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CPL 17: Trinbago Knight Riders look to double up; bid to down Sammy’s Stars again

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.

Photo: South Africa batsman Hashim Amla drives square when playing for Kings XI Punjab during an IPL contest against Sunrisers Hyderabad at The Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali on 15 May 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Chandan Khanna)

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.

Photo: The Trinbago Knight Riders celebrate during the 2016 CPL season.
(Copyright CPL T20)

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.

Photo: West Indies cricket star Dwayne Bravo (right) on duty with the Chennai Super Kings.

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.

SLS squad:

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.

Photo: West Indies and Jamaica all-rounder Marlon Samuels plays a shot during the World T20 final against England at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
Samuels is a key member of the St Lucia Stars CPL team.
(Copyright AFP2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

TKR schedule:

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

Photo: West Indies spinner Sunil Narine prepares to bowl against New Zealand at Seddon Park, Hamilton on 21 December 2013. (Copyright AFP 2014/Michael Bradley)

Finals schedule:

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

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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6 comments

  1. TKR supposed to win this tournament easily…

    • Looking at the hitters on St Kitts and Barbados teams, I think they can do some damage if you catch them on the wrong day!
      Pollard, Malik and Smith for Tridents and Gayle, Evin and Brathwaite for Patriots.

  2. Covering the cricket too? Nice.