Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel (119-2) beat St. Lucia Zouks (117 all out) by 8 wickets with 31 balls remaining
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel recorded an emphatic victory that saw them go clear at the top of the table in the Limacol Caribbean Premier League. They brushed aside the St. Lucia Zouks who remain winless in the tournament this year. Fantastic quick bowling from Shannon Gabriel restricted the Zouks to just 117, and then yet another half century from Evin Lewis saw the Red Steel beat the home side by eight wickets. The loss leaves the Zouks rooted to the bottom of the table and qualification for the knockout stages is now impossible for the side from St. Lucia.
Gabriel marked his first game in the tournament this year with a spell that saw him pick up three wickets, including those of Johnson Charles and Henry Davids inside the Powerplay, with both men caught in the cordon. The catch to remove Charles from Ross Taylor one handed was spectacular and gave his team an excellent start. As the Zouks found themselves two wickets down for five runs in the third over there was a familiar feel to this innings to previous matches. As it was, Keddy Lesporis and Andre Fletcher attempted a rebuilding job, when previously they have tried to blast their way at of trouble. This patient approach could not last forever though if they wanted to set a challenging target, but the attempt to accelerate the score only brought yet more wickets.
Fletcher went for 24, mistiming a drive into the waiting hands of Taylor. Darren Sammy became the third man to be out caught by Taylor when he tried an ambitious hoick across the line from the bowling of Dwayne Bravo. Lesporis looked to be standing firm, although he could have been caught in the deep by Gabriel, but the big fast bowler did not make an attempt to take what looked like a relatively straight forward chance. Gabriel made up for that mistake when he returned to bowl his last over, taking a superb return catch to see Lesporis on his way back to the dressing room for 22. He finished with figures of 3-20.
The leading run scorer for the Zouks this tournament is Sohail Tanvir. As a man that has been batting at six or lower throughout the Limacol Caribbean Premier League, it says a lot about how things have gone for the St. Lucia Zouks. Even he could not rescue his team here though as he fell for 18, going to a fourth catch for Taylor. Dwayne Bravo was the man to claim the wicket, and he could have made it two in two as Kevin O Brien dropped a sharp chance when Mervin Mathew cut the ball to him at extra cover. He made amends in the very next over when he caught Mathew on the square leg boundary off Sulieman Benn.
The Zouks managed to creep up to 117 all out, but that was nowhere near enough. Having come so close to their maiden win in their last match against the Barbados Tridents, this poor performance will have been even more dispiriting for Darren Sammy and his team.
That left the in-form Red Steel openers with a small target, and with the Zouks missing the experience of Shane Shillingford to tie things up in the middle overs. They picked up the wicket of Kevin O Brien, the Red Steel leading run scorer going into this match, with a top edge from Ray Jordan as the 19 year old continued to impress. While he is still capable of the odd bad ball, for a man so young, he has shown some real skill and temperament.
The 22 year old Evin Lewis overtook O Brien as the top scorer for the Red Steel as he put together another telling performance. Since a failure in his first knock of this tournament, he has scored 247 runs in four innings, passing fifty on his last three visits to the crease. If Lewis continues with this form, international recognition will not be far away.
The result was never really in doubt after the subpar batting from the Zouks, but the ease with which victory was achieved was impressive. Taylor did not really have to get into high gear as he finished with 35 not out.
The Red Steel will want to maintain this form going into their last two matches with the prize of automatic qualification for the final within their grasp. The Zouks will take on the other side who are yet to record a win when they play the Antigua Hawksbills tomorrow. With Kevin Pietersen arriving next week, they will be hopeful of some consolation victories before their involvement in the tournament comes to an end.