The Trinbago Knight Riders have a second CPL title in their hands, thanks to Kevon Cooper. Without the heroics the allrounder produced in the late stages of the TKR innings in their CPL final match-up last night, the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots might well have walked away from the Brian Lara Stadium as champions.
Cooper’s was the name on all lips among the packed partisan crowd in Tarouba after he smashed 29 runs off 14 balls to lead the TKR out of the doldrums and on to the podium.
Set 136 to win and with his team teetering at 90 for 7, Cooper emphatically stepped forward to seize glory for the Knight Riders, the local franchise with which he has spent the last five seasons.
“In a big final like this, in front of so many people,” the elated allrounder told the assembled media after the match, “my team wanted me and I put up my hand.”
“I’ve been through the ups and downs with this team (over the years),” he continued, “but the togetherness we had this year was unbelievable.”
“All the chopping and changing—we lost Brendon McCullum—that never threw us off; we kept believing as a team.”
The stats would argue, however, that the experiment of opening the batting with Sunil Narine should have been changed and left on the chopping block altogether. On top of eight consecutive scores in single figures—including back-to-back golden ducks in the knockout stages—Narine fell cheaply once again at the top of the order.
His dismissal was one of a quick-fire double by Jamaican speedster Sheldon Cottrell, who uprooted Dwayne Bravo’s leg-stump first ball after the captain had promoted himself to number three in the line-up, a move prompted by an injury to his leg.
The shuffling of the batting order was one of a few curious decisions by the popular TKR skipper throughout the night, not the least of which was the decision to bowl the final over. It turned out to be quite expensive—he leaked 21 runs—and might have even proven decisive in the end.
In over number 20 of the visitor’s innings, Mohammad Nabi took the uncharacteristically wayward but visibly uncomfortable Bravo to the cleaners. The Afghanistan international hammered the dynamic champion for two sixes and a four in an 18-run cameo that gave the Patriots some extra yardage to play with in defence of the modest target they set.
This came on the back of an educated individual innings of 30 by West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite who, after arriving at the crease with only 65 runs on the board and five wickets in the hole, guided his team to 135 for 6.
The five down included star openers Chris Gayle (1 off 7 balls) and Evin Lewis (16, 16b, 2 x 4) but Brathwaite’s mature knock and his association with Jonathan Carter (21, 30b, 1 x 4) which yielded 49 runs helped the Patriots to a defensible total.
Javon Searles accounted for Gayle in the second over after he had managed just one run off Ronsford Beaton’s fine, aggressive opening over. But the home side had to wait until the seventh over for ace spinner Sunil Narine to produce a bit of magic and get rid of Lewis for a thankfully modest score. With the total on 37 for 3 and Lewis threatening to rebuild, Narine bamboozled the hard-hitting opener and had him playing all around a delivery that skidded on to his pads.
The usually emotionless spinner, who eventually finished with figures of 1 for 8 off his four overs, erupted, understandably allowing himself a triumphant roar at his prized scalp.
Cooper, too, with ball in hand prior to his eventual match-winning performance with the bat, produced roars of his own after he engineered the departures of Brandon King (19 off 21) and Devon Thomas (17 off 9) in quick succession.
King was sent packing leg before wicket while Thomas was left scratching his head as he cut a wide delivery into the low hands of the diving Yasir Shah at backward point. It was a welcome intervention from the Pakistani wrist-spinner who had a forgettable tournament after being drafted to replace his 18-year-old compatriot and fan favorite Shadab Khan.
Thomas’ departure made way for the towering allrounder Brathwaite, who sauntered to the middle to salvage the Patriots’ innings with a few memorable, lusty blows—one in particular, a six off Beaton flicked off the pads, virtually unforgettable.
When TKR’s turn came to bat, Denesh Ramdin mirrored the Brathwaite role. Having led TKR to a rearguard victory over Gayle’s troops at the Queen’s Park Oval earlier this season, the discarded West Indies wicket-keeper/batsman reprised the match-winner role last night, this time replacing his usual cavalier stroke-making with a more circumspect and calculated approach and allowing the fireworks to come eventually from Cooper at the other end.
He came to the crease to replace Darren Bravo, who was trapped dead in front by a Mohammad Hafeez drifter that deviated in instead of holding its line. Hafeez had earlier claimed another major scalp, accounting for the ever-reliable Colin Munro for a handy 29 off 23 balls.
With TKR’s hopes fading fast and the home crowd largely subdued if not silenced, Ramdin knew that his side needed a hero—not for the first time this season.
Not for the first time for the season, “Shotta” donned his cape.
Exactly 22 runs were needed off the final two overs and Ramdin (21 off 31 balls) showed he had the required patience. And the sense to know when to launch the final attack. And how.
The senior partner gave Cooper the green light to add the fireworks and the night’s hero did so gloriously in the course of a shambolic penultimate over by Australian pacer Ben Hilfenhaus.
Both batsmen admitted in the post-match session that they were targeting 15-17 runs in the second to last over.
“I didn’t make runs in a long time,” Cooper revealed. “Two overs to get 22 runs? I told Ramdin I’m going after the bowling now.”
Ramdin said he could not be happier to have pulled it off in front of the home fans—not for the first time this season.
“It’s a great feeling in front of our crowd,” he said, beaming. “Coming down to the end, they thought we didn’t have it in the bag. But Kevon Cooper and myself with that composure, I think we gave them something to go home and sleep comfortably.”
Although not a spinner, Hilfenhaus will perhaps be turning all night. He engaged in protracted discussions with his skipper over the right field to be set for these batsmen at this juncture of the game.
Then, they got it wrong; certainly, they got the execution wrong.
A brace of wides was followed by an above-the-waist no-ball. Clearing his front leg, Cooper smoked the full toss over the cover boundary for a welcome six.
Just 10 required off 3 balls. A bonus free hit coming up. The TKR red sea was experiencing a storm surge. Ramdin at the striker’s end was all smiles.
At the crease, Cooper waited tensely. What would Hilfenhaus do? Over-pitched and in his arc. Swat! FOUR! No mistake!
The Aussie pacer had lost the plot and, with it, the match. And the championship.
Just after 1am, Ramdin pushed the last ball of the over to long-on for the single that sealed the second TKR win and gave the signal to the Lara for the biggest party in sport to start in earnest in Tarouba.
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots: 135 for 6 (20 overs) Carlos Brathwaite 30*, Jonathan Carter 21, Brandon King 19, Mohammed Nabi 18*, Kevon Cooper 2/12, Javon Searles 2/29, Sunil Narine 1/8.
Trinbago Knight Riders: 136 for 7 (19 overs) Kevon Cooper 29*, Colin Munro 29, Denesh Ramdin 26*, Mohammad Hafeez 2/19, Tabraiz Shamsi 2/20, Sheldon Cottrel 2/21.
Result: TKR won by three wickets
Player of the Tournament: Chadwick Walton (Guyana Amazon Warriors)
Catch of the Tournament: Fabian Allen (St Kitts and Nevis Patriots)
Maximum Sixes Award: Evin Lewis (St Kitts and Nevis Patriots)
El Dorado celebration: Chadwick Walton (Guyana Amazon Warriors)