The Jamaica Tallawahs vs Tringbago Knight Riders was the kind of semifinal an Associate fan hopes for. Should everyone remain healthy, we’re guaranteed either Ali Khan or Sandeep Lamichhane in the final.
With Jamaica batting first, TKR stuck with their recent power play innovation of exclusive spin bowling. In fact, each of Trinbago’s first four bowlers were spinners. With Ali out of his comfortable and effective traditional spot, he still found a way to contribute early in the second over, holding onto a catch at backward point from Glenn Phillips. Khary Pierre found Phillips’ edge on a wider delivery which bounced a bit extra, and Ali’s easy catch made the score 2/2 early in the innings.
Some interesting batting order shuffling from the Tallawahs, most notably Mujeeb Ur Rahman batting in the 3 spot, could not stop the collapse. Mujeeb was caught by a diving slip in the 3rd over, out for a duck after facing 3 balls. Death by spin continued from there, and TKR finally brought DJ Bravo into the attack in the 13th over for the team’s first over of seam bowling on the day. Andre Russell and Rovman Powell were hoping to accelerate from Jamaica’s 65/5 at the start of the over, but Bravo wasn’t going to make it easy, conceding only 3. The always sneaky Sunil Narine would get Russell on a controversial call the next over, “caught” at slip for just two off of five balls. Upon replay, it seemed as if Russell’s rage upon exiting was well justified, as there didn’t appear to be bat on ball. Narine’s over would go scoreless, and the spin attack was back in force.
After Bravo, Pierre and Narine navigated overs 15 through 19, it appeared Ali had spent the day as a specialist fielder, but he was put in to bowl the 20th. Jamaica sat at 97/7, and Ali was to face Carlos Brathwaite and Veerasammy Permaul for the final over. After trading singles on the first four balls, Ali hit his yorker right in the block hole, and Brathwaite got his bat down to block it just in time for a dot. Last ball of the innings, Ali pitched it just a little too short, and the slugger Brathwaite finally got one off in a hurry over the ropes at long off for six. Jamaica ended their innings 107/7.
One hundred eight! That’s a small target by most T20 standards, but this is CPL 2020 and anything can happen, especially when your spin attack features Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Sandeep Lamichhane. Jamaica would have to be aggressive to stand a chance against TKR’s batting, and that appeared to finally sink in in the fifth over, with Sandy getting his start in the power play.
With TKR well on their way at 30/1, and Mujeeb with the lone wicket, Sandeep entered bowling to Tion Webster and Lendl Simmons, both looking fairly comfortable and scoring at more than a run per ball. On his first delivery, Simmons’ paddle sweep found four runs behind square, but Sandy settled down to allow only 1 more in the over. After a seven run sixth over from Mujeeb, Sandy started the eight over with two runs conceded from the first five balls. On the sixth ball, Webster would show his confidence and slog from one knee over cow corner for six runs.
Staying in the attack in the 9th over, with Jamaica desperate and TKR at 61/1, Sandy lost his touch and conceded 4 runs off of two wides, and a total of 9 runs in the over, a rare dud. Out now until the 14th over, with the game all but finished, Sandy was back in to bowl with TKR at 90/1 and 42 balls remaining. Sandy’s 2020 CPL season would end after 7 more runs as Simmons and Webster took TKR over the line on the final ball of the 15h, and the Trinbago Knight Riders were through to the final. Wicketless for the first time this season, Sandy ended with 12 wickets in 10 innings, but his season should be remembered more for his 75 balls between boundaries stretched across 4 games early in the competition.
Sadly, but expectedly, no Associate player competed in the second game, as St Lucia Zouks shocked Guyana Amazon Warriors for a chance to play Ali Khan and TKR on Thursday in the final. With the TKR spin attack at peak performance, it will be interesting to see if Ali Khan stays in the playing eleven. Thanks to his ability to bowl yorkers and his willingness to adapt to different roles, combined with an extra day for the grounds crew to prepare the pitch at Brian Lara Cricket Academy, it’s difficult to imagine that TKR won’t see serious value in Ali’s inclusion.
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