They left it late. But in the end, Kieron Pollard’s Trinbago Knight Riders reversed the result of Saturday evening’s match-up against Dwayne Bravo’s St Kitts and Nevis Patriots and finished on top of the 2021 CPL group stage table.
The four-wicket victory they carved out at Warner Park in St Kitts on Sunday evening, thanks largely to a hard-hit, boundary studded, 22-ball half-century by their skipper, means that they will be up against the number four qualifiers, the St Lucia Kings, in Tuesday’s first semi-final.
And in the second semi-final, Bravo and the Patriots will have their hands full with Nicholas Pooran’s Guyana Amazon Warriors, who already got the better of TKR twice this season.
The Warriors came back from the dead to beat Rovman Powell’s now eliminated Jamaica Tallawahs by 14 runs. It was not David and his sling, however, that the Warriors have to thank for slaying the Jamaican giants; it was another shepherd boy, Romario Shepherd (72 off 31 balls).
The 26-year-old Shepherd came to the wicket at 53 for 5 in the 10th over with his team, having opted to bat first, looking for all the world out of the semis. Four overs later, he was floored by a bouncer to the helmet from Tallawahs pacer Fidel Edwards.
The concussion protocols completed, the all-rounder, fast replacing the tag ‘emerging’ with a new one, ‘genuine’, eventually got back to his feet.
TWOK. TWOK. TWOK. He dispatched the next three balls he faced, two from Edwards and one from Russell, for huge sixes.
Racing to his half-century off 34 balls, he eventually ended with six huge sixes and seven fours in an unbroken 67-run partnership with left-arm orthodox spinner Gudakesh Motie, whose contribution was five. To be fair, Shepherd consistently turned down singles, preferring not to expose his partner to the possibility of dismissal.
When the pair returned to the pavilion, there were a defensible 142 runs on the board and the Tallawahs were as emotionally battered as the Philistines that day when Goliath fell dead.
But this Shepherd boy’s work was not done.
Imran Tahir bowled power-hitter Kennar Lewis with the first ball of the second over. Chadwick Walton, Lewis’ opening partner, got to 20 off 17 balls. But by the end of the eighth over, the batting was already gutted. Shamarh Brooks (8 off 11), Rovman Powell (3 off 4), and Imad Wasim (3 off 5) were all dismissed before the total got to 50, the last two falling to Shepherd (3/31).
And when the Man-of-the-Match removed Andre Russell (19 off 12) in over #13 after Odean Smith (3/20) had accounted for Carlos Brathwaite (15 off 15) in the 12th. Chris Green kept the Tallawahs supporters interested, with a 31 containing three sixes and a four.
It went down to the wire, with a gettable 15 needed off the last over—early rain had reduced the match to an 18-overs-per-side affair. But the fat lady had really begun to sing a reggae version of ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ for the benefit of Powell’s men after Shepherd had had Russell caught by a jubilant Pooran on the long-on boundary.
The TKR versus SKNP showdown was nowhere near as one-sided.
Pollard won the toss and gave Bravo’s men first use of the pitch which looked as good as any pitch has for the season.
And when they were out for a modest sub-150 total, he took matters into his own hands and almost took his side home.
Coming in at number five at 52 for 3, skipper Pollard (51 off 22, 5 x 6, 3 x 4) broke the shackles. He smashed huge sixes off Jon-Russ Jaggesar’s third over, which went for 23, and looked as if he intended to end the game in a hurry. His partnership with Bravo the Younger was worth 50 off 20 balls, DM Bravo contributing 1 to it!
Dominic Drakes eventually ended the muscular all-rounder’s stay with 33 still needed off the last five overs and some. And this time, his men did not let him down.
Promoted to open for SKNP, Joshua da Silva (50 off 45) looked the part early, getting a convincing half-century to lead the charge for his side. But there was no celebratory success for Chris Gayle (5 off 4), dismissed in the second over caught by wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin off Gayle’s fellow World Cup selectee, Ravi Rampaul.
Da Silva’s second (44) and third-wicket (39) partnerships with Jonathan Carter (16 off 16) and Sherfane Rutherford (25 off 28) saw the home side safely past the 100 mark by the 14th over. But despite a 25 off 13 from skipper Bravo, the hoped-for acceleration never came thereafter, Pollard ringing in the changes and keeping the restraints on the SKNP batsmen.
Rampaul finished with only 1 for 31 this time but Ali Khan (3/19) and Isuru Udana (2/28) were on hand to provide support.
Set 147 to get for a much-needed win, TKR started slowly. Lendl Simmons (20 off 17) and Ramdin (17 off 23), the second Trinidadian promoted to open in the match, had only managed 34 when Simmons fell to an excellent one-handed catch by Fabian Allen in the covers in the last over of the Powerplay.
Neither Darren Bravo (1 off 7) nor Colin Munro (9 off 16) could make rapid progress against the spin of Fawad Ahmed (2/16) and Jaggesar (1/64). But Pollard changed that.
When Tim Seifert (11 off 12) uncharacteristically gave his hand away, smartly stumped by da Silva off Allen, Udana (25* off 16) used the long handle to good effect.
That ensured that Bravo the Elder will have something to remember him by if and when SKNP contrive to get that far into the TKR order in Wednesday’s dream final.
Toss: Trinbago Knight Riders
SKNP: 147 for 7 (Joshua da Silva 50, Sherfane Rutherford 25, Dwayne Bravo 25, Ali Khan 3/19, Isuru Udana 2/28)
TKR: 150 for 6 (Kieron Pollard 51, Isuru Udana 25*, Fawad Ahmed 2/16)
Man-of-the-Match: Kieron Pollard (TKR)
Result: TKR win by 4 wkts
Points: TKR 2 SKNP 0
FINAL POINTS TABLE
TEAMS P W L T NR Pts NRR
TKR 10 6 4 0 0 12 0.700
GA/Warriors 10 6 4 0 0 12 0.109
SKN/Patriots 10 6 4 0 0 12 -0.328
St L/Kings 10 5 5 0 0 10 -0.159
J/Tallawahs 10 4 6 0 0 8 0.124
B/Royals 10 3 7 0 0 6 -0.520
SCHEDULE OF REMAINING GAMES
Tues 14, 10am; Semi-final A—TKR vs SLK
Tues 14, 2.30pm: Semi-final B—GAW vs SKNP
Wed 15: 10am: Final—Winner A vs Winner B
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