An exciting first season of the International League T20 (ILT20) has reached the midway stage of its league stage. It is a league one of its kind, allowing associate players to ply their trade alongside established international stars. The Namibian skipper Gerhard Erasmus vindicated the same with a 28-ball 52 that raced Gulf Giants to a victory over the Dubai Capitals. UAE’s Sanchit Sharma pouched 3/9 against the AbuDhabi Knight Riders. Akif Raja is the highest wicket-taker for the Capitals.
And things don’t stop there. There is another conflation that you will totally enjoy if you are a WWE fan. Instead of granting special caps, the league has a green belt for their highest run-scorer (with Alex Hales at present) and a white belt for the bowler with the most wickets (currently with Chris Jordan). You sure can’t beat that.
Having said all that, let us revisit what all has happened in the first half of the maiden ILT20 season.
The points table
Each of the six teams has played five out of their 10 league games. Desert Vipers (led by Colin Munro) and Gulf Giants (led by James Vince) are firmly at the top, winning four of their five games. The MI Emirates, governed by the Reliance Group, owner of the Mumbai Indians franchise in the IPL, lead the lot of the IPL-associated sides, placed at the third spot. The Moeen Ali-led Sharjah Warriors occupy the fourth spot, keeping themselves well in contention for the play-offs.
Dubai Capitals (captained by Rovman Powell) won the curtain-raiser by a hefty margin but have since fallen behind in the race, winning only one of their subsequent four games. And then there is the plight of the Knight Riders. They are yet to break the duck in the win’s column, losing all their five games. Their best chance was in the fifth game but the duo of Najibullah Zadran and Dwayne Bravo broke their hearts, stealing 25 runs off the last over of Andre Russell.
Zadran struck successive sixes on the last two balls. Knight Riders now need to win all their remaining five games to stay in hunt for the play-offs.
The big performances
In the first 15 games, the ILT20 has already seen two hundreds, an individual score of 99 and a five-wicket haul. That is a lot of action. Hales opened the century count with a scintillating 110 off 59 balls against the Knight Riders.
Another England opener, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, fondly known as TKC, followed the suit the next day, smashing an unbeaten 106 in a matter of only 47 deliveries.
Hales came agonizingly close to doubling his hundred’s tally in the league but found Shimron Hetmyer at the sweeper cover on 99. Kudos to him, he didn’t knock the ball around to get to his hundred but stroked it hard when he saw an opportunity. However, Hetmyer was the only man in the deep and Hales timed the ball straight into the hands of the Giants’ fielder.
Being the highest run-scorer in the league thus far, Hales has played a pivotal role in placing Vipers at the summit of the points table. His total of 418 runs as yet is over 150 runs better than the next best - Vince (229 runs).
Meanwhile, Naveen-Ul-Haq bagged the first and thus far the only five-for, reducing Giants to 130 in the process.
In other admirable performances, we have David Wiese’ 3/3, Sanchit Sharma’s 3/9 and Chris Jordan’s 3/12, all for the Giants.
Joe Root belongs to T20 cricket
Joe Root’s return to T20 cricket has been one of the major attractions of the tournament. There are only a handful of modern-day cricketers who have earned the least number of caps in the T20 format. With only 88 T20s in his career this far, the former England Test captain is one of those. However, he fancies his chances in the format. And this league frames the perfect opportunity for him to begin his journey in franchise cricket (if you ignore his participation in The Hundred).
How has he fared in the tournament? Quite well if you ask us. After a slow start, the right-hander has amassed scores of 80* and 82 in successive games, with both knocks coming from 54 balls each.
Overall, Root is the fifth highest run-scorer in the league - 214 runs, 53.5 average, 134.6 strike-rate.
Rehan Ahmed pouching his countrymen
The 18-year old Rehan Ahmed has been another shining light in Giants’ brilliant bowling display this season. The leg-spinner snaffled a five-wicket haul on his Test debut only last month, attracting words of appreciation from the likes of England greats like Joe Root. This month, he has had Root in his pocket, cleaning him with a googly, while bowling for Giants against Capitals. While that would certainly be one of the most cherished memories of his young career at present, Rehan also got rid of Moeen Ali. He has also been promoted to the top-order, opening the innings in four of the five games.
The youngster is having the time of his life in the 2023 ILT20.
Mutual respect between the master and the apprentice
There is a lot of similarity between Kieron Pollard and Rovman Powell. Both powerful middle-order batters who bowl seam up at pedestrian pace. Pollard served West Indies cricket for a long time as captain while Powell is believed to be the next in line. Both are leading their respective sides in this ILT20 season.
It was intriguing to watch when the two turned up against each other in Match 13. Pollard took the ball in the final over with Powell 22 away from a hundred. The Jamaican hammered three sixes and was three shy when he was caught on the final ball. Instead of celebrating, Pollard called his successor and wrapped his arm around Powell’s shoulders, acknowledging his knock.
A while later, it was the Kieron Pollard show with the bat, fighting a lone battle for MI Emirates in a chase of 223. He was eventually holed out for 86 off 38 balls. Guess who got him? It was Powell indeed, after being smashed for 14 runs on the previous three deliveries. And now, it was his turn to appreciate his senior.
Life came full circle for both of them within a space of two hours, in the exact same script, with only the roles reversed. These are the moments that make cricket special.
(Cover Image Credits: ILT20Official on Twitter)