Thursday 17th July 2014 – St. John’s, Antigua: The reigning Limacol Caribbean Premier League champions, the Jamaica Tallawahs, brushed aside the Antigua Hawksbills in a comprehensive eight wicket victory at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at North Sound. Chris Gayle continued his stellar form from the opening game with a match winning 37 off 31 balls as his team cruised to victory with more than five overs to spare in a match where there was only one winner from as early as the second over.
Regular wickets prevented the Hawksbills from building any meaningful partnerships in their innings, with the left arm spin of Nikita Miller and Daniel Vettori causing the most damage. Vettori showed all of his experience in an opening spell of three overs that saw him concede just 11 runs while picking up two wickets. When the New Zealander returned to complete his allocation he was just as miserly, picking up another wicket to finish with figures of 3-13 off his four overs. He already seems a more than adequate replacement for Sri Lankan great, Muttiah Muralitharan.
Miller was as effective, continuing where Vettori had left off in keeping the scoring rate in check. The pressure that he helped build up led to Ben Dunk taking a single that just wasn’t there to see him run out for 12 runs off 21 balls. With his departure the chances of the Hawksbills setting a competitive total went with him as the home side were left reeling at 42 for five.
From that point onwards, some spirited but ultimately futile resistance from the lower order saw Antigua lurch towards three figures, but ultimately they set a target of just 97 to win. If not for a cameo from fast bowler, Sheldon Cottrell, it could have been worse, as he top scored with 21 in an innings that included one of only two sixes that his team managed.
At the half way stage the Tallawahs would have had some concerns about the variable bounce and spin being hard to get away on this pitch making the chase hard work. As it was the Hawksbills bowlers could not exert the same control that the Jamaicans had managed.
The Tallawahs were dismissive of anything short, and the Hawksbills quicks used the bouncer far too often, most notably Miguel Cummins who was struck for three consecutive sixes by Gayle in one over, all of them pulled well in front of square.
Despite the spinners being the most successful option for the Tallawahs it was not until the eighth over that Australian veteran wrist spinner Brad Hogg was introduced into the attack by home captain Marlon Samuels. By then the visitors were more than half way to their target with the two openers well set. When Hogg did get a go he too was guilty of bowling that was more half tracker than a good length.
Gayle fell to a Carlos Brathwaite slower ball, but by then the game was all but won. When Jermaine Blackwood fell just two balls later there was the chance of a hiccup by the Tallawahs, but steady batting by Chadwick Walton, who top scored with 43 not out, and Adam Voges saw them home.
A comfortable win for the current holders leaves them with two wins from two and sitting on top of the nascent points table. When they face the Guyana Amazon Warriors in their next match they will be full of confidence. With the Hawksbills losing both opening fixtures they will be hoping to make home advantage count for their matches on Saturday and Sunday.