GROS ISLET –– A devastating start spearheaded by Shannon Gabriel and Fidel Edwards set the tone for St Lucia Zouks’ seven-wicket win over St Kitts & Nevis Patriots in St Lucia last night.
Gabriel was named Man of the Match after he combined with Edwards to reduce Patriots to 19 for 4 in the fifth over and eventually finished with a career-best 3 for 19.
The Patriots won the toss and chose to bat on their CPL debut but got off to a rocky start after Evin Lewis dragged a full delivery from Edwards onto his stumps in the second over for a duck. Straight off a plane from England, Martin Guptill could only muster 14 as he flicked Gabriel to Kemar Roach at short fine leg.
Orlando Peters was then dismissed for a duck next over. The Zouks made it two in two balls after Shane Dowrich began the fifth over by clipping Gabriel straight to Kyle Mayers at midwicket for two.
Marlon Samuels and Devon Thomas staged a good recovery and put on 78 together for the fifth wicket. The partnership had produced 38 with Samuels on 20 when he hoicked Mayers into the air at deep midwicket but a sprinting Darren Sammy failed to hang onto to the catch despite a diving effort. Samuels went on to make an unbeaten 52 and added a further 50 together with Sohail Tanvir for the seventh wicket as a late surge took them to 149.
The Zouks got off to a cautious start with just two runs off the first over bowled by Tanvir. Andre Fletcher ramped up the pace in the second by cracking Sheldon Cottrell for two fours and a six wide of long on in an 18-run stanza.
Johnson Charles then got in on the act in the third with a four and six off Sohail Tanvir to make it 33 for 0 after three before another three boundaries were taken off Shahid Afridi in the following over. By the end of the Powerplay, the Zouks were cruising at 61 for 0.
The lone bright spot in the field for the Patriots was CPL debutant Nikhil Dutta. The 20-year-old Canadian offspinner came on in the seventh over and should have struck with his third ball when Charles, on 20, went for a mighty heave across the line and produced a top edge to short third man where Cottrell fluffed a straightforward chance.
Dutta was denied the wicket of Charles again in the ninth over, this time on 29, after he walked across his stumps and was pinned in front after missing another slog but a shout for leg before was turned down.
Dutta’s luck finally turned two balls later when Fletcher mistimed a reverse sweep and the ball ballooned in the air off his gloves for a simple catch taken behind the stumps by Thomas to end the opening stand at 81 and Fletcher’s innings for 48. Dutta came back on for a second spell in the 13th over as part of an entertaining duel with Kevin Pietersen.
Two overs prior, Pietersen looked to be settled after tonking Shahid Afridi over midwicket for six, but Pietersen had trouble picking the mystery spinner Dutta in his first three deliveries before driving Dutta over cover. Dutta responded by dragging the length back slightly with one that turned sharply to bowl Pietersen through the gate for 18.
The Patriots could not find a way to dislodge Charles though and paid for the earlier reprieve. He brought up his 50 in 34 balls when he smashed Tabraiz Shamsi straight down the ground. Dutta’s first three overs went for only 15 but his figures were spoiled in the 15th over when Charles thumped two sixes over midwicket. Ross Taylor finished the match in the following over with 26 balls to spare.