ST GEORGE’S – The Guyana Amazon Warriors signalled their intentions to get back to the Caribbean Premier League final with an exciting two-wicket win over Antigua Hawksbills this afternoon in the opening match of the 2014 CPL at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada.
The slim final margin belied the true disparity between the two sides after Sunil Narine’s near flawless bowling spell meant last year’s CPL runner-up faced a modest target of 137. Guyana lost three wickets for two runs in the space of six balls late in the chase but eventually eased across the line with three balls to spare.
Guyana captain Denesh Ramdin was named Man Of The Match for his 51 off 36 balls in a successful chase, but Narine was arguably the standout performer on the day. He returned sensational figures of 4-1-3-0 to tie a record for the fewest runs conceded in a four-over T20 spell. The mark is shared by two others including Shoaib Malik for Barbados Tridents in the 2013 CPL, also made against the Hawksbills.
Ramdin won the toss and chose to send the Hawksbills in to bat first. Australian import Ben Dunk got the Hawksbills off to an impressive start, targeting the spin of Mohammed Hafeez for two fours and a six in the fourth over to move to 33 for 0. At that stage, Dunk was on 32 and his partner Shacaya Thomas was anchored on one. In what would be a recurring theme on the day, Narine appeared in the following over and choked off the runs, causing particular stress for Thomas.
Dunk tried to attack Ronsford Beaton in the sixth over and paid for it by chipping a top edge to Hafeez at midwicket for 38. Thomas’ struggles against spin ended for 20 in the 14th over after a top-edged sweep against Veerasammy Permaul travelled only as far as Hafeez stationed at fine leg. Narine increased the pressure with one run conceded in the 15th and even though the score was a healthy 103 for 2 with five overs remaining, the desperation for runs to counter Narine was manifested in the first of three run-outs. On the first ball of the 16th, Danza Hyatt took off prematurely from the non-striker’s end only to see Krishmar Santokie field off his own bowling and fire true at the stumps.
After calling for no run on the sequence that dismissed Hyatt, Marlon Samuels chose to take off for a tight single past silly point off Narine three balls into the 17th only for Ramdin to scurry from behind the stumps and fire another direct hit at the bowler’s end. Following the fall of David Hussey at the hands of Jimmy Neesham for 10 in the 18th, Devon Thomas attempted to resuscitate the Hawksbills innings with a big six over long on in the 19th and was fortunate to survive two balls later when he tried repeating the stroke and miscued to the usually sure-handed Martin Guptill, who wound up parrying the ball over the rope for four.
Sheldon Cottrell tried to finish with a flourish for the Hawksbills by flicking over midwicket for a boundary to start the 20th but a wild charge on the third ball resulted in a runout after some indecision on whether or not to steal a bye. Neesham followed that with the wickets of Carlos Brathwaite and Justin Athanaze off the next two deliveries to make it three in three for Guyana and a dot rounded off a superb final over to keep the score to 136 for 8.
Guyana’s chase got off to a rocky start in the first two overs with the loss of both openers, Lendl Simmons bowled by a Cottrell inswinger for a duck followed by a Guptill leading edge off Brathwaite to mid off for four. The experience of Hafeez and Ramdin came through with a 59-run third-wicket stand to steady the ship before Hafeez fell on the final ball of the tenth when he tried to slog the off-spin of Samuels out of the ground only to sky a chance over the pitch that was claimed by the keeper.
Ramdin accelerated towards his fifty by stroking four boundaries off the next three overs to bring the equation down closer to a run a ball. Neesham holed out to long-on for 11 to give Cottrell his second but Guyana still looked to be comfortably in control with five overs remaining, needing 28 to win with six wickets in hand. Ramdin brought up his half-century off 34 balls with a single to start the 16th before Guyana stumbled with victory in sight.
Christopher Barnwell checked a cut shot and spooned a simple catch to Hyatt at point for Ben Laughlin’s first wicket. Laughlin and Hyatt teamed up again four balls later to remove Navin Stewart after a loose drive produced a thick edge pouched at point. The Hawksbills started to believe the match just might be theirs when Ramdin was dismissed off the next ball by Brathwaite to start the 17th when he missed a heave across the line to leave the tail exposed with 25 needed off 23 deliveries.
Veerasammy Permaul got just enough of a Laughlin slower ball on the 18th to clear the rope at long on for six followed by a four squirted through point to deflate the Hawksbills in the field. Permaul fell with seven balls remaining hooking Cottrell to long leg but the dismissal came after the damage had been done by Permaul. After his exploits with the ball earlier in the day, Narine was the man who fittingly clinched the win with a thumping drive back down the ground for a boundary midway through the 20th.