Jermaine Lannaman, Gleaner Writer
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad:Jamaica Tallawahs, buoyed by their successful run in the preliminary round, will face Barbados Tridents today in the second semi-final of the inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League at Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad and Tobago.
The encounter, which is slated to bowl off at 7 p.m. Jamaica time, will see the Tallawahs aiming to build on their positive showing to date, which has seen them record five wins and two losses. Tridents, meanwhile, who started the tournament on a high with four successive wins but ended up losing their last three matches, will be hoping for a turnaround in fortune.
Tallawahs, who started the tournament with a big eight wickets loss to the Amazon Warriors, have since rebounded with five wins from six matches.
Included in their victories as well is an impressive six-wicket win over the Tridents last Saturday at Sabina Park.
With the Queen's Park pitch looking true to form with limited grass, Muttiah Muralitharan, the world record holder for wickets in Test and One-day Internationals, could play a huge role in the Tallawahs' quest. He is also expected to get good support from his spin-bowling partner, left-arm arm spinner Nikita Miller, who, while not picking up a lot of wickets, has been fairly economical.South African Philander has also been outstanding with the ball both at the top and at the death and is currently the team's second-leading wickettaker with seven victims. Muralitharan, who has 10 and is sixth in the overall tournament standings, is the team's leading bowler.
The Tallawahs batting will again be led by captain Chris Gayle, inform Danza Hyatt, Andre Russell and Philander. Gayle, Russell, Philander and Hyatt have given man-of-the-match performances so far and with the addition of top-rated Sri Lanka batsman, Kumar Sangakkara, the Tallawahs are a formidable batting outfit.
"Our team has a number of big-hitters and match-winners and judging by how they have stepped in at different stages of the tournament, I am confident that they will come good," said Tallawahs coach Paul Nixon during the pre-match press conference.
Nixon will also be expecting strong performances from Chadwick Walton, who scored 35 and 28 in his two innings to date, enterprising 21-year-old Jermaine Blackwood and wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh Jr.
Tridents who are being coached by West Indies great Desmond Haynes are again expected to depend on the big-hitting Kieron Pollard and opener Dwayne Smith, as well as the tournament's second highest runscorer, Pakistani Shoaib Malik.
Interestingly, Pollard was dismissed for a four-ball duck by Muralitharan, while Smith made an uncharacteristic patient unbeaten 52 not out when the two teams met earlier while Malik made 14.
Tridents' bowling has been steady throughout the tournament. Bangladesh left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan and off-spinners Malik and Ashley Nurse have all done well. Trinidadian pacers Rayad Emrit and Shannon Gabriel, now playing at home, could also prove to be a handful for the Tallawahs.
"We have not been playing the type of cricket that we know we are capable of in our last three matches, and that is something we plan to change," said captain Pollard.
"Playing in a semi-final is totally different from preliminary round games, and we are up and ready for the challenge."