Mystery spinner Sunil Narine played through injury to produce a miserly spell while the in-form Lendl Simmons hit a half-century to steer the Trinbago Knight Riders past the St Kitts Nevis Patriots by six wickets in the first Hero Caribbean Premier League Eliminator at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on Sunday.
Man-of-the-match Narine took two wickets for just 10 runs as TKR first restricted the Patriots to 125-7 before Simmons hit 51 as the defending champions reached 128-4 with six balls to spare.
TKR skipper Kieron Pollard had the honour of hitting the winning runs in the penultimate over and did so with his usual flair against opposite number Carlos Brathwaite - blasting two maximums and a four to end it - as the TKR ended a four-match losing skid to earn a chance to play the loser of the first Qualifier between the Guyana Amazon Warriors and the Barbados Tridents on Thursday at the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad.
But it was Simmons' fighting half-century which gave TKR, who are chasing a hat-trick of CPL titles, the foundation to break their losing slump coming out of the round-robin series. On a difficult pitch, the usually aggressive Simmons grafted and scratched around as he faced 47 balls and hit just three fours and three sixes in his innings. More importantly, he held the innings together and shared in a vital 47-run fourth-wicket partnership with Denesh Ramdin after the Patriots bowlers removed the other top-order batsmen cheaply to take a semblance of advantage into the second half of the innings.
Pacer Alzarri Joseph got the Patriots off to a flyer when he got the dangerous Narine (8) to play a pull shot straight to Sheldon Cottrell at deep square leg, as TKR's hope of a quick start ended at 15-1 in the second over.
Cottrell then got the prized scalp of Colin Munro for a duck in the next over, knocking over his off stump after he played and missed a delivery which cut back in sharply from just outside off stump. Rayad Emit brought more worries for anxious TKR fans when Darren Bravo (1) fell for an obvious fielding trap in the sixth over and pulled a short-pitched delivery straight into the hands of Cottrell at deep square leg as TKR slumped to 31-3.
Simmons and Ramdin then struggled to get runs as TKR reached just 43-3 after 10 overs. However, they stuck it out, even when things got tense in the middle between themselves and Brathwaite. All three players got into a verbal altercation in the 11th over after Brathwaite attempted to run out Ramdin when he felt the wicketkeeper went to speak to Simmons although the ball was not dead. The umpire intervened to calm them down before noting he had already deemed the ball to be dead.
Simmons eventually got to his half-century in the 16th over with a maximum over long-on off Brathwaite. But in the very next ball, he went for a similar shot and holed out to Laurie Evans on the long-on boundary. His 51 came off 47 balls and included three fours and three maximums.
But Pollard then joined Ramdin and although the two took a while to hit their stride eventually got TKR home comfortably enough to end their longest-ever losing slump.
Earlier, pacer Ali Khan opened the gates for TKR when he dismissed Mohammad Hafeez in just the fourth over. Hafeez, apparently with instructions to take on the bowlers in the Power Play, came down the wicket to the Khan, who saw him and dug in a bouncer wide of off stump. Hafeez still tried to crack the delivery to mid-wicket but miscued his shot high into the sky to give Akeal Hosein an easy catch at mid-off to be dismissed for 11 as Patriots found themselves at 22-1.
Two overs later, medium-pacer Chris Jordan, having been cracked for four in the third ball of his over, knocked over Shamarh Brooks' (5) leg stump with a yorker in the next ball. The hole got a lot deeper in the very next over when champion spinner Sunil Narine removed dangerous opener Evin Lewis (9), who played back, was hurried on his shot and only managed to present the bowler an easy caught and bowled as Patriots slumped to 30-3.
After Laurie Evans and Devon Thomas shared in a mini recovery of 51 runs, Narine trapped Thomas plumb in front his wicket with the last ball of his spell as Patriots tottered to 81-4. Narine, clearly playing through pain from the middle finger on his bowling hand during the innings, still finished with a miserly two wickets for 10 runs.
Evans and Braithwaite struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking but managed a 21-run partnership before Braithwaite (3) lost his patience and skied a Jordan delivery to long-on where Colin Munro took an easy catch.
Khan, returning for his second spell, finally ended Evans' stint at the crease when he got him to go for an expansive drive which was easily caught on the cover boundary by Khary Pierre. Evans faced 47 balls and hit eight fours.
Jordan then bowled a fine last over, taking the wicket of Fabian Allen (6) with his first ball and getting just four off it to set TKR up with an easy total chase.
ST KITTS NEVIS PATRIOTS 125-7 (20) (Laurie Evans 55, Keron Cottoy 14*, Chris Jordan 3/30, Sunil Narine 2/10, Ali Khan 2/22 ) v TRINBAGO KNIGHT RIDERS 128-4 (18.4) (Lendl Simmons 51, Denesh Ramdin 32*, Kieron Pollard 26*, Alzarri Joseph 1/17, Sheldon Cottrell 1/29)
Result: TRINBAGO KNIGHT RIDERS WON BY 6 WKTS
Man-of-the-match: Sunil Narine (TKR)
PATRIOTS: Mohammad Hafeez, Evin Lewis, Shamarh Brooks, Laurie Evans, Devon Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Fabian Allen, Keron Cottoy, Rayad Emrit, Sheldon Cottrell, Alzarri Joseph.
TKR: Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, Colin Munro, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Seekkuge Prasanna, Khary Pierre, Chris Jordan, Akeal Hosein, Ali Khan.