An inspired St. Lucia Zouks skittled perennial finalists Guyana Amazon Warriors for the second-lowest team total in Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) history and blazed to victory in just 27 balls to complete one of the most dominant performances in T20 history. In doing so they booked their place against the Trinbago Knight Riders in Thursday’s final, the first in the St. Lucia franchise’s history.
Zouks captain Daren Sammy put the Amazon Warriors in, but even he could not have seen this coming. Brandon King toe-ended to keeper Andre Fletcher and Shimron Hetmyer inexplicably left his first ball to let it crash into off-stump. Nicholas Pooran denied Scott Kuggeleijn a hat-trick, but only a single and a wide followed, and Mohammad Nabi followed up with a maiden to leave the Amazon Warriors 2 for 2 after two overs.
Pooran immediately counter-attacked, slashing Kuggeleijn over the slips then dismissively driving him down the ground for back-to-back fours, but he fell trying to loft Nabi down the ground thanks to a wonderful catch by Mark Deyal diving forward from long-off. Chandrapaul Hemraj and Ross Taylor cautiously played out the rest of the Powerplay, at which point the Amazon Warriors were 21 for 3. Taylor, so often the rock around which recoveries are built, fell LBW essaying his favoured sweep off Roston Chase, who anticipated the stroke well and bowled accordingly. Deyal almost pulled off another amazing catch at long-off as Hemraj drove Zahir Khan aerially, but it just fell short, and a fifth straight over with only three runs off it passed, leaving the Amazon Warriors 27 for 4 off eight overs.
The extent to which the tension was pressing on the Amazon Warriors was obvious. Hemraj got a friendly full toss from Chase but only pushed it for two, nearly holed out next ball, and then Keemo Paul did hole out with a swipe down the throat of Kesrick Williams at deep square leg. Hemraj finally hit the innings’ first Hero Maximum off its 56th ball, slamming Zahir over deep midwicket, but at halfway the Amazon Warriors had crawled to 42 for 5.
Chase’s first over after the chase was quiet, but the next was anything but. Amazon Warriors captain Chris Green smashed Javelle Glenn’s first ball for a Hero Maximum, and seemed to have done so off his second ball but Nabi pulled off a brilliant balancing catch at the boundary’s edge. With spin so dominant, Sammy went to Deyal who answered the call emphatically with two wickets in two balls – Hemraj inside-edged onto his stumps via his pad, and Romario Shepherd first ball pushed a simple catch back to the bowler. Again there was no hat-trick, but the Amazon Warriors innings was not long for this world.
Fletcher showed sharp glovework to stump Kevin Sinclair off Zahir, and even sharper moves in celebration and the Amazon Warriors’ ignominious innings ended next ball as Rakheem Cornwall plunged forward to take a sharp slip catch off Imran Tahir. All six Zouks bowlers had taken a wicket, and the innings had lasted just 13.4 overs.
Cornwall showed that a low target wasn’t going to temper his belligerent instincts, launching two Hero Maximums in Green’s first over, whipping Tahir for four through short fine leg and nearly breaking the stumps at the non-striker’s end with a straight drive. Deyal hit fours off each of his first two deliveries, and the Zouks were almost halfway to their target after two overs.
Naveen-ul-Haq was visibly furious with how the evening had gone for his team, bowling a bouncer that sailed even over the towering Cornwall for five wides. Cornwall continued his merry mayhem by walloping Naveen through long-on for four, and Deyal picked up a Hero Maximum for himself with a gleeful mow over midwicket. Cornwall blasted Tahir over long-on for his third Hero Maximum, Deyal closed the fourth over with his third four, and captain Green went down with his ship by bringing himself on for the fifth with just three runs to win.
The Zouks dugout were loudly chanting for Cornwall to finish the game in style, and although a toe-end through third man wasn’t quite what they had in mind, by winning in just 4.3 overs they had completed the fastest chase in the history of T20 franchise cricket anywhere in the world, and the whole game was done in just 17.1 overs. If the Zouks can take anything like this energy into Thursday’s final, they might just challenge the so far invulnerable Knight Riders.
Scores: St. Lucia Zouks 56 for 0 (Rahkeem Cornwall 32 not out, Mark Deyal 19 not out) beat Guyana Amazon Warriors 55 all out (Chandrapaul Hemraj 25. Bowling for SLZ, Mark Deyal 2 for 2, Zahir Khan 2 for 12, Scott Kuggeleijn 2 for 12, Roston Chase 2 for 15, Mohammad Nabi 1 for 6, Javelle Glenn 1 for 8) by 10 wickets.