Darren Bravo, McCullum turn tables on Stars in breathtaking chase
Trinbago Knight Riders 218 for 5 (Darren Bravo 94*, McCullum 68, McClenaghan 2-21) beat St Lucia Stars 212 for 2 (Warner 72*, Pollard 65*) by five wickets
After a dim start to the season, marked by three winless matches on the road, St Lucia Stars' season had begun to look brighter on Thursday night, after a trio of half-centurions boosted them to a franchise record total. But in the end, history repeated itself, as Trinbago Knight Riders maintained their impressive record over the Stars, who crashed to a stunning five-wicket defeat at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet.
David Warner, Rahkeem Cornwall and Kieron Pollard all crossed 50, each in contrasting styles, to take the home side to 212 for 2. And yet, it was far from enough, as Darren Bravo and Brendon McCullum launched a stunning late onslaught with a 137-run fourth-wicket stand. Requiring 85 runs off the last five overs, Knight Riders crossed the line with a ball to spare. The result also meant the Stars' winless streak has been stretched to 15 games.
The end of Warner's horrid run with the bat coincided with the arrival of his wife and younger daughter at St Lucia. With his two favourite girls watching from the stands, Warner looked at ease while compiling an unbeaten 72 off 55 balls. Most of his damage was done in the first 10 overs, beginning with an uppercut off Ali Khan in the third over for the first of his three sixes. Once Andre Fletcher got out in the sixth over, caught at backward point to a mistimed cut off Shannon Gabriel, Warner was content to ride in the slipstream of his subsequent partners.
After sitting out the previous match, Cornwall made an imperious return to the Stars lineup at No. 3. In the very first match of the season, Fawad Ahmed had struck on his first ball after entering in the seventh over. On this occasion, however, he was swatted with disdain over midwicket for six by Cornwall. The big man began the eighth over in the same fashion against Gabriel, swatting him back over his head for a maximum, before dragging him flat through the wind for six over square leg a few balls later.
Cornwall clattered his fifth six over long-on to start the 12th over against Dwayne Bravo, at which stage he overtook Warner on the scorecard, and simultaneously brought up the fifty of their partnership, as well as the Stars 100. Cornwall eventually brought up his half-century off 25 balls, before running out of steam in the 15th over, edging behind as he tried to swing a wide delivery from Javon Searles to the leg side. That ended the partnership at 79 but the innings was hardly about to lose any steam.
Pollard goes wild
At 130 for 2 in 15 overs, Tom Moody called out on the TV commentary that Stars should target 12 an over for the rest of the way to get to 190. For a team that has struggled to score runs and was bowled out for just 95 when these two sides met in the opening match of the season, the suggestion may have seemed optimistic. But by the end of the innings, hindsight showed Moody's prediction was actually quite conservative.
The Stars third-wicket pair of Warner and Kieron Pollard added 84 unbeaten runs off the final 32 balls of the innings. More than three-quarters of those came off the bat of Pollard, who sped away to the joint-fastest half-century in CPL history, getting there in just 18 balls. He stroked seven sixes in his 65 not out off 23 balls, the brunt of his damage absorbed by Dwayne Bravo, whose wretched form with the ball continued. The Knight Riders captain was once again his team's most expensive bowler on the night, conceding 50 from four wicketless overs.
Bravo leaked 20 to Pollard in the 18th, including two sixes over the leg side. Ali Khan came into the match as the CPL's leading wicket-taker but with the exception of a searing yorker to Pollard that just missed his off stump in the 17th, the American lacked his usual bite and was clubbed for three more sixes by Pollard in the 19th over that went for 23 runs. Pollard then bludgeoned Bravo for two more maximums in the final over that brought 17 runs and catapulted the Stars to well over 200. And yet, it wasn't close to being enough.
Riders on the storm
Knight Riders' woes during a two-match losing skid were mainly down to a leaky bowling attack, but on this occasion their batsmen managed to bail them out. Cornwall backed up his impressive batting display by striking twice in the Powerplay with his offspin that claimed Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn, to dent the visitors chase early. But Knight Riders clawed back behind a 51-run stand between McCullum and Colin Munro to reach 74 for 3 after 10 overs, just 14 runs behind where Stars were at the same stage.
It was at this point that Darren Bravo almost singlehandedly snuffed out the Stars, and how. Entering at the fall of Munro in the 10th over at 71 for 3, the younger Bravo dwarfed Pollard's finishing kick. At 128 for 3 after 15, having just brought up a fifty partnership with McCullum. Darren channeled his inner Garry Sobers in the 16th by hoisting four consecutive sixes off Pollard to start the over. A two off the fifth ball was followed by another six off the final delivery to complete the most expensive over in CPL history.
From there, Darren could not be stopped, romping his way to 94 unbeaten runs off 36 balls, including six fours and ten sixes. Even a brief stutter during an excellent 19th over from Mitchell McClenaghan, who snared two wickets and gave away just two runs, wasn't enough to shake Darren, who ensured the Stars' woeful record remained in tact. Denesh Ramdin hammered the final nail with a six - 34th of the match - off the penultimate ball that not only sealed the win but also equalled the record for most sixes in a Twenty20 match.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna