in their previous match against MI Emirates through his last ball six, scored a stroke-filled 54 off 35 balls with four sixes and two boundaries. He was backed by skipper James Vince's 39 runs to help Gulf Giants post 180 for 6 in 20 overs.
Desert Vipers could muster only 155 for 6 against the tight Gulf Giants attack. Tom Curran tried hard to take his team to target through an unbeaten 42 off 33 balls with five boundaries and a six, but his efforts were not successful.
Desert Vipers won the toss and elected to bowl after resting their three regular players Wanindu Hasaranga, Gus Atkinson and Luke Wood. Gulf Giants opener and skipper Vince hit the first boundary of the day flicking Sheldon Cottrell to backward square in the first over while his partner Tom Banton hit the first six off Cottrell into the deep square leg stands.
Banton escaped a sharp stumping chance by wicketkeeper Sam Billings off Mustafa at his score on 7 and one run later he also escaped being run out to a throw from Rutherford that missed the stumps. Banton tried his luck again in the fifth over but Linton from covers was accurate and hit the stumps to get him run out for 20. During the powerplay, Gulf Giants scored 55 runs. However, in the seventh over, Chris Lynn got out caught by Benny Howell off Mateesha Pathriana for 12.
Vince continued to keep the scoreboard moving with some good shots. He also hit a six to mid-wicket stepping out to left-arm spinner Linton. In the ninth over, Howell ended Vince's knock by having him caught at short third man by Pathirana. Attempting a big shot, Vince top edged and got out for 39. At the halfway mark, Gulf Giants was 89 for 3.
Hetmyer joined Gerhard Erasmus, but were unable to get a boundary for a long time. Gulf Giants reached the 100-run mark in 11.4 overs. Hetmyer pulled Howell for a six and smashed the next delivery for a straight boundary in the 12th over. He also hit Mustafa, who was introduced for the 14th over, to the mid-wicket stands.
Erasmus, who took 13 balls to score 15 runs, got out to Linton caught by Tom Curran running in from long-on. Hetmyer then hit Patharina for a mighty six to long-on. Gulf Giants reached the 150-mark through a David Wiese's flick to the boundary in 16.4 overs. Eight runs later, Wiese, on 14, pulled Cottrell into the hands of Mustafa, who took a running and sliding catch at mid-wicket.
Hetmyer hit his fourth six lifting Sheraz Ahmed into the long-on stands and reached his half-century in 30 balls. He fell to the fifth ball of the last over from Pathirana pulling into the hands of Cottrell for 58, ensuring an impressive total for his team.
On a wicket devoid of grass, Alex Hales and Rohan Mustafa began the Desert Vipers' chase. Mustafa hit Dominic Drakes for three boundaries in the first over. He also hit Carlos Brathwaite for a boundary and six in the second over. When Hales too hit Drakes for a six and boundary, the pair had given their team a breezy start. Their 50 runs partnership came in 4.1 overs after Mustafa picked two more boundaries off Drakes and when Hales hit Chris Jordan for six over long-on.
At the score of 57, Wiese provided the breakthrough forcing Mustafa to slash at him and edge to wicketkeeper Tom Banton for 28. He gave away just one run in the last over of the powerplay.
UAE's 17-year-old left-arm spinner Aayan Afzal Khan was introduced for the seventh over and he picked the valuable wicket of Hales, forcing him to slog sweep to Drakes at mid-wicket for 27. He gave away just three runs in his first over. In the eighth over, Brathwaite got Colin Munro to hit high to Wiese at long-on for 2. Aayan bowled a tight ninth over too, giving just five runs. With pressure mounting to score quickly, Sherfane Rutherford, going for a big hit off Erasmus, got caught by Wiese at long-off for 2.
After half the side was back in the dug-out by the 12th over for 88 runs, Sam Billings edged Jordan to wicketkeeper Banton for 22. By lifting Wiese for a straight six, Benny Howell carried Desert Vipers to the 100-run mark in 13.1 overs.
In the last five overs, Desert Vipers needed 59 runs and Drakes removed Howell with the first ball of the 16th over having him caught and bowled for 19. Through an unbeaten 42, Tom Curran tried hard to pull his team to the target but failed.
Speaking about their victory, Gulf Giants' David Wiese said, "This was a big game for us as we wanted to confirm our place in the top two. Every single bowler has stood up when they have needed to in the tournament. Aayan Afzal Khan bowled beautifully today. The bowlers have been supporting each other nicely and everyone's been doing the job."
Meanwhile, Desert Vipers' Tom Curran said, "Losing wickets in a cluster didn't help us. I thought we could get to the target at one point in the game. It would have been a different story if I was batting with a recognised batter. I also thought that they got too many runs. It wasn't a straightforward wicket. We probably got it a bit wrong with the ball and that can happen."
The cricket fans are in for the biggest treat of their lives as the playoffs of the ILT20 begin on 8 February 2023 at the Dubai International Stadium. Along with the fantastic cricket on display, the fans will also have a chance to enjoy several games, food trucks and live performances at the Playoffs festival. The exciting carnival will be held at the Playoffs venues from 3 pm onwards on each of the match days. (ANI)