TAROUBA, Trinidad – Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) clinched a record fourth Caribbean Premier League title when they made light work of St Lucia Zouks by eight wickets in last Thursday’s ’s final, to complete an historic unbeaten campaign in the franchise tournament.
Inspired by captain Kieron Pollard’s four-wicket haul, TKR withstood an early onslaught to restrict Zouks to 154 all out with five balls left in the innings, with Andre Fletcher top-scoring with a classy 39 off 27 deliveries.
And the target proved inadequate for star-studded TKR as opener Lendl Simmons blasted an unbeaten 84 from 49 deliveries with eight fours and four sixes and Darren Bravo, 58 not out off 47 balls with two fours and half-dozen sixes, to fire their side to victory with 11 balls remaining at the Brian Lara Stadium.
Zouks had early momentum when they reduced TKR to 19 for two in the fourth over but hopes of a maiden CPL title were then dashed as Simmons and Bravo combined in a third-wicket record stand of 138.
The triumph, before empty stands due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, added to previous conquests in 2015, 2017 and 2018, and Pollard said it had atoned for last year’s disappointment of bowing out at the semi-final stage.
“It is a great, great feeling. We have worked really, really hard for this,” said the 33-year-old who was voted Man-of-the-Series.
“Last year when we sat in that dressing room after that semi-final against Barbados, you could have seen the disappointment in the guys. We retained the core of our team and decided to have a different plan and we had some rigorous conversations.
“Right through the tournament, the guys just stuck to it – each and every time, each and every game wanting to improve as individuals and wanting to be the best that they can be and I think this one is really special because it was a total, total team effort.”
A downcast Zouks skipper Darren Sammy, meanwhile, conceded TKR had been too experienced for his untested unit, especially after they found themselves short of a really competitive total.
“We thought we were about 15 to 20 runs short from the start that we had, plus we didn’t completely [bat out our overs] and when you’re playing a side like TKR you have to at least make sure you make full use of your overs,” Sammy explained.
“But we still felt we had enough when we put that amount of pressure [on] in the first six overs but these guys have been playing together for a while and their experience showed.
“Bravo and Simmons have played so much cricket together and they held their nerve, absorbed some pressure and then they put it back on us.”
Sent in, Zouks dominated the power-play when they raced to 60 for one at the end of that period, with Fletcher undertaking the bulk of the scoring in a knock decorated with four fours and two sixes.
When Rahkeem Cornwall lost his middle stump to an Ali Khan (2-25) yorker in the second over for eight, Fletcher arrived to put on 67 for the second wicket with left-hander Mark Deyal who struck 29 from 27 balls with three fours and a six.
Fletcher looked in fine touch, smashing off-spinner Sikandar Raza for back-to-back sixes on either side of the wicket in the fourth over before twice uncorking sizzling extra cover drives in the sixth over from Ali Khan.
Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed (2-22) broke the stand in the ninth over when Deyal edged a cut to Dwayne Bravo at slip off the keeper’s gloves, as Zouks reached the half-way stage at 79 for two.
But thereafter, TKR controlled the game as Zouks managed only 75 runs from the last 10 overs, with Afghan left-hander Najibullah Zadran getting 24 and West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase chipping in with 22.
With the scoring rate having slowed, Fletcher hit out in frustration and was taken at long off in the 12th over to give Pollard (4-22) his first wicket and the wily slow medium bowler also broke a promising 26-run, fourth wicket stand between Chase and Najibullah when he got Chase to sky a simple catch to long on at the end of the 14th over.
Najibullah then carried the fight for Zouks as no one else reached double figures. He struck three fours and a six in an 18-ball knock but eventually holed out on the ropes at square leg off Pollard in the penultimate over to be one of the last five wickets to tumble for just 17 runs off 15 deliveries.
A contest then seemed in the making when Tion Webster (5) skied off-spinner Chase to mid-wicket in the third over and New Zealander Tim Seifert (4) nicked seamer Scott Kuggeleijn behind in the next.
But that was the Zouks’ last sighting of success. Simmons punched three fours in the sixth over from seamer Kesrick Williams that leaked 14 runs before reaching his half-century off 31 balls in the 12th over by taking 16 runs from another Williams over.
Bravo’s first scoring shot was a six over long on off Chase in the fifth over but was then content to support Simmons, and his next nine runs required 20 deliveries.
However, he came to life with a couple of sixes off leg-spinner Javelle Glen’s first over which cost 15 runs and then launched left-arm spinner Zahir Khan for two of three sixes in the 17th over which gushed 23 runs, to reach his half-century off 45 balls.
By then TKR needed only 18 runs from the last three overs and Simmons single-handedly took 16 from the 18th from Kuggeleijn, to put one hand on the title.