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CPL 20: Can Zouks deny fans batting fireworks on offer in Thursday’s Tarouba final?

Lightning, we are told, does not often strike in the same place twice.

In August 2018, the Jamaican Tallawahs’ Andre Russell blasted an unbeaten 121 off only 40 balls to stun the Queen’s Park Oval home crowd into silence.

Photo: TKR captain Dwayne Bravo (left) takes evasive action as Jamaica Tallawahs captain Andre Russell smashes for six during their CPL outing at the Queen’s Park Oval on 10 August 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images)

But weather-wise, this has proven to be an extraordinary year so far. And last week, in August 2020, the Trinbago Knight Riders’ Kieron Pollard smashed 72 off 28 balls to set up his team to convert certain defeat into thrilling victory.

The Oval was again the venue, albeit with no crowd to be silenced. Or fired up.

And now a meteorological event has created an opening for a Trinidad and Tobago venue to host a serious post-Independence fireworks display a week and a half after Independence. So it won’t be in August and it won’t be in the Oval but a CPL 2020 final next week Thursday featuring Pollard’s Knight Riders and Russell’s Tallawahs is nothing short of a mouth-watering prospect.

Yesterday’s thundershowers set it up, limiting the Tallawahs to a single point against the already eliminated St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in their eighth game. They now need all four from their two remaining games to get above the Zouks—whom they take on in the last qualifying game on Sunday.

Here’s how yesterday’s action set things up nicely at the business end.

Photo: TKR batsman Kieron Pollard hits for six during CPL action against Barbados Tridents at the Queen’s Park Oval on 29 August 2020.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

Mathematically, Rayad Emrit’s St Kitts & Nevis Patriots could still get into the top four. Realistically speaking, however, given the requisite permutations, they were out of it even before the rain ruined the morning game.

How do you win just one of your first seven games and then suddenly out of nowhere find the wherewithal to pull out victories in your last three, including two against the so-far-unbeaten leaders?

Jason Holder’s Barbados Tridents’ slim hopes of qualification were really predicated on two losses for the Jamaica-based franchise and full points for them from their last two games. But not for the first time this season, their batsmen contrived to be dismissed for under 100, a target that proved no challenge for Chris Greene’s steadily improving Guyana Amazon Warriors to overhaul and secure their top four spot.

That easy six–wicket win in the afternoon game meant au revoir to the defending champions too. And confirmation of a place in the top four for Rovman Powell’s potentially-devastating-but-so-far-underperforming men.

Photo: Jamaica Tallawahs are yet to convince in the CPL 2020 competition.
(Copyright CPL 2020)

In stark contrast to the Pollard-led TKR, the first to qualify after winning their first eight matches, including two against the Jamaicans, Powell’s men have struggled. The dysfunction is there for all to see.

I could not help thinking of the parallels between them and the West Indies team that Frank Worrell took over and transformed into world-beaters.

Powell is a Black man but he is no Frank Worrell. And his seemingly hands-off laid-back every-man-for-himself leadership style simply has not inspired those in his charge. Not to mention his continuing failures with the bat.

It’s really hard to see why a batting line-up that includes the hard-hitting skipper, Russell and Carlos Brathwaite as well as the consistent Glen Phillips could so consistently fail to fire. Indeed, when the Warriors dismissed them for a mere 107 in pursuit of 118 in Match 8, that total was at the time the lowest ever defended in the CPL.

However, given a perhaps unexpected chance at redemption, Powell’s men cannot be expected to squander it. Which means that Daren Sammy’s back-pedalling Zouks have a major challenge on their hands.

Photo St Lucia Zouks bowler Kesrick Williams (left) successfully appeals for the wicket of Barbados Tridents captain Jason Holder during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval on 30 August 2020.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

If they can surprise the supremely confident homesters in tomorrow’s early game, they will seal third place and potentially have the opportunity to do it again in the final.

If, however, as expected, Pollard’s men emerge victorious and the Tallawahs take care of the dispirited Tridents, the so-far-overachieving Zouks will have to defeat the Tallawahs in the final qualifying round game on Sunday to avoid the high-flying TKR in the semis.

Glorious uncertainties notwithstanding, it just is not going to happen. The final order of the top four, I confidently predict, will be TKR (20), GAW (12), JT (11) and SLZ (10).

Which means TKR vs Zouks and GAW vs JT semi-finals.

It’s not much of a challenge to predict the outcome of these matches; indeed, it would not be rash to style them mismatches.

Photo: GAW batsman Nicholas Pooran goes on the action during CPL 2020 action.
(Copyright CPL T20 2020)

Last year, the Guyanese played unbeaten throughout the qualifying rounds and fell only at the final hurdle. Their 2020 trajectory, however, has been quite different and, despite a slow start, they won their last three games on consecutive days by eight, seven and six wickets respectively.

Still, finding themselves in the final four despite having not fired all tournament, Powell’s men are likely to make Green’s men pay a heavy price for their early Match 8 embarrassment.

The Zouks’ troubles are far from over. They lack the solidity with the bat and the penetration with the ball to contend seriously. And Pollard’s troops know how to win and know that their absent-in-body-only fans expect them so to do, especially after last year’s disappointment. They have been astutely led and no less astutely managed so that their best XI have hit their best form at just the right moment.

And the likelihood is that the St Lucians will have the memory of a serious whipping fresh in their minds. The TKR leadership—nowhere in the CPL is there a better cricketing brain trust than the combination of Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum—rarely starts any game only after the toss.

Photo: TKR batsmen Kieron Pollard (left) and Khary Pierre exchange a bounce after getting runs off Barbados Tridents captain Jason Holder during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval on 29 August 2020.
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

So expect the first telling blows in this second semi-final to be delivered tomorrow morning in Match 27.

TKR’s batsmen will give the Zouks thunder, raining blows on them left, right and centre.

Weather permitting.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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