After 30 incredible matches, the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) is set to enter its semi-final stage, with table-toppers Trinbago Knight Riders taking on Jamaica Tallawahs and the Guyana Amazon Warriors battling St. Lucia Zouks for a place in the final.
With some of the sport’s finest players in action, we take a look at five players who could prove to be the difference in the semis:
Kieron Pollard – Trinbago Knight Riders
Skipper Kieron Pollard has led the Trinbago Knight Riders brilliantly this campaign, as the tournament favourites recorded 10 victories in 10 outings in the group stage.
Pollard has taken a back seat and allowed the Knight Riders’ incredible batting line-up to flourish. However, the captain has been brilliant when called upon, having scored 207 in just seven innings at an incredible average of 51.75 and a scarcely believable strike rate of 204.95.
Pollard has hit 20 sixes, averaging just under three per innings - the most by any player in the CPL this season. The 33-year-old has proven himself to be one of the best big-game players in T20 history and it would come as no surprise if Pollard delivers a match-winning performance in the semi-final.
Andre Russell – Jamaica Tallawahs
Speaking of match-winners, few would argue that all-rounder Andre Russell is the most dangerous opponent to play against in T20s.
Like Pollard, Russell has batted just seven times this season and scored 220 runs at an average of 55, the best of any batsman during this year's tournament.
Russell’s incredible strike rate of 144.73 is bettered only by Pollard and Sunil Narine (150.53), proving yet again why he’s been touted as one of the deadliest batsmen in T20 cricket.
The 32-year-old has also picked up four wickets despite bowling just 11 overs this season with an economy rate of 8.18, illustrating that he can deal damage with the ball in his hands too.
The Tallawahs barely scraped through to the semi-finals, however. But having made it here, they’ll be hopeful that their talisman can guide them past the only undefeated team in the CPL this season.
Imran Tahir – Guyana Amazon Warriors
Veteran spinner Imran Tahir is ageing like fine wine and has been one of the best bowlers in the CPL this season.
The eccentric South African has picked up 15 wickets in 10 matches at an economy rate of just 5.51. Tahir also boasts of a tremendous average of 14.33 and a strike rate of just 15.6.
The 41-year-old is level on 15 wickets alongside Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman as the leading wicket-taker in the CPL this season and few would bet against the spinner finishing on top of the wickets chart come the end of the season.
Scott Kuggeleijn - St. Lucia Zouks
In a season that has been thoroughly dominated by spinners, New Zealand’s Scott Kuggeleijn has been the league’s best pacer, with 14 wickets, just one fewer than Tahir and Mujeeb, who lead the league with 15.
The 28-year-old has a respectable economy rate of 7.95 and a tremendous strike rate of just 12 this season for the Zouks.
Alongside Kesrick Williams, Kuggeleijn has formed the most potent bowling tandem in the CPL this season and the duo, along with spinner Mohammad Nabi, hold the key to the Zouks’ success in the semi-final and maybe even beyond.
Darren Bravo – Trinbago Knight Riders
After losing Sunil Narine to injury, the Knight Riders needed one of their batsmen to fill in for Narine’s contribution with the bat and veteran Darren Bravo has played that role to perfection, scoring 239 runs, the third-highest tally in the league.
The 31-year-old has batted eight times this season and boasts of a terrific average of 47.80. While his strike rate of 113.27 is rather lacklustre for the format, Bravo makes up with consistency in what he lacks as a power-hitter for the Knight Riders.
Bravo has been thoroughly reliable this season and the tournament-favourites will be expecting the 31-year-old to continue his form in the semi-final as well.
Feature image courtesy: Facebook / @CarnivalT20
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