Just hours after scoring his first half-century of the evening, Eoin Morgan stole the show again with another fifty as Kerala Kings made history by becoming the first winners of the T10 League.
The 31-year-old had scored 53 in the team’s five-wicket semi-final victory over Maratha Arabians and the skipper led by example, combining with Paul Stirling (52no) to deliver another stunning performance in the eight-wicket win over Punjabi Legends on Sunday.
Needing 121 to win, Morgan astonishingly smashed 63 runs from just 20 deliveries with six maximums and five fours to light up Sharjah Stadium. Such was the significance of his knock that when he was removed by Hasan Ali, he received a round of applause by the fans around the stadium. As winners, each member of the squad will receive 100 grams of gold.
Before a ball was even bowled, there was already big numbers outside the stadium – some who were fortunate to have tickets while others hoping to buy some for the last day.
It was all to see three matches – both semi-finals and final but more significantly a chance to see the likes of Morgan and Shahid Afridi, in particular, in action for the last time in this format before the tournament returns for another 12 months.
Those 13,000 spectators were treated to something special. First, Morgan’s half-century. After that, Afridi smashed a 17-ball 41 while Ahmed Shehzad hit a half-ton only for it to go in vain as Luke Ronchi’s 60no and Shoaib Malik’s 48no blistering knocks rocked the stadium as Punjabi Legends thrashed Pakhthoons by nine wickets.
And that was just the semi-finals. The final between Kerala Kings and Punjabi Legends itself didn’t disappoint either.
With the atmosphere still vibrant at the start of the game at 22:30, those who stayed back witnessed an exhilarating encounter.
While Umar Akmal was bowled by Liam Plunkett, Ronchi picked up where he left off in the semi-final by hitting his second fifty of the day. By the time he reached his milestone, it was his fifth maximum and fourth four of the match.
Malik was lucky to still be at the crease with his sliced shot in the air falling short of the fielder at eight runs. But he made the most of the lifeline with his first six later on, before another maximum to bring up the team’s 100.
He was finally beaten by Ryad Emrit’s short ball before Plunkett removed the dangerman Ronchi for the first time after his 70.
Kings’ chase got off the worst possible start with Chadwick Walton out for a first-ball duck. But Morgan again showed why he’s one of the most destructive batsmen in limited-overs cricket.
The 31-year-old took apart young Pakistan pacer Faheem Ashraf with 24 runs including a six that went 113 metres onto the roof of the stands.
When Stirling got into the act with three consecutive sixes, Morgan showed no reprieve to his former England team-mate Ravi Bopara with three maximums and a four.
That left Kerala needing 29 from the next five overs and just 19 more deliveries to reach their target.
Enough said. Enough done.
Champions 2017 👑 pic.twitter.com/IRW7OJkoPM
— Kerala kings (@KeralaKingsT10) December 17, 2017
Big hitting from Luke Ronchi and Shoaib Malik saw Punjabi Legends chase down Pakthoons’ 129 to set up a final against Kerala Kings in the T10 League on Sunday night.
At Sharjah Stadium, Ronchi hit an unbeaten 60 off just 34 deliveries while Malik ended the game 48 not out as Legends cruised to a nine-wicket victory.
With a big target, Ronchi was in blistering form and made Mohammad Irfan pay in the third over with four fours and one six that propelled the team to 63-1.
While Umar Akmal was out for 17, Malik continued to pile the runs in his 17-ball knock which included six fours and three sixes.
Earlier, Ahmed Shehzad’s half-century and Shahid Afridi’s blistering knock saw Pakhtoons end their 10 overs with 129-4.
Shehzad hit 58 runs (six fours and four sixes) off his 29 deliveries before Afridi added to his team’s tally with a quick 41-run effort.
The former Pakistan skipper only faced 17 balls but made an impact scoring five sixes and a single four.
As the number one pick in the T10 League player auction last month, there was a lot of intrigue as to how Mohammad Amir would adapt to the newest format of the game.
Indeed, it was largely a tournament to forget for the Pakistan star – who was part of the Maratha Arabians side that were beaten by five wickets against Kerala Kings in the semi-finals – earlier on Sunday.
Amir, however, has commented how the shortest format of the game will help him improve his bowling in Tests, one-day and T20 cricket for his country.
Overs bowled: two
EFFECTIVENESS WITH THE BALL
In his first spell, Amir bowled two dot balls as well as giving away just two singles. But, more importantly, two of his six deliveries saw him punished by Paul Stirling with fours. His first was just too easy with the ball short and wide but Stirling really had to work for his other boundary, going down on one knee to scoop it to the fence.
When he returned with the ball, 25 runs were required for Kerala to win from four overs. What should have been six deliveries turned out to be eight and ultimately proved to be expensive with 17 runs conceded.
While he began on a positive note with a variation of slow balls and yorkers, he was smashed for a four by Eoin Morgan. In the very next ball, he was hit for a six and that too off a no-ball didn’t do him no favours. He also bowled a wide.
CAN PLAYING T10 CRICKET HELP HIS SHOWINGS WITH PAKISTAN?
This could well be the only time that the 25-year-old will be playing T10 cricket for at least another 12 months. However, after just one wicket in four matches in the competition, he might not be too fussed about that. For Pakistan, Amir cannot afford to have lapses in concentration – like his second spell in Sunday’s semi-final – when he gifted the opposition freebies by bowling a no ball and a wide.
Pakistan are set to play T20s against New Zealand and West Indies next year and although it’s in a different format, the lessons he has learnt from Sharjah will go a long way in helping the paceman develop as a player.
Six. Not the best of days for Amir with the ball and he would be the first to admit that.