Tonight’s mega clash between season table-toppers Trinbago Knight Riders and the powerful St Kitts and Nevis Patriots should produce an abundance of fireworks when the first qualifier for the final of the 2017 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) gets underway from 20:00 hrs at the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago.
This is the Patriots first entrance at this stage of the league but they will enter full of confidence given their monumental hammering of Barbados Tridents on Sunday. The brutal assault which was led by the talismanic opener Evin Lewis saw Patriots astonishingly achieving 129 in only seven overs with Lewis striking 97 off just 32 balls. Much to the surprise of fans, Chris Gayle enjoyed a front row seat to the stupendous power-hitting display by supporting with a 14-ball 22.
Both players will again need to bring out all the artillery to fire their side into the final given there history against the home side. In the three years, Patriots have defeated Knight Riders once –in Florida (2016) – losing on the other five occasions.
This year, a newly repackaged Patriots, sporting the likes of Gayle and Lewis among many talented others, has risen to the top comfortably qualifying for the finals. A far cry from the position the team once held in the previous years of the tournament.
For the Patriots, the middle order of Mohammed Hafeez, Jonathon Carter and Carlos Braithwaite will know they need to chip in significantly.
Bowling wise, they have had lapses, with Australian pace Ben Hilfenhaus being overly expensive. The economic grip and threat comes from left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi and Mohammed Nabi.
For the 2015 champions, Night Riders, being in this position came as no surprise since they qualified for all play-offs since the tournament’s inception in 2013.
However, they enter this phase with the loss of their leading batsman Brendon McCullum who suffered a broken arm in their last preliminary match against the Tridents.
They still pose a serious threat with the likes of Colin Munro, Darren and Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine at the top, with new addition Daniel Christian.
Bowling has been their strong suit, since teams have to contend either with the craftiness of Dwayne and Kevon Copper or the mystery of Narine and Shadab Khan.
A loss tonight will not bring the curtains down for either side since they will get to play in another qualifier against the winners of third (Jamaica Tallawahs) and fourth (Guyana Amazon Warriors).
While tonight’s winners book their spot for the September 9 finale.
Trinbago Knight Riders Squad: Dwayne Bravo (Captain) , Denesh Ramdin, William Perkins, Nikita Miller, Darren Bravo, Kevon Cooper, Sunil Narine, Robert Frylinck, Hamza Tariq, Ashley Nurse, Colin Munro, Ronsford Beaton, Javon Searles, Shadab Khan, Anderson Phillip, Khary Pierre, Daniel Christian
St Kitts and Nevis Patriots Squad: Chris Gayle (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ben Hilfenhaus, Samuel Badree, Devon Thomas, Mohammad Nabi, Carlos Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Chris Morris, Evin Lewis, Nikhil Dutta, Sheldon Cottrell, Fabian Allen, Brandon King, Tabraiz Shamsi, Alzarri Joseph, Hasan Ali, Shamarh Brooks, Jeremiah Louis.