Kerala Knights provided clear evidence they remain the team to beat in 10-over cricket, as they started their T10 League title defence with an eight-wicket win over Pakhtoon at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
The holders strengthened their side with the acquisition of Chris Gayle ahead of this tournament, but their hero first time out this season was the same familiar figure.
Paul Stirling, who was the outstanding player in the first tournament 12 months ago, hit 40 in 14 balls to inspire the victory, having opened the innings with Gayle.
Just as in the final 12 months ago, where Stirling led, Eoin Morgan followed. The England captain was 46 not out off 20 balls when victory was sealed.
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The fact Pakhtoons had been restricted to 109 from their 10 overs was largely down to the excellence of Mohammed Naveed.
The UAE fast bowler was easily the best performing bowler on show in either of the opening two matches.
The Sharjah resident went for just 11 from his two overs, and six of those came in one blow off the 11th ball he sent down.
Sandeep Lamichhane made it a night to remember for Associate cricketers. The Nepal leg-spinner took three wickets, bowling in tandem with Naveed.