Denesh “Shotta” Ramdin swatted St Kitts and Nevis Patriots pacer Hasan Ali to the boundary and then roared at the heavens. Against the odds, he had just led the Trinbago Knight Riders to a fifth win in six games and guaranteed them a spot in the four-team play-offs, which will run from 5-9 September at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba.
In front of a deafening, buzzing red sea of TKR supporters at the Queen’s Park Oval, Shotta had helped to guide TKR from an unsteady 109 for 5 to 161 for six to steal an unlikely victory from the up-to-then unbeaten Patriots.
With his team needing 51 off 24 balls, the home fans were crying out for a hero. They found one in the wicketkeeper/batsman who had been gifted a life when dropped on 2 by Brandon King. He made the most of his good fortune to score 59 off 35 balls and close out the game for his team.
Ramdin admitted to the assembled media that he had heard the rallying cry from the electric crowd and felt he had to produce the goods for them.
“The crowd has been amazing,” he said, “and I hope they continue to support us. First time I have done it for them and I’m delighted.”
TKR skipper Dwayne Bravo echoed Ramdin’s sentiments about the crowd support, saying that this “is for the fans!” He went on to point out that he, opposing captain Chris Gayle and others all wish that the finals were to be played at the Port-of-Spain venue.
“(The crowd’s) been remarkable,” Bravo said. “This is where the atmosphere is at, the Queen’s Park Oval! The brand of cricket that we play encourages the fans to come out. We play with heart and soul. We play with passion.”
And both on the field and off it, it was Bravo who proved the champion in the match-up between him and the self-titled “Universe Boss.”
His fine form with the toss continued yesterday, making it five in six games, and, knowing that his team had not yet failed to chase down a total in this tournament, he asked Gayle and his men to take first strike.
Only ten runs came off the first two overs and Bravo called up first-call off-spinner Sunil Narine. Once again, the TKR talisman showed his class, accounting for the Boss in his first over.
First, Gayle top-edged a sweep that, running backwards at fine leg, debutant Anderson Phillip just couldn’t hold on to. It didn’t cost the home team. Narine’s next ball had Gayle playing half-cock at one that pitched and spun and, off the edge of his bat, landed in the welcoming hands of Bravo at slip.
The Patriots had surpassed the 190-mark in their last game versus the St Lucia Stars so 14 for 1 after three overs represented a fine start for the TKR.
In direct contrast to the economical Khary Pierre whom he had replaced in the line-up, Phillip was not having the ideal start to his tournament. His opening spell was littered with wides as he struggled to find a decent line and length. And he added a second dropped catch to the Gayle effort and.
Without the dynamism of in-form opener Evin Lewis, Patriots limped along to 52 without further loss thanks to a decent partnership between Lewis’ replacement Shamarh Brooks and Mohammad Hafeez. Then, a piece of fielding brilliance gave the hungry Knight Riders the breakthrough they needed.
Javon Searles rifled in a low return from the cover boundary and Kevon Cooper collected it and, in one fluid motion, shattered the stumps at the non-striker’s end. The television replay pictures showed Hafeez mere millimetres short of his ground.
Newcomer Brandon King completely lost his head, trying to chip down to Narine but succeeding only in getting an edge that deflected off Ramdin’s gloves to be pouched by Bravo at slip.
It was a night King will try to forget as, later on, he twice failed to hold on to catches near the boundary ropes.
Fan favourite Shadab Khan (1/44 in four overs) did not have the best of games, conceding twice as many runs as he normally would. He would have had Jonathan Carter’s wicket if the lanky Beaton had not allowed the ball to fly straight through his fingers on the at long-on.
But he did contribute his now customary wicket. And in the context of the game, it was a big one.
Brooks, on 37, tried a clearly pre-meditated scoop against the spinner and, getting himself into an awful tangle, saw his zing bails light up.
Bravo, who admitted to having had to nurse his recovering body through the tight match schedule, also claimed only one wicket. He accounted for cater in his solitary, superb over, the 19th, delivered in the all-action style typical of the energetic Trinbago skipper.
Some clean middle-order hitting from Brathwaite (19 off 12) and Carter (31 off 26) moved the Patriots along nicely before Bravo ran the latter out. Carter dabbed a Bravo slower ball just in front of him and set off for the run only to find himself stranded as Bravo pounced on the ball in his follow-through and broke the wicket at the striker’s end.
Nabi crunched a Bravo short ball into the Carib Beer Stand. But Bravo, then outfoxed him, serving up a quicker delivery that had him caught by Searles as he sought to repeat the shot.
Hasan Ali provided a lusty blow or two at the death and St Kitts and Nevis Patriots would have felt that 158 for 7 was a total which, with their bowling line-up, they could defend without too many problems.
At 109 for 5 after 16 overs, they would have felt confident that they had succeeded. Narine came and went, Lady Luck abandoning him this time. Similarly, Brendon McCullum and Darren Bravo, who scratched around for 10 balls for his solitary one run before Hafeez dived forward at point to take a low catch.
Colin Munro had powered his team to 25 for 1 after the third over, taking one ball to get his eye in before launching Hafeez’s next ball straight down the barrel for six, his 11th in the competition. That leaves him just two short of current leader Kieron Pollard in that race.
At the end of the Power play, TKR had reached 42 for 3 and Samuel Badree, held in reserve until the water break, still had four overs in the kitty. He soon accounted for Munro, who essayed an ill-advised reverse sweep and succeeded only in spooned the ball to midwicket, where Ali, one of three fieldsmen in the race to reach it, brought off a stunning diving catch.
Cue unrestrained Patriot celebrations, including a bit of Caribbean-style dancing, featuring Ali and wicketkeeper Devon Thomas.
When Badree’s straight ball cannoned into Shadab Khan’s off-stump, the full house at the Queen’s Park Oval fell silent.
But Ramdin found an able ally in his skipper and, with the required run rate climbing steadily towards two runs a ball, he eventually took the Patriots bull by the horns. Targeting the short side of the ground, he smashed Tabraiz Shamsi for back-to-back sixes, Bravo following up with consecutive boundaries off Brathwaite.
Slowly, belief was seeping back into the red sea in the stands but Ali punctured that balloon with a loud clatter. Reacting à la Bravo earlier to an attempted quick single, he collected off his own bowling, turned, took aim and shattered the stumps at the non-striker’s end with a floundering Bravo without a prayer at half-pitch.
Now partnered by Searles, Ramdin was unfazed. He cut a short Ali delivery contemptuously over third man to reduce the equation to 23 off 13.
Gayle opted for Brathwaite to deliver the 19th over although his late-order heroics have always been with the bat rather than the ball. His over settled the outcome–and the home fans’ nerves.
Searles and Ramdin had a time with him, clobbering him for 4, 6, 6, 19 in all. The final heave over the boundary rope came fittingly from the impressive Ramdin, who cleared his leg and hammered a full toss into the jubilant crowd.
At that stage, it was already over bar the shouting. But the shouting went on well into the night.
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots 158 for 7 (20 overs) (Brooks 37, Carter 31, Narine 2-26)
Trinbago Knight Riders 161 for 6 (19.3 overs) (Ramdin 59*, Munro 36, Nabi 2-12, Badree 2-14)