When the New England Patriots defeated the New York Giants 38-35 to end the 2007 NFL regular season, they became the first American Football team to go undefeated since the league expanded to a 16-game format. But the game exposed vulnerabilities that gave the Giants a blueprint to beat the Patriots in their rematch in Super Bowl XLII 17-14.
Last Sunday, Guyana Amazon Warriors defeated Barbados Tridents to take their CPL record unbeaten streak to 11 matches by posting 218 for 3 behind Brandon King's record century. What was lost in the shuffle of that match was that the Tridents actually made a serious fist of the chase, ending on 188 with Jonathan Carter top scoring to make 49 off 26, as some vulnerabilities started to appear.
Bucking the T20 trend of teams opting to chase, the Tridents' success through much of CPL 2019 has been in defending totals. Given a chance to bat first in the CPL final at Brian Lara Academy, Carter produced a stirring roundhouse kidney punch that stopped the Amazon Warriors in their tracks. Unable to dance around the ring, the Amazon Warriors' chase was floored by a collective effort from Jason Holder's bowling unit, as the Tridents produced a stunning upset to claim their second CPL title, and first since 2014, by knocking off the Warriors to thwart their undefeated title bid and hand them a fifth CPL final loss.
Having to go without their second-highest scorer JP Duminy, who sat out with a hamstring injury picked up in Thursday's win over Trinbago Knight Riders, the Tridents got off to a solid start to reach 76 for 3 in the first ten overs. But after Shai Hope fell in the 12th over, the innings went haywire with Shakib Al Hasan involved in a pair of run-outs.
The first came four balls after Hope's wicket as Holder flicked to deep midwicket. Shakib hared down three strides ahead of Holder for the first run and was already a quarter of the way back for a second before Holder had turned at the non-striker's end. Keemo Paul had covered the ground well to field and relay to Nicholas Pooran over the striker's stumps as Holder came back reluctantly in response to Shakib and wound up being out by a foot.
Shakib created an identical situation with Carter two overs later after the latter drove out to extra cover. Once again, Shakib was three steps ahead and started coming back for a second run, Carter was slow getting out of the crease after striking the ball and wasn't interested in the second, but he made his decision too late for Shakib. This time Paul's throw dragged Pooran well away from the stumps but Shakib had given up and the keeper's throw from five yards away was true, leaving the score 108 for 6 with 31 balls left.
Upset the apple Cart(er)
Against Trinbago Knight Riders on Thursday, Ashley Nurse and Raymon Reifer plundered 43 off the last two overs to salvage a floundering innings and get up to 160 on a traditionally low-scoring ground. On this occasion, it was Nurse and Carter who resurrected the Tridents in the closing overs.
Carter took the lead with a trio of fabulous straight drives for six before another over midwicket. The bulk of that came in the 19th over off Paul, who leaked 17 as momentum swung sharply towards the Tridents. Nurse then took his swipes at Romario Shepherd in the 20th with a six and four to start the final over before Carter struck a two to bring up a 26-ball half-century as the Tridents ended with 63 off the last 31 balls to post a total that looked like it was well above par based on past evidence.
USA 3, rest of CPL 2
Coming into the final, Shoaib Malik had only been dismissed four times in 11 innings. Two of those came at the hands of the Knight Riders fast bowler Ali Khan and the Tridents legspinner Hayden Walsh Jr, the only two Americans playing in the tournament. Walsh Jr added Shoaib to his list for a second time on Saturday night to cap his season with a tournament-best 22 wickets in just nine matches.
After Raymon Reifer had set back the Amazon Warriors in the Powerplay with the wickets of Chandrapaul Hemraj and Shimron Hetmyer, Shoaib came to the middle but was not his usual fluent self. After reaching 4 off 10 balls, he got a half-tracker from Walsh Jr that should have gone for six but failed to get the elevation, a microcosm of his lack of rhythm on the night as he picked out Reifer at deep midwicket. It put Walsh Jr on the path to ensure an American would raise the CPL trophy for the second year in a row after Khan with the Knight Riders in 2018.
The Warriors were still in with a chance of overhauling the target as long as the tournament's leading scorer was at the crease. Brandon King was looking sharp but struggled for support at the other end, which caused him to lose patience. On the last ball of the 11th over, King charged impetuously at Nurse and turned a full ball into a yorker, playing over the top as it slid past leg stump for a simple stumping by Hope.
Another relative half-tracker claimed a big scalp for the second time in the chase as Pooran toe-slapped one from Nurse to Alex Hales at long-on. Harry Gurney and Reifer then continued to whittle through the middle order until 41 were required off 12 balls. Paul holed out to long-on off Gurney in the 19th and with 33 needed off the last over, Reifer mathematically clinched it by having Chris Green skying a leading edge to the keeper, giving him the best bowling figures ever in a CPL final.
With their backs against the wall playing a de-facto elimination match in their penultimate round-robin game of the season against St Lucia Zouks, the Tridents stormed back to life and, by the end, they had snuffed out the Amazon Warriors' fairytale season with a Cinderella finish of their own.