With the Northern Mountain Range providing the perfect backdrop to the Queens Park Oval in Port-of-Spain the Red Steel took their first Hero CPL title under lights last night with a 20-run win over defending champs Barbados Tridents to spark Carnival-like celebrations across the Twin Island Republic.
A 101-run second wicket stand between Man-of-the-Match Kamran Akmal (60 from 44 balls) and Cameron Delport (50 from 30 balls) and a late order rally from Skipper and MVP Dwayne Bravo 29* from 15 balls, spurred the Red Steel to a challenging 178-5 as 53 were taken off the last five overs.
Ryad Emrit (2-25) & Kieron Pollard (2-28) were the most successful bowlers for the Tridents who replied with 158-4 off 20 overs with Dwayne Smith clobbering an explosive 49 from 30 balls and Steven Taylor, who hammered a cameo 20 from 10 balls in a 47-run opening stand. But although Pollard (20 from 14 balls) and Jason Holder (20 from 20) tried desperately to get their team to the target their partnership was just not enough as Benn had 2-24.
It was a fairy tale ending for the Red Steel since they came from last place to winners and the all night party soon started.
Smith, with two CPL tons to his name took the attack to the Red Steel bowlers inside the ‘Power-Play’ overs and along with the left-handed Florida based Jamaican Taylor took the score to 47 with pugnacious hitting before Taylor, who played several audacious shots was trapped LBW in the fifth over.
The 50 was posted with a fierce pull for four by Smith, who then celebrated the landmark with a huge six before he tried to cut left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn but only managed a bottom edge onto his stumps at 85-2 after he was very severe on Samuel Badree.
And with the openers, who had silenced the partisan crowd as they set the Oval on fire in the first five overs, both back in the pavilion, the fans were again dancing in the stands.
Kyle Corbin, who was dropped off Benn, struggled for 28 balls for his 20 before Benn eventually had him at 117-3 in the 14th over and Misbah Ul Haq dumped Benn for six to register the first boundary in 28 balls but he was soon taken at extra cover off Deron Davis for 21 from 18 balls at 118-4.
Holder joined Pollard and with the pair at the crease the Tridents fans still hopeful of something dramatic happening with 57 required from 26 but with every dot ball bowled the crowd roared and the fat lady was already cranking up to sing.
Earlier, the Red Steel won the toss after the teams were met by Prime Minister Kamala Persad-Bissessar and elected to bat on another slow and dry pitch.
Urged on by the largest crowd of the tournament which arrived at the venue as early as three hours before the start, the host team were given a good start from Jacques Kallis and Delport, both got going with boundaries in the opening overs.
After Kallis stroked Ryad Emrit for four in first over, Delport stroked Ravi Rampaul for back-to-back boundaries in the second over as the pitch looked much better for stroke-play than the one used on Saturday.
Kallis, handicapped by injury, played the supporting role to the left-handed Deport who was more willing to take on the bowlers in the ‘Power-Play’ overs.
The sold out crowd created a sea of red and a fantastic atmosphere which suggested Carnival had returned to Trinidad.
Kallis was soon bowled by left-arm spinner Robin Petersen at 18-1 in the third over and Red Steel cheerleaders led the celebrations in the stands as the pumped up fans danced and worked their waist to the rhythm to the pulsating Tassa drumming, Steel Pans and Soca music.
Under blue skies and in glorious sunshine, Delport whipped Pollard behind square and beautifully through the covers for consecutive fours and the Red, White and Black T&T flags were waved wildly by the passionate home fans.
Petersen responded with a maiden in the fifth over and Ashley Nurse conceded just two runs in his first over to end the power-play overs in which 31 runs were scored.
Akmal favored the cut but consistently failed to beat the ring of men on the off-side before the Pakistani used his feet and hammered Petersen over cover for a one-bounce boundary and hit Nurse for a six and a four to break the shackles and bring up the 50 in 8th over which cost 15.
Akmal rocked back and slapped Imran Khan for a delightful four as his confidence grew and the run-rate increased as the Red Steel reached 68-1 from 10 overs.
Akmal straight drove Holder past his ankles for four while Delport pounced on one from the West Indies ODI skipper and pulled it viciously to the mid-wicket boundary and the raucous fans were on their feet.
Akmal was drooped in the deep off Pollard and capitalized on his luck with a top class knock and brought up his first CPL fifty from 42 balls with a six off Rampaul and followed it up with classy four over cover to set a firm foundation to launch a full scale attack in the last five overs.
Delport was not to be left out and dumped Peterson for consecutive sixes in the 15th over before Delport slapped Pollard back over his head to post his fifty and the 100 partnership but the South Africa was soon caught and bowled by Pollard at 120-2 in the 16th over.
Without addition to the score Akmal was sent back by Pollard and Darren Bravo averted the hat-trick as he and his elder brother Dwayne added 40 runs before Daren (9) was well held in the deep by Petersen off Emrit at 160-4 in the 19th over and Cooper (4) departed in the same over.
Chris Gayle, who was present in the stands, sporting a Red Steel Cap, scored the most runs (430) while Bravo with 28 wickets finished with the most wickets.
Games in next year’s tournament could be played in Florida USA.
Bollywood Actor Shah Rukh Khan, the owner of the Red Steel Franchise tweeted ‘Yo man let’s start the dance my man Bravo…Bravo, Bravo, Bravo’.
(Taken from Kaieteur News, by Sean Devers)