Andre Russell, Ali Khan light up first week of CPL 2018

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(ESPNCricinfo) The first week of the CPL 2018 was packed with action with old records being rewritten and a new hero emerging. ESPNcricinfo brings you the thrills and spills from the week gone by.

Dre Russ’ perfect captaincy debut

A breathtaking catch to dismiss Chris Lynn. A hat-trick – only the second in the CPL. A 40-ball hundred – the fastest in the CPL. Jamaica Tallawahs’ Andre Russell marked his captaincy debut with perhaps the greatest all-round performance in T20 cricket.

Andre Russell

Russell’s athletic intervention at extra-cover first snaffled his Kolkata Knight Riders team-mate Lynn for 46. Then, a ball after Trinbago Knight Riders had muscled their way to 216, the highest total in the league, Russell dismissed Brendon McCullum, Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin in a hat-trick.

Russell, however, saved his best for the chase. All right, he was dropped off the first ball he faced, but securing a 224-run chase from 41 for 5 with three balls to spare takes some doing. He shellacked 13 sixes, including a monster blow off Sunil Narine that disappeared over the Carib Beer stand and out of the Queen’s Park Oval. That’s how you ace your captaincy debut.

No way out for St Lucia Stars?

Is there any bottom to the abyss St Lucia Stars are hurtling into? They are winless in their last 14 matches, a streak stretching back to CPL 2016, and even their ever-smiling former captain Darren Sammy looked despondent after they botched a chase of 142 from 113 for 2 in the 17th over against Guyana Amazon Warriors. In all, St Lucia have lost three matches so far in CPL 2018 and are the only side with a negative net run-rate.

Whether it’s the curse of the Zouks, St Lucia’s former moniker, or a lack of confidence, Stars need to find a way out of this rut, if they are to salvage this season.

Warner, Smith watch

David Warner had found bizarre ways to get out in the Global T20 Canada, and managed only 109 runs in eight innings at an average of 13.62 and strike-rate of 114.73. He fell to another bizarre dismissal against Guyana Amazon Warriors at Providence. When Imran Tahir bowled a full-toss on middle stump, Warner shaped to reverse-sweep but instead only gloved the ball towards point. Umpire Nigel Dungid, however, gave him out lbw, despite the tickle and the impact with the gloves appearing outside the line of off stump. The ball might have missed off stump too. In all, the decision left Warner peeved.

Steven Smith

Steven Smith, on the other hand, had a more encouraging start to CPL 2018, with a match-winning 41 off 37 balls for Barbados Tridents against Guyana. After crawling to 17 off 21 balls, he made 24 off his next 16 balls.

Best batsman of the week

TKR’s Colin Munro has set the early pace with back-to-back fifties. We all know of his might against the seamers, but he was also fluent against Imad Wasim’s left-arm drift and Adam Zampa’s legbreaks on Friday. He read a wrong’un from Zampa, forayed down the track, and pinged the sightscreen with a six. He also took Imad for a brace of pulled boundaries in the arc between midwicket and long-on. So far, Munro has hit 164 runs in three innings at a strike-rate of 153.27; Russell is hot on his heels with 124 runs in two innings.

Best bowler of the week

After impressing his captain Dwayne Bravo at Winnipeg Hawks in Global T20 Canada, USA quick Ali Khan was called up to replace Ronsford Beaton at TKR, who are also captained by Bravo. He has caught the eye in the CPL as well, with his skiddy pace and dance moves that aren’t too far behind those of Bravo and the franchise’s owner Shahrukh Khan, who was in attendance for TKR’s match against Tallawahs.

Ali Khan hit a hard length – neither driveable nor pullable – with the new ball and claimed three wickets in six balls to set up his side nicely against Tallawahs before he dropped Russell first ball and watched him unleash an unrelenting assault.

Ali Khan, however, put that drop behind him in the next match against St Kitts & Nevis Patriots and took three more wickets, including that of Carlos Brathwaite. In addition to being the top wicket-taker with seven scalps, Ali Khan has saved 29.37 runs, the most by a bowler this CPL, according to ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats.

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