Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles slammed belligerent half-centuries as Saint Lucia Zouks pipped heavyweights Jamaica Tallawahs by 63 runs in a Caribbean Premier League 2016 encounter at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Florida on Saturday (July 30).
The Zouks duo put on an 89-run opening stand in under 10 overs before a sparkling 43 from Shane Watson helped push the total past the psychological 200-run mark.
Tallawahs’ chase of 206 never gathered steam once Chris Gayle and Kumar Sangakkara departed inside the powerplay, and their case was not helped by a strangely subdued partnership between Chadwick Walton (54 off 51) and Alex Ross (27 off 28) that sucked the life out of the league leaders’ chances.
Eventually, a disciplined all-round bowling effort from Zouks’ bowlers restricted the powerful Jamaica line-up to 143, paving the way for their qualification to the playoffs stage of the tournament.
For Darren Sammy’s Zouks, the match was a classic case of toppling the Tallawahs at their own game. Not playing the table toppers in the Caribbean leg of the tournament allowed them to play without any preconceived notions. On a flat track on which the ball came nicely on to the bat, Gayle had qualms in letting his T20I captain take first strike. It was a gross underestimation of Zouks’ fire-power.
Charles and Fletcher gave an indication of their intention early in the innings when the former launched left-arm spinner Imad Wasim over cow corner for a six in the first over of the game. But while Kesrick Williams did a good job of keeping the explosive duo guessing with his judicious use of the slower ball, Wasim and Andre Russell bled boundaries. At the end of the fielding restrictions, Charles had scored 46 of the team’s total of 60, 31 of which came off Wasim’s three overs.
The introduction of the wily Shakib Al Hasan brought momentary respite for Tallawahs as the experienced Bangladesh all-rounder snapped up Charles after a 39-ball 57. But the arrival of Watson pegged Gayle’s men further back. The former Australian all-rounder slammed five sixes and a four in a 20-ball innings, during which he scored at a rate of 215.
After the 59-run second wicket stand was ended with Watson’s dismissal by Williams, Fletcher shared useful partnerships with David Miller (13 off 8) and captain Sammy (11 off 6) to propel the team to a Gayle-proof total.
The Tallawahs skipper announced his presence in the chase with a succession of sixes off Delorn Johnson, but the bowler had the last laugh when he squared the big Jamaican up off the following delivery and had him caught at slip, sparking wild celebrations.
While Walton kept one end going with timely boundaries, the dismissal of stalwart Sangakkara, to Shane Shillingford, served a massive dent to Jamaica’s chances. Sammy then prized out Rovman Powell, beginning a period of Zouks dominance that effectively closed out the match.
Sammy and Gidron Pope then bowled out five overs amongst themselves, conceding a mere 37 runs in a chase that started at an asking rate over 10 runs to the over.
Despite possessing players of the calibre of Andre Russell and Shakib, the final overs of the match were reduced to a mere formality thanks to the ambling fourth-wicket stand between Walton and Ross.
But by the end of the game, none of the Zouks players were complaining. It was a comprehensive victory against the competition’s team to beat.