Friday, December 15, 2017

Narine hammers Tridents

Knight Riders get CPL win No.4

PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD - AUGUST 12: In this handout image provided by CPL T20, Sunil Narine of Trinbago Knight Riders celebrates his half century during Match 11 of the 2017 Hero Caribbean Premier League between Barbados Tridents and Trinbago Knight Riders at Queen's Park Oval on August 12, 2017 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. (Photo by Randy Brooks - CPL T20 via Getty Images)

Sunil Narine's latest tricks have nothing to do with spin variations. It's the things he does with a bat in his hands.

Last night his adoring fans saw first hand how Narine is reinventing his cricketing self.

Hitting with typical freedom and accepting the generosity of the Barbados Tridents fielders, the man with the licence to smash virtually took the Trinbago Knight Riders to a two-wicket victory, their fourth in five in this season's Hero Caribbean Premier League.

There could be no other Man-of-the-Match once Narine had batted through to the start of the 19th over when the Tridents finally accepted a catch from him on the fourth attempt. But by the time Wayne Parnell did the business at deep cover to give seamer Shamar Springer the second of his three late wickets, only eight runs were needed for victory and Narine had smashed/stroked his way to a T20-best 79 off 45 balls. And although Javon Searles played on to Springer in that same over, Kevon Cooper finished things off with a boundary at the start of the final over to make it two wins out of three for the TKR at home in the Queen's Park Oval.

Narine's elevation to opener had started in the Indian Premier League. And given the opportunity to remain in the role in the CPL, he has continued to relish the challenge and to blossom. But he had help last night. Lots of it.

Three times when he was eight, 35 and 63, Tino Best, Springer and Christopher Barnwell grassed chances that the giant scoreboard to the west of the ground kept replaying. It was as if the TV people didn't want them to forget their glaring slip-ups. For in the end, those let-offs were probably the difference between the teams.

The early dismissal of Narine would have created a top-order crisis for TKR, since they lost Brendon McCullum fourth ball of the innings to a Wayne Parnell yorker and Friday's Man-of-the-Match Colin Munro in the fourth to Shoaib Malik. But at 28 for two, Darren Bravo (25, 23 balls) got together with Narine to add 47 for the third wicket. And after Denesh Ramdin fell two balls later, skipper Dwayne Bravo kept him company while another 63 were added. All the while Narine kept doing his thing, going low and high, through off-side and leg-side, not discriminating between sixes (five) and fours (six).

But while rich entertainment for another full house, it must have been high frustration for visiting captain Kieron Pollard.

His Tridents were as awful with their catching as the Knight Riders were excellent with theirs. For as was the case against the Guyana Amazon Warriors, dazzling out-cricket again distinguished TKR's work in the field.

Brendon McCullum set the standard when he tumbled to his right at short cover to snare Parnell (five) in the second over as the left-hander pushed at Ronsford Beaton in the second over. But in the first bowled by Khary Pierre, Darren Bravo had already pouched Dwayne Smith, who having hit the left-arm spinner for a four and six in succession, swung to Bravo on the midwicket boundary.

That sequence of a flurry of boundaries followed by a wicket or two would repeat itself again in a Trident innings that ebbed and flowed; brilliant TKR ground fielding backing up bowlers who combined to stifle runs and take wickets.

The spin twins Shadab Khan (4-0-20-1) and Narine (4-0-17-0) commanded so much respect that between them they conceded just 37 runs as first Kane Williamson and Malik and then Malik and Pollard opted to play them out and then look to accelerate.

Williamson (30, 35 balls) didn't get the chance to see that plan through though, as at the end of the 12th over, the opener was caught behind keeper Denesh Ramdin by Narine as he top-edged an attempted slog-sweep of Shadab.

Pollard then came to the crease to as deafening an ovation given any Knight Rider. But while he bided his time, the explosion that felled the St Lucia stars in midweek never came. As the Tridents tried to up the tempo against the seamers, they kept losing wickets.

Beaton, dropped for the previous two games, came back in for Robert Frylinck and showed why he was worthy of keeping his place, bowling with accuracy and some calculated aggression to be rewarded with the figures of 4-0-24-2.

Beaton it was who finally got rid of Malik. Having got to 51 off 38 balls, playing with as steady a rhythm as the one being kept by former Olympic quarter-miler Ian Morris and his rhythm section crew, the Pakistani ace miscued a drive that skipper Bravo moved to mid-off to take in the 16thover. He would have been happy to see the set Malik go, for the Tridents now had to up the tempo with fresh batsmen.

In fact the visitors had only just passed the century mark by that stage at 102 for four. But as has been their style, they put bat to ball in the final four overs, getting 47 at better than 10 an over. Pollard only managed 14 off 22 before good friend Bravo yorked him to end the innings, having also dismissed Akeal Hosein (12, two sixes) the previous ball. Nicholas Pooran also contributed a four and two sweetly hit maximums in his 18 as the Tridents closed on 15 for nine.

They were about 20 runs short of safety. And Narine made them pay.