Kerala Kings, Pakhtoons and Punjabi Legends qualify for Sunday's semi-finals
T10 League: Pollard and Afridi continue to thrill even as Day 3 throws up a few surprises
If the evidence of its zany first weekend in existence is anything to go by, then few things are predictable in T10 cricket.
It is not even guaranteed to be T10, for starters. One of the matches on Day 3 of the first 10-over league in professional cricket was actually T8. Work that out.
When a rain-shower briefly visited Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and then left almost as promptly, the time spent shifting covers on and off the pitch meant two overs had to be shorn off the Kerala Kings run-chase against Team Sri Lanka.
Almost everyone else has been in Sharjah for this competition, including a former Pakistan prime minister (Pervez Musharraf), a former WWE wrestler, sundry Bollywood actresses, as well as some of the leading figures from world cricket. So it made sense that Duckworth-Lewis-Stern merited an invite at some point, too.
The DLS method revised Kerala’s target down to 91 from eight overs. Cricket history and logic would suggest that should be a far-fetched ambition. And yet they cruised it, with nearly two overs to spare. Obviously.
Kieron Pollard made 40 not out in 12 balls. His fellow West Indian Chadwick Walton was at the other end unbeaten on 47 from 21. They had reached the semi-finals by making 92 runs in 6.1 overs. Which is basically ridiculous.
For all the change that has been brought about by this whacky – literally and figuratively – tournament, at least some things remain the same. Specifically, that Shahid Afridi remains the best-loved attraction in these parts.
His Pakhtoons side were the first to secure a place in Sunday night’s semi-finals, as they maintained their 100 per cent record after three matches by beating Bengal Tigers in the first match of the day.
Chasing 127 to win had not been seamless, though. Afridi himself had appeared set to navigate the chase, only for him to be stunned by a perfect yorker by Mohammed Naveed, the UAE pace bowler.
Naveed enjoyed his weekend. The previous evening, he had hit a six to secure Bengal’s first win. And then this, bowling Afridi with such precision and force that his middle-stump was snapped in two.
OK, so Naveed’s side subsequently lost, after some last-over heroics by Liam Dawson, the unsung England player who is proving a revelation in T10 cricket.
But at least he was keeping the flag flying for the contingent of UAE players who are involved in this tournament.
“I don’t care if it is Pollard, Afridi, or anyone else who is at the other end, I will always just try to bowl my best ball,” Naveed said.
“I knew that I had broken the stump. Still, I am not happy with my performance as my team lost.”
Maratha Arabians continued their momentum as they beat Punjabi Legends in the final pool match.
Rilee Rossouw followed up his match-winning hand the night before, when he hit a six off the last ball to beat Team Sri Lanka, with 67 from 27 deliveries to lay the platform for Maratha’s total of 130-6.
Mohammed Amir and Dwayne Bravo, two T20 experts, played the key roles with the ball, as the Punjabi Legends finished 14 runs short.
They did, however, take the last qualifying place for Sunday's semi-finals, after Carlos Brathwaite hit the final ball, bowled by the UAE seamer Zahoor Khan, for six.