There’s a new star in the CPL firmament but he is not from the newly re-named St Lucia franchise.
The 18-year-old Shadab Khan was a shining light for the Trinbago Knight Riders in their less-than-convincing four-wicket victory over the St Lucia Stars in Monday night’s CPL 2017 action at the Queen’s Park Oval.
Shadab’s performance with ball and bat earned him the Man-of-the-Match award and doomed the Darren Sammy-led Stars to consecutive defeats at the hands of the TKR.
Set 119 for victory after the Stars could only manage 118 for 9 off their 20 overs, TKR made heavy weather of the target, losing key wickets in the opening overs. The impressive Shadab and TKR veteran Javon Searles eventually steadied the Knight Riders ship with an unbeaten 45-run, seventh-wicket partnership to secure victory for TKR in 15.4 overs.
But at 75 for 6, the end, the crowd must have felt, was in sight, the end, surprise, surprise! for TKR.
However, that pessimistic view reckoned without the talents of the teenage Pakistani international.
Ably assisted by Searles, Shadab led a partnership characterised by intelligent, composed batting and commitment to a simple formula of rotation of strike. It saw the two add the almost 50 runs that had separated TKR from their target when skipper Dwayne Bravo departed.
When the score finally crawled over the 100-run mark in the 15th over, it seemed to liberate Searles. Finally freeing his arms, he firmly wrestled the match from the grasp of Sammy’s Stars.
In the next over, he blasted McClenaghan for back-to-back straight sixes before deftly producing a delicate late-cut to get his side over the line.
Earlier, after Bravo won the toss and, as he did in the first encounter in Gros Islet on Friday, sent his opponents into bat, the visitors were virtually always on the backfoot. The move paid immediate dividends when Khary Pierre, one of a trio of impressive TKR spinners, had Stars opener Johnson Charles out LBW in his 2nd over-almost before the St Lucian knew what had hit him.
Having bamboozled him in an opening maiden over on a sluggish pitch, Pierre tossed this ball up with just a hint of drift. Charles, dead centre, missed and was on his way.
Spin was truly king on the night, TKR’s spin trio going for less than 20 runs each in their four overs and the Stars’ spinner Shane Shillingford starring with four for 22 when the home team batted. Even in a T20 landscape where spinners have given a very good account of themselves, it was a surprising statistic.
Captain Bravo, perhaps judging that the early evening conditions were right, with the pitch offering turn and bounce enough, opted to turn to his spin arsenal early in the contest and to keep them in action well into the powerplay.
The threesome—West Indies number one Sunil Narine was the third—stifled the Stars, the score reaching 38 for 1 after the first seven overs. Pierre’s four overs had yielded figures of 1-15 but he might also have had Andre Fletcher’s scalp had the wind been a bit more favourable,
Attempting to play across the line, Fletcher completely mistimed a flighted Pierre delivery. The ball kissed the leg stump and for a split second, the zing bails lit up. However, luck and the wind were not on Pierre’s side and the bails settled back into their original position.
Whew! Not out!
After that early scare, Fletcher kept his nerve and sought to steady the Stars as wickets tumbled around him.
Caught in two minds, Charles’ replacement Kamran Akmal flashed at a short Cooper delivery and behind the stumps Denesh “Shotta” Ramdin gleefully accepted the edge.
Cooper’s next wicket was greeted by one of the biggest roars of the night. He beat New Zealander Jesse Ryder all ends up and sent his off-stump flying through the air, conjuring up memories of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in their prime.
Shadab, whose four overs included 14 dot balls and cost a mere 16 runs, claimed the prize wicket of Fletcher. Having slowed his scoring pace considerably on his way to 40, he sought to hit the spinner out of the ground and succeeded only in holing out to Ronsford Beaton on the straight boundary. At 81 for 5 in the 16th over, the Stars were in some disarray.
Captain Sammy briefly threatened to right things, thumping some typically powerful hits down the ground. There was one memorable one that screamed over the Gerry Gomez Media Centre, last seen well on its way to Maraval.
But it was not sufficient on the night as Bravo accounted for him soon afterwards and Cooper cleaned up the tail, finishing with excellent figures of 3-21 and restricting 81 for 5 to a modest 118 for 9 in the process
“Seemingly modest” might be more accurate as in the end the home side did not get there without alarums.
Sammy and the technical staff must have driven home the message that, without early wickets, the Stars stood virtually no chance in the game.
Narine, playing once again as a pinch-hitting opener, went early, lobbing a Kyle Mayers delivery into the hands of the fielder at mid-on in the second over. That was 12 for 1.
McCullum, scorer of a rapid-fire half-century in Friday’s match, soon followed him into the dugout, reaching 19 with a few typically swashbuckling scoring shots. Seeking to reproduce the slog sweep that had sent Shillingford’s first ball soaring over the ropes, he somehow contrived to get the ball into the bucket hands of Ryder at short-cover.
Colin Munro’s impressive half-century had taken the game away in St Lucia but Shillingford soon sent him to join his New Zealand partner in crime in the pavilion, out LBW trying to switch-hit.
Then he gave the home crowd something to think about, shattering Darren Bravo’s stumps with a ball that skidded, leaving the TKR in tatters at 42 for 4 after five overs.
Experienced campaigners Ramdin and the elder Bravo sensed the danger and they sought to stabilize the innings and see Shillingford off. But when the crafty spinner smashed Shotta’s stumps with a delivery similar to the one that had accounted for the younger Bravo, a hush fell over the ground.
TKR in dire straits at 52 for 5 and the last batsman at the crease with just the tail to occupy the other end. Shadab, originally listed at number 11 in the order, joined his captain at the crease.
Smelling blood, Sammy kept the pressure up, employing three close fieldsmen to keep the batsman company.
Maybe it was discussed, maybe not. But Shadab opted for dour defence against Shillingford’s last few deliveries. The crowd, uneasy, showed its appreciation, greeting each defensive shot with a roar of approval; Shillingford, after all, had already claimed four prized wickets.
The pair put on 20 runs before Sammy’s captaincy opened the contest up yet again.
He brought on the experienced left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan and, before the end of his first over, he had spread-eagled Bravo’s stumps and his bails all over the close-in area. Coming around the wicket, he produced an unplayable yorker for which Champion Bravo had no answer.
The score was then 75 for 6.
And so TKR have moved to the top of the standings, where they will hope to stay.
But even if Shadab does become the toast of CPL 2017, the Knight Riders will surely want to avoid any recurrence of last night’s drama.
2017 CPL result
(Monday August 7)
St Lucia Stars 118 for 9 (Fletcher 40, Sammy 25, Cooper 3-21)
Trinbago Knight Riders 120 for 6 (Shadab 30*, Searles 27*, Shillingford 4-22)