Nobody yet knows who greased the palms of the Barbados Tridents at the Queen’s Park Oval last night; Sunil Narine is certainly not complaining!
The mystery-spinner-turned-Trinbago-Knight-Riders-opening-batsman rode his luck to hit 79, his career highest score in T20 cricket, and lead the home team to their fourth win in five matches and the top of the six-team CPL 2017 table.
On no fewer than three occasions, the new pinch-hitting opener was gifted a new life, the ball somehow never coming to rest finally in the greasy palms of the Tridents fielders.
His 79 featured five sixes, with deep mid-wicket their preferred destination, and came off just 45 balls to lift the TKR to 155 for 8 off 19.1 overs in a successful chase of the Tridents’ 152 for 9 off their 20 overs.
Wicket-less in that innings, Man-of-the-match Narine had produced a tight economical four-over spell of 0-16 to help restrict the Tridents. But it was with the bat that he beat them–with the cooperation of Pollard’s errant fieldsmen.
In his post-match comments, the Tridents skipper conceded that they had ended some 20 runs short of his desired target but his biggest disappointment was, unsurprisingly, his team’s fielding so far in the CPL.
“Words cannot describe how abysmal we were in the field today,” a visibly frustrated Pollard told the assembled media. “At this level, certain things are unacceptable. Eight catches (dropped) in four games. We’re keeping count of it,”
Even if the Tridents’ skipper and coaching staff manage to do something about the team’s fielding, there is another problem over which they have no control.
Reports out of Pakistan suggest that ten players will be recalled by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) from the CPL, citing a tight domestic and international schedule over the next few months. The Board has now scheduled the National T20 Cup from 25 August to 10 September to accommodate the late finalization of the ICC World XI Series, which is carded to run between the 10 and 16 September
The visitors stand to lose both leading Tridents’ wicket-taker Wahab Riaz and the classy Shoaib Malik, top scorer on the night with 51 from 38 balls.
“It is what it is,” a resigned Pollard commented. “It happened last year as well and I think it’s something that we need to get right. All the final decisions haven’t been made but I think we still have a couple games before that happens.”
TKR captain Dwayne Bravo had little to offer on the issue but he is almost certainly concerned as well. Leg-spinner Shadab Khan, Man-of-the-match in the Knight Riders’ first two games and a consistent contributor to the team’s success so far this season, will also have to depart if the PCB does not change its mind.
Last night too, Shadab’s contribution was not to be sneezed at, the fan favourite finishing with figures of 4-0-20-1 and being the single-handed architect of one of two run-outs in the Tridents innings.
Virtually unknown when he played his first game at the Oval a week ago, the teenage spinner’s appearance now inspires a roar loud enough to rival the one given hometown hero Narine.
And if Shadab and Narine repeatedly steal the headlines for TKR this season, the T&T left-arm spinner Khary Pierre has quietly been making a major contribution to team success. Selected by Bravo as his opening bowler, he added the early wicket of the dangerous Dwayne Smith to the three catches he took against the Warriors last night, none of them easy.
Smith clobbered his first two balls over and then to the boundary ropes. Pierre, though, had the last laugh, tempting Smith to try to repeat the stroke. Third time unlucky, he succeeded only in finding the safe hands of Darren Bravo on the mid-wicket boundary.
Ronsford Beaton, omitted in favour of new arrival Robert Frylinck for the last two matches, accounted for the promoted Wayne Parnell in his first over. The South African mistimed his drive and saw the electric Brendon McCullum acrobatically pluck the ball out of the air at short cover.
The score was 19 for 2 at that stage with Kane Williamson and Malik at the crease. Swashbuckling, blade-to-ball batsman they are not; classy, cerebral and determined they, however, are. The pair began to rebuild the Tridents’ innings, content to simply nudge the Knight Riders dangerous spin twins, Shadab and Narine, around for singles; the risk-taking would come later when that pairing was safely out of the way.
