Cooper assault takes Knight Riders to second CPL title
Trinbago Knight Riders 136 for 7 (Munro 29, Cooper 29*, Hafeez 2-19) beat St Kitts and Nevis Patriots 135 for 6 (Brathwaite 30, Cooper 2-12, Searles 2-29) by three wickets
In a low-scoring thriller, the Trinbago Knight Riders' tail, spurred on by the home crowd at Brian Lara Stadium, wagged furiously to prevail over St Kitts & Nevis Patriots in a tense chase.
Patriots were in charge with their opponents at 90 for 7 and Knight Riders still needed 28 off 13 balls when Kevon Cooper ambushed Sheldon Cottrell and Ben Hilfenhaus in a dramatic seven-ball sequence to clinch victory with an over to spare. It was the Knight Riders' second CPL title in three years, and the first since they changed their name from Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel.
Patriots, one of the most powerful batting line-ups in the tournament, were kept to a mere 135 thanks in part to an excellent early burst from seamer Javon Searles. He has been one of the unsung heroes for Knight Riders in their run to the final. In multiple matches this year, he has neither batted nor bowled.
Given the new ball on Saturday, he struck in his first two overs. He first got the big scalp of Chris Gayle for 1, caught at backward point, and followed it up with the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez, caught at mid-off, for 5. As a result, Patriots slipped to 11 for 2 in four overs.
In Lew(is) of runs, Narine gets big wicket
The low scores kept coming early, and often, in a final dominated by bowlers and Sunil Narine was at his remarkable best. The runs off his bat have dried up, but he more than compensated by bowling a masterful spell of 4-1-8-1 on the biggest night of the CPL. The crowning achievement of his 24 balls came when he pinned Evin Lewis lbw for 16. His bowling was so intimidating that he started his last over with a silly point.
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
Cooper built on the early inroads made by Searles and Narine. As has been the trend through this tournament, a wicket fell in the first over after the drinks break. Cooper took advantage of the batting side's lapse in concentration, striking first ball to dismiss Brandon King. In his next over, he claimed Devon Thomas to leave Patriots at 65 for 5.
Ricky-Nabi shake and bake
If the Patriots had won, their championship DVD might have been called "Tarouba Nights". Knight Riders struggled to fully cement their early advantage courtesy heroics from Carlos Brathwaite and Mohammad Nabi. Both played crucial knocks late in the innings - and not for the first time this year - to ransack 56 runs off the last four overs of the innings.
Brathwaite, whose shirt reads "Ricky", struck two fours and a six between the 17th and 18th overs to take his side past 100. Nabi arrived at the start of the final over, and what an entrance it was, as he smashed Dwayne Bravo for two sixes and a four in a 21-run over to give Patriots a fighting chance.
Sheldon Cottrell took two wickets in three balls and put the hosts under immense pressure. He first claimed Narine with a skied chance for a return catch. When Dwayne Bravo decided to promote himself to No. 3, Cottrell greeted him with an almighty salute, sending him off for a first-ball duck after a full delivery beat the Knight Riders captain for pace.
Munro on the money
Brendon McCullum may have left a gaping hole in his absence during the playoffs, but Colin Munro did his best to plug it. Munro moved up to open the batting in the last two games and on this night provided a valuable 29, which wound up as the joint-top score in the chase.
Momentum see-sawed back to Knight Riders - after Cottrell's early wickets - thanks to Munro's refusal to back down. With the score 29 for 2 after five overs, Munro tucked into Nabi's offspin, smashing him for two sixes over midwicket and a third straight down the ground - all in the space of five balls as Knight Riders' title prospects looked much rosier by the end of the Powerplay at 48 for 2. Munro ended the season as the Knight Riders' top scorer with 366 runs, none more important than what he delivered in the final.
How bout that Canadian, eh?
While more heralded colleagues such as the Bravo brothers came and went cheaply - Darren followed Dwayne's duck by falling for 1 playing back to Mohammad Hafeez - Hamza Tariq provided a crucial 18. Other than Munro's three sixes off Nabi in the sixth over, the only boundary struck by Knight Riders in the first ten overs came from Tariq. The rest of his knock comprised mainly of back-foot shovels to the leg side. Nothing glamorous, but it did the job.
Flying the Coop
Knight Riders lost three more wickets in the first five overs after drinks, culminating in Tabraiz Shamsi's dismissal of Searles for 2 to make it 90 for 7. Depending on your video-game cartoon of choice, Shamsi looked like he celebrated by doing a sub-zero freeze from Mortal Kombat and Patriots appeared to have thrown ice on the Knight Riders chase.
But Cooper provided the initial thaw, before his hot bat totally melted the Patriots bowling away. It began in earnest when he smashed Cottrell for six over extra cover to end the 18th, bringing the equation down to 22 off 12. After a single from Ramdin put him back on strike, Hilfenhaus bowled two wides outside off. Nabi turned a potential four into two with a diving stop at midwicket off the next ball, but there was no saving the following delivery: a full toss smashed over cover that was signaled as a no-ball to boot.
A slash over backward point off the free hit brought another four and Cooper made it three boundaries in a row when he smoked Hilfenhaus again over the leg side. Two singles later, Knight Riders sealed a hard-fought victory.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna