Osaka and reigning champion Krejcikova pull out of Dubai Tennis Championships

SHARJAH: Effectively a semi-final, the contestants were the Gulf Giants and the Dubai Capitals. The Giants lost in the first qualifying match to MI Emirates on February 14, while the Dubai Capitals triumphed over Abu Dhabi Knight Riders in the Eliminator, winning by a massive 85 runs.

The Giants’ defeat came on the back of three successive victories in the group stage which propelled them into second place. Dubai Capitals’ success in the Eliminator provided a third successive victory, the previous two sufficient for them to attain a top-four spot in the group stage.

An interesting feature of this match was the toss. On 29 occasions out of the 32 matches, the team which won the toss chose to field. The outriding three occasions have been the Dubai Capitals twice and the Gulf Giants once, in their deciding group match. On this occasion, the Giants opted to field, perhaps mindful of the disappointing chase in the first qualifier.

Usman Khan immediately attacked Scott Kuggeleijn’s bowling, launching the ball straight into the press box. Khan’s breezy innings ended on 21 with the last ball of the third over. Haider Ali’s introduction for the fifth over revealed low bounce, which accounted for Lynn, missing a ball on middle stump.

Ali and Holder restrained the scoring so effectively that Cox, in seeking a single to midwicket, was undone by a brilliant piece of fielding by Jason Holder. He dived at midwicket, returned the ball to the keeper, and Cox was left stranded, having been sent back by the non-striker. The next ball was driven by Jamie Smith to mid-off, the score a below-par 44 for four after eight overs.

Vince and Hetmyer batted carefully, but the latter got a leading edge to a delivery from Kuggeleijn that looped to cover, the Giants’ cause now resting on Vince and support from the lower order. This came from Chris Jordan, who put on 55 with his captain, Vince becoming increasingly aggressive, until being caught at long-off for 58 invaluable runs in the 19th over, the score 117 for six.

Jordan was joined by Jamie Overton. Together they mixed boundaries and singles to reach a final score of 138 for six. This was better than it promised at 44 for four after eight overs, owing much to Vince’s ability to adapt to the low bounce.

This did seem to hold any terrors for the Capitals’ opening pair, Du Plooy and Banton, who rattled up 50 after four overs and 88 after eight overs, well on course for a comprehensive victory.

With no pressure to score, the openers settled for a more sedate approach, reaching 98 after 11 overs. Banton then tried to force the pace, succeeding only in picking out Overton at long-on. A more orderly approach was adopted by Du Plooy (63 not out) and Tom Abell (20 not out), together steering the Capitals to 139 for the loss of only one wicket in the 16th over. The victory was based on an all-round superior performance.

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