By: Clifton Ross
Two old rivals will reignite their flames for one last time this season, when the Guyana Amazon Warriors, chasing the elusive title, will confront the defending champs Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) in a battle for the coveted Hero CPL 2018 Championship title; which bowls off at 17:00h at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy on Sunday.
The defending champs clawed their way back into the finals after the Warriors handed them back-to-back losses at the Providence Stadium in Guyana. TKR outpunched the odds to beat the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots on Friday night to creep towards possibly retaining their title at home, or surrendering it to the Warriors who have their number heading into this encounter.
With a few days off to rest and assess the conditions in Trinidad, the Warriors who are now in the finals for the 4th time, are more dangerous than ever. Their ruthless disposing of the champs during the knockout stages showed the mentality of the Warriors, who will rely on their young crop of power-hitters to re-inflict more damage.
Much will revolve around leading run-scorer, Shimron Hetmyer who has been in blazing batting form with a hundred and a few fifties under his belt. The left-hander who is currently playing his first full Hero CPL season is the X-factor for the Warriors; especially with his role in the two TKR losses.
Moreover, Sherfane Rutherford has stepped up in a major way and has become the Warriors go-to pinch-hitter in a crisis, his six sixes against TKR will still be lurking in their minds come Sunday. Apart from the two Guyanese, the seniors in Luke Ronchi, Chadwick Walton, Jason Mohammed and Sohail Tanvir will have to maintain their batting form. Tanvir with his six off Bravo in the previous encounter blasted Guyana into the finals.
Colin Munro, the Trinbago left-hander is the leading run-getter with a whopping 499 runs while Hetmyer trails not too far behind with 425 runs, making either batsman capable of ending the tournament as leading overall run-scorer.
The Warriors will be backing their world-class battery of bowlers, mostly their spinners who have been the key throughout the tournament. Captain Chris Green, leg-spinner Imran Tahir and possibly any of the options including Devendra Bishoo and Veerasammy Permaul could slot it nicely in the attack if needed.
TKR have confirmed that Sunil Narine could be out for the finals while the Warriors might have to play without Keemo Paul. The Champs will be booming with confidence despite losing to the Warriors in Guyana due to the change of venue, which the Patriots realized on Friday, was too much to handle in their backyard.
Aussie leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed is the leading wicket-taker with 21 scalps, while Tahir with 16 will certainly have a tussle at Tarouba. The majority of the TKR batsmen have been clicking in match-winning ways, but their last game on Friday saw meagre knocks of 20 apiece from a few of their batters, playing a big role.
TKR will back Ahmed for luck while pacer Ali Khan, spinner Kharry Pierre and skipper Dwayne Bravo himself will be crucial with the ball. Both sides are evenly poised on paper, while both units will have much to prove as the have faced off before in the past for high stakes; thus setting a scene for possibly one of the most intriguing finals in Hero CPL history to date.
In a presser before the game on Sunday both Captains, Chris Greene and Dwayne Bravo expressed that their sides are ready and rearing for the thrilling encounter.
“From our side of things we’re really excited. We also come in with a bit of momentum at the back end as well. We’re all really looking forward to the clash,” Warriors Captain Chris Green stated.
Meanwhile, Trinbago Knight Riders Captain Dwayne Bravo had this to say: “I think only the two best teams remain, and the fans are going to get a very good cricket game. For us there’s nothing about preparation, we played last night (Friday) and it was a good win, so we just want to take that momentum into the game tomorrow (Sunday).”
However, he also noted that “To have the opportunity to defend our trophy is a great result for us, despite how the game goes tomorrow.”
“Everyone back home in Guyana has been really supportive throughout the tournament and we know how much our success means to them. If all goes well and our way then we get to hold the trophy up at the end of the night,” Chris Green stated in optimism.
(Additional reporting by Jemima Holmes)