The inaugural Caribbean Premier League draws to a close this week as the tournament’s four outstanding teams do battle in Port-of-Spain in the semi-finals on Thursday and Friday, with a place in Saturday’s final up for grabs.
Thursday’s clash sees table-toppers Guyana Amazon Warriors meet home side Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, before second-placed Jamaica Tallawahs take on third-placed Barbados Tridents on Friday.
The Amazon Warriors and Tallawahs are the overwhelming favourites to reach the final after strong performances throughout the group stages, form that saw them top the table with 10 points each.
The Amazon Warriors head into their semi-final as the tournament’s form side, with wins in each of their last three matches. But the last side to beat them was their opponents in the semis, Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, who will enjoy raucous support from the Trinidadian crowd.
Despite losing their final group game, the home side are also in fine form, having won three games on the bounce prior to their defeat to the Tallawahs on Sunday. Both sides have the heavy artillery required to reach the final, and the outcomes of a few key match-ups will go a long way to deciding the first semi-final’s result.
The Warriors have welcomed Sri Lanka star Tillakaratne Dilshan into their squad as a replacement for the injured Kiwi opener Martin Guptill, who broke a bone in his hand in their final group match against the now-eliminated Antigua Hawksbills last Saturday. Dilshan will bring more quality and valuable experience to an already star-studded line-up. If the former Sri Lanka captain can get the Warriors innings off to the right start, then they have the big hitters in their middle-order to post a formidable total, as they have done on a number of occasions throughout the group stages.
The Warriors’ bowling attack will also be led by a new Sri Lankan, Lasith Malinga, who will be ably supported by West Indian mystery spinner Sunil Narine and the tournament’s top wicket-taker, Krishmar Santokie.
The Red Steel possess a good deal of quality themselves, however, and captain and star man Dwayne Bravo is in bullish mood going into the semi-final, saying: “They have brought in some good players and Malinga is dangerous, Dilshan is also a very big player but T&T have picked up momentum and we’re looking to carry this into the semis. I know we can deal with these new threats.”
The Red Steel will rely on a Sri Lankan of their own, Mahela Jayawardene, to anchor their batting, while Irishman Kevin O’Brien and Bravo will provide the heavy hitting. Bravo will also play a key role in keeping Dilshan quiet with the ball, while spinner Samuel Badree has been excellent opening the bowling in recent games.
Friday’s clash throws up some equally intriguing match-ups. The Tallawahs standout performer is undoubtedly Chris Gayle, who struck form last time round, hitting his first fifty of the tournament. If he and Andre Russell, their star man so far, can find their range once again, the Tallawahs will be strong favourites.
The Tridents are not short on star quality themselves, though. They will be led by Twenty20 specialist Kieron Pollard who, in partnership with Shoaib Malik, has been in outstanding form with bat and ball. Pollard v Gayle certainly provides an interesting sub-plot to the match.
While it’s tough to call what the outcome of these two fascinating clashes will be, there is little doubt that there will be plenty of the Caribbean’s customary panache and flair on display in Port-of-Spain over the next three days.
Blogger: Will Macpherson