TRINBAGO Knight Riders (TKR) could not have asked for a more perfect start to the 2019 Hero Caribbean Premier League, as the injury plagued defending champions strolled to a seven-wicket victory over St Lucia Zouks at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair, yesterday.
Before yesterday’s win, TKR defeated St Kitts and Nevis Patriots on Wednesday by 11 runs and then got past Jamaica Tallawahs by 22 runs on Friday.
What has made the results more impressive for TKR is that the team is missing a number of their key players, who were instrumental in the team winning the title last year.
Dwayne Bravo, who has captained the TT franchise since the CPL began in 2013, will not play this season because of a finger injury. His brother Darren has not played this season after suffering a concussion while playing for West Indies a week ago and fast bowler Ali Khan has an ankle injury and only played against the Tallawahs.
Colin Munro, of New Zealand, did not play the first three matches because he was representing his country in a T20 series against Sri Lanka. TKR will get a boost,however, as the trio will be available for the team’s next match against Tallawahs at Sabina Park in Jamaica, on Friday.
Some of the players, who may not have been in the starting XI if those players were available, have taken their opportunity. Lendl Simmons, who was overlooked in the draft, joined TKR as a replacement for Munro and grabbed the spotlight with a top score of 63, yesterday.
Chasing a competitive 168 to win, Simmons steered TKR to victory with an entertaining display of stroke play.
After losing Sunil Narine (seven) and Tion Webster (three) cheaply, Simmons and the dependable Denesh Ramdin took the match away from the Zouks with a 72-run third wicket partnership.
Simmons played one of the shots of the day with a splendid cover drive for four off spinner Kavem Hodge as TKR progressed to 52/2 after six overs.
Zouks spinner Fawad Ahmed, who played for TKR last year, was punished by Simmons as the right-hander struck him for two sixes in one over.
Simmons brought up his 50 in the ninth over with Ramdin playing a solid supporting knock.
After TKR progressed to 81/2 in ten overs at the innings break the TKR pair pummelled Ahmed in the 11th over with 17 runs in the over.
Shortly after TKR crossed 100 Simmons was stumped by Andre Fletcher for 63 off 38 balls to give Hodge the wicket. Simmons struck five fours and five sixes.
When Pollard joined Ramdin the pair played cautiously, before a barrage of boundaries meant TKR simply needed 15 off 20 deliveries.
Ramdin got his half century and TKR sealed the contest immediately after getting to 168/3 in 17.5 overs.
Earlier, Rahkeem Cornwall was in destructive form almost single handedly getting Zouks to 41/0 after only three overs. He slammed one of the biggest sixes of the match when he struck fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain for a six in the upper level of the Carib Stand.
Cornwall’s onslaught came to an end when he was trapped leg before to Narine for 33 off 12 balls. The runs dried up for the Zouks as they progressed to 75/2 after ten overs.
TKR were not the best in the field as a couple drop catches and misfields cost them some runs.
After Fletcher fell for 26, Najibullah Zadran belted a quick 26 and John Campbell showed his quality with 43 to help Zouks to 167/5 in 20 overs. Zouks captain Darren Sammy played a cameo cracking 16 off 13 deliveries.
Fast bowler Jimmy Neesham continued his rich run of form taking 2/33 in four overs for TKR.