Desert Vipers' splendid bowling show led by their ace leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (3 for 13) and left-arm medium pacer Luke Wood (3 for 20) ensured them a 22-runs win over Sharjah Warriors in the 23rd match of the DP World ILT20 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
This win has helped them qualify for the play-off and almost assured them a top two finish. It was a splendid comeback show from Desert Vipers who had lost their last match to MI Emirates by 157 runs.
Ultimately, they clinched the top slot in the points table with 12 points from eight matches. They are trailed by Gulf Giants in the second position with 10 points, but from seven matches.
Sharjah Warriors remain on the fourth slot with seven points from eight matches above Dubai Capitals, who also have seven points from eight matches. MI Emirates is in the third slot with nine points from seven matches.
Though Desert Vipers could post only 148 for 6 in 20 overs through opener Rohan Mustafa's knock of 31 runs and Benny Howell's unbeaten 34, Sharjah Warriors were restricted to 126 for 8 in 20 overs.
Desert Vipers won the toss and bravely elected to bat. Their prolific scorer and opener Alex Hales fell to the third ball of the fourth over missing a pull and getting bowled by UAE's left-arm medium pacer Muhammad Jawadullah for 4.
Opener Rohan Mustafa hit Mohammad Nabi for two successive boundaries in the fifth over. In the powerplay, Desert Vipers had scored 37 for 1. Skipper Colin Munro event went on to hit Nabi for a six but fell two balls later trapped leg before for 11.
In the ninth over, Mustafa who was striking well, got bowled by left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad for 31. He fell to the googly from Ahmad after he had hit five boundaries in his 33-ball innings.
At the half way mark, Desert Vipers were 59 for 3. In the 11th over, Wanindu Hasaranga going for a big shot landed up being caught by Paul Walter off Noor Ahmad for 6.
Sherfane Rutherford and Sam Billings tried their best to accelerate the run flow. They took the score to 80 when in the 14th over Rutherford got run out for 14 off a direct hit by Jawadullah while attempting a risky single.
Desert Vipers reached the 100-run mark in 15.1 overs. Billings and Benny Howell added 52 runs for the sixth wicket before Jawadullah picked his second wicket clean bowling Billings with a yorker for 27.
This also resulted in Desert Vipers not crossing the 150-run mark, however in the last five overs they had scored 50 runs. Howell remained unbeaten on 34 from 23 balls with four boundaries.
Chasing the gettable target of 149 runs from 120 balls, Sharjah Warriors started in an aggressive note with opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore scoring 16 runs off the first over from Sheldon Cottrell which included two successive boundaries and a six.
Gus Atkinson struck with the third ball of the second over having opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz caught by Rohan Mustafa at deep square leg for 1. Luke Wood removed the dangerous Kohler-Cadmore with the first ball of the third over forcing him to top edge to Hales at mid-off for 15.
Marcus Stoinis and Adam Hose kept the scoreboard moving despite Desert Vipers' bowlers bowling tightly. At the score on 50 in 8.1 overs, Stoinis fell for 17. Going for a sweep off Hasaranga, he missed the delivery and was adjudged leg before for 17.
The consistent Joe Denly joined Hose but got run out to the brilliance of wicketkeeper. Half the side was back in the dug-out when Hasaranga clean bowled Hose with a googly.
Hose was settling down and had scored 17 runs. Sharjah Warriors slipped into further trouble when Hasaranga clean bowled Nabi too with another googly. This was Hasaranga's third wicket and Sharjah Warriors seemed to take a firm grip on the match.
Paul Walter and Noor Ahmad took the score past the 100-run mark but when 48 runs were needed in the last 24 balls, Walter drove Wood straight into the hands of substitute Lyth at mid-off for 27.
Hales dropped Ahmad twice at mid-off off Atkinson's 17th over. Wood clean bowled Ahmad for 23 and along with ended Sharjah Warriors challenge. Speaking about their performance, Sharjah Warriors' batting coach Matthew Maynard, "We didn't play enough strong shots for singles.
We weren't aggressive in our approach. We didn't use our feet well against the spinners. That's something we will work on before the next game. We want to achieve two wins and play with the intent we showed in our last few games."
Meanwhile, Desert Vipers' head coach James Foster said, "It was a phenomenal win for the Desert Vipers. We thought 140 would be a defendable total and we were quite pleased with 148 on a difficult wicket.
I felt our bowlers didn't allow them to play their shots. I am delighted with the fight and character the team showed today."
Brief scores: Desert Vipers 148 for 6 in 5 in 20 overs (Rohan Mustafa 31, Sam Billings 27, Benny Howell 34n.o, Muhammad Jawadullah 2 for 36, Noor Ahmad 2 for 27); Sharjah Warriors 126 for 8 in 20 overs (Paul Walter 27, Noor Ahmad 23, Luke Wood 3 for 20, Wanindu Hasaranga 3 for 13)