THE RED STEEL PICK UP THEIR FIRST WIN!
Now, that�s more like the T&T Red Steel we know. In a week that has seen many off-field issues bombard the Trinidadian franchise in the media, they managed to turn up at the Oval on Friday night and give the journalists something on-field to write about. It wasn�t easy, but the Red Steel showed a lot of composure to narrowly edge out the Guyana Amazon Warriors by three runs to pick up their first victory of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League T20 Tournament.
Dwayne Bravo was a man under immense pressure, not only for his captaincy and performance of late, but also because of his dance moves on Wednesday night at Zen Night Club mere hours after the Red Steel lost to the Jamaica Tallawahs. His efforts to repay the Red Steel fans started off by winning the toss and electing to bat first.
That was only one part of three major tasks to be completed on the night though. The Red Steel needed to win, or the curtains would have fallen on their campaign. Their batting woes needed to be sorted out and fast. The new opening pair of Kevin O�Brien and Adrian Barath did just that. Both batsmen gave the innings the perfect start. After the first six overs, the pair had put on 43 runs, scoring at over five runs an over. Four fours and two sixes had been struck. Both batsmen dominated the bowling early on. But as the Powerplay ended, Barath slowed. However, O�Brien provided a boost for the Red Steel during the middle overs. The 9th over, bowled by James Franklin, was carted for 19 runs. The first two balls disappeared for sixes while the third was struck for four.
O�Brien continued to dominate the bowling, dealing in sixes. At the halfway stage of the innings, Barath, resigned to the anchor role and O�Brien, scoring well over a run-a-ball, had taken the Red Steel to 83/0. As the second half of the innings started, Barath got more aggressive as the batsmen looked to kick on. However, his change in gears stuck. Steven Jacobs accounted for him in his first over. He had batted well again, scoring 29 from 31 balls. An opening partnership of 95 runs had been broken.
Ross Taylor joined O�Brien, and both pushed the innings along at a rapid rate. Both batsmen put on a quick 30-run stand. Taylor wasted little time in getting his eyes in. He had virtually stolen the show from O�Brien, who would depart, when he slapped a ball from Christopher Barnwell to Hafeez at cover. He had made 70 runs from just 47 balls, giving the Red Steel the perfect start.
Though the hosts stuttered at the end in pursuit of a big score, Ross Taylor held the innings together, hitting an unbeaten 39 runs from 27 balls. His knock included three sixes and two fours. The Red Steel�s international players had finally come to the fore, and as a result, they ended on 159/4 from their 20 overs.
The second part of the job had been done. Runs were on the board. The final task was to restrict the Amazon Warriors to less than 159 runs. The challenges abounded. Lendl Simmons was one of the major ones. The pitch remained good for batting. And then, no one was quite sure if Dwayne Bravo would back himself to bowl at the end once again. Lendl Simmons hit Fidel Edwards� first ball for six, and an Oval crowd that was on its feet for much of the night was silenced. He seemed destined to get away early on. In Edwards� second over, he crashed a four and a six early on, but the Bajan would return to take his edge and Pooran completed the catch behind.
The Red Steel had gotten the heart of the Amazon Warriors batting for just 18 runs. The Powerplay wasn�t a bad one for the Warriors either. However, on the last ball, Martin Guptill was caught at mid-off by Suliemann Benn. Delorn Johnson had gotten the Red Steel another prized Warrior wicket leaving the Warriors 41/2.
Dwayne Bravo brought himself on thereafter, and he bowled splendidly, to say the least. It wasn�t all too surprising. His first spells have always been good, but anxious faces looked on to see whether he would save himself for later on in the innings. He never did. He bowled himself through to the 14th over, ending with 4-0-21-2. The Oval crowd applauded its son of the soil. Whether it was for his good spell or good decision to bowl himself out early on was left a question but he was effective, getting the wickets of Ramnaresh Sarwan (4) and Mohammad Hafeez (35) during his spell. Hafeez batted well, but the Red Steel choked the run rate, creating so much pressure, the batsmen were forced to try different things, leading to wickets.
With 67 runs required from the last five overs, it would take something special for the Amazon Warriors to get back in the match, and they had something special. James Franklin has been their silent hero so far in the tournament and he once again sprung to life when his team needed him most. Almost every ball he hit came off the middle. Suddenly, what looked a comfortable victory for the Red Steel turned into a tense situation. Fidel Edwards came back with three overs to go. His first three deliveries were belted for boundaries. Bravo was no longer the subject of tongue lashing. Barnwell too, played a crucial knock, feeding Franklin the strike, and getting the odd boundary.
With 20 runs required from the last over, Kevon Cooper conceded just one run from the first three balls. The over then took a turn for the worst as he conceded 15 runs from his last three balls, including a wide. Franklin ended unbeaten on 60 while Barnwell was not out on 23 but the Red Steel had done enough to win by three runs. The fat lady sung in their favour, but they face another grim task on Sunday to keep those curtains from rolling down.
Kevin O�Brien was named Man of the Match for his splendid knock of 70 as well as hitting the longest six of the match, earning him the Limacol Super Six Award. Lendl Simmons captured the Digicel 4G Fastest Scorer prize. It was the performance the Red Steel were looking for all along, and it couldn�t quickly enough.