Half-century from Gayle not enough as Udana holds his nerve
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.
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.
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.
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.