In a format that’s so fickle, Trinbago Knight Riders have been flawless, sweeping the league stage with ten victories in as many matches. No Sunil Narine? No problem. Left-arm fingerspinners Khary Pierre and Akeal Hosein have made inroads with the new ball while Tion Webster has filled in at the top with the bat.
No Colin Munro? No problem again. Fellow New Zealander Tim Seifert, an instinctively aggressive batsman, has tailored his game to suit the turning tracks in Trinidad and then there’s Darren Bravo, who has reinvented himself as a strong white-ball middle-order batsman over the past few CPL seasons. No Ali Khan? No problem once again. Eighteen-year-old Jayden Seales has been among the wickets. Indian legspinner Pravin Tambe, who is 30 years older than Seales, has been throwing himself on the field in addition to being tidy with the ball.
Fawad Ahmed, Sikandar Raza and Lendl Simmons have had their moments as well. Throw the experience of captain Kieron Pollard, his predecessor Dwayne Bravo, and head coach Brendon McCullum into the mix, you get a world-beating T20 franchise. Every member of the Knight Riders’ roster has got a game, but nobody has been dropped for performance or the lack thereof, according to Pollard. The overwhelming home advantage – the entire tournament has been played in Trinidad in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – has helped them as well. While the injured Munro is doubtful for the playoffs, Narine, who has recovered from kidney stones, is set to slot back into the XI.
Facing the unenviable task of stopping the Knight Riders juggernaut are Rovman Powell‘s Jamaica Tallawahs, who, in contrast, have sneaked into the semi-finals by virtue of just three wins at a superior net run-rate than last year’s champions Barbados Tridents. They have Andre Russell, Asif Ali, and Carlos Brathwaite in their middle order, but have often gone bust rather than boom this season. After they were 84 for 0 against Daren Sammy’s St Lucia Zouks, they botched a chase of 146, suffering another meltdown.
Their bowling attack, however, looks in much healthier shape, with Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane showing Tallawahs – and other spinners – the way. They’ve collected 27 wickets between them and if they keep it up on Tuesday, Tallawahs will have a better chance of toppling Knight Riders, who won’t have the luxury of another crack at the final this season despite finishing as league leaders.
Trinbago Knight Riders WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Jamaica Tallawahs LLLWL
In the spotlight
Most sixes in the tournament: check. Wickets with the ball: check. Kieron Pollard has had another bumper CPL, hitting peak form, ahead of the IPL in the UAE. His tactics as captain have also been savvy, especially on the field where it seems he uses data from one-on-one match-ups to enhance his bowlers’ threat. At some points in the tournament, he has even stationed himself at short leg or silly-point to empower his spinners.
In a Tallawahs line-up filled with hit-or-miss batsmen, Glenn Phillips has been the failsafe, emerging as the top-scorer, with 314 runs in nine innings at a strike rate of 127.64. He might be in a direct shootout against Seifert on Tuesday. His CPL runs often help him find a place in New Zealand’s winter-training camps, but a big performance in a big game could now push him straight into the Black Caps playing XI.
Munro said on TV commentary that he’s unlikely to be available for the knockouts, having missed the weekend matches as well. USA quick Ali Khan, though, has recovered from his hamstring injury and returned to action against St Kitts & Nevis Patriots on Sunday. He might still have to tussle with Hosein for a spot in the semi-final.
Trinbago Knight Riders (probable): 1 Sunil Narine, 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Tim Seifert (wk), 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard (capt), 6 DJ Bravo, 7 Sikandar Raza, 8 Fawad Ahmed, 9 Khary Pierre, 10 Akeal Hosein/Ali Khan, 11 Jayden Seales
Russell marked his return from a knee flare-up with back-to-back half-centuries before bagging a duck against Zouks. It remains to be seen whether he’s fit enough to bowl, though. Depending on that, Tallawahs might have to choose between spinner Veerasammy Permaul and seamer Oshane Thomas.
Jamaica Tallawahs (probable): 1 Glenn Phillips (wk), 2 Jermaine Blackwood, 3 Chadwick Walton/Nkrumah Bonner/Nicholas Kirton 4 Rovman Powell (capt), 5 Andre Russell, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Carlos Brathwaite, 8 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 9 Sandeep Lamichhane, 10 Fidel Edwards, 11 Veerasammy Permaul/Oshane Thomas
Pitch and conditions
The pitches for the final week at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy have been more batting-friendly than the ones that were rolled out for the first leg of the tournament. However, they will still be some assistance for the slower bowlers.
Stats and trivia
Russell has an awesome record against Knight Riders: 565 runs in 15 innings at an average of 56.50 and strike rate of 191.52 in addition to 20 wickets. The numbers include a century and hat-trick on captaincy debut.
There’s not much to separate Knight Riders and Tallawahs at this point: they’ve faced each other 18 times with a 9-9 record. Knight Riders have a stronger record in Trinidad, though, winning six out of their ten matches against Tallawahs.
“Andre is the world’s best allrounder and world’s best allrounder for a reason.”
Enough said Rovman Powell
“It’s not something that we envisioned. We just spoke about having to play 12 games this tournament and being the best that we can be for 12 games. Ten out of ten is magnificent and all credit must go to the support staff, the players, and each and every one of us who came day in and day out.”
Kieron Pollard on Knight Riders’ winning streak