Sunday 27th July 2014 – Port of Spain, Trinidad. Another fantastic crowd at the Queen’s Park Oval saw a comprehensive victory by the Trinidad &Tobago Red Steel over the St. Lucia Zouks in the Limacol Caribbean Premier League. The carnival atmosphere in the crowd spilled over onto the field as the home team easily overcame their opponents, winning by nine wickets thanks to an opening stand of 129 between Kevin O’Brien and Evin Lewis. An excellent innings from Darren Sammy was the only real highlight for the Zouks as they remained rooted to the bottom of the CPL table. The Red Steel moved clear at the top of the league as they completed victory with 32 balls to spare.
Once again the Red Steel’s Samuel Badree was a difficult prospect inside the Powerplay. With an expectation that sides will make the most of the fielding restrictions, there is pressure to attack the wily leg spinner. Unfortunately those kinds of risks are not an easy prospect against someone as skilled as Badree. Johnson Charles looked to be finding some rhythm when he ran past a Badree wrong’un. He picked up the wicket of the other opener when Andre Fletcher played for turn that wasn’t there and lost his middle stump. It was the bowler’s 100th wicket in Twenty20 cricket.
In an attempt to keep the momentum going inside the fielding restrictions, the Zouks promoted Roelof van der Merwe up the order. With a highest score of 18 since March 2013, this represented a risk, but the South African did a decent job in the pinch hitter’s role. He reached 21 before he sliced the ball into the hands of Badree on the third man boundary off the bowling of Javon Searles.
When a rebuilding effort was needed, Keddy Lesporis decided that attack was the way forward. He had hit two sixes in his innings of 20, but then tried an overambitious heave against a Dwayne Bravo yorker that he inside edged on to his stumps. That left the Zouks struggling at 70-4 at the halfway stage of their innings, and all the pressure was on Sammy to get them up to a competitive total.
Sammy should have departed LBW for five when he was struck on the pads plumb in front of the stumps by Sulieman Benn. The umpire turned down the appeal, and it was difficult to understand why. He made the most of the let off as he went on to top score for his team with 46 not out. Sammy is a finisher, with the top order failing he is not able to play with the attacking intent that makes him so dangerous.
Sammy combined with Tonito Willett for the biggest partnership for the Zouks; that it was just 27 runs shows what a stop-start affair this St. Lucia batting effort became. Willett departed for ten, caught brilliantly at mid-wicket by Ross Taylor. The ball was timed superbly and Taylor leapt to his left to claim the catch one handed.
More indifferent batting saw wickets continue to tumble. First Sohail Tanvir hit the ball straight up in the air, then Mervin Mathew and Shane Shillingford were short of their ground thanks to some lazy running. The only man that seemed to do his captain justice was Ray Jordan, who did a good job at getting Sammy back at the strikers end, even sacrificing his wicket to give the set batsman the bowling.
From the very beginning of their innings, the Red Steel made the Zouks regret their poor batting display. Fresh from recording his highest T20 score in his last match, Evin Lewis continued his brilliant form as he brought up his half century off just 24 deliveries. He finished on 77 to record his personal best in successive innings.
The game was all but lost before the half way stage of the Trinidad & Tobago innings, but the Zouks did not help themselves in the field with sloppiness and spurned chances. Debutant Ray Jordan was denied his first ever wicket in senior cricket when Mervin Mathew dropped an easy chance off Lewis on the cover boundary.
Lewis could not quite see the job all the way through to its conclusion as he was caught going for yet another six. Despite scoring 55 not out in a match winning partnership, Kevin O’Brien was very much the junior partner to Lewis in this innings. Perhaps the highlight of the Irishman’s knock was the one handed shot for six over long on, but young Lewis was the star of the show.
The evening was summed up for the St. Lucians as O’Brien was out stumped off a no ball from Shillingford. The resulting free hit saw the Red Steel score the winning runs to wrap up a resounding victory.