They’re back! And they’re bidding to do better than they did last year!
When Dwayne Bravo’s Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) take on Darren Sammy’s St Lucia Stars (SLS) in an early return match at the Queen’s Park Oval this evening, they will be at almost full strength. Missing from the initially announced squad will be South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who was a fixture at the top of the order last season when the TKR fell at the penultimate hurdle.
But present as they were on Friday in St Lucia will be the fit-again all-rounder and skipper Bravo (DJ), the deemed-eligible-again left-hander Darren Bravo, the formidable off-spinner Sunil Narine and the fiercely competitive Brendon McCullum, who was not 100% in the 2016 season. Also in the line-up will be Colin Munro, who combined with fellow New Zealander McCullum to take the 2015 champions to a comfortable nine-wicket win over the home side in last week’s season opener with almost half of the allotted 20 overs to spare.
Sammy’s men will try to put out of their mind the fact that they twice lost to TKR last season, once in their home game at Gros Islet and again in the second qualifier in Basseterre. And they will take heart from the result of the other 2016 game which, as the St Lucia Zouks, they won convincingly by six wickets at today’s venue.
In Kamran Akmal, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, David Miller and Shane Watson, they have players who, on their day, are capable of taking a game clean away from the opposition. None really came to the party on Friday but the chances of a recurrence of such mass absenteeism this evening are slim.
However, Bravo’s men seem to have a lot more going for them. To begin with, they came into this season’s tournament knowing that the head-to-head record favours them.
Of the nine games so far played between the two sides in the CPL since the inaugural season in 2013, one was washed out. Today’s visitors have only won twice, once in 2015 and once last year, which means that the TKR lead the series by a whopping 6-2.
In addition, the T&T-based franchise starts today’s run of five home games with Friday’s decisive victory already under their belts. Although skipper Bravo told the post-match news conference on Friday that he would be content with “three wins out of five,” few will doubt that he was merely playing dead to ketch cobo alive. Those who have seen him at play know how much he hates to lose and it would be something extraordinary if he is indeed content with a less-than-perfect record at home.
The TKR unit will also be mindful that they need the insurance of home wins against the Jamaica Tallawahs, the Guyana Amazons and the Barbados Tridents whom they take on away on consecutive weekends and who are usually formidable foes on their home turf.
Finally, the team fell at the penultimate hurdle last season in a rain-affected encounter, which they must have felt they were in with a good chance of winning. This season’s four early September final matches being carded for the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Bravo and his men will have home support to count on.
They will, therefore, feel particularly aggrieved—as will their fans—should they fail to go all the way and add a second title to the one they captured at home in 2015.
So momentum is what Bravo and co will probably be seeking when they take the field this evening. They will have the confidence spawned by Friday’s impressive display when, despite being on enemy territory, McCullum (58 off 27 balls) and Munro (66 off 39) both blasted quick-fire half-centuries.
And they will be hoping that Narine, impressive with neither bat nor ball on Friday, can reproduce the form that has enhanced his reputation as an all-rounder during the 2017 Indian Premier League season. But on the evidence of the Gros Islet encounter, Pakistani leg-spinner Shadab Khan looks ready to steal the show should the T&T spinner fail to bring his A-game with the ball once more today.
As long as he gets the result he wants—another convincing victory—Bravo is unlikely to be concerned with which one of his bowlers does the trick. But he might be hoping that Sammy does not call right at the toss so that he will have the option of giving his team first strike.
Without taking anything for granted, the skipper is probably going to feel better about his overall chances if his middle order gets some time out in the middle before they have to face the redoubtable Tallawahs on Wednesday.
TKR squad: Dwayne Bravo (captain), Ronsford Beaton, Darren Bravo, Kevon Cooper, Mehedi Hasan, Shadab Khan, Brendon McCullum, Nikita Miller, Colin Munro, Sunil Narine, William Perkins, Anderson Phillip, Khary Pierre, Denesh Ramdin, Javon Scantlebury-Searles, Hamza Tariq.
Darren Sammy (captain), Kamran Akmal, Sunil Ambris, Johnson Charles, Rahkeem Cornwall, Andre Fletcher, Eddie Leie, Keddy Lesporis, David Miller, Lasith Malinga, Kyle Mayers, Mitchell McCleganhan, Timil Patel, Jesse Ryder, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Shane Watson.
Date Opponent Venue Time
Monday 7 August St Lucia Stars QPO 8pm
Wednesday 9 August Jamaica Tallawahs QPO 8pm
Friday 11 August Amazon Warriors QPO 9pm
Saturday 12 August Barbados Tridents QPO 9pm
Monday 14 August St Kitts & Nevis Patriots QPO 8pm
Saturday 19 August Amazon Warriors Guyana Noon
Wednesday 23 August St Kitts & Nevis Patriots St Kitts 6pm
Saturday 26 August Jamaica Tallawahs Jamaica 8pm
Saturday 2 September Barbados Tridents Barbados 9pm
Date Match Venue Time
Tuesday 5 September Playoff 1 Brian Lara Stadium 8pm
Wednesday 6 September Eliminator 1 Brian Lara Stadium 8pm
Thursday 7 September Eliminator 2 Brian Lara Stadium 8pm
Saturday 9 September Final Brian Lara Stadium 9pm