Delhi Bulls 133 for 2 (Gurbaz 70, Wright 40*) beat Northern Warriors 128 for 6 (Powell 56) by eight wickets
Rahmanullah Gurbaz was just five years old when Luke Wright made his debut for England against India. After two consecutive defeats for the Delhi Bulls, the pair combined magnificently with youth and experience to carry their side up to second place in the Abu Dhabi T10, with a brutal 116-run opening partnership against the Northern Warriors.
Sport has its way of telling tales and on the eve of his 20th birthday, Gurbaz took centre stage with a ruthless 70 off 32 balls as the Bulls inflicted a fifth defeat out of six on the reigning champions. Gurbaz made his debut for Afghanistan aged just 17 and it was a special knock from a special talent as he cut, lofted and slogged the Warriors bowling attack around the Zayed Cricket Ground.
"On the pitch, when there is experience with you, you will be even more confident," Gurbaz said post-match and in Wright, his partner was someone who had masses of experience. Wright himself was just playing his second game of the competition, having flown in a day before the tournament. But the Englishman showed exactly what he can do with the bat, with an unbeaten 40 off 18 deliveries. He ensured that he was there at the end alongside Eoin Morgan, who hit a six off the penultimate delivery to seal victory.
For the Bulls, it was a return to winning ways. After Rovman Powell, the top scorer of the tournament thus far, blasted 56 off 22 balls to propel the Warriors to 128, they were in for a tricky chase. Yet, Gurbaz and Wright ensured that the likes of Mohammed Hafeez and Dwayne Bravo were given a night off with the bat as they smashed their way to a hundred partnership in just 38 deliveries.
The 19-year-old, who was the youngest player at the T20 World Cup, played with the class and poise of a man with bags of experience, as he pierced the gaps and struck the ball beautifully in a knock which included six fours and five sixes. By the time the wicketkeeper batter, who has signed for Leicestershire next season, was dismissed, the game was all but done. He was met by joyous smiles from the Bulls dugout and a massive hug from his skipper, Bravo.
For Bravo, despite the loss of Jason Roy pre-tournament and an injury to Rilee Rossouw, he was full of praise for his opening pair. "Luke Wright is a class player, he's proved that over the years. He came in today in just his second game and showed his dominance," said Bravo. He added, "But a big special mention to Gurbaz because that kid has a special talent and the world is getting to see what he has to offer."
Such was the confidence in Gurbaz that the first ball he faced from Imran Tahir was not defended or nudged away. Instead, the Afghanistan batter audaciously smashed the 42-year-old - who had made his first-class debut before Gurbaz was even born - over long-off for six in the second over. Asked about his mindset going into that particular battle, a buzzing Gurbaz said, "I don't think about who is the bowler against me, I try just to wait for the loose ball and watch the ball clearly."
Oshane Thomas, who had taken the first hat-trick of the tournament the night before, was brought back down to earth by Gurbaz as he was lofted over square-leg off his first legitimate delivery, before the youngster hit him for two more sixes in the seventh over. The West Indian's first appearance of the Abu Dhabi T10 had been one to remember as he sealed the Warriors' first win, removing Mark Deyal, Tion Webster and Curtis Campher to claim a memorable hat-trick. Courtesy of Gurbaz and Wright however, his second appearance will be one he will want to forget in a hurry.
This format allows batters to tee off to a degree rarely seen elsewhere and, after belting 30 off 10 in the opening match of the Abu Dhabi T10 against the same outfit, Gurbaz's combined tally of 100 off 42 against the Warriors alone, highlights just how dominant he has been against the defending champions.
"That's the beauty of T10 that players really get to express themselves and showcase their talent," Bravo said, and Gurbaz mentioned how a word of advice from his coach, Andy Flower, had allowed him to do just that.
"My confidence was a bit low [after the last two games] but he [Flower] told me you have this ability, so just show it… the coach told me that the other team should be under pressure and not you, because we have some very big legends in our team" said Gurbaz. "So yeah, it's easy for me."