Chris Gayle passed 50 for the first time in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League as his all-round efforts secured his Jamaica Tallawahs side’s second-placed finish in the group and booked them a semi-final against Barbados Tridents.
Despite their defeat, the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel also qualified for the semi-finals by virtue of finishing fourth in the group and will face table-toppers Guyana Amazon Warriors in Thursday’s semi-final. The Tallawahs will meet the Tridents a day later.
Donning wayfarer shades and a bright green headband, Gayle won the toss and inserted the opposition, with miserly bowling and disciplined fielding restricting the Red Steel’s star-studded batting line-up to 133-8 from their 20 overs. The Tallawahs bowling performance was outstanding, especially in the absence of star international names Vernon Philander and Muttiah Muralitharan.
David Bernard and Andrew Richardson set the tone with a tight bowling performance up front before Gayle chipped in with 2-24, picking up the key wickets of Ross Taylor and Dwayne Bravo, two of only three Red Steel batsmen to pass 20.
Some careless running between the wickets and some outstanding fielding contributed to three run outs in the Red Steel innings, with Nikita Miller backing up four parsimonious overs of left-arm spin with two of the run outs.
That the Red Steel were able to pass 130 was in a large part due to their captain Bravo’s innings of 29 from 16 balls, including four boundaries and a maximum.
In response, the Tallawahs got off to a flyer with Gayle and Chadwick Walton sharing an opening stand of 66 in just short of seven overs. Gayle’s innings was as flamboyant as his outfit as he smashed 51 of the 66 from just 25 balls, including four fours and five sixes. The captain’s departure, top edging a Bravo short ball to wicketkeeper Nicolas Pooran, precipitated a collapse that knocked the home side off course.
Jamaica lost four wickets for 23 runs in the middle part of the innings as the contest was evened up after Gayle’s early flurry. Danza Hyatt’s run-a-ball 25 anchored the innings, however, and he eventually finished not out as his side crossed the line with the final ball of the innings.
Bravo was once again in the thick of the action, picking up two wickets but coming in for some heavy punishment from Gayle too. West Indies international spinner Samuel Badree bowled tightly first up, while Kevon Cooper picked up two wickets for just 14 runs.
Gayle was unsurprisingly named Man of the Match for his spectacular all-round performance (and possibly even for his superb attire) as his side held their nerve to secure second place in the table.
They will approach their last-four clash with Kieron Pollard’s Tridents with a good deal of confidence after beating them by six wickets on Saturday. Table-toppers Guyana Amazon Warriors are the competition’s form side, having won their last three, but the Red Steel will enjoy home advantage in their semi-final, with the rest of the tournament being played in Port of Spain.
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