Dwayne Bravo went from the best team in the Caribbean Premier League to the worst-placed team from 2020, and fashioned a squad of champions.
“I challenged myself to come here to see if I can do something different with a new team and I’m very happy,” Bravo said at the presentation ceremony after his St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had clinched victory in a memorable final by three wickets over the St Lucia Kings.
“Even though I won a lot, this one will be special because it’s a new franchise, out of my comfort zone. Coming here, not knowing what to expect, I think this would maybe be in the top three.”
But the Warner Park deejay was not only playing DJ’s “Champion” song for the Patriots skipper, but also for Dominic Drakes. A former member of the West Indies Emerging Players, Drakes pulled off a dramatic last-ball win for the Patriots as they clinched their first CPL title.
With the established big guns Chris Gayle (zero), Evin Lewis (six), Sherfane Rutherford (25), skipper Bravo (eight) and Fabian Allen (20) back in the dugout pinning their hopes on him, Drakes swung away with gusto and self-belief, ending the match with a single to fine-leg off Kesrick Williams to finish with a career-best 48 off 22 balls (three fours, three sixes).
“My first net session I had with him I said to him ‘you are not an emerging player, you are one of my main players and this tournament is for you,” Bravo recalled of yesterday’s hero. Drakes had responded to the confidence placed in him in a spectacular way.
But Bravo’s determination to “give people opportunities” had also produced big tournament runs (426) from new vice-captain Lewis and the likes of Sherfane Rutherford (262).
Wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva also stepped up in the absence of the injured Devon Thomas to make an important 37 from 32 balls at No. 3 yesterday. Drakes was just the latest to repay the former Trinbago Knight Riders star’s faith in his new teammates.
However, the Kings players also played their part in a match befitting of a final for its competitiveness. Seamer Williams, with his effective yorkers, just failed to prevent the nine runs the Patriots needed off the last over.
And as Drakes’ teammates invaded the field to mob him, Williams was down on his haunches, tears in his eyes. For the second year in a row, he had been in the final with the St Lucia franchise, and for the second time he was on the losing side. It would have been no consolation to him that he had played a part in the best final in CPL history.
In that last over, Williams was succeeding at denying Drakes a boundary, the batsman declining to take singles as he backed himself to get the runs. But the balance shifted on the penultimate ball which left-hander Drakes slapped to the extra-cover boundary to tie the game.
“That ball that Drakes hit for four, it was a great shot,” conceded Kings stand-in skipper Andre Fletcher.
Budding all-rounder Drakes, the Hero-of-the-Match, had just played the game of his life. But this contest was defined not so much by individual brilliance than by a great commitment to win by players on both sides.
That desire for victory was seen in the outstanding catches of the Patriots’ Sheldon Cottrell, tumbling over but holding on to a high catch offered by Fletcher in the third over of the match; and the Kings’ Roston Chase, sprinting in from the midwicket boundary to grab a Lewis skier with both hands, diving full-stretch.
The collective, fighting spirit of the Kings got them up to 159 for seven in their allotted 20 overs after Fletcher decided to bat first on winning the toss.
At the top of the innings, Rahkeem Cornwall made up for the failures of Fletcher (11), and semi-final hero Mark Deyal (one) in the Powerplay with a dominating 43 off 32 balls.
And after the again outstanding tournament MVP Roston Chase (43, 40 balls) was bowled by pacer Naseem Shah off the last ball of the 18th over, Keemo Paul finished the innings off forcefully, getting 39 off 21 balls, all his five boundaries clearing the ropes.
Some 57 runs had come off the last five overs. The Kings had finished well. Their 159 gave them something to work with. But yet again in this series, the Patriots found a hero when they needed one.