Patrick Noone analyses the Zouks’ bowling versatility that helped to get them off the mark in CPL 2020
The early signs in this year’s CPL suggest that St Kitts and Nevis Patriots and St Lucia Zouks are the weakest of the six teams on paper. There is no shame in that, of course, but the challenge for those teams is to be cannier than their opponents and use their resources in such a way as to maximise their impact.
In the Zouks’ first outing, they were blown away by a superior side in Jamaica Tallawahs, but their response to that defeat in today’s clash with Barbados Tridents offered signs of encouragement and there was evidence to suggest that Daren Sammy’s team were capable of thinking outside the box in order to give themselves the best chance of winning.
Left-arm orthodox spinner Saad Bin Zafar made his first appearance of the tournament, coming in for left-arm wrist-spinner Zahir Khan. Sammy threw the ball to Zafar immediately, a decision that made sense given the respective records of Johnson Charles and Shai Hope against left-arm spin. Both Tridents openers struggle to score quickly against that bowling type and, though Zafar was unable to take a wicket, his figures of 2-0-10-0 were exactly what the Zouks needed from their Powerplay spinner.
While the seamers Obed McCoy and Scott Kuggeleijn were expensive, the Zouks benefited from the vast array of bowling options in their playing XI. Eight bowlers were used by Sammy before rain arrived in the 19th over and only Rahkeem Cornwall’s one over for 14 runs can be fairly described as a misstep.
Kyle Mayers, coming into the game off the back of a 20-ball 37 against the Patriots was strangled by Mohammad Nabi who bowled nine balls to the left-hander and conceded just four singles. Similarly, when Roston Chase was thrown the ball in the 14th over, he immediately removed both Mayers and Jonathan Carter in successive balls, going on to concede just eight runs from his two overs. Mark Deyal was then given a solitary over in which he dismissed Raymon Reifer as Sammy’s Midas Touch continued.
Orthodox off-spin is perhaps the least fashionable bowling type in the modern game, yet the Zouks showed today that having four genuine options against a team with as many left-handers as the Tridents can still bring success. This was only the 11th time in CPL history that four wickets have fallen to off-spin in a single innings.
The Zouks’ strategy today might not always be the one they go with, nor is it guaranteed to always be successful, but what they showed was a willingness to adapt and think on their feet. They had evidently assessed the merits of the opposition and made their decisions on both selection and bowling changes accordingly. For a team that most expected to struggle pre-tournament, that kind of approach can be invaluable in making a team more than the sum of their parts.
Ultimately, the rain rather dampened what had looked to be growing into an intriguing contest, and the 47 runs the Zouks needed for victory from five overs via the DLS method always looked a manageable target. But their bowlers had earned them that relatively low chase with the way they had gone about their business in the first part of the game, and they showed enough to suggest that they could yet usurp some of the more heralded lineups in this competition.
Patrick Noone is a CricViz analyst