T10 is a funny game. Twenty-two men hit a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, Deccan Gladiators always win.
Mushtaq Ahmed's side entered the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Saturday evening knowing they had to win three games in succession over the weekend if they wanted to retain their Abu Dhabi T10 title and that is exactly what they did.
Gladiators edged their way into the playoffs but were far too strong over the final weekend, defending their total of 94 against Team Abu Dhabi in the eliminator before chasing successfully against Morrisville Samp Army in the second qualifier.
Given the advantage of chasing in short-form cricket and the dew factor coming into play as the evening goes on, whoever won the toss in the final was always going to chase. On paper, the New York Strikers were the in-form side after finishing top of the league stage. They went into the final on the back of a seven-game winning streak and after winning the toss and choosing to chase, there was every hope that seven could turn into eight.
But this is a Gladiators side that is now getting used to winning, and despite losing Suresh Raina, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, and Andre Russell cheaply, captain Nicholas Pooran and David Wiese put on 74 in the last five overs to set Kieron Pollard's team a target of 129. In a team of superstars, if one doesn't get you, then another certainly will.
The pair smartly played out the threatening Rashid Khan before taking on Jordan Thompson and Wahab Riaz. Wahab's two overs alone went for 43 runs with Wiese smashing him for 24 in the eighth over. Across nine games, Wiese had managed just 31 runs but he trumped that with an unbeaten 43 off 18 deliveries in the final. The big-hitting allrounder had saved his best with the bat till the last.
Meanwhile, Pooran carried on his stunning form with 40 off 23 balls and finished as the highest run-scorer of the tournament. No batter passed the 300 mark for Season 6 of the competition bar Pooran's tally of 345 including more sixes (31) and fours (25) than anyone else. For a man in desperate need of runs after a tough few months with West Indies, this tournament couldn't have come at a better time for both his form and his captaincy.
"I had a challenging year this year so it was good to come and play cricket with a smile on my face and just enjoy it," he said after the game.
Pooran's side were superb from ball one in the field but in fairness, Strikers' chase never got going. The in-form Muhammad Waseem was bowled by Josh Little off the second ball of the innings and when Mohammad Hasnain removed the deadly Paul Stirling and the experienced Eoin Morgan in the second over, the game was as good as done.
Azam Khan tried to counter by hitting Zahir Khan consecutively for four and six but he was done the next delivery by one that was flighted up and Strikers' misery went full circle when Pollard tactically retired towards the latter stages of the innings.
Little returned to remove Pollard's replacement Rashid for his tenth wicket of the tournament and finished with stunning figures of two wickets for four runs off his two overs to seal the trophy.
"Four years, three finals, twice winners. It's a wonderful feeling altogether," said Gaurav Grover, the owner of Gladiators.
No side had ever defended their Abu Dhabi T10 title until Sunday evening and you'd be a fool to write off the Gladiators making it a hat-trick this time next year.