By Zaheer Mohamed
The eight edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is heading for an exciting climax with two exciting semi final matches set for today at the Brian Lara Stadium.
Unbeaten Trinbago Knight Riders will take on unpredictable Jamaica Tallawahs in the first semi final from 10:00hrs while a rejuvenated Guyana Amazon Warriors will face the vastly improving St. Lucia Zouks in the second encounter from 17:30hrs.
Five-time finalists, the Warriors have been peaking at the right time and they are firm favourites to win this encounter, but cannot take Darren Sammy’s men lightly. Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran appear to be back at their best. Hetmyer is the leading West Indian run-scorer in the competition so far, with 267, only bettered by New Zealand’s Glenn Phillips, Nicholas Pooran’s maiden T20 hundred against Patriots will be remembered for a very long time. The Warriors will be hoping for a decent start from Brandon King and Chandrapaul Hemraj as well as the return to form of Sherfane Rutherford. Romario Shepherd and Keemo Paul have done well and will be looking to better their performances today, while Imran Tahir has taken 15 wickets so far.
Andre Fletcher has endured a complex season for the Zouks, making 176 runs in 10 innings; but has shown glimpses of form with scores of 42 against TKR and 46 against St Kitts. The Zouks have rotated their players around a solid core, which is not a bad ploy. Mark Deyal and Javelle Glenn have done enough to secure their spots while Andre Fletcher has taken 12 catches behind the stumps, leaving him with more dismissals.
Teams; Guyana Amazon Warriors- (possible) 1 Brandon King, 2 Chandrapaul Hemraj, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Keemo Paul, 7 Sherfane Rutherford / Romario Shepherd, 8 Ashmead Nedd / Kevin Sinclair, 9 Chris Green (capt), 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Imran Tahir.
St Lucia Zouks (possible): 1 Rahkeem Cornwall, 2 Mark Deyal, 3 Andre Fletcher (wk), 4 Roston Chase, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Javelle Glen, 8 Daren Sammy (capt), 9 Scott Kuggeleijn, 10 Kesrick Williams, 11 Zahir Khan / Obed McCoy
TKR vs Tallawahs
Knight Riders have played excellent all-round cricket, but will be wary of the fact the Warriors also played unbeaten in last year’s tournament until their defeat to Barbados Tridents in the final. A bad game at this juncture is the last thing the Knight Riders will be hoping for, while Tallawahs have been unpredictable and cannot be taken for granted.
Apart from their more celebrated players, Knight Riders have shown that they have the bench strength as they have won games comfortably without the likes of Sunil Narine, Ali Khan, Colin Munroe and Dwayne Bravo. Spinners Khary Pierre and Akeal Hosein and opener Tion Webster have been outstanding in filling their roles.
Lendl Simmons has done well at the top of the order and New Zealander Tim Seifert, has acclimatized well. Darren Bravo has been consistent while skipper Kieron Pollard has led by example with support from the experienced Dwayne Bravo. Sikander Raza has had his moments and with every member of this unit being given an opportunity to showcase their skills, the Knight Riders are favourites to make it through.
However, Jamaica Tallawahs, who have sneaked into the semi-finals with just three wins at a superior net run-rate than last year’s champions Barbados Tridents, are capable of toppling their opponents. While Knight Riders have a balanced unit, it will be interesting to see what measures Pollard’s men adopt in their effort to conquer the world’s best all-rounder Andre Russell. Russell returned from a knee flare-up with back-to-back half-centuries before being dismissed without scoring against the Zouks. Carlos Brathwaite, Asif Ali, Rovman Powell and Glenn Phillips are all capable batters while their bowlers have done a fine job, with Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane leading the way.
Glenn Phillips has been reliable, with 314 runs in nine innings at a strike rate of 127.64 while Russell has 565 runs in 15 innings at an average of 56.50 and strike rate of 191.52 in addition to 20 wickets against TKR.
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 and with heavy rain showers in the forecast, dew could be a factor.
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.
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.
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