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Hawks overcome Russell's batting heroics, defeat Knights in Global T20 cricket final

BRAMPTON, Ont. — The Winnipeg Hawks overcame an Andre Russell-led comeback to defeat the Vancouver Knights on Sunday in the final of the Global T20 cricket tournament.

Russell batted 46 runs, including five 6s and three 4s, as the Knights scrambled late to match the 192 runs put up by the Hakws in their regulation 20 overs.

But with 2018 champion Vancouver batting first in the deciding Super Over, Russell and his teammates managed just nine runs, which Winnipeg was able to eclipse on only four balls.

Winnipeg earned a spot in the final with two hard-fought, come from behind wins against more star-studded opponents.

"Not a lot of people expected us to be here. But we're champions and it feels great. We had our plans and we executed them," said Rayad Emrit, captain of Winnipeg Hawks.

The Hawks dispatched the Toronto Nationals, who boasted the tournament's biggest signing in Indian batsman Yuvraj Singh, on Thursday, and then on Saturday beat the Brampton Wolves, who had former Pakistan captain and crowd favourite Shahid Afridi in their ranks.Underdogs in the final, Winnipeg again scrapped their way to victory.

“We've been playing good cricket in those close games (against Toronto Nationals on Thursday and Brampton Wolves on Saturday). Good teams keep momentum. In those games out batters stepped up, here our bowlers stepped up to defend 192 was excellent," said Emrit.

Earlier in the day, Vancouver captain Shoaib Malik won the toss and chose to field — a decision that initially proved costly as Winnipeg got off to a blazing start from the opening pair of Australian Chris Lynn and UAE batsman Shaiman Anwar. The tandem put up 73 runs in the first six overs. Anwar was particularly harsh on American spin-bowler, Hayden Walsh, smashing him for 20 runs in his first over.

Russell, bowling in his first match since pulling out of the West Indies World Cup squad in June for knee surgery, had two quick strikes for the Knights dismissing Lynn (37 from 21 balls) and then Sunny Sohal.

Anwar, however, continued the power hitting reaching his 50 in only 23 balls in the ninth over, with a beautiful pulled 6 off American Ali Khan.

Anwar eventually fell to Canadian Rayyan Pathan after putting up 90 runs off 45 balls which included eight 4s and seven 6s.

Winnipeg's charge was slowed when South African JP Duminy (33 off 27 balls) and Barbadian Dwayne Smith were dismissed in the 17th over by Khan. Winnipeg had looked set for a total in excess of 200 runs, but finished 192-8 in 20 overs, with Russell the pick of the Vancouver bowlers taking 4-29 in his four overs.

Vancouver's chase got off to a poor start with the in-form opening pair of Jamaican Chadwick Walton and Dutch batsman Tobias Visee both falling in the second over to Winnipeg captain Rayad Emrit to leave the Knights at 3-2.

Vancouver continued to push though, and reached 100 in the 14th over, largely due to a 50 run partnership between an efficient Malik and Canada's Saad Bin Zafar, who struggled to keep pace with the scoring rate.

“We wanted Russell to bat in the last 6 overs so we held him back. Zafar tried his best. Criticizing one player is not something I do. There are 11 players, we all win together and we lose together,” said Malik. 

At the end of 15 overs, Vancouver were 117-4, still 76 runs in arrears, and the big-hitting Russell still waiting to bat.

Malik was run-out for 64 off 36 balls in the 17th over going for a non-existent run, which finally brought Russell to the crease.

Not trusting Zafar's ability to score, Russell declined two easy singles and followed with consecutive 6s, and then took a single to retain strike.

Russell continued his tactic of declining singles that would put Zafar on strike and then unleashed a series of ferocious shots for boundaries that brought the target down to 17 runs from the last six balls.

But with three runs needed off the last ball, Russell was unable to launch the ball out of the ground and scrambled two runs, with Zafar run out while going for the match-winning run.

Faraz Sarwat, The Canadian Press

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