In a game dominated by spin, it took a finishing masterclass by Azhar Mahmood and James Foster to clinch a thrilling last-ball victory for the Virgo Super Kings over Leo Lions. After James Franklin and Heath Streak helped the Lions post 146, Super Kings were behind the eight ball for much of the game before Mahmood and Super Kings claimed their second successive victory.
If the first match of the day was dominated by the batsmen, this was dominated by the bowlers, especially the slower bowlers, who got plenty of grip and turn from the pitch in Sharjah. So the Lions decision to bat seemed to be the right one.
But their changes in the batting order, did them no favours as Brian Lara, who opened the innings, departed for one, Marshall picked out the only fielder in the deep and Brendan Taylor failed to connect with the sweep and was out lbw.
At the end of the powerplay, Lions are 33/3, with Herschelle Gibbs and Johan Botha, who was promoted to No.3, at the crease. Just as the pair looked to be rebuilding, Gibbs departed with the score on 50.
Soon 50/4 became 60/5 as Botha followed him back to the pavilion. Two kiwi batsmen, who had batted well together in the previous game, got together and were living a charmed life before Styris became Murali Kartik’s third and final victim of the night.
But Franklin, who was dropped twice, made the Super Kings pay as he smashed 44 off 33 balls and was provided with good support by Heath Streak, who added an 11-ball 21 to help the Lions to 146/7 in their 20 overs.
In reply, Super Kings made a solid if not unspectacular start as Brian Lara opted to go with pace in the first five overs. But his decision to turn to spin proved to be crucial as that saw the end of captain Graeme Smith in the final over of the powerplay.
Neil McKenzie and Mohammad Yousuf were making slow but steady progress, before the Pakistani batsman chipped a simple catch to mid-off in Heath Streak's first over. Owais shah soon followed as the Super Kings were struggling right at the stroke of the strategic time-out.
But McKenzie and Mahmood provided some stability. When it came to upping the ante, the South African perished with just 28 balls left and Smith’s side still needed 49 to win off the last four overs.
That is when Mahmood came to the party and Peterson’s final over proved to be the difference. Peterson, who had bowled brilliantly until, was smashed all over the park and his over cost 20 runs and that set up the game for the Super Kings.
With 18 needed off the last two overs, it looked pretty set but Brian Lara then pulled off a stunner to remove Mahmood two shy of a well-deserved fifty and a brilliant over by Kyle Jarvis meant they needed 15 off the last over to win.
James Foster, who was hitherto playing second fiddle, turned into the hero as he first reverse-swept Fidel Edwards for four and with 7 needed off the last two balls, he scooped him for a six and a four to seal a thrilling last-ball win for his side, who now move up to third in the table.
Brief score: Leo Lions 146/7 in 20 overs (Frankin 44; Kartik 3/18) lost to Virgo Super Kings 149/6 in 20 overs (Mahmood 44; Jarvis 2/21) by four wickets