A boundary-filled half-century by Brendon McCullum saw the Trinbago Knight Riders to a comfortable 36-run win over the Jamaica Tallawahs at Sabina Park last night.
It was the Knight Riders’ eighth victory in nine matches this season and it both avenged the first round defeat last night’s visitors suffered in their home encounter at the Queen’s Park Oval earlier this month and ended a run of five defeats inflicted on them in the CPL by the Jamaicans.
But despite his heroics, Man-of-the-match McCullum (91, 62b, 5 x 4, 6 x 6) did not singlehandedly contrive to put the game beyond the reach of the home side. Chasing the Knight Riders’ daunting 208 for 5, the Tallawahs were still in the fray with one ball left in the 10th over, bowled by Robbie Frylinck.
Opener Glenn Phillips having gone for a duck without having faced a legal delivery, the home side had not had the best of starts to what was always going to be a challenging chase.
But Skipper Kumar Sangakkara (53, 36b, 6 x 4, 2 x 6) and opener Lendl Simmons blasted their way to 61 at the end of the Power play and 87 without further loss near the end of Frylinck’s over.
With his side well on pace to bring the high-flying Knight Riders down to earth by overhauling the seemingly unreachable target, however, Sangakkara attempted an ill-advised ramp off the last ball of the over and lost his middle stump. When Simmons (32, 19b, 1 4, 3 x 6), essaying a drive at the very next ball, Javon Searles’ first of the evening, feathered a catch to Denesh Ramdin, that made the score 87 for 3 and the promising chase fizzled thereafter.
There were still a few lusty blows to come, Rovman Powell (30, 21b, 2 x 4, 1 X 6) and Jonathan Foo (14*, 1 x 4, 1 x 6) both clearing the boundary ropes on at least one occasion. But the task proved to be beyond the capabilities of the Tallawahs’ middle and lower order.
Exactly five overs after Sangakkara’s departure in the ninth over a still manageable just above 10 per over needed for victory, the required rate had climbed to over 13.
TKR Skipper Dwayne Bravo did not make things easy for the homesters. Although he has largely enjoyed the luck of the toss and all seven of the TKR’s earlier win had come in chases, last night he was invited to bat first and found himself needing to restrict the opposition.
Making his vast experience of the format count—he already has over 50 CPL matches to his credit—he managed it admirably. Juggling his bowlers around, he again used eight bowlers in all, six of them in the first seven overs and only allowed four bowlers to deliver consecutive overs from the same end. It’s a tactic which has paid dividends for him and it did so once more last night.
Earlier, McCullum had, not for the first time, lost pinch-hitting partner Sunil Narine early. But with fellow New Zealander Colin Munro, he had taken the score almost to triple figures by the end of the ninth over before Monro (42, 24b, 1 x 4, 2 x 6) fell, holing out to Simmons at long-off off Powell. Darren Bravo joined McCullum and struck three towering sixes before he too holed out to long-on Andre McCarthy, also off Powell.
McCullum was eventually out in similar fashion at 191 for 5, Simmons the catcher and Kesrick Williams the bowler. Bravo (DJ) and Searles added enough to push the score over the psychological mountain of 200 and the homesters eventually ended on 172 for 7, 28 runs adrift with another eight as a lagniappe.
The result left Bravo’s men comfortably on top of the six-team table on 16 points and assured of a berth in the play-off game. But at the back of their minds will be the thought that they haven’t really yet had an off-day, when someone has not stepped forward to shoulder the responsibility of seeing them over the line.
With one (for TKR) meaningless but for the opposition potentially decisive match-up against the Barbados Tridents carded for next Saturday in Barbados, the skipper and the coaching staff are likely to be relishing the assurance of a second bite of the cherry which the play-off provides.
Trinbago Knight Riders: 208 for 6 (Brendon McCullum 91, Colin Munro 42, Darren Bravo 28, Krishmar Santokie 2/49)
Jamaica Tallawahs: 172 for 7 (Kumar Sangakkara 53, Lendl Simmons 32, Rovman Powell 31, Javon Searles 3/27)