Akeal Hosein drifted his way past Jermaine Blackwood’s attempted straight hit, had Mujeeb Ur Rahman caught top-edging a sweep that a diving Dwayne Bravo pouched at slip and got Asif Ali to cut straight to Kieron Pollard at point. Those three wickets inside the first six overs of yesterday’s first semi-final, all but guaranteed Hosein the Man-of-the-Match award as it set up the Trinbago Knight Riders’ passage to the final of this year’s Caribbean Premier League.
Not a first-choice pick at the start of the tournament, Hosein has earned promotion through his clever, effective left-arm spin which yesterday helped the relentless Knight Riders to a straightforward, too easy nine-wicket win over the Jamaica Tallawahs at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy.
On another pitch which offered encouraging bounce to the slower bowlers, the Tallawahs batsmen were schooled by TKR’s quartet of Hosein, Khary Pierre, Sunil Narine and Fawad Ahmed who broke their resistance after Pollard had won the toss and chosen to field. The result was an uncompetitive total of 107 for seven, which was made to look as unchallenging as it seemed on paper by Lendl Simmons (54, 44 balls, six fours, two sixes) and Tion Webster (44, 43 balls, six fours, one six).
They rattled up 97 in an unbroken second wicket stand that underlined the clinical nature of TKR’s cricket at the moment.
“Small total, we didn’t take it lightly and went out there and we finished the game,” Simmons said in his CPLT20 interview.
The half-century was Simmons’ record 18th score of 50 or more in the CPL. And he is one small knock away from surpassing Chris Gayle as the CPL’s most prolific scorer.
But yesterday, the honours went mostly to Hosein who proved almost non-negotiable for the Tallawahs phalanx of right-handers.
“It was fun to bowl on,” Hosein said of the fresh strip at Tarouba. “I was getting the ball to swing and spin as well. It was just about executing and hitting the right areas.
“I’ve been sitting in my room, I’ve been telling myself I’ve been doing pretty decent so far and all I need to really top it off is a Man-of-the-Match performance and I’m really glad that I can do that today.”
The loss of Blackwood, Mujeeb, Ali and Glenn Phillips - removed by Pierre - made victory almost a mission impossible for the Tallawahs, even though their cause was not helped by Andre Russell’s dubious dismissal for just two to a catch by Bravo (Dwayne) off Narine.
“If I had won the toss we would have batted also,” reckoned Tallawahs skipper Rovman Powell (33, 35 balls) who along with Nkrumah Bonner (41, 42 balls) were the only ones to offer notable resistance. “It’s just that we lost four wickets in the powerplay and the stats show when you lose four wickets in the powerplay you generally end on a losing note.”
The Tallawahs paid for not adjusting quickly to the Knight Riders slow, slow approach.
But for TKR captain Pollard, the plan worked perfectly.
“When you look at their batting lineup, they are all batsmen who like the ball coming on to the bat...Our opening bowlers use the conditions pretty well and they’ll have to manufacture shots and use the power that they have, and not knowing which direction the ball is going was always going to put us at an advantage, hence the reason why you saw 16 overs of spin bowling today.”
The Tallawahs didn’t see a seamer until the 13th over when Dwayne Bravo came on.
TKR have played horses for course and varied their strategy to perfection thus far.
But Pollard is not quite satisfied yet.
“We have come here and we have played fantastic cricket throughout the entire tournament,” he said, “so we need to have that cherry on top of it. You watch the faces in the dressing room and you not seeing that overconfidence, you seeing guys wanting to perform and wanting to improve each and every time and we have that hunger for one more time. Hopefully we can go all the way.”