Opener Rakheem Cornwall finally came good again with a blistering half-century as the St Lucia Zouks officially knocked the Jamaica Tallawahs out of this year’s Hero Caribbean Premier League playoffs with a four-wicket win at the Daren Sammy Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia, on Friday night.
Cornwall bludgeoned a 24-ball 51, including four fours and five massive maximums, as the Zouks, chasing 166 for victory after restricting the visitors to 166-7, got there with five balls to spare.
However, it was skipper Daren Sammy (16 not out) who had to hold his nerves towards the end with the tailenders to bring the Zouks a much-needed win, after some of their middle-order batsmen inexplicably gave away their wickets to erode the fine foundation Cornwall set for them.
With 19 runs needed off the last two overs, Sammy hit medium pacer Shamar Springer for two sixes, including one off a no-ball, in an 18-run penultimate over. Sammy then dropped to his knees as Krishmar Santokie blasted the first ball of the last over to the cover boundary to spark wilds celebrations from the Zouks fans.
The victory helped push the Zouks to fourth place on the six-team table with seven points, just one behind third-placed St Kitts Nevis Patriots and two back of second-placed Trinbago Knight Riders. More importantly, with the Guyana Amazon Warriors (14 pts) already in the playoffs, the Zouks may now be in a position to sneak in too if they can travel to Kensington Oval and beat fifth-placed Barbados Tridents (6 pts) in their last round-robin game on Sunday.
The Tridents, however, can go back on top the Zouks today if they beat the Patriots in the first of a two-game homestand Saturday at the Kensington Oval.
The Tallawahs meanwhile will now not see the playoff for the first time in their six-year run in the CPL.
But the Zouks would never have been in a position to plot their next move forward had Cornwall and opening partner Andre Fletcher not set a solid foundation. They blazed away to a 49-run partnership in just four overs before Fletcher was the first to go, after he drove at Zahir Khan’s googly, got an edge and was sharply caught by Tallawahs’ Chris Gayle at slip.
Cornwall continued his scoring onslaught and brought up his milestone by despatching Ramaal Lewis for a straight boundary to raise his 50 off 24 balls. His innings included four fours and five maximums. However, he was out in next ball, caught by Chadwick Walton on the boundary to the chagrin of the fans who wanted to see more power hitting.
Colin de Grandhomme then cavalierly deposited the first ball he saw from spinner Imran Khan into the hands of Liton Das at mid-wicket as Zouks slumped to 79-3.
Hardus Viljoen joined Colin Ingram but the two struggled to find easy runs. They had shared in a 38-run stand before Ingram went for a foolish run after pushing spinner Lewis straight to Imran Khan at mid-off, only to see him make a clean pick-up and knock over his stumps with a direct hit.
The Zouks were then 117-4 but still in a comfortable position. This changed when Viljoen’s miss-timed pull shot was taken by Springer at deep fine leg and the Zouks were suddenly in a tailspin at 130-5.
But with Sammy at the crease the home fans still had hope. And with the Tallawahs pressuring, Sammy squeezed out 14 runs with Christopher Barnwell (13) and 25 with Santokie to complete the job.
Earlier, Gayle and Glenn Phillips seemed in the mood early on, with Gayle belting a couple fours and maximums all around the ground. They got to 48 before Viljoen got the breakthrough for the home side, cramping Phillips (23) for room with a bouncer which he gloved to wicket-keeper Fletcher.
Dwayne Smith joined Gayle and was immediately into his stride, blasting just the second ball he saw off Viljoen over the mid-wicket boundary for a maximum to get off the mark.
Gayle and Smith put on 36 for the third wicket before Sammy, who hadn’t bowled up to then this season, got the prized scalp of Gayle as he holed out to Viljoen at long-off for 29, the Tallawahs slipping to 84-2.
Smith got an eager partner in Liton Dass but the Zouks fielders proved to be Smith’s best allies. Having been dropped on 14, he was also given lives on 32 and 33 before he brought up his half-century, as the Zouks apparently liked seeing him bat more.
Smith hit Jeavor Royal through backward point to bring up his half-century off 30 balls with five fours and three sixes. He hit one more boundary before medium pacer Kesrick Williams delivered a double strike in the 17th over to slow the Tallawahs’ death overs momentum considerably.
Williams first removed Dass, caught and bowled off the third ball of his over for 21 to end a 56-run third-wicket partnership, then got Smith to sky his slower ball to long-on where he was taken by Royal, who was responsible for dropping Smith earlier on.
The Tallawahs were then 140-4 and the Zouks bowlers restricted them to just 25 more runs to give themselves a chance to chase a reasonable total.
Williams finished with figures of three for 24 and was voted Man-of-the-match.
JAMAICA TALLAWAHS 165-7 (Dwayne Smith 58, Chris Gayle 29, Glenn Phillips 23, Liton Dass 21, Kesrick Williams 3/24, Krishmar Santokie 2/31) v ST LUCIA ZOUKS 169-6 (Rakheem Cornwall 51, Hardus Viljoen 32, Darren Sammy 16*, Imran Khan 2/34, Dwayne Smith 1/8)
Result: ST LUCIA ZOUKS WN BY 4 WICKETS
Man-of-the-match: Kesrick Williams (Zouks)