It worked. Together the pair combined in a partnership of 70 runs, a platform from which the Tridents could launch an all-out attack in the second ten overs.
Needing a wicket, Bravo turned to the spin twins and they delivered in tandem in the 12th over. Trying to sweep Shadab, the Kiwi skipper mistimed his shot and the ball invitingly popped up for Narine to run from short third man to pouch a simple catch behind the wicketkeeper.
Pollard, the in-form Tridents’ captain, was next in and Pollard is a prime platform performer, his last two innings yielding destructive, hard-hit half-centuries late in the piece.
Pressed into service, Beaton (2 for 24) first induced Malik into error to leave the Tridents’ unsteady at 102 for 4 and then attacked the more imposing Pollard with a barrage of short-pitched bowling with the occasional yorker in the mix.
It was an engaging contest that provoked the exchange of a few choice words between aggressive bowler and stymied batsman. Cricket, lovely cricket!
Bravo and Beaton might have dampened Pollard’s ammo but it didn’t work with the Tridents’ other Trinis.
The explosive Nicholas Pooran hammered two massive sixes and a boundary before being dismissed for 18 while Akeal Hosein launched Bravo into orbit with sixes off consecutive balls before Bravo spiked his guns and brought Pollard low with the last ball of the innings.
But the late power hitting had taken the Tridents to a competitive total just five runs adrift of what TKR had chased down the night before. And the early wicket of McCullum, spectacularly yorked by Parnell, put the wind in their sails.
It could have got even better for the Tridents an over later but for the slippery fingers of Tino Best. Narine skied a catch to the eccentric former West Indies pacer at deepish mid-on. Grassing the chance, he held his head in his hands. It wasn’t long before he had company.
Springer dropped Narine again off Riaz and Barnwell did the same later, twice in the space of a few deliveries, But unfazed by his let-offs, Narine rampaged on, superbly upper-cutting Riaz over third man. There were many great Narine shots on the night but that was the pick of them.
At the other end, the dangerous Munro, hero of the previous night’s victory over the Amazon Warriors, didn’t enjoy Narine’s luck, picking out the wrong man, Dwayne Smith, on the boundary off the bowling of Malik.
The younger Bravo joined Narine at the crease and the pair moved the score merrily along, Bravo producing a few elegant dashes through the off-side especially, along the way.
He made it to an a-run-a-ball 25 before Riaz decided to take matters into his own hands. After Narine was dropped again off him, the unlucky Pakistani pacer produced a corker of a bouncer to send the younger Bravo packing.
The ball leapt at him like a trained canine and he must have been relieved eventually that it merely feathered his gloves for Pooran behind the stumps to take the catch.
On 76 for 3 after 10 overs, the Riders seemed in the driver’s seat, with Narine continuing to play freely. And with good fortune.
Pollard’s disdain was reflected in his face. And Narine added insult to unacceptability by generally following up every dropped catch with a boundary.
He was finally caught with the score at 145 for 7, Parnell showing his teammates how it’s done with a simple catch off the bowling of Springer (3 for 32).
When, with only a few runs left to get for victory, Searles threw his wicket away, a few TKR fans’ hearts might have skipped a beat or two.
But Cooper calmly pierced the infield with an off-drive to produce the win-sealing boundary.
TKR’s next assignment is tomorrow against the currently high-flying Patriots, who have won all three of their CPL 2017 encounters so far. Bravo’s men will be buoyed by their three-out-of-four successes in their five-match home schedule so far. And their comfortable placing atop the standings on eight points.
But the situation could have been so different had Pollard’s Tridents not let things slip.
Barbados Tridents: 152 (20 overs) S. Malik 51, K. Williamson 30, R Beaton 2/24, DJ Bravo 2/27)
Trinbago Knight Riders: 155 for 8 (19.1 overs) (S.Narine 79, DM Bravo 25, W.Parnell 2/26, S Springer 3/32
Man-of-the-match: Sunil Narine