Fridays. T20 league opener. Brendon McCullum playing for a Knight Rider. It was meant to be a blockbuster. History has evidence for it.
Fans had turned up in number, the glitz and glamour was no less, and it took two New Zealand power-hitters – Brendon McCullum and Colin Munro to set the stage on fire in Gros Islet. A new destroyer and a master of the format matched each other for every stroke to make a mockery of a sub-par total with their respective half centuries to take Trinbago Knight Riders to a comfortable win.
Even as Knight Riders didn’t boast of a long batting line-up, they were always going to be ahead in the race chasing 133. The wicket was slow, and the only trap they could have walked into would have been of losing out on the initiative by being over-aggressive. With Sunil Narine sent out to open the innings alongside McCullum, it became quite obvious that they were willing to take the risk and play to their strength rather than the match situation.
Narine, who had enjoyed successful stints at the top with Melbourne Renegades and Kolkata Knight Riders earlier this year, couldn’t enjoy a similar start in his home T20 league. The southpaw was dismissed for a first-ball duck as Jerome Taylor got the ball to pitch full and swing back in to destroy the timber.
Even as the West Indian pacer did cause some worry with his pace and the away swinging deliveries to McCullum, who was scratchy to begin with, he couldn’t manage to get another breakthrough.
While McCullum took time to settle in, Munro took care of the initial attack and hammered the home side bowlers in the powerplay.
First up, it was young left-arm medium pacer Obed McCoy, who got punished for 18 runs off his loose deliveries. More than the runs, it allowed the visitors to settle into the chase, the result of which appeared in the sixth and seventh over of the innings. By then, even McCullum had found his groove and together they thrashed Mitchell McClenaghan and Darren Sammy for 16 and 21 runs respectively.
To make matters worse, Munro was dropped off the last ball of the seventh over when he mistimed a shot and Mayers dropped an easy chance at long on. Even as Knight Riders had wiped off 78 runs from the target till then, it was their best chance to get back into the game – something that had diminished to a great extent by that point in the match.
Thereafter, McCullum went on an overdrive and clobbered seven sixes and two boundaries in his unbeaten 27-ball 58. Munro, who went on to play second fiddle after getting dropped, also stroked a half century (39-ball 66*) as the duo put on a unbeaten 132-run stand for the second wicket to guide Knight Riders to a comfortable nine-wicket win with 56 balls to spare.
Earlier in the day, Knight Riders skipper Dwayne Bravo won the toss and elected to field. The move worked pretty well as the visiting bowlers bowled with a lot of discipline on slow conditions. With wickets falling at regular intervals, St Lucia complicated their own task at hand.
Despite that, they continued to score at over and around the run-a-ball mark, but it was the introduction of the 18-year old Pakistan spinner Shadab Khan which ensured that the hosts don’t get away. He kept a leash on their run-scoring with some tight bowling and also bagged the wickets of Andre Fletcher and Jesse Ryder, who had put on a 28-run stand for the third wicket – the highest of St Lucia’s innings.
Kyle Mayers (15-ball 23) and Jerome Taylor (8-ball 11) made crucial contributions towards the end, but in the end it proved far too little for St Lucia’s liking.
Even as the crowd at the Darren Sammy International Cricket Stadium watched their side get thrashed in a one-sided rubber, the spirits, noise and music were up cheering for the McCullum-Munro show. Slightly less attractive than the duo, but as effective, Shadab was awarded the Man of the Match for his bowling figures of 4-0-15-2.
Brief Scores: St Lucia Stars 132/9 in 20 overs (Andre Fletcher 26, Kyle Mayers 23; Shadab Khan 2-15, Dwayne Bravo 2-23) lost to Trinbago Knight Riders 137/1 in 10.4 overs (Colin Munro 66*, Brendon McCullum 58*) by 9 wickets