Trinbago Knight Riders will be back in Tarouba on Sunday to defend their CPL title after Fawad Ahmed’s spin heroics of three for 13 sent the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots out of the tournament last night at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba.
Once again, TKR did it the hard way after posting 165 for 6 off 20 overs, although they will at least hope that the omens are in their favour when they face perennial CPL runner ups, the Guyana Amazon Warriors, at the same venue.
“We are very confident despite what happened in Guyana,” said TKR captain Dwayne Bravo, after last night’s win. “This is our home. We know how to play here, we know to how to win titles and they are yet to win a championship.
“The nerves will be with them. They had three days off also, so the momentum is with us. But we respect them as an opposition because both teams are very similar in style.
“To come back and defend our title, to finish with the most points in the league, and then to make the finals again; this is for Trinidad and Tobago, our fans, our loyal fans who are always there supporting us through thick or thin.”
While the Stadium was far from full on Friday night, TKR did have soca icon Machel Montano in their corner. And, arguably, Montano’s rousing rendition of 2018 Soca Monarch hit, Soca Kingdom—during the break between the two innings—was exactly the pump up that the players needed.
The Patriots could only register 145 for 8 off their 20 overs, as TKR flew out of the blocks.
The St Kitts and Nevis Patriots were only six balls into their innings when Ali Khan slid across the turf, towards a packed grassy mound, celebrating what he thought was the game winner.
The “Universe Boss” himself, Chris Gayle was the victim, after being outdone by a clinic of fast bowling from the USA international, who found the outside edge and exalted as Ramdin snapped up the catch.
It took Gayle’s opening partner Devon Thomas until the fifth over to muster any sort of fight back, although he was gifted the chance to proceed.
After some excellent bowling first up from Fawad and Khan, Anderson Phillip delivered an over to forget as his wayward line and length was clinically punished by Thomas with three consecutive boundaries. Worse, Brendon McCullum dropped Thomas off Fawad’s first delivery as he tried to take a low catch.
Luckily for the Knight Riders faithful, their pain was short-lived as captain Bravo rolled the dice by replacing Phillip with part time leggie, Colin Ingram.
Thomas unceremoniously swatted Ingram’s first ball over the boundary rope, but the South African had the last laugh as Thomas misread a googly and edged onto his stumps to depart for 35 off 26 balls.
Narine soon followed up the trick to dismiss Rassie van der Dussen. But, with Evin Lewis and Brandon King threatening to knit SKNP’s innings back together, captain Bravo handed the ball to his game changer Fawad.
Boom bang! Skipper’s faith repaid.
With the run rate increasing, Lewis skied Fawad high into the air and was caught by Munro four four. It capped off a horrid CPL season with the bat for Lewis, who averaged 11.45 all tournament. One can hope that Patriots management has a bush bath primed and ready for the talented left hander.
Narine then removed King’s leg stump, which set the stage for Fawad to put two more nails into the Patriots coffin.
In the 16th over, with the visitors needing 70 runs to win, Fawad bowled a wrong un that beat Anton Devcich all ends up. Devcich—who was coolness personified in his man of the match knock versus the Tallawah’s in the first eliminator—completely lost his bearings, as he charged down the wicket, completely missing Fawad’s delivery, and did not even utter a prayer as Ramdin whipped off the bails.
Ben Cutting, the other hero of their Eliminator win over the Tallawahs, soon followed his team mate, as Fawad’s magic had him trapped leg before wicket. It was the humble Aussie’s 21st wicket this season, which is the best returns of any bowler this year.
“The feelings are always good but we still have one more game to go and hopefully I will continue my performance and it will carry through in the grand final as well,” said Fawad. “So at the end of the day, we are here for this job. This is my bread and butter and I’m really, really thankful to Almighty that I’m bowling really well and contributing nicely.”
At that stage in the innings, one would expect the Patriots to start making airline travel arrangements; but Gayle’s team bats deep and never lies down.
Fabian Allen demonstrated his penchant for destructive hitting earlier in the tournament and, in the final overs, it took the combined efforts of Khan, Bravo and Cooper to tie him down, as TKR held on for the result.
It could easily have gone completely differently.
In the first innings, Sheldon Cottrell produced an excellent spell of two for 24 off his four overs to help the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots to limit the Knight Riders to 165.
Cottrell later admitted that the dew made his final few overs feel like “bowling with a bar of soap”—he dropped the soap only once, with an attempt that slipped out of his hand, mid-delivery, and landed at the feet of the non-striker.
But that was in complete contrast to the conditions early on with a slow pitch that forced Brendon McCullum (43) and Colin Munro (29) to be more circumspect than usual in their stroke play, as Cottrell, Brathwaite and Gayle kept the shackles on.
The Kiwi pair appeared content to tick the scoring along until the latter overs but were both sent back to the hutch in the space of five balls to leave TKR reeling and looking at an under-par score yet again.
Gayle snapped up McCullum’s prized wicket after a long bowling spell—a rare sight at this stage in his career—as he used his full quota of four overs. TKR used the newly instituted Decision Referral System to query the call without luck.
Gayle was involved in Munro’s dismissal too, as the big man threw his hands up to pouch a ball that was going at some knots off a Cutting delivery.
TKR were 81 for three wickets after the 10th over with the set batsmen back in the stands. However, the introduction of Dwayne Bravo, with a timely knock of 24 off eight balls, propelled the home team to a decent score.
Gayle gambled on attacking field settings for his champion spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. But Shamsi lost the plot and Bravo carted him down the ground in an expensive over that cost the Patriots 21 runs and possibly a place in the final.
A final in which the Amazon Warriors, three times CPL bridesmaids, will hope to finally say their winner’s vows.
Bravo has other plans, as he looks to lead the Knight Riders to an unprecedented CPL title defence.
“To come back and defend our title, to finish with the most points in the league, and then to make the finals again,” said Bravo, “this is for Trinidad and Tobago, our fans, our loyal fans who are always there supporting us through thick or thin.”
Montano, like most Trinidad and Tobago cricket fans, cannot wait.
“Knight Riders Kingdom. TKR Kingdom. Sunday… Who ready?!”
CPL Match Summary:
Trinbago Knight Riders 165 for 6 off 20 overs: Brendon McCullum 43, Colin Munro 29. Sheldon Cottrell 2/24, Carlos Brathwaite 1/26
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots 145 for 8 off 20 overs: Devon Thomas 35, Brandon King 33, Fawad Ahmed 3/13, Sunil Narine 2/21.