Sharjah: Northern Warriors sealed T10 League glory in Sharjah on Sunday night, thanks to a 22-run win over Pakhtoons.
The Warriors had Rovman Powell (61*) and Andre Russell (38) to thank with the bat while Chris Green (2-11) and Hardus Viljoen (2-24) starred with the ball to deny Shahid Afridi, his thousands of fans, and the Pakhtoons a first T10 title.
A public holiday celebrating the UAE’s 47th National Day and free entry to the north stand of the ground made for a packed Sharjah stadium in full party mode.
Some Afridi stardust guaranteed a stream of yellow-clad Pakthoons supporters too, the man who has been Sharjah’s main draw for over two decades once again showing his pulling power.
The result was a stadium swarming with fans both inside and out as hundreds sprawled across the roads surrounding the ground. And while a roaring crowd welcomed the two protagonists for the showpiece, many more chose the road’s partitions as a vantage point with their eyes fixed on the big screen that broadcasts back out to the stadium’s surrounds.
Inside the ground, both teams were more than worthy finalists having topped their respective groups in the opening stage of the tournament and then finished at the top two in the final league table.
They had avoided each other until Saturday’s first eliminator, which saw Pakhtoons advance to the final with a 13-run victory that meant the Warriors had to see off Bengal Tigers in the final qualifying match.
Darren Sammy’s men duly obliged to set up Sunday’s showdown between the league’s most dominant teams.
And having been put into bat by Afridi, the Warriors knew they were up against it considering just seven out of the previous 28 games had been won by the team batting first.
But the side’s entirely West Indian top five made a more than competitive 140 for 3 from their ten overs with Powell’s unbeaten 61 from just 25 balls providing the bulk of the ammunition.
Powell’s innings included eight fours and four sixes and the right-hander was ably supported by Russell (38 off 12) and Sammy (14* from 9).
This year’s tournament has frequently seen individual moments turn games on their head and at the interval, Russell’s destruction of England all-rounder Liam Dawson looked like it could have been the defining over of the game as the Warriors man took Dawson for 27 in the sixth over.
It left Pakhtoons with the task of making the highest successful chase ever across T10’s two seasons if they were to lift the trophy.
Andre Fletcher – who has been superb throughout the T10 League – got his side off to the perfect start in reply and by the halfway stage, on 62 for 1, Pakhtoons were well on course. Fletcher departed just two balls later with 37 which, despite bringing hero of the hour Afridi to the crease, was a major setback.
South African offspinner Green was the man to remove Fletcher and his two-over spell looked just as pivotal as Russell’s demolition of Dawson earlier on. It proved to be the case, despite Afridi (17) briefly threatening to send Sharjah into delirium with a rescue act that was abruptly ended by the tournament’s leading wicket-taker Viljoen.
Those same fans that earlier flooded the entrances in their droves in the hope of seeing Afridi lift the trophy, headed for the exits in similar volume with the writing on the wall.
Pakhtoons would go on to fall significantly short as Northern Warriors became the second T10 League champions following on from the rebranded Kerala Knights’ inaugural triumph.