Mohammad Nabi’s career-best figures, the third-best in Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) history, led a spin demolition of the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. He was well supported by Rakheem Cornwall and Zahir Khan, and Cornwall followed up with a brief but brilliant assault that took any remaining tension out of the chase for the St Lucia Zouks.
After Zouks’ captain Daren Sammy put them in, the Patriots had yet to score when Nabi dismissed both Chris Lynn and Nick Kelly. Lynn continued his run of being dismissed by spinners, pushing a simple catch back to the bowler, and Kelly edged to the safe hands of Rakheem Cornwall at slip.
Nabi soon made it four. Denesh Ramdin sought to follow a Hero Maximum over long-on with one over square leg but top-edged to Najibullah Zadran, and next ball Patriots leading scorer of Hero CPL 2020, Evin Lewis, spooned a sweep to Roston Chase at square leg to leave the Patriots 11/4 off just 3 overs and Nabi on a hat-trick.
Chase’s introduction with the ball was not a surprise, and he went for just three off his first over. Jahmar Hamilton just about survived the hat-trick ball, but he and Ben Dunk managed no further boundaries as the Patriots reached the Powerplay at 22/4.
Another tight over came and went, this time from Zahir Khan. Dunk finally broke the drought as Chase overpitched, sending the off-spinner high over the sightscreen. Oddly, after eight overs the Patriots had hit two Hero Maximums but no fours.
That block-block-slog approach brought Hamilton’s downfall, as he prodded at a Zahir googly and edged behind. Cornwall closed out the first half of the innings well, and at drinks, the Patriots were 43/5 with a lot resting on Dunk once more.
Dunk hit Zahir straight for a third Hero Maximum but should have been stumped in the same over. After 13 overs, Dunk had 32 of the Patriots’ 59/5, and the pressure on him finally told as Cornwall’s extra bounce saw the Australian splice a pull to deep midwicket.
Even a Mark Deyal full toss didn’t result in the match’s first four. After 15 overs the Patriots were 66/6, and it got worse as Nabi returned to complete his five-for – remarkably, the first of his 10-year and 264-game T20 career – as Tanvir scooped a sweep to Zahir at short fine-leg.
Kesrick Williams came on for the 18th, off which captain Rayad Emrit took for 14 including, at long last, a four. Emrit fell next over, Deyal taking a running catch at long-on, but Kuggeleijn dropped short off his last ball and Alzarri Joseph sent him into the stands. Imran Khan sacrificed himself to get Joseph on strike, and the Antiguan responded with a second Hero Maximum. 37 off the last 3 overs, all bowled by seam, only delayed the inevitable.
The Patriots surprisingly started with seamer Tanvir, who Cornwall hammered for two fours and two towering Hero Maximums. Emrit gave Jon-Russ Jaggesar an aggressive field, but Jaggesar’s first ball was poor and Fletcher cut it easily for four. Cornwall smashed Imran clean over the roof, and while he was bowled two balls later, the fact that he alone hit more fours and almost as many boundaries than the entire Patriots team told the story.
After a brief shower, the Zouks resumed needing just 81 at well under 5 an over, which made Deyal’s hoick the first ball all the stranger. Emrit took a good catch to leave Imran on a hat-trick, which the ever-calm Chase denied him comfortably.
With Cornwall having taken the pressure off, the Zouks found strike rotation easy, and that relaxed feel gave Fletcher confidence to smash Jaggesar into the top of the Carib stand to end the Powerplay at 47/2. The opener’s dismissal was a surprise when it came with a pull straight to midwicket, giving Imran a third wicket.
Najibullah reverse-swept two fours and good running meant Imran’s last over went for seven. Emrit brought himself on, but Chase and Najibullah took him four a boundary apiece, and the Zouks cruised to 79/3 at halfway.
A desperate Emrit turned to Dunk’s part-time off-spin – so part-time Dunk bowled in his sunhat – which Najibullah smashed for four as the over went for eight. Najibullah dished out further punishment in Dunk’s next over, lifting him for a Hero Maximum over long-off, but Dunk got a small measure of joy as the Afghan top-edged to deep midwicket.
It was Dunk’s first Hero CPL wicket, just the third of his T20 career, but it was scant consolation as the Zouks sealed the victory with 32 balls to spare without even needing Nabi to bat.
Summary: (St Lucia Zouks 111/4 (Najibullah 33, Chase 27*, Cornwall 26; Imran 3/23, Dunk 1/29) beat St Kitts & Nevis Patriots 110/9 (Dunk 33, Joseph 21*, Emrit 16; Nabi 5/15, Cornwall 1/14, Zahir 1/18) by 6 wickets)