Saturday 26th July 2014 – Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Jamaica Tallawahs lost their 100% record as victory for Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel saw them go top of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League table. An excellent half century from Tallawahs’ captain, Chris Gayle, was not enough to prevent his side suffering their first defeat of this year’s event. Some superb hitting from 22 year old Evin Lewis and a career best bowling performance from Kevin O’Brien set up an excellent victory for the home side.
A flying start for the Red Steel was checked by two wickets off the last over of the Powerplay. Andre Russell yorked a well set O’Brien who was looking very dangerous. After a bumper first ball that was called a wide, Ross Taylor mistimed a drive from a slower ball to Rusty Theron at mid off who caught the ball one handed as the New Zealander fell for his second duck in as many innings.
O’Brien was the only batsman that was able to go at better than a run a ball in the first half of the innings. His opening partner, Evin Lewis, hit the odd boundary but found rotating the strike hard work. At the end of the tenth over, the Red Steel had made it to 72-2. It was a decent platform, but they should have had less. The Tallawah’s fielding was sloppy, with two boundary misfields and a dropped catch costing them.
Lewis removed the shackles after the mid innings drinks break, hitting the first two balls of the eleventh over for six. Gayle was the bowler as he struggled for control in his first spell with the bowl in this year’s tournament. That seemed to ignite the fire in young Lewis as he went from 25 to his half century off just eight deliveries. He hit eight sixes in an innings of 72, his highest T20 score. He fell to the bowling of Theron, caught on the boundary trying to carve the ball over cover for yet another six.
After some indifferent fielding throughout, Andre Russell pulled off a remarkable effort in the deep. A ball was smashed over long on by Darren Bravo. Russell took off to claim the ball in mid-air. He was heading over the rope but had the foresight to throw the ball back into the field of play. It was a remarkable piece of work, but inexplicably Third Umpire Nigel Duguid decided it was a six. All the fielders and even the batsmen were shocked, and eventually the call was reversed as Gayle pleaded with the on field officials.
The younger Bravo showed some of the form that was on display from his brilliant knock in his last game, but just as he started to accelerate, he was undone by a brilliant off cutter from Theron that knocked out the batsman’s middle stump.
The home team looked set for a score close to 200 with Dwayne Bravo in form and at the crease. A fantastic nineteenth over from Russell that went for just three runs massively restricted what the Red Steel could have achieved. Both Russell and Jerome Taylor had the ball reverse swinging at the death, but Taylor could not keep things anywhere near as tight. He was hit for three sixes in the last over, two of which came from the bat of Javon Searles on his CPL debut.
Having been set just over nine an over to win, the Jamaicans were up with the rate in the first couple of overs. Fidel Edwards’ second over changed that. He picked up the wicket of Chadwick Walton while conceding just one run. The other Red Steel bowlers followed suit as four overs went for just 21 runs. The start of the eighth over brought Gayle to life, hitting his first six off the 23rd ball he had faced. In partnership with Jermaine Blackwood, the Tallawahs captain brought his side back into contention.
Gayle’s approach of playing himself in while eating up deliveries is not without risk, but when it comes off his contribution is telling. Here he was on 17 off 22 balls before he put his foot on the gas. He finished with 60 runs from 45 deliveries. Gayle has the most hundreds, the most scores over 50, the most runs and the most sixes in this format of the game. As he became the leading run scorer in this tournament, it was no surprise.
When Gayle was out caught on the boundary off the bowling of O’Brien, he may have fallen but he had given his side a chance. Those chances reduced when Adam Voges departed the next ball to leave two batsmen yet to face a ball at the crease for the visitors. With just five overs left and O’Brien bowling well in tandem with Samuel Badree, the required rate just kept climbing. Some late sixes from Russell made the result look closer than it was.
Irishman O’Brien finished with his best T20 bowling figures of 4-22 as the Jamaican side never recovered from the loss of Gayle. While defeat for the first time will be a disappointment for the Tallawahs, they are still well placed to qualify, and it would be a surprise if these two excellent teams did not meet again in the knockout stages of the tournament.