A captain’s innings of 26 runs off 9 deliveries gave the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) a second wind by qualifying to play in the semi-final, on Thursday, at the Brian Lara Stadium in Toruba! Sliding downhill at top speed in their previous six games, they managed to swerve away in time before hitting rock bottom.
It was a game full of tense moments on a testing pitch that the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots (SKNP) could only scrape together 125 runs, after the TKR captain, Kieron Pollard, asked them to have first knock after winning the toss.
The challenge at times was too much for the SKNP captain, Carlos Brathwaite, who lost his head after attempting to run out Lendl Simmons when the ball was obviously “dead”.’ He argued with the umpire who had to restrain the agitated Simmons from responding in kind. It was awful to witness such behaviour on a cricket field, especially from the captain of a team. What example is being set for the other players? And, just recently he was the West Indies T20 captain!
TKR had lost their footing in their fifth game after charging through the previous four with convincing victories. As coincidence would have it, the same opponent, SKNP, that stopped their winning rampage in the match with the super over, happened to be the very same team they were currently meeting in the eliminator race, TKR having slipped to fourth place and SKNP finishing third; both teams having been leapt over by Barbados Tridents. Hence,third and fourth met to see which one drops out of the competition.
It was a game that lacked the brightness and excitement of the reputation of a T20 battle but more than made up for it in its closing stages, in drama and intrigue, not forgetting the passion introduced by the Patriots skipper!
The re-introduction of the injured Sunil Narine, who has been suffering with a fracture of one of his spinning fingers and is reluctant to bowl, proved effective. It was one of the reasons that he declined selection to play in the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, because while he could take a chance in the 20-over game when he’s only called upon to bowl four overs, the same can’t be said for the 50-over match when he’ll have to bowl ten. It is reported that he’s hoping for a solution shortly.
However, Narine came to the rescue of TKR after missing a few games because of the injury. He was miserly in execution, allowing only ten runs in his four overs while out-manoeuvring two batsmen. This piece of excellent bowling is the reason why the Patriots stumbled to 125 for seven wickets in their 20 overs.
Although a total that might have appeared inadequate at first blush, it proved to be quite an effort to be conquered and in the end TKR triumphed with just eight balls to spare. It was Pollard’s fine knock at the end that put paid to the slim chances of the SKNP. Denesh Ramdin played a very experienced hand, never losing his composure, while quietly holding the end for Simmons, then the skipper; he lashed out at the end when it mattered and took the pressure off Pollard, hooking Sheldon Cottrell for six, then punishing him with a delightful straight drive for four!
Narine was the bowler of the game, finding a pitch to his liking that turned when the ball was given a firm spin, and that is Narine’s forte. He took full advantage of it with his unique ability to extract prodigious turn and with his mixture of deliveries, he had the batsmen guessing. His reputation would also play a big part, as a world class spinner with a great deal of mystery, making batsmen hesitant.
Now, onwards to the semi-final this week against Barbados Tridents and the million-dollar question is whether the mystery off-spinner from Arima will play, as I’m sure there will be doubt as to his fitness. Then again, lots of work will have to be done on his lame finger within the next four days.
The batting order, which was never stabilised throughout the tournament, would make no difference at the present time; that stage has been passed. So, I assume Narine would open, if fit, with the very out-of-touch Darren Bravo at three. And I expect Jimmy Neesham to replace the disappointing Seekkuge Prasanna, neither of whom lived up to expectations. That is the coach’s call.