Kieron Pollard

UP AND AWAY: Trinbago Knight Riders skipper Kieron Pollard hits a six during the 2021 Hero Caribbean Premier League match against St Kitts- Nevis Patriots, at Warner Park Sporting Complex, on Sunday. Pollard scored 51 as TKR won by four wickets. --Photos: CPL T20/Getty Images

The stage is set for the semi-finals of the Hero Caribbean Premier League and defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) are ready for the final push.

Kieron Pollard’s men topped the preliminary stage of the tournament after a four-wicket victory over hosts St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, on Sunday night, and will now square off against familiar foes St Lucia Kings in a repeat of last year’s final.

The second semi-final will see the Guyana Amazon Warriors taking on the Patriots from 2.30 p.m. at Warner Park in St Kitts.

With everything on the line and no second chances on offer, Pollard expects today’s 10 a.m. match-up to test the mettle of all involved but feels his side has the resources to emerge victorious.

“These are the moments the big guys stand up and we are backing the players to do that,” Pollard told the media during the pre-match press conference held via Zoom.

While all the TKR players are fit and ready to go for the semis and they have some momentum after coming on the back of their final preliminary match win, the Kings are coming into the game on the back of a high-scoring loss against eliminated Barbados Royals on Sunday.

The Kings will also be sweating on the fitness of leader Faf du Plessis, who said his participation in today’s match will be a game-day decision.

Whether or not the South African plays, Pollard and company will be looking to step it up a notch as they look to clinch their spot in tomorrow’s final. “I think the guys are up for it,” said Pollard.

“We are wary of each opposition. It doesn’t matter which one we come up against.

In the preliminary phase of the tournament, we split the two games apiece but they have been playing some good cricket and we have been playing some good cricket, so I think it boils down to who plays the better cricket on the day and when it comes to the semi-final stage, that is where the pressure situations and true mettle of individuals will show; so let’s see what happens,” the TKR skipper added.

“For us it is about improving each aspect of our game and going up that 10 per cent...We are good in terms of our energy and we look forward to the challenge. We knew the tournament was going to be tight and the guys are up for it,” he continued.

Of his own fitness, Pollard said he was happy to be able to play all games in the preliminary phase but noted that TKR had to be smart in picking their playing XI throughout the tournament. “There is a lot of cricket ahead and sometimes you’ve got to be smart. Our team has depth so we didn’t have to push to that sort of limit in certain aspects.

“We had guys standing up on different occasions. The bowlers have done a tremendous job, hence my low bowling workload as well. I think it has been good and as a team we have done pretty well and what happens tomorrow (today) happens, but we are just going to go out and give it a good shot,” Pollard concluded.

Meanwhile, du Plessis is still recovering from a groin injury and while he said he is doing everything possible to be fit for the semifinal, he said “we will only know that final answer in the morning when I wake up.”

As for their plans for today’s clash, du Plessis said they are looking at possible strengthening their batting line-up and working to containing runs against set batsmen.

“I think on a few occasions we haven’t bowled as well as we would have liked. Everytime a batsman has gotten himself in, it has been hard to stop. Once your are in, it is quite difficult to stop the bleeding. For us it’s trying to make sure we keep getting wickets. I think that is our key. If you can keep getting wickets you can stop that onslaught,” du Plessis reasoned.

But he believes that they have enough bowling options to work with and that getting the right combination will be crucial. “I think we have a lot of bowling options so we feel we have the options,” he noted.

“So it is now about looking at how we can strengthen our batting line-up as much as possible to give ourselves the best chance of chasing bigger totals or even when we get into some trouble we have the resources to get a good score on the board,” he explained.

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