Sheldon Cottrell on Thursday creamed the last ball of Ashley Nurse’s 20th over beyond the boundary at St Kitts’ Warner Park to send his St Kitts and Nevis Patriots team-mates and the home crowd into a frenzy. Mere minutes before, defeat had looked a near certainty for Dwayne Bravo’s side, who have now amassed a perfect ten points from their five completed matches in the 2015 CPL.
At 95 for 2 in the 14th over chasing 161 for a fifth successive win, the Patriots were completely untroubled about the outcome of their game against the unfancied Barbados Royals.
Eight balls later, they were 98 for 6.
No problem for skipper Bravo (9 off 7, 1 x 6), Dominic Drakes (28 off 1, I x 6, 3 x 4) and Man-of-the-Match Cottrell (20 off 7, 1 x 6, 3 x 4). But the threesome got some much-needed help from Royals skipper Jason Holder.
Put in on what played like the best cricket pitch so far this season, the Royals could only find four batsmen to reach double figures. Opener Johnson Charles (30 off 26, 2 x 6, 2 x 4) and new boy 28-year-old Indian Samit Patel (54 off 48, 2 x 6, 3 x 4), though, accounted for more than 50% of the team score.
Both Glenn Phillips (11 off 12) and Holder (19 off 7) were stopped in their tracks by brilliant bits of Patriots fielding. A sprinting Cottrell rose very high at long-off to pull down a left-handed stunner and cut a promising third-wicket partnership between Phillips and Patel short at 25.
And Naseem Shah ended Holder’s aggressive innings, picking up cleanly and throwing the stumps down from short extra-cover as the batsmen tried to steal a quick single. The second half of the batting hardly troubled the scorers as the overs ran out at 160 for 8.
As usual, Bravo (4/26) claimed a chunk of the spoils and Paul van Meekeren ended with 2/36.
So with 161 still 10 away in the final over of the game, deposed WI Test and ODI captain Holder perhaps understandably spurned the left-arm medium pace of Raymon Reifer (3-0-34-2), who had given up a critical 21 runs in over #17. But he also said no to the express pace of WI pacer Oshane Thomas (3-0-22-0), who had registered 11 dot balls in his three completed overs.
As Bravo made certain to point out in the post-match interview, with numbers 8 and 9 at the wicket, it was surely a mistake to turn your back on what Thomas had to offer in favour of Nurse’s comparatively friendly right-arm off-spin.
Still, the move almost paid dividends. Cottrell faced a dot ball before getting a single. Drakes then clouted ball three to within mere inches of the forward-lunging Holder down at long-on. The disappointed Royals skipper turned to see the ball elude him and roll into the boundary ropes.
Nurse then seemed to have justified his captain’s faith in him; he bowled Drakes neck and crop with ball four. Five needed off two balls for a famous win.
Naseem took a single off his first ball. Four needed off one.
Cottrell helped himself to six.
Before that, after Reifer had Devon Thomas caught by Holder at long-on to end his uncharacteristically patient 26, promoted finisher Fabian Allen (3 off 4), a scratchy rather than fluent Chris Gayle (42 off 39), the high-flying Sherfane Rutherford (1 off 2) and a still indeterminate Ravi Bopara (1 off 2) all went back to the pavilion in quick succession, long-off and long-on kept busy pouching balls falling out of the night sky.
New boy Jake Lintott (4-0-28-2) impressed with his left-arm wrist spin, claiming two of those four scalps. As did almost 21-year-old fast-medium debutant Nyeem Young (3/26).
But Bravo and Drakes took the long handle to Reifer to stitch together a 29-run seventh-wicket partnership and make the deficit 31 with three overs left.
When long-on Holder caught Bravo off Young, an arresting image showed Thomas, Rutherford, Lewis and Gayle looking like a fraternal foursome at their beloved father’s funeral.
But Drakes still had a trick or two up his sleeve, getting 18 off Holder (0/22) in over #19.
And with Holder’s help, Cottrell finished the job.
So for the men in blue, things are looking quite brown. They have a solitary win from their five completed games and, after Friday’s rest day, they are in the fray again in the late game on Saturday when they take on fourth-placed Guyana Amazon Warriors.
Another defeat would spell disaster, especially if the St Lucia Kings can succeed where the Royals failed and contrive to stop the runaway train that is the Patriots in the morning match-up.
But nothing is to be taken for granted. Hugely entertaining so far, CPL 2021 has already had its fair share of upsets. Still no one should be surprised if the tournament ends with a final pitting TKR, currently led by former Barbados Tridents captain Kieron Pollard, against the Patriots, whose current captain was Pollard’s predecessor at TKR.
Given the inherent tensions and the high stakes, titanic might be an understatement.
Toss: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots
Barbados Royals: 160 for 8 (Smit Patel 54, Johnson Charles 30, Dwayne Bravo 4/26, Paul van Meekeren 2/36)
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots: 163 for 8 (Chris Gayle 42, Devon Thomas 26, Dominic Drakes 28, Sheldon Cottrell 20, Nyeem Young 3/26, Raymon Reifer 2/34, Jake Lintott 2/28)
Man-of-the-Match: Sheldon Cottrell (SKNP)
Result: SKNP win by two wickets
Points: SKNP 2 BR 0
TEAMS P W L T NR Pts
SKN/Patriots 5 5 0 0 0 10
J/Tallawahs 4 2 2 0 0 4
TKR 5 2 3 0 0 4
GA/Warriors 5 2 3 0 0 4
St L/Kings 4 2 2 0 0 4
B/Royals 5 1 4 0 0 2