A Rashid Khan hat-trick in the 15th over proved enough to allow the Guyana Amazon Warriors to shake one of the monkeys off their back at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba last night and set up a showdown tonight with the Trinbago Knight Riders
The Warriors’ Afghan leg-spinner single-handedly accounted for three of the Jamaica Tallawahs’ batsmen to put his team in position to defeat the defending champions.
And Australia-born New Zealander Luke Ronchi then helped them to complete an impressive five-wicket win in the first Eliminator.
When the Jamaicans romped to the title in 2013 and 2016, the Warriors were made to play the role of bridesmaids. However, following on Khan’s first innings heroics, Ronchi and the Warriors middle order emerged from the depths of the Amazon to tame the Tallawahs, now captained by Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara.
This evening, in the land of the Soca Warriors, the Amazon Warriors’ Trinidad and Tobago skipper Rayad Emrit will have the unenviable task of trying to take his team over consecutive hurdles on successive nights. The Guyanese franchise will do battle against the local franchise, the Trinbago Knight Riders, who are led by the immensely popular “Champion” skipper, Dwayne Bravo.
But Emrit is ready to lead from the front as he clearly demonstrated with his brilliant one-handed on-the-rebound catch at short-cover last night to dismiss countryman Lendl Simmons.
If the Amazon Warriors do manage to overcome their TKR hosts today, then another meeting with the “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle awaits them in Saturday’s finale against a rejuvenated St Kitts and Patriots outfit. In the 2016 final in St Kitts last year, the Warriors were hammered by the then Gayle-led Tallawahs. They will be hoping to go one better this year.
But first, the Knight Riders await this evening.
Last evening, the Tallawahs must have thought they were sitting pretty despite the 15th over disaster. As expected, Tallawahs captain Sangakkara brought his “A” game, playing a beautifully controlled knock of 57 off 38 balls to see his team to 168 for 8 at the end of their 20 overs.
Homeboy Simmons had contributed 34 off 25 balls before the combination of Emrit and off-spinner Stephen Jacobs accounted for him. It was a total that was almost 20 runs more than the winning target set by the Patriots in their 38-run victory over TKR on the previous night.
Captain “Sangas” had a close-up view of the near torpedoing of his ship, being at the non-striker’s end as Khan produced a trio of googles to rip the stuffing out of the Tallawahs’ middle order. First, the leggy outfoxed Andre McCarthy (14 off 8) with a ball which pitched outside off and rocked back the leg-stump.
Next up, he repeated the trick to send Jonathan Foo packing for a golden duck.
Then, promising all-rounder Rovman Powell, who recently told CPL commentators that he could run a 100M dash in 10.6 seconds, strolled out to the middle to be greeted with an earful from his skipper. He would have needed all of his electric speed to get swiftly away from Sangakkara as, going for an ambitious cover-drive, he too was castled first up by a Rashid googly.
Sangakkara was visibly upset at the sight of his team’s best finisher making his sorry way back to the dugout before he could say Hero CPL five times fast.
With his magical over, Rashid, who finished with figures of three for 32, may have prompted frantic Google searches from intrigued viewers, trying to find out if it had been done before in the now five-year history of the CPL. It was, they would have found, the first hat-trick ever since the start of the competition in 2013 and it certainly helped to spin the game the Warriors’ way, taking the opposition from a promising position of 116 for 4 to a shaky 118 for 7.
The Warriors’ Chadwick Walton is well known in the 2017 CPL for turning the pages of his notebook to record each new Hero maximum, of which he has been responsible for many. Recently, he also turned a game–and the battle for the fourth qualifying spot against the Barbados Tridents–on its head. On 1 September in Kingston, he launched a blistering assault on the Tallawahs bowlers, producing a brutal, unbeaten knock of 84 off just 40 balls to seal a whirlwind win.
Walton’s accomplice in that assault was Kiwi Ronchi. Last night, the duo were at it again, with Ronchi arguably the senior partner this time. They needed only 31 balls to post a 67-run partnership, which effectively snuffed the life out of the Tallawahs attack.
By the time Walton (39 off 23 balls) offered a simple catch to Simmons off the bowling of Mahmudullah at the start of over number nine, the Amazon Warriors had already rattled off 90 runs and reduced their asking rate of 8.45 to just under 7.
Walton had made his intentions clear early on, smashing the first ball of the innings from Krishmar Santokie straight down the ground for six. The all-action Ronchi (70 off 33) joined the fun soon enough, dispatching Powell’s first two deliveries over the mid-wicket region for consecutive sixes in the seventh, the first sailing into the Party Stand on the western side of the ground.
The sparse crowd, scattered in groups of 40 and 50 all around the venue, lapped up the treat. In the following over, pacer Kesrick Williams, also known for taking notes of each of his 15 dismissals so far in his imaginary register, was treated with very little respect. He conceded 18 runs as both openers dispatched his attempted bouncers to the boundary. The only thing Williams had to take note of was Walton’s Gordon Greenidge-esque pose, which he held for the bowler’s benefit after another pull had sailed over the midwicket boundary.
Williams, whose four overs cost him 48 runs, was exquisitely struck over cover for six by Ronchi off the first ball of his second over. If the Warriors’ pacer has a recording of last night’s game, he’ll almost certainly fast-forward past that shot.
The Kiwi gloveman then played a delicious cut shot through backward point en route to a half-century which came off only 20 balls.
When he finally missed an in-swinger by Pakistani Mohammed Sami in the 17th over, the Warriors were only 14 runs adrift and the monkey’s grip had already been at least partially slackened.
With five straight wins under their belt, will Emrit’s Warriors start as favourites against Bravo’s troops, who raced into an unassailable lead in the round-robin phase?
The in-form Walton, now the tournament’s leading run-scorer, and his new partner-in-crime Ronchi seem to be in irresistible form so an upset win for the visitors over the depleted home side would be no surprise.
However, Bravo will take some solace from the fact that, in the last match-up between the two teams on August 19, it was the Warriors who came out on the losing end. However, TKR were guided to victory by a brutal 65 from influential New Zealander Brendon McCullum, who is not in the squad for today’s all-important re-match.
So who is going to fill the absent Kiwi’s big boots?
Captain Bravo, will you please stand up!
Jamaica Tallawahs : 168 for 8 (20 overs) Kumar Sangakkara 57*, Lendl Simmons 34, Trevon Griffith 20, Rashid Khan 3/32, Stephen Jacobs 2/33
Guyana Amazon Warriors: 169 for 5 (17.5 overs) Luke Ronchi 70, Chadwick Walton 39, Assad Fudadin 29*, Mahmudullah 3/25
Result: GAW beat JT by five wickets and will meet the Trinbago Knight Riders in tomorrow’s second eliminator.