St Lucia Zouks 111 for 4 (Zadran 33, Chase 27*, Cornwall 26, Imran 3-23) beat St Kitts & Nevis Patriots 110 for 9 (Dunk 33, Joseph 21*, Nabi 5-15) by six wickets
A maiden T20 five-wicket haul from Mohammad Nabi led the St Lucia Zouks to their fourth win in six matches, against the bottom-placed St Kitts & Nevis Patriots who could never recover after their top order imploded on a square turner in Port-of-Spain.
The Zouks won the toss and chose to bowl, and Nabi set the tone straightaway with two wickets in the first over of the match, and two more in the third. The Patriots slipped to 38 for 5 at one stage, and even if they recovered to get past the 100 mark, they fell well short of setting a target that could have put pressure on the Zouks line-up.
A brief spell of Test cricket
There was some moisture in the Queen’s Park Oval surface early on, and Daren Sammy threw the ball to Nabi straightaway to see if there was any grip for his offbreaks. There was plenty, and Nabi bowled at a slower pace than usual, to try and induce errors by making the batsmen reach for the ball. That plan immediately brought two Test-match-style wickets: Chris Lynn caught and bowled, done in by dip and sharp turn while trying to drive against the turn, and the left-hander Nick Kelly caught at slip while trying to defend.
Spin, spin, spin
Scott Kuggeleijn bowled the second over, but thereafter it was all spin until the end of the 17th.
Nabi picked up two more wickets in his second over, with Denesh Ramdin and Evin Lewis both done in by the ball stopping, turning and bouncing while they tried to sweep. From 11 for 4, it was a hard slog for the Patriots to get any sort of total on the board, and even though the Zouks’ other spinners didn’t achieve Nabi’s level of wicket-taking penetration, they were all extremely hard to hit on a pitch where the ball turned big and, by and large, slowly.
On such a surface, the sweep remained one of the few run-scoring options, even if it remained a risky shot. Ben Dunk played it often, with a reasonable degree of control, and scored 33 off 39 balls to give the innings some semblance of shape, with no one else in the top six getting into the double figures.
Dunk’s only boundaries were a pair of sixes down the ground on rare occasions when Rahkeem Cornwall and Zahir Khan fed him loopy half-volleys. Those two sixes and another early on from Ramdin were, in fact, were the only boundaries in Patriots’ innings until the end of the 17th over – the last of Nabi’s quota, when he came back and dismissed Sohail Tanvir, off another top-edged sweep, to complete his five-for.
Pace travels the distance
From thereon, Sammy went to his faster bowlers to finish the innings. With some pace to work with finally, the Patriots got some big hits away, with Rayad Emrit and Alzarri Joseph hitting a four and three sixes between them – mostly off short balls clubbed over midwicket – off Kuggeleijn and Kesrick Williams. Thirty-seven runs came off the last three overs of the Patriots’ innings, enabling them to set a target of 111.
The shape of their innings should have given the Patriots some clue as to which bowlers to entrust with the bulk of their overs. They started with the pace of Sohail Tanvir, however, and the Zouks immediately took full toll. They shaved 20 runs off their target in the first over, courtesy the effortless power of Cornwall, who hit the left-armer for two fours and two sixes – an effortless pick-up shot over square leg and a flat-bat thump over mid-off.
Chase, Zadran steer Zouks to victory
Cornwall muscled another big leg-side six, off the legspinner Imran Khan, in the third over but fell two balls later to one that shot through low. A brief rain interruption followed, and Imran had another wicket immediately upon resumption as Mark Deyal miscued an unnecessary slog – the required rate at that stage was under five an over.
Imran picked up another wicket – Andre Fletcher caught at midwicket – in the seventh over of the Zouks’ innings, but by then they were already nearly halfway home. Roston Chase then played simple, risk-free cricket from one end and Najibullah Zadran took some calculated risks – including a pair of clinical reverse-sweeps off the offspinner Jon-Russ Jaggesar – from the other, as a fourth-wicket stand of 47 put the Zoyks within sight of victory.
Zadran fell with just 12 runs required, but only the formalities were left; Zouks had 32 balls to spare when Chase swatted the winning boundary.