The ever calm, cool and unruffled Misbah-ul-Haq held his nerves to deliver the St Lucia Zouks their first win of the inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League (LCPL) T20 Tournament. But then again, from what we’ve seen throughout Misbah’s career, it appears he does not possess nerves.
Deservedly, it was a thriller to end the Guyana leg of the Limacol CPL in a country that has been overcome by Twenty20 fever. The crowds had come in full of support of the Amazon Warriors every night at Providence Stadium. It was a bitter end though, as the home team failed to keep their perfect record at home alive.
For the second time in their last two matches, the Amazon Warriors batted first, this time being sent in by the St Lucia Zouks. Lendl Simmons and Martin Guptill did what they have been doing for the tournament so far, giving the Warriors a good start. Both batsmen scored quickly in the Powerplay, though not as fast as they had when they destroyed the Jamaica Tallawahs. As the 5th over came to an end, Guptill didn’t anticipate that Garey Mathurin’s delivery would not get up and the ball had sneaked through his defences. The opening partnership had put on 34 runs.
But the spinners clawed the Zouks back into the game after the short, sharp start from Simmons and company. Mohammad Hafeez came out to the middle and batted three overs, trying to find his feet. Shillingford would get the better of him for 13 though when the score just went past 50. By that time, the halfway stage of the innings was approaching and the Zouks had been piling on the pressure with dot balls, happy to give away the singles and rare twos. If you looked hard enough, it could be seen Simmons was getting frustrated with himself. He had been shackled into a prison, only being allowed 22 yards up the pitch and back. Eventually, he broke. He advanced down the track to Shane Shillingford, but pulled out of the shot when he nearly got there. It was too late for him to be saved and he was bowled. He had a great start, hitting 38 from 42 balls.
In the same 14th over, two balls later, Narsingh Deonarine swept across the line and was trapped leg before. From 73/4, the collapse wouldn’t end there. Ramnaresh Sarwan and James Franklin would follow in quick succession. As the Amazon Warriors innings withered away at 84/6, Christopher Barnwell and Denesh Ramdin provided a late spark to end the innings on a high. Barnwell took the attack to the Zouk bowlers, smashing 29 from 14 balls. Barnwell’s knock included two fours and two sixes. Ramdin stayed with him, running hard to get him back on strike. He made 13 runs from eight balls.
The Warriors finished on a respectable 126/6 from their 20 overs, but that’s all it was. At the halfway stage, they looked well short. It would be crucial their bowlers rose to the occasion. And indeed their bowlers started well, removing Tamim Iqbal in the first five overs. From 22/1, things got worse, as Herschelle Gibbs was trapped leg before by Narine for seven runs later.
Andre Fletcher tried staying at the crease, continuing in his aggression, but the bowling from the Warriors didn’t allow it. He couldn’t get the spinners away. He struck two sixes in his knock of 23, but those were in his zone. In trying to clear long-on, he missed out on a full toss from Deonarine and hit it straight down the throat of Guptill. Devon Smith and Misbah tried to stay calm amid an oncoming chaos. It was near the halfway stage of the innings when both batsmen met up in the middle. Misbah had already been out in the middle pushing and prodding, trying to get a feel of the situation. Together, they both put on 46 runs for the fourth wicket. They batted sensibly. The communication was good, but nothing could change the course that the match was heading for a close tie.
In fact, up until the 14th over, the game looked like it was the Warriors’ one to lose. But then Sarwan replaced spin with James Franklin. After Misbah got a single from the first ball, his next three balls would disappear for boundaries. First, Smith pulled with those quick hands of his to the mid-wicket boundary. Franklin returned with a short and wide delivery that Smith cut down to the vacant third man for four more. Then finally, as Franklin got closer to the off-stump, Smith delicately opened the face of his bat, guiding the ball once again past short third man for four more. It was the over that started the Zouks charge.
A couple of overs later, Smith was run out trying to steal a quick single. His 24 runs would turn out to be invaluable. Much depended on Albie Morkel, but he wouldn’t face a ball. With the pressure on, Misbah called a single to Hafeez at mid-off, but sent him back. It was all too late though; Hafeez had run in from mid-off and effected the run out with Morkel inches short.
Darren Sammy entered the fray and blasted two consecutive fours off Santokie as things were kept interesting. Off the last over, the Zouks required ten runs to win. Mohammad Hafeez’s first ball to Misbah was hit straight back. The Pakistan captain couldn’t do much with it. The next ball disappeared straight down the ground for six, leaving four from four to get. Then, the very next ball, Misbah went over long-on again, and he had completed the victory with three balls to spare. He fell just short of 50, ending on 49, but had gotten the Zouks over the line.
Misbah-ul-Haq received the Man of the Match award while Andre Fletcher nabbed the Limacol Super Six prize.