The St Lucia Zouks kept their unbeaten record intact with an exhilarating victory over the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Hero Caribbean Premier League. It came down to the very last ball as an excellent Brad Hodge innings was not enough to see the Amazon Warriors home. Once again the Zouks fast bowlers starred on a pacey Gros Islet pitch after an opening stand between Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles had set up a very competitive total for St Lucia.
The crowd serenaded Kevin Pietersen with Happy Birthday and the batsman returned the favour by dancing in the party stand with fans to celebrate the win.
Rain meant that play did not get underway until 45 minutes after the scheduled start and the precipitation returned after just five balls of the St Lucia innings causing yet another hold up. The hardworking ground staff and proactive umpires got the players back out, but the game was reduced to 18 overs a side.
When the rain stayed away long enough for the match to get going Charles and Fletcher picked up from where they left off in the last game. Both men were dismissive of the bowling of the Amazon Warriors as they struck 10 boundaries inside the Powerplay as the Zouks reached 69-0.
The only moment of concern for the home side inside those first six overs came when Fletcher hit the ball high into the swirling Gros Islet wind. Marchant de Lange did his best to pull off the catch it but could not get settled under the ball.
The breakthrough for the Amazon Warriors came when Ronsford Beaton dismissed Fletcher with a yorker that struck him on the pads to dismiss him LBW for 36 off 22 balls. It was a rare moment of success for Beaton who struggled with his line bowling four wides in his first two overs.
The introduction of Sunil Narine brought the second wicket, dismissing Kyle Mayers for just one run when the batsman was well caught in the covers. Narine made it two wickets in his next over when he had Charles stumped to a ball that did the opener in the flight. Charles’ innings of 47 came from 26 balls and included some breath-taking hitting.
The Zouks managed to keep the scoring rate going against the spinners, but it was not without cost. Pietersen was the next man to go, bowled by Veerasammy Permaul when he attempted an expansive drive. Permaul also dismissed Henry Davids, LBW when the South African attempted a big sweep.
Ross Taylor kept the innings together with 30 off 25 balls as he combined with Darren Sammy to take the Zouks to 156-6 off their 18 overs.
The Amazon Warriors got off to a flying start in their pursuit of the Zouks total.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was in brutal form as he hit three of the first four balls he faced to the boundary. He was on 19 off nine balls when he was struck on the helmet by a vicious Kemar Roach bouncer. He received several minutes of treatment to a cut about his eye before he left the field. From that point onwards the Guyana side struggled for momentum.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul came in to replace the Sri Lankan opener and found run scoring extremely difficult. It took him nine balls to get off the mark as he struggled to seven off 17 deliveries before he was stumped off the bowling of Eddie Leie.
Roach continued to cause all the batsmen difficulties, dismissing Lendl Simmons for 14 off 16 balls with a shorter ball that lifted on him. Denesh Ramdin attempted to keep up with the scoring rate hitting two sixes in his innings of 21 off 10 balls.
He fell attempting another Hero maximum when the ball caught a leading edge.
It became Brad Hodge or bust for the Amazon Warriors as the Australian veteran was left with a massive amount to do as the required rate reached 12 an over. It was Hodge that hit the biggest six of the night when he smoked Leie onto the roof of the Canaries stand.
Barnwell joined Hodge in six hitting form as he drove down the ground off Leie and Mayers. Hodge was dropped by Gabriel off Mayers when he was on 19 but he kept going as he put on 53 runs with Chris Barnwell in a partnership that kept the Amazon Warriors in the game.
Barnwell fell mistiming a pull that was caught at long on, and that brought Dilshan back to resume his innings. Together Hodge and Dilshan left the Amazon Warriors needing 14 to win off the last over.
Fidel Edwards was the man given the responsibility of bowling the last six balls. The batsmen scampered a bye off the first ball. The second Edwards bowled Dilshan with a searing yorker that rearranged his stumps. When four leg byes brought the equation down to seven off two. A single for Hodge left Sunil Narine needing a six off the last ball. It was not to be as Edwards bowled well enough for the Zouks to win by two runs on a thrilling night in St Lucia. (CPL)