St Lucia Zouks 50 for 3 in 4.1 overs (Fletcher 16*, Nabi 15, Khan 2-24) beat Barbados Tridents 131 for 7 in 18.1 overs (Charles 35, Holder 27, Chase 2-8, Kuggeleijn 2-28) by seven wickets (DLS method)
Is the DLS method a fair way to determine targets in rain-shortened T20 games? Graeme Smith, the former South Africa captain, recently said he doesn’t think so, and he could have used Thursday’s CPL game between the Barbados Tridents and the St Lucia Zouks as an example to support his argument.
It was shaping up to be a slow-scoring tussle between two spin-heavy attacks on a two-paced pitch. Rain arrived, ate away more than two hours of action, and transformed the nature of the contest. Rather than a 20-over target in the region of 145, the Zouks had to chase a far less challenging 47 in five overs, and they got home with ease, with five balls to spare.
The Zouks attack – Mohammad Nabi in particular – bowled well enough to be deserving victors, but rain and the arithmetic of DLS rendered everything about the first innings almost irrelevant. To rephrase the cliche about games of two halves, this was a game of two games, or maybe even two entirely different sports.
Luck favours the chasing side
Luck plays a fairly influential role in T20 contests; over five overs, with the batting team still having ten wickets to play with, this role is magnified. The Zouks hit seven fours and two sixes in their chase, and of those nine boundaries, four were miscues – including the first two that Rahkeem Cornwall edged behind the wicket in the first over to set the tone of the chase – and one was a chance that Mitchell Santner couldn’t wrap his hands around at long-on.
Over a longer contest, these moments of fortune play a smaller role in deciding the result. The Tridents, moreover, had an attack made for this Tarouba surface, with four frontline spinners, but three of them didn’t get to bowl at all. The fourth, Rashid Khan, picked up two wickets and could have had a third (the chance Santner failed to grab off Nabi) but ended up going for 24 in his two overs.
Tridents hurry off the blocks
Perhaps the one thing the Tridents got wrong was Jason Holder’s decision at the toss – why bat first if rain is imminent? – but the opening exchanges suggested they were on the right track. The two-paced nature of the pitch was already in evidence – and the Tridents had an attack to make full use of it later on – but in the meanwhile, Johnson Charles was taking full toll of some ordinary new-ball bowling from the Zouks. He slapped the first ball of the match – a short one from the left-arm spinner Saad Bin Zafar – to the cover point boundary, and then hammered a wildly inconsistent Obed McCoy for two fours and a six in the second over. By the time he was out for 35 off 19 in the fourth over, his opening partner Shai Hope had only faced two balls and was yet to open his account.
Nabi applies the strangle
Charles and Corey Anderson – who slapped a full-toss straight to cover – fell in successive Scott Kuggeleijn overs, and the Tridents ended the powerplay 53 for 2. At the other end, Nabi bowled a typically shrewd spell of strangulating offspin, varying his pace, reading the batsmen’s intentions, giving neither right- nor left-hander any room, and getting his arm ball to deviate like a legcutter. He got the wicket of Hope, for an unconvincing 19 off 16, with one of these arm balls, and ended with figures of 4-0-19-1.
Zouks wrest control despite Holder cameo
Few batsmen in world cricket time the ball as well as Holder does when he’s on song, and on a pitch where most of his team-mates struggled to middle the ball, the Tridents captain strode in at No. 5 and dispatched the ball to all parts – a pulled six off Kesrick Williams was particularly jaw-dropping in its effortlessness – while scoring 27 off 12 balls. But once he fell to a Williams slower ball, the Tridents innings lost all momentum. Roston Chase and Mark Deyal – two of four offspinners used by the Zouks – picked up three wickets in the space of nine balls, before Santner and Ashley Nurse added an unbroken, run-a-ball 22 for the eighth wicket. That left the Tridents poised for a bit of a slog, with 11 balls remaining and the dangerous Khan still to come, but the rain came down and rendered everything that came before meaningless.