Patrick Noone analyses the performances of Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons as TKR claimed their fourth CPL title
Going into the final of the eighth edition of the CPL, one thing that seemed fairly clear was that it was to be contested by the two best teams of the competition. Trinbago Knight Riders had swept all before them in the group stage, while St Lucia Zouks had, through canniness and tactical nous had found a way to join them. David v Goliath, Moneyball v Galacticos, this fixture was set to be an intriguing one.
The two finalists have been the best batting units in the competition. Seven of the eight highest first innings scores have been scored by either the Knight Riders or the Zouks, and the first half of the latter’s innings had the makings of another big score. The Zouks were 79-2 at the halfway stage, with Andre Fletcher well set having put on 67 for the second wicket with Mark Deyal.
It was a thrilling start as the Zouks put on 60-1 during the Powerplay, their second highest score after six overs in the tournament and the most expensive conceded by TKR. Eight fours and two sixes were struck by Fletcher, Deyal and Rahkeem Cornwall, the highest boundary count the Zouks had managed during any Powerplay in this campaign.
With Sunil Narine out of the side and Dwayne Bravo not bowling a single over, it was left to Kieron Pollard to drag his side back into the match. The skipper took 4-30, his joint second-best figures in his CPL career as he fed the Zouks batsmen a diet of off-cutters and full pace deliveries that disrupted their rhythm.
Pollard ripped the heart out of the Zouks’ batting as Fletcher, Roston Chase, Javelle Glen and Najibullah Zadran all holed out to his medium pace. His introduction signalled a change in momentum as the Zouks played a false shot 57% of the time they attacked him, well above their innings average of 28%.
It meant that the Zouks’ innings collapsed in a bit of a heap as they lost four wickets for six runs in the space of seven balls, seeing them to just 154 when a total in the region of 170 or 180 looked on the cards at the halfway stage.
Nonetheless, the Zouks made a solid start to their defence as Chase and Scott Kuggeleijn each picked up wickets in the Powerplay to reduce TKR to 19-2. However, a 138-run partnership for the third wicket between Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo gradually took the game away from the Zouks as their lack of penetration with the ball saw them fall short.
In a tournament that has been a nightmare for batsmen throughout, Simmons has been one of the more consistent performers. He has grown into the CPL as it’s progressed, and today’s innings made him the competition’s leading runscorer after his third half century in four knocks.
Simmons was arguably at fault for Tion Webster’s dismissal at the start of the innings as he turned down a single on two occasions, putting pressure on Webster to play a big shot. On several other occasions, there were opportunities missed for Simmons to turn dots into ones or ones into two.
Curiously though, despite Simmons’ apparent sluggishness, his dot percentage was just 24%, by far the lowest of any innings he’s played this season and the third lowest of his T20 career. His ability to at least keep the scoreboard moving helped to mitigate the early struggles of Darren Bravo at the other end and allowed TKR to remain in control of the innings throughout the middle overs.
To their credit, the Zouks continued to scrap and were still in the game with four overs to go. It wasn’t until the left-arm wrist-spin of Zahir Khan conceded 23 runs in the 17th over that the required run rate dropped to six runs per over. Only then did it feel as though TKR were over the line and they duly went and finished the job with 11 balls remaining.
The Knight Riders are the worthiest of winners, but the Zouks deserve no end of credit for the way they have performed this season and for running their more illustrious opponents as close as they did today. They will be left to rue how their batting innings ended but it need not define their competition. They were beaten by a special team today who deservedly claim their fourth CPL title.
Patrick Noone is a CricViz analyst