FORMER Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies fast bowler Tony Gray believes two victories for Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) at Brian Lara Cricket Academy over the weekend will help the team’s quest to qualify for the playoffs in the 2022 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 tournament.
TKR have been inconsistent this season and are fourth in the six-team standings with two wins, three losses and one no result.
TKR began their home leg of the tournament with a defeat against Barbados Royals at the Queen’s Park Oval in St Clair, on Tuesday.
A day later, TKR bounced back and got past Guyana Amazon Warriors by 26 runs at the oval.
TKR will move into the top half of the table with back-to-back victories on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, TKR will face Jamaica Tallawahs at 7 pm and will then tackle St Lucia Kings on Sunday, at 7 pm.
TKR defeated Amazon Warriors fairly comfortably on Wednesday, but Gray said the Amazon Warriors will be tough to defeat in Guyana with spinners Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi in the team.
Asked how crucial the last two home games are for TKR, Gray said, “I think very crucial because when you get to Guyana, Guyana has always been very strong in Guyana, especially with the pitches at Providence (Stadium).”
Gray said the wicket at Providence will be conducive to spin bowling and TKR batsmen have struggled against spin.
“We have to maximise home advantage…it is imperative that we win the next two games, but when we go to Guyana it is going to be exceptionally hard with the spin twins (Tahir/Shamsi) that they have. (They are) world class bowlers.”
TKR’s batting has not turned heads yet in this tournament.
Captain Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell have struggled throughout the tournament and Nicholas Pooran’s half century against Royals on Tuesday was his only significant score.
Tion Webster and the New Zealand pair of Tim Seifert and Colin Munro have all been inconsistent.
“I think when you look at the bowling it is well balanced, (but) I think the batting has to improve. It is obviously about momentum. They have the firepower, they have the experience, they have the talent there.”
Gray called on the senior cricketers in the team like Pollard, Russell and Pooran to deliver more regularly.
“I think the batting has to be stronger than that and the senior players have to contribute a little bit more going forward if they are to challenge to win the title this year. I think the batting has to come good.”
Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein returned to the team for the clash against Amazon Warriors on Wednesday. Gray said Hosein’s recovery from a groin injury will boost TKR’s chances as the team now has two quality spinners with Narine showing his pedigree. Hosein got injured in TKR’s opening match of the tournament.
This weekend will prove crucial in the push for the four playoff spots as the teams are closely bunched.
Second placed Jamaica Tallawahs and last placed Amazon Warriors are only separated by five points.
In the opening match at Brian Lara Cricket Academy on Saturday, third placed St Kitts and Nevis Patriots will play fifth placed St Lucia Kings at 10 am.
The Kings had a mediocre run in their four matches at home winning two of four matches.
Defending champions Patriots, a team with many TT players in their squad, will look to capitalise on familiar conditions.
Captain Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis, Joshua Da Silva and Jon-Russ Jaggesar are the TT players in the team.
WEEKEND FIXTURES (Brian Lara Cricket Academy)
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots vs St Lucia Kings, 10 am
Jamaica Tallawahs vs TKR, 7 pm
Barbados Royals vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, 10 am
St Lucia Kings vs TKR, 7 pm