Jermaine Lannaman, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Tallawahs are through to the semi-finals of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League.
The Tallawahs, who entered their penultimate first-round encounter against Barbados Tridents at Sabina Park yesterday needing a win, did so when they triumphed by six wickets in front of a capacity crowd at Sabina Park.
Set a modest 114 to win, the Tallawahs reached their target at 114 for four with 11 balls remaining. The Tridents made 113 for four in their 20 overs.
In-form all-rounder André Russell, with an undefeated 27 and tournament debutant Jermaine Blackwood, 22 not out, led the victory charge for the Tallawahs who joined the Tridents and Guyana Amazon Warriors in the last four.
The fourth and final semi-finalists could be known today when Tallawahs play Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel in their final match at the same venue beginning at 2:00 p.m.
Fourth-place Red Steel are on six points, two more than Antigua Hawksbills, who at press time last night were playing their final game against the Amazon Warriors at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.
Tallawahs made a spirited start in their run chase yesterday as openers Chris Gayle and Pakistani Ahmad Shezad went on the attack.
Shezad, who was playing his last game ahead of joining Pakistan for their limited-overs series against Zimbabwe, was particularly impressive after hitting consecutive boundaries off fast-bowler Shannon Gabriel in the second over.However, with the score on 23, Tallawahs lost their first wicket when Gayle, after hitting his first four, a trademark lofted straight drive off spinner Shoaib Malik, was dismissed the very next delivery, bowled for five.
Shezad kept attacking until he was bowled for 28 by Bangladesh left-arm spinner, Shakib Al Hasan. Danza Hyatt was then run out for and at 47 for three in the 13th over, and with just under seven overs remaining and 71 runs to get, the Tallawahs were in some trouble.
However, they were lifted by Walton and Blackwood. The duo, mixing smart defence with attack, and taking singles and boundaries whenever they presented themselves, went on to put on 18 for fourth wicket before Walton, attempting a quick single, was run out for 15.
The big-hitting Russell then entered the fray and along with Blackwood they put on an unbroken stand of 25 for fifth wicket, which took the Tallawahs to their target, and brought the fans to their feet in the packed Sabina Park.
Russell hit two sixes and two fours, while Blackwood ended with two fours under his belt.
"It was a wonderful performance, and credit must go to the guys for applying themselves," said captain Gayle.
Earlier, the decision by Tallawahs to field first turned out to be a wise decision as based on the wicket, which surprisingly played two-paced, and made batting difficult for the Tridents.
Opener Dwayne Smith, with a patient and uncharacteristic unbeaten 52 off 53 balls made most runs for Tridents.
Muttiah Muralitharan emerged as the leading bowler for the Tallawahs with three for 12 off four, including the prized wicket of Tridents captain Kieron Pollard for zero.