You could have been forgiven for thinking there was only one team playing in the final of the T10 League at the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium on the UAE National Day.
The roads leading to this grand old venue were lined with fans wearing the colours of Shahid Afridi’s Pakhtoons on Sunday.
After having played a match-winning knock (59 off 17 balls) against Northern Warriors in the Qualifier on Saturday, the Pakistani superstar was back on the field against the same team on Sunday.
But when it mattered most, debutants Northern Warriors stole Pakhtoons’ thunder to emerge champions of the second edition of the T10 League.
It was Afridi’s genius that hurt the Warriors in the Qualifier.
But the Darren Sammy-led team bounced back in style, beating Maratha Arabians by 10 wickets in the Eliminator 2 before clipping the Pakhtoons’ wings with a 22 -run victory in the final, giving coach Robin Singh his second straight T10 title.
The former India all-rounder won the inaugural edition of the tournament with Kerala Kings last year.
The Warriors, after being put into bat, made 140/3 in 10 overs. The hero of their innings was Rovman Powell (61 not out, 25 balls, 8 fours, 4 sixes).
Powell, who scored an unbeaten 80 in the Qualifier against Pakhtoons, shared 62 runs for the third wickets with Andre Russell (38, 12 balls, 3 fours, 4 sixes) in just 20 balls. That partnership between Powell and Russell revived the Warriors hopes in the match after Nicholas Pooran (18, 10 balls, 1 four, 2 sixes), the tournament’s highest scorer, failed to give them a dream start.
Despite Afridi’s best efforts with his field placements, the two West Indians produced the big shots in stunning fashion.
If not for Sohail Khan’s brilliant last over in which Warriors scored only six runs, Sammy’s men could have easily made more than 150.
In reply, Pakhtoons lost Cameron Delport as the South African was bowled by compatriot Chris Green. But Andre Fletcher (37, 18 balls, 2 fours, 4 sixes), Pakhtoon’s highest scorer in the tournament, kept the team in the hunt.
He found a good partner in Afghan wicketkeeper-batsman Shafiqullah (26, 16 balls, 2 fours, 1 six), but Green came back to dismiss Fletcher in the sixth over. Afridi (17, 7 balls, 2 sixes) then hit two big sixes only to lose his middle stump to Hardus Viljoen in the seventh over.
The South African pace bowler then killed the match as a contest with another wicket – Colin Ingram – in the next ball.
Pakhtoons eventually ended their innings on 118/7 as the Northern Warriors players ran and jumped for joy.
Northern Warriors 140/3 (10) Rovman Powell 61*, Andre Russell 38; Shahid Afridi 1/21, Mohammad Irfan 1/23, Sharafuddin Ashraf 1/32
Pakhtoons 118/7 (10) Andre Fletcher 37, Shafiqullah 26; Chris Green 2/11, Hardus Viljoen 2/24
Northern Warriors beat Pakhtoons by 22 runs