ILT20: MI Emirates add UAE crown to Mumbai’s burgeoning trophy cabinet

Fifties by Nicholas Pooran and Andre Fletcher set up crushing win over fellow IPL offshoot Dubai Capitals at Sports City

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It took Mumbai Indians six attempts to get their name on the Indian Premier League trophy for the first time. Their UAE offshoot, the MI Emirates, have taken just two goes to do the same in the DP World International League T20.

Last season, the pilot edition of the UAE’s franchise 20-over league, was just a sighter. Second time around they dominated the field, in much the same way as their IPL brothers have done so often down the years.

Having topped the league phase of the campaign, then made it through to the final at the first go after beating last year’s winners, Gulf Giants. All that stood between them and the title was Dubai Capitals.

They crushed them, winning by 45 runs.

So confident were they, even a lost toss proved nothing to worry about. Sam Billings, who did such a fine job filling in for David Warner – the poster boy ahead of this ILT20 season, called right and opted to chase. It is usually a fail-safe method for evening T20 games at Dubai International Stadium.

MI were not fussed. Kushal Perera, their Sri Lankan opener, was so relaxed before going out to bat he was sat back watching the children’s dance troupe run through their pre-final routine. When they finished, he applauded.

His opening partner, Muhammad Waseem, might have been forgiven for being sidetracked himself. The UAE captain has a Pakistan Super League contract waiting for him. The first match of the PSL season was taking place at the same time as the ILT20 final, and his side, Islamabad United, were in action.

Clearly, he was entirely focused on the task at hand. Waseem struck the third ball of the match, from the beleaguered Scott Kuggeleijn, down the ground for six. A Billings counter-punch aside, it was more or less one-way traffic from that point on.

As a reminder of the depth of resources the franchise have, Mahela Jayawardene and Rashid Khan were watching on from the MI Emirates hospitality box. They will have been thrilled by what they saw.

Waseem made 43 in 24 balls. Perera 38 in 26. And they merely paved the way for the real powerhouses.

Andre Fletcher’s 37-ball innings of 53 included an extraordinary no-look six that nearly drilled a hole in the second tier seats, 110 metres away.

And Nicholas Pooran was, as he is so often, the pick of the bunch. The Trinidadian has been remarkably unaffected by his brief jaunt to Australia for international duty, two thirds of the way through this tournament.

He played for West Indies in Perth on Tuesday, then for MI Emirates in Dubai on Wednesday. Then in the final, three days later, he showed his full repertoire.

He reached a half century in 26 balls off the penultimate ball of the innings, with his fifth six. He followed it straight after with his sixth, leaving Kuggeleijn with unsightly figures of none for 63 from four overs.

Their total of 208-3 was always going to be plenty. It even allowed them leeway for an abject fielding display. MI put down six catches in the innings, and still won by miles.

Billings provided the only resistance. The Englishman hit 40 in 29 balls. When he went, it was all over. Although nobody appeared to tell Waqar Salamkheil the game was theirs.

After the left-arm wrist-spinner had Billings stumped by Pooran, he gave the batter an angry send off. Billings did not take kindly to it, and the umpires had to step in to cool tempers.

That was all the fight that was left in the final, though. A crowd that was packed for the majority of the match had thinned out by the time they set the seal on the win.

Updated: February 17, 2024, 6:42 PM