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CPL 2020: TKR thump Tallawahs, ready to trample Zouks in Thursday’s final

“Dive, dive nah, boy!”

I think I also heard an explosive expletive.

The yeller is Dwayne Bravo, the bowler; the yellee is his younger brother Darren, who is at mid-off. The occasion? Tuesday’s first semi-final of CPL 2020 at the Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba between Kieron Pollard’s TKR and Rovman Powell’s Jamaica Tallawahs.

Photo: Trinbago Knight Riders star Dwayne Bravo (left) is deep in thought alongside wicket keeper Denesh Ramdin during the 2017 CPL final against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on 9 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

The hard-hitting Carlos Brathwaite has just attempted to slog a delivery over the off-side boundary and only succeeds in lofting it high into the air. DJB’s impassioned scream fills the midday sky.

“Dive, dive nah, boy!”

Darren doesn’t. The ball drops to the turf.

“F***!”

At this stage, the Tallawahs’ score, incredibly, is 96 for 7!

When TKR win their third CPL trophy in four years on Thursday, it won’t be because of luck. Or bad umpiring. Or home advantage. It will be simply because they have been the best they can be. From start to finish. The record of their 11 results so far attests.

Before the semifinal, they had won all 10 of their previous games, only one by a narrow margin. Yesterday, they beat the hapless Jamaican outfit by nine wickets with five overs to spare, dismissing them for a mere 107.

Photo: TKR captain Kieron Pollard (centre) exchanges pleasantries with Lendl Simmons (right) and Tim Seifert in 2020 CPL action.
(Copyright CPL 2020)

You’d never guess that from the post-match interview.

“We have come here and played fantastic cricket throughout the tournament,” says the TKR skipper, “and we need the cherry on top of it.”

That is for the interviewer.

“We have to keep it level, enjoy our victory as we’ve been doing all tournament but still come back Thursday and play a better game than we did today.” (my emphasis)

That is to the interviewer but for his team. And it’s not just a sound bite; ominously for Daren Sammy’s Zouks, who disposed of Chris Green’s Guyana Amazon Warriors in the later mismatch, Polly means every word.

TKR never, it bears repeating, start any game after the toss. So without knowing who they are, Pollard sends this message to Thursday’s opponents through the interviewer:

Photo: TKR’s Akeal Hosein settles under the ball and snaffles a chance
offered by St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Denesh Ramdin ( not
in picture) during the teams’ CPL league match at the Brian Lara
Academy in Tarouba on 2 September, 2020. TKR won by 59 runs.
(Copyright CPL 2020)

“Looking around the dressing room, you don’t see overconfidence. You see guys who want to improve each and every time out.”

Among them is Akeal Hosein, whose 3 for 14 took the game away from the visitors and earned him the Player-of-the-Match award. Although Pollard was not the skipper in every one of his 500+ T20 matches, he is the finished product. Ticking every important box, he sends a public box of goodies the way of his 27-year-old left-arm finger-spinner.

“Akeal has been around a very long time. […] He didn’t start the tournament and he was dejected but knowing fully well what his role was going to be. He has come in and taken his opportunity and continues each and every game to improve.”

Had I been present in the flesh, my eyes would have been seeking out the doubtless beaming Hosein. In the event, seated before my television set, I immediately thought of WI captain, Jason Holder. Polly was ticking a box that, one sensed, not too many others were even aware of.

As Alex Jordan pointed out to unbeaten top-scorer Lendl Simmons, the final TKR score had read 111 for 1, Nelson. A bad augury? How many teams have gone through an entire tournament without one bad game?

What if…?

Photo: TKR batsman Lendl Simmons goes on the attack during CPL 2019 action against St Lucia Zouks at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“We haven’t seen the other side of him,” Polly advised, still discussing Hosein. “I think he’s a better batsman than a bowler.”

Yes, you bowled well today, my man, is Polly’s message. But we might need you to bat well on Thursday. Don’t you lose sight of that!

Pollard’s opposite number really could find little to say to explain the abject performance of his side—in the tournament or on the day. He conceded that losing the toss had had little to do with it—he would, he said, probably have batted even if he had called right.

He avoided any mention of the horrible umpiring error that had accounted for his side’s talisman, Andre Russell, at a crucial moment in the game.

“It’s just that we lost four wickets in the powerplay,” he said. “The stats show that when you lose four wickets in the powerplay, it generally ends in defeat.”

Photo: Gifted Jamaica Tallawahs all-rounder Andre Russell.

What we were hoping to hear is not what we already knew had happened but the reasons for it.

“It was a lot of inconsistent cricket,” he went on, offering none of the requisite explanation. “The batters didn’t stand up all season. We asked our international batters to bat most of the overs and we just didn’t do that.”

On TV, Daren Ganga noted early that Powell’s side contained not a single left-hander. Not that there were no options. Young Nicholas Kirton had looked good in making 25 off 15 balls on Sunday.

Polly would subsequently explain that TKR had looked at the Tallawahs line-up and seen only ‘batsmen who like the ball coming onto the bat’.

Thus, ‘you saw 16 overs of spin bowling today’.

Despite his ground-breaking 500+ T20 scalps, DJ Bravo used only three of his quota today. Presumably needing a proper workout after his injury, Ali Khan got only the final over.

“I wouldn’t change a lot,” Powell admitted. He never does, does he?

Photo: TKR’s Kieron Pollard celebrates the dismissal of GAW’s Ross Taylor during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval on 27 August 2020
(Copyright Randy Brooks/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

A ship with Powell at the helm, CPL 2020 has shown, is a ship on automatic pilot.

Which in my view, explains why the Tallawahs campaign never quite got off the ground in the league phase. And, despite the slate being wiped clean after Sunday’s matches, they still simply did not look the part today.

One hopes the Zouks will provide a better contest in Thursday’s 10am final. But Pollard’s mean machine is operating with maximum efficiency so one feels there can only be one winner.

Barring an act of God.

Or obeah.

Semifinal scores:

Semi 1: TKR won by 9 wkts

JT: 107 for 7 (N .Bonner 41, R Powell 33) vs TKR 111 for 1 (L Simmons 54*, T Webster  44*)

Semi 2: Zouks won by 10 wkts.

GAW: 55 (C Hemraj 25) vs St Lucia Zouks (R Cornwall 32 no)

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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