Akeal Hosein thought he had won it with a magnificent, one-handed catch on the cover boundary in the 18th over of the second innings of regulation play.
Shimron Hetmyer thought he had lost it with a fumble on the mid-wicket boundary on the fourth ball of the super over.
In the end, it was arguably Kieron Pollard whose tactical error in the super over lost the return game between Trinbago Knight Riders and Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2021 CPL.
And Man-of-the-Match Romario Shepherd it was who won it by conceding only four runs in the eliminator at Warner Park in St Kitts, when a mere seven were needed to lose it.
Pooran could not clear Pollard on the long-on boundary with the third ball of the super over after he and Hetmyer got singles off the first two balls. Then Hetmyer’s attempt to reach the boundary a second time off ball five, having done so off ball four, failed miserably.
It got plenty of vertical distance but none horizontally and Denesh Ramdin stood calmly below the catch and swallowed it.
With seven to get for a revenge win, a business-like Pollard strode to the wicket with Colin Munro. And he trudged disconsolately from the wicket, leaving Tim Seifert to join Munro after his powerful drive off Shepherd’s first ball landed in Shoaib Malik’s lap on the cover boundary.
How different might things have turned out if Ramdin or Lendl Simmons—used to swinging for the hills in not dissimilar circumstances—had been going out with five balls left and Pollard, the skipper, coming in with no margin for error?
Despite his efforts in the first game when he almost took TKR over the line, Seifert’s struggles in regulation play made him unlikely to have been the choice of the majority of the passionate TKR fans for the finisher job. Still, it made for an exciting finish although not the one that Pollard had envisioned and those same fans would have desired.
It was the tightest of tight games, with both teams finishing on the same score at the end of their allotted 20 overs. Indeed, shortly after Ravi Rampaul set up Hosein’s miraculous catch to dismiss GAW skipper Nicholas Pooran (27 off 25, 2x 4, 2 x6), the Warriors needed 29 runs off the last 14 balls, exactly what TKR’s last three had added from that stage.
Asked to take first strike, the TKR top order had again struggled on a pitch that was not easy but which had no visible demons in it. Simmons, whose aggregate so far this season remains under 50, did not stick around long enough to find out, bowled first ball by Chandrapaul Hemraj.
Narine succeeded in getting a start but failed to carry on and Tion Webster, who has looked less and less a class player as the season has worn on, never got on top of things. The in-form Seifert occupied the crease long enough to add 32 with Munro but his individual contribution to the partnership was just four.
When Munro (31 off 28) went at 94 for five, his season tally having reached 93 off 94 balls, only five overs were left. But the score was still only in double figures.
Pollard (13 off 17) has often rectified such situations authoritatively. Not today. Shepherd (3/24) cleaned him up at 98 for 6, another batting failure for a player who can hardly be said to be used to them.
After that, only Isuru Udana managed to get bat on ball, his breezy 21 off only nine balls taking him team to a score that was not great but was one which at least gave him and his fellow bowlers a little wiggle room.
It was all that Rampaul (4/29), Narine (2/9) and Hosein (1/16) needed. With Pollard employing precise fields in support of tidy bowling from these three, GAW crawled to 47 for 3 off 11 overs after Rampaul removed Hemraj and Odean Smith with consecutive balls in over #2.
The 34-year-old would do it again in the 18th over, removing Brandon King (10 off 7) and Pooran (27 off 15, 2 x4, 2 x 6) with balls one and two.
With some lusty hitting, that pair had taken the score rapidly from 68 for 5, when Narine had removed both Shoaib (14 off 17) and Hetmyer (27 off 29) in quick succession, to 105.
Even the quick-witted Pollard seemed powerless to stop the haemorrhage, Khary Pierre’s last two overs, #13 and #15, yielding 13 and 18 and Udana’s from the same end 13 and 14.
From the other end, Narine and Rampaul fared rather better, only one, six and 12 coming from overs #14, #16 and #18. Shepherd got 18 off nine balls before Hosein removed his middle stump with the second ball of #20.
Naveen-ul-Haq and Imran Tahir, left with seven to get off the last four balls, could manage only six to tie the scores.
So now TKR can hardly be said to motoring towards a defence of their title, won with 12 straight victories in 2020. They sit fourth on the table, two points above the struggling Barbados Royals and the St Lucia Kings but having played more games than both.
There’s good news for them, though: it’s still relatively early days. They still have their fate in their own hands because, of the three teams now above them, GAW is the only one whom they do not have to play twice. Win all four of those games and they’re sitting pretty.
That won’t be easy. The Tallawahs, looking very strong, thumped the Royals by a whopping seven wickets on Tuesday evening to move into second spot.
But since when do champions expect to have a title handed to them on a platter?
Toss: Guyana Amazon Warriors
TKR: 138 for 9 (Colin Munro 32, Sunil Narine 21, Isuru Udana 21, Mohammad Hafeez 3/18, Romario Shepherd 3/24, Imran Tahir 1/14)
GAW: 138 for 9 (Shimron Hetmyer 27, Nicholas Pooran 27, Ravi Rampaul 4/29, Sunil Narine 2/9)
Man-of-the-Match: Romario Shepherd (GAW)
Result: Match tied (GAW won in a super over)
Points: GAW 2 TKR 0
TEAMS P W L T NR Pts
SKN/Patriots 3 3 0 0 0 6
J/Tallawahs 3 2 1 0 0 4
GA/Warriors 4 2 2 0 0 4
TKR 5 2 3 0 0 4
B/Royals 4 1 3 0 0 2
St L/Kings 3 1 2 0 0 2
Wired868 has provided readers with solid, independent journalism since 2012. If you appreciate our work, please contribute to our efforts.
Support Independent Journalism