Trinbago Knight Riders skipper Kieron Pollard's dreams of leading his home side to a hat-trick of Hero Caribbean Premier League titles in his first season in charge imploded on Thursday night as the Barbados Tridents pulled off a 12-run victory to book their spot in Saturday's final against the unbeaten Guyana Amazon Warriors.
Ashley Nurse delivered his best all-round performance of the tournament with a breezy nine-ball unbeaten 24 which got Tridents to a competitive 160-6, before he took two wickets for 14 runs, including the prized scalps of Denesh Ramdin (21) and Darren Bravo (2), as TKR were bundled out for 148 at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba.
However, it was medium-pacer Raymon Reifer who delivered the death blow to the TKR outfit with a final over in which he removed the defiant Seekkuge Prassana, who had threatened the pull off a come from behind win for the home side and tailender Khary Pierre (0) to stun the home fans and shatter TKR's dreams of a record hat-trick and fourth overall title.
With TKR needing 14 runs off the last six balls and Prassana well set on a 27-ball 51, including four fours and four sixes, Reifer delivered a yorker first up straight onto Prassana's back foot, trapping him leg before wicket. Two balls later, he got Pierre to sky one to Alex Hales, who came in off the deep mid-on boundary to accept the catch and send the Tridents to the final.
But the Tridents had signalled their intention to reach their fourth CPL final early on when the had both TKR openers Lendl Simmons (1) and Sunil Narine (17) back in the dugout inside the Power Play overs.
Skipper Jason Holder first got Simmons to play too early to a slower ball and spoon it to Reifer at mid-on off the last delivery of the second over. Holder then brought on medium-pacer Harry Gurney earlier than usual and he rewarded him by deceiving Narine with a slower ball, the opener blasting his uncontrolled shot high into the night sky where wicket-keeper Shai Hope took an easy catch behind the wicket as TKR were reduced to 19-2.
Ramdin and Colin Munro then shared in a 35-run run partnership before Munro inexplicably gave his hand away. With dangerous leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr, who bagged career-best figures of 5-19 off TKR in the first of their two meetings in the round-robin phase, Munro moved outside his off stump and tried his reverse sweep off the last ball of the seventh over. But Munro was never in control of the shot, top-edged it and offered an easy catch to Nurse at third man as TKR stuttered to 54-3.
Things got even worse two overs later when Nurse got into the act, inducing a thin edge from Bravo which wicketkeeper Hope snapped up as the home side's implosion began at 62-4. Nurse was not yet done either, as in his very next over he got the experienced Ramdin to hole out to Holder at long-on to silence the home fans, TKR now on a wobbly 81-5.
But just as Prasanna and Pollard were regaining some advantage for TKR with a breezy 41-run partnership, Walsh struck the biggest blow of the match in the 16th over. Pollard mistimed a pull off Holder but managed to get it into the midwicket region and took off for a run. Going back for a second, however, he was stopped by Prasanna, as Walsh picked up cleanly running in from the boundary. Walsh then got a quick relay back to Hope and he broke the stumps before Pollard could get back into his crease.
If the air hadn't been sucked out the venue then, it was when Walsh got Searles (1) to hole out to Holder on the long-on boundary to leave TKR 129-7.
And after Harry Gurney sent back Chris Jordan (5) in the 19th over to leave TKR at 147-8, Reifer put the final nail in TKR's coffin with his double strike.
But TKR have only themselves to blame for the stunning loss as earlier, Tridents initially rode their luck as Jonathan Charles got a life off the very first ball of the match from medium-pacer Searles. Given the start over spinner Akeal Hosein and then surprisingly also given the new ball, Searles induced a thick edge from Charles first up. Wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin dived to his right in front of Pollard, who was at first slip but grassed the golden chance.
Charles' charmed life continued in the third over when on 11, he miscued an attempted flick shot off Searles and miscued it high into the air. However, he breathed a sigh of relief as long-on Chris Jordan and long-off Lendl Simmons let the ball drop in between them as neither called for the catch.
Despite this, the TKR bowlers kept things tight inside the Power Play and left-arm orthodox spinner Khary Pierre still got an early breakthrough in the fifth over when he knocked back Alex Hales' leg stump as he went for a sweep and missed, Tridents at 27-1.
Pierre struck another vital blow in the ninth over to reduce the Tridents to 50-2. Having been hit for a six by Shakib Al Hasan off his fourth ball, the Bangladeshi all-rounder charged down to the last ball of the over and skied it high into the air towards mid-on. Running back and with the ball coming over his shoulder, Pierre took a brilliant return catch diving forward to dismiss Al Hasan for 18.
The visitors were dealt an unfortunate blow in the 12th over when JP Duminy was forced to retire hurt with a strained hamstring. To compound things, Charles' luck ran out the very next ball when he tried to muscle an Ali Khan delivery over mid-off but couldn't get the power in the shot and was caught by Jordan for 35 as Tridents were set further back at 74-3, which was effectively 74-4 due to Duminy's departure.
But Jordan struck a vital blow in the 15th over with a crucial double strike. First, he produced a slower first ball which Carter chipped back towards him. On his follow through, Jordan dived brilliantly to his left to pluck the ball just before it hit the wicket. He then got Tridents skipper Holder (1) to hole out to Munro on the deep square leg boundary as Tridents stuttered to 92-5, now with no prospect of Duminy returning to the crease.
Khan then got Shai Hope to hole out to Pollard at extra cover as the Tridents were reduced to 112-6 in the 18th over.
But tailenders Reifer and Nurse then blazed 42 off the last two overs thanks to some undisciplined bowling by Jordan and Khan, although the wet ball did not help their cause. Both Reifer and Nurse finished unbeaten on 24 at the close and their effort proved just enough to give the Tridents the impetus they needed to put water in the TKR's eyes.
BARBADOS TRIDENTS 160-6 (20) (Johnson Charles 35, Raymon Reifer 24*, Ashley Nurse 24*, Shai Hope 23, Khary Pierre 2/25, Ali Khan 2/36, Chris Jordan 2/40) v TRINBAGO KNIGHT RIDERS 148 all out (19.3) (Seekkuge Prassana 51, Kieron Pollard 23, Denesh Ramdin 21, Ashley Nurse 2/14, Raymon Reifer 2/13, Hayden Walsh Jr 2/33, Harry Gurney 2/31)
Result: BARBADOS TRIDENTS WON BY 12 RUNS
Man-of-the-match: ASHLEY NURSE (BT)