Do or die!Tallawahs in must-win CPL clash against Red Steel
Jermaine Lannaman, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Tallawahs will seek to put their miserable recent form behind them when they play the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel in a do-or-die confrontation, in the first semi-final of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League at Warner Park, St Kitts today.
Set for a 3 p.m. start local time, both teams will enter the clash looking to better their form of late, as they suffered heavy defeats in the last two matches, also in St Kitts.
The Tallawahs lost back-to-back games by seven wickets to the St Lucia Zouks and 88 runs to the Barbados Tridents, while the Red Steel went down by 69 runs to the Tridents and five wickets to the Antigua Hawksbills.
"It's a semi-final, but we just have to approach it like a final. We don't have anything to lose," said Tallawahs all-rounder, André Russell of the must-win clash.
"We have been playing some bad cricket over the past two games, but we know where we went wrong in terms of our approach and our bowling," Russell pointed out. "But we are the Tallawahs and we have the fighting spirit and are not going to back down like that."
The winner will advance to semi-final two, where they will play the Guyana Amazon Warrions tomorrow.
Opener and influential captain, Chris Gayle, who has failed to fire in the past three matches, his opening partner, wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton and Russell, are expected to bear the brunt of the batting.
Fast bowlers, South African Rusty Theron, the team's leading bowler with 12 wickets and Jerome Taylor, as well as spinners, New Zealander Daniel Vettori and Nikita Miller, are expected to lead the bowling attack.
Gayle is using his friend, Dwayne Bravo, as motivation.
"I actually blame (Dwayne) Bravo for us being in this position in the first place by losing to the Hawksbills at the weekend, and I always regain my form when I face him so, I am looking forward to the challenge of playing the Red Steel," he said in a release. "We have the quality to get the job done and I back my team to get the results and come out on top."
The team's coach, Mickey Arthur, says it will be tight.
"In a tournament this long, you are always going to have a couple of hiccups along the way and we have had ours in the later stages, which is not ideal as it can affect confidence levels going forward," Arthur observed.
"However, I think the remaining games are going to be very tight. All four teams left in the competition finished on the same points, so every ball will be important in these matches and an event in their own right. The team that comes out on top from the semi-finals will be the one that handles the pressure of the situations better."
The Red Steel, in the meanwhile, will be hoping to produce a similar performance, which led them to a 13-run win when both teams met in the preliminary round in Trinidad.
The Bravo brothers, captain Dwayne and Darren, as well as New Zealand's Ross Taylor, Irishman Kevin O'Brien and in in-form young opener, Evin Lewis, are set to lead their batting duties for Red Steel with leg-spinner Samuel Badree, left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and fast bowlers Fidel Edwards and Dwayne Bravo leading their bowling.
Their coach, Simon Helmot, remains optimistic despite their late stutter.
"We are not going into this game in great form, but we are a good team, well led by Dwayne Bravo and I am confident we will demonstrate the type of form and attacking cricket we showed earlier in the tournament," said Helmut.
"The CPL has been a great thing for cricket in the Caribbean and stands up against any of the other T20 competitions in the world and we have two of its most exciting cricketers in Nicholas Pooran and Evin Lewis so we will be looking to do well and reach the final," he added.
The winner of the second semi-final will square off with preliminary round champions the Tridents in the final on Saturday.