AN INSPIRED bowling performance from defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders last night lifted them past the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots by 20 runs and into Sunday's Hero Caribbean Premier League final at the Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba. The Knight Riders will face Guyana Amazon Warriors at 5pm on Sunday for the 2018 crown.
Last night, however, TKR refused to be beaten and asserted themselves despite a sluggish performance with the bat where they posted 165/6 from their 20 overs.
The Knight Riders, led by their star spinners Sunil Narine (2/21) and Fawad Ahmed (3/13) - but backed up by the brilliant quickie Ali Khan (1/24) - applied pressure on the visitors throughout the evening and the Patriots were found severely wanting, slumping to 145/8 when overs ran out.
Khan set the tone, sending Patriots captain and T20 superstar Chris Gayle back to the pavilion for duck in the first over. With the head of the proverbial snake cut off, Patriots lost their way as Dwayne Bravo's astute bowling changes brought rewards in the form of wickets.
Ahmed should have had Devon Thomas caught first ball of the second over but McCullum spilled a low catch at short mid-on.
Thomas countered in the 5th over, carving an ineffective Anderson Phillip for three straight boundaries in an over that went for 17.
Bravo introduced leg-spinner Colin Ingram into the attack and he got the wicket of Thomas bowled for 35 after being hit for the maximum earlier in the over.
Wickets began to tumble with Narine and Ahmed strangling the Patriots batsmen with probing deliveries.
Narine had Rassie van der Dussen caught and bowled for 14 in the 8th over as Patriots reached 63/3 at the halfway stage.
Dwayne, who has not been at his best with the ball, started poorly in the 11th over, leaking back-to-back boundaries to Brandon King. But next over, Ahmed struck with the scalp of Evin Lewis (4), top edging a sweep to Munro who ran in from deep midwicket to take the catch as Patriots slipped to 75/4.
Narine was at his best too and removed the dangerous King out bowled for a well-played 33. Ahmed then turned the match entirely in TKR's favour with a double strike in the 15th over with the wickets of Anton Devcich (6) and Ben Cutting (2) to snatch the heart of the Patriots. Despite some late hitting from Fabian Allen and Carlos Brathwaite, TKR maintained their discipline to close out a professional performance and keep alive their dream of retaining the CPL title in front their fans.
Inserted in to bat after Patriots captain Chris Gayle won the toss, TKR struggled to score freely but got decent contributions from Brendon McCullum (43), Colin Munro (29), Denesh Ramdin (27 not out), Dwayne Bravo (24) and Darren Bravo (20) to give Patriots something to think about.
Summarised Scores: TKR 165/6 - Brendon McCullum 43, Colin Munro 29, Denesh Ramdin 27 not out, Dwayne Bravo 24 and Darren Bravo 20, Sheldon Cottrell 2/24 vs ST KITTS AND NEVIS PATRIOTS 145/8 - Devon Thomas 35, Brandon King 33, Fabian Allen 32, Fawad Ahmed 3/13, Sunil Narine 2/21.