St Lucia Zouks 171 for 5 (Cornwall 75, Fletcher 47, Thomas 3-26) beat Jamaica Tallawahs 170 for 5 (Phillips 58, Powell 44, Fawad 2-28, McCoy 2-32) by five wickets
Chris Gayle and Andre Russell in the opposition, the local side, Jamaica Tallawahs. What were the chances of St Lucia Zouks making a match of this one? As it turned out, Sabina Park had to rise and celebrate Rahkeem Cornwall, who biffed the season's second-fastest half-century, off 19 balls, and then converted that to a 30-ball 75, as Zouks recorded their first win of the season on Thursday night after a brief wobble.
Gayle zero, Phillips fifty
Left-arm seamer Obed McCoy struggled with no-ball issues, but managed to strike gold early when he had Gayle fending a lifter to the wicketkeeper off the fourth ball of the match to set the tone. But the Zouks were under fire as Glenn Phillips, the New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman, and Rovman Powell set the stage on fire with some exhilarating hitting.
Phillips likes to stay leg side and get beside the line, not behind. His stance resembles that of a baseball slogger, the bat moving behind his back in little arcs as he meets the ball with tremendous bat speed. His batting can at times border on the unorthodox, but when they come off, it looks mighty impressive. Like it did on Thursday. His 34-ball 58, courtesy eight fours and a six, and a third-wicket stand of 87 with Powell that took just 43 balls set Tallawahs up for a big total.
The Russell blow that tilted the scales
At the halfway mark, Tallawahs were superbly placed at 108 for 2. Zouks looked out of depth until the quick wickets of Powell and Phillips got them back into the game. Credit for that should go to Australian legspinner Fawad Ahmed, who cleverly varied his lengths and used his gentle drift to build pressure with dot balls that led to both of them falling to big strokes.
It also helped that the catching was top notch. Powell was out to a screamer when Colin de Grandhomme stuck his right hand upwards to get his hands on the ball at long-off and then lobbed it up as momentum took him beyond the ropes. Then he regained composure to nonchalantly come back into the field of play to complete the catch.
When they made 242 two nights ago against Patriots, Tallawahs raised their hundred in just 12 overs. Here, they got there in the tenth over. The stage was set for the Russell show, but it looked like Zouks had a plan, and that was to target him with short balls at the body, a tactic many IPL sides have tried with a fair degree of success. Hardus Viljoen bowled a heavy ball - back of length and into the body - as Russell looked to hook. In doing so, he took his eyes off and was hit just below the right ear. A dazed Russell took a while to stand up and was stretchered off the field to hospital for scans, which later cleared him of serious injury.
That robbed the Tallawahs of momentum, and George Worker and Shamar Springer only managed a run-a-ball 33. They only managed 38 off the last six overs to give the Zouks the momentum at the halfway mark.
Tallawahs' fielding shocker
The hosts didn't cover themselves in glory on the field. In the space of three deliveries, they dropped Cornwall and Andre Fletcher. First, Springer dropped a steepler running back from square leg to reprieve Cornwall on 18 after he mishit a Jerome Taylor slower delivery. Two balls later, in the fourth over, Oshane Thomas made a royal mess of a straightforward catch at third man with Fletcher on 15. In the next over, Chadwick Walton dropped a sitter at backward point to reprieve Cornwall for a second time, and then watched Fletcher club ten off his next two deliveries in the over as the strike turned. By then, Zouks had raced to 64 in five overs.
Cornwall's game isn't conventional by any means. But it also isn't true that his game is only about wild slogging. Amid the occasional backing away to smash the ball, there's plenty of cricket sense and an air of disdain about his batting. The leg-side boundary was his favoured area as he cleared the ropes quite comfortably playing the pull shot. Up early against late swing, he struggled a touch, but Taylor erred in length by trying to bowl into his body, only to see Cornwall back away and flick or pull. Against Worker's left-arm spin, Cornwall used his reach to hit straight and clear the ground, a sequence of 6,6,1 getting him to his third CPL fifty.
At the other end, Fletcher was in the mood for destruction. The flicks for six over deep square off Taylor having an air of disdain - looking straight on, head down and simply allowing his hand-eye coordination to twirl his wrists and pick the ball for six. He started like a bullet train, but quickly slipped into the role of second fiddle as Cornwall unleashed himself in the 111-run opening stand off just 8.4 overs.
Zouks collapse but Fletcher sees them home
Thomas returned after his shocker in the field to pick up three quick wickets after a blazing start - Zouks slipped from 146 for 2 to 157 for 5, but the early damage that skyrocketed their run rate meant there was little trouble in getting home despite the wobble. Fletcher remained unbeaten on 47 when Thisara Perera muscled a six and four in his five-ball 11 to hit the winning runs and give them their first win.