Opener Brandon King blasted a belligerent half-century as the Guyana Amazon Warriors once again stamped their class with an eight-wicket win over the St Lucia Zouks in their latest Caribbean Premier League outing on Wednesday night.
The unbeaten Warriors silenced the Daren Sammy Stadium home fans with another efficient effort, as after restricting the Zouks to 161-7 they cruised to their 162-run target with 10 balls to spare.
King was the main aggressor in the victory, stroking a blistering unbeaten 59-ball 81, which, though not flawless, served to warn the Warriors’ remaining opponents that they are no joke in this year’s series.
The win helped the Warriors (14 pts) stretch their lead over the second-placed Trinbago Knight Riders to five points. The Zouks remained in fourth position after the loss with five points, still three behind third-placed St Kitts Nevis Patriots (8 pts) but now have two games left to the Patriots’ one to get the points they now desperately need to secure a playoff spot.
TKR will try to keep pace on Thursday night when they meet the Barbados Tridents (4 pts), who are second to last on the six-table, at Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Earlier, Zouks skipper Daren Sammy must have regretted his decision to take first strike after winning the toss, as the Warriors spinners strangled openers Andre Fletcher and Rakheem Cornwall in the Power Play overs.
The evergreen Imran Tahir got the breakthrough for Warriors in the fifth over, when he got Fletcher to try to hit him out the ground only to mistime the shot and sky the ball high into the night sky, where Ben Laughlin took the catch at long-off. The over was a wicket-maiden and the Zouks were struggling on 24-1 at the end of it.
Chris Green kept the pressure on in the next over but probably could not believe his luck when Cornwall gifted the Warriors his wicket. After Zouks' Colin Ingram guided Green to point, Cornwall trotted down the pitch from the non-striker’s end for what was supposed to be an easy single. He was well inside his crease when he got to the other end but forgot to ground his bat and was run out by wicket-keeper Nicholas Pooran off a return from Tahir, who was not even trying for a run out in the first place when he tossed in his throw.
Zouks were now 24 for two with their two openers, the men expected to push their quick scoring, back in the pavilion.
Colin de Grandhomme joined Ingram and the pair achieved a revival of sorts with a 56-run partnership before Tahir got Ingram to hole out to Green at long-off in the tenth over for 25, Zouks now 81-3.
De Grandhomme continued the Zouks fight, taking his bat to a well-played 37-ball 65, including three fours and five maximums. His problem, however, was that he had little support around him, with only Christopher Barnwell providing any other resistance to the visitors’ attack.
Ben Laughlin, in the side for the rest Keemo Paul, was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets for 12 runs while Tahir bagged two for 23.
In their turn at the crease, King and opening partner Chandrapaul Hemraj showed they were in no-nonsense mode by blasting the Zouks bowlers to all parts of the ground in the Power Play.
They had rattled up 52 runs inside six overs when Hemraj went for one big shot too many. He tried a slog sweep leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed’s googly, top-edged it high into the air and was easily caught by Fletcher running in from the long-on boundary. Hemraj hit a 20-ball 33 with two fours and three sixes.
The Warriors soon slipped to 70-2 for two when Shimron Hetmyer (5) was adjudged caught behind in the next over as he cut at a delivery off-spinner Jeavor Royal, although replays suggested he may not have touched the ball at all.
Undaunted by this, King, dropped on three by Sammy, miss-stumped on 10 by wicket-keeper Jahmar Hamilton and dropped on 23 by Barnwell, took full advantage of those Zouks gifts to go on to score his third straight half-century of the tournament and take the Warriors to another well-deserved victory. His proud skipper Shoib Malik was with him at the close, also unbeaten on 30.
ST LUCIA ZOUKS 161-7 (20) (Colin de Grandhomme 65, Colin Ingram 25, Christopher Barnwell 23, Ben Laughlin 3/12, Imran Tahir 2/23) v GUYANA AMAZON WARRIORS 162-2 (18.2) (Brandon King 81*, Chandrapaul Hemraj 33, Shoaib Malik 30, Fawad Ahmed 1/24)
Result: GUYANA AMAZON WARRIORS WON BY 8 WICKETS
Man-of-the-match: Brandon King (GAW)