Trinbago Knight Riders 165 for 6 (McCullum 43, Cottrell 2-24) beat St Kitts and Nevis Patriots 145 for 8 (Thomas 35, Fawad 3-13) by 20 runs
Fawad Ahmed, this season's leading wicket-taker, shone brightest as his brilliant spell devastated the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots chase to put defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders back in the CPL final with a 20-run win at the Brian Lara Stadium on Friday. The regular season table-toppers will be going for their third title in four years on Sunday when they take on Guyana Amazon Warriors, who beat them on Tuesday in the first qualification playoff, in Guyana.
Fawad once again excelled in spite of dewy conditions to extend his season lead to 21 wickets in 12 matches with three more scalps on Friday night. His double-strike in the 16th over to claim Anton Devcich and Ben Cutting, Patriots' batting heroes from two nights earlier against Jamaica Tallawahs in Guyana, effectively sealed the match for TKR as they seek to become the first CPL side to win back-to-back titles.
Devcich had pulled off a wonderful catch stretching low at backward point on Wednesday night to dismiss Johnson Charles for the first Tallawahs wicket. Given an identical catching opportunity in the same spot two days later in the second over against Brendon McCullum though, Devcich fluffed his lines.
A tough but definite chance was spilled off the bowling of Carlos Brathwaite with McCullum on 2 and Devcich roared his displeasure, sensing the magnitude of the moment. It wound up being one of the biggest moments of the night as McCullum wound up being the top scorer from either side on a pitch with spongy bounce, feeling his way through the Powerplay with just 10 runs before attacking Chris Gayle's offspin in the 7th and 9th overs for a pair of sixes. He punished Cutting for four and six more in the 10th over to put his side in a commanding position of 73 for 1 at the halfway point before falling in the 11th to Gayle.
Yes DRS, no excuses
This season's leading scorer Colin Munro fell to a Gayle catch off Cutting in the next over. Patriots should have had three in three overs when Gayle had Darren Bravo pinned with a quicker ball sliding on. Video technology was available to use for the semi-final, but Gayle abstained after possibly being thrown off by Darren waving his bat to indicate he may have hit it. However, replays showed the ball clearly struck pad before Darren stabbed his bat down in defense and he would have been given out on review.
Darren wound up adding a vital 20 before being dismissed in the 17th over by Sheldon Cottrell. It was big brother Dwayne's turn next. A game-changing 18th over followed. Brandon King horribly misjudged a skied slog to long-on off Tabraiz Shamsi off the first legal ball of the over to palm over a chance for six. There was no doubt about the final two balls of the over though, hit comfortably over long-on and long-off for two more sixes. Dwayne scored 19 of his total 24 off six balls in that 21-run over, which effectively was the margin of victory in the end. The last two overs brought 26 more runs, including five wides speared way down leg by Cottrell, as TKR ended on 165.
Patriots needed a big contribution from their captain on an unusually challenging T20 surface. But Ali Khan conceded just one in the first over of the chase and ended it in style by snaring Gayle. A first-ball bouncer was followed by two yorkers on the fourth-stump line, the second of which resulted in a flat-footed stab that produced a healthy edge to Ramdin behind the stumps.
Fawad took the new ball from the opposite end and similarly conceded just a single run to keep Patriots under pressure early. They found their release against Anderson Phillip in the fourth as Devon Thomas punished his first three balls for four before Rassie van der Dussen finished off a 17-run frame with a cut to the point rope as Patriots got back on track by the end of the Powerplay at 34 for 1.
Fill in the blank
With Phillip coming into the lineup in place of Khary Pierre, TKR had one less frontline spin option on the night. Captain Bravo gambled on Colin Ingram's part-time legspin to break a burgeoning stand in the seventh over, and it paid off. Thomas got on top of Ingram early by clubbing his first ball for six, but Ingram struck back at the end of the over as a skiddy delivery on off stump wound up being chopped on.
That was as good as it got on the night for Patriots' batting lineup. Van der Dussen was through a flick early in the next over as Sunil Narine nonchalantly plucked a one-handed return catch off a leading edge to his left to make it 50 for 3. Patriots were 63 for 3 needing just over 10 an over at the halfway point - a strong position based on the chasing trends of CPL 2018 - but everything unraveled in Fawad's final two overs.
Evin Lewis skied a slog sweep to Munro coming in from deep midwicket in the 12th over. A further pair of crippling blows came in the 16th over. Devcich had rescued Patriots against the Tallawahs two nights earlier with a supercharged half-century off just 22 balls, but Fawad had him stumped for six runs. Cutting missed a sweep two balls later to be trapped leg before, upheld on review. With 68 needed off the final 27 balls and three wickets remaining, Patriots never threatened down the stretch.