Pollard's maiden ton ends St Lucia Stars' 14-game losing streak
St Lucia Stars 226 for 6 (Pollard 104, Fletcher 80, Riaz 3-35) beat Barbados Tridents 188 for 6 (Dwayne Smith 58, McCoy 3-28, Qais 2-29) by 38 runs
July 31, 2016. That was the last time St Lucia's CPL franchise last won a match. But their two-year streak of futility is no more after Kieron Pollard's maiden T20 century propelled the Stars to a CPL record total of 226 to help break a 14-match losing streak in a 38-run win over Barbados Tridents.
After blowing a golden chance at breaking the CPL's longest streak of futility 24 hours earlier, Obed McCoy's brilliant spell of slower balls denied a late charge by the Tridents to help clinch St Lucia's first win since a 17-run win in Florida when Barack Obama was president of the USA and the franchise was still known as the Zouks.
The second-highest scorer in CPL history gave the Stars another terrific start in the Powerplay, and this time one they would not waste. Andre Fletcher tore into Mohammad Irfan in the opening over of the match after Stars were sent in at the toss. Fletcher clattered two sixes over the leg side followed by fours through mid-on and point in a 20-run opening over. David Warner tried to copy Fletcher's lead in the second but nicked off his second ball against Jason Holder. It was one of the few miscues on the night for the Stars though.
Rahkeem Cornwall excelled once again as a pinch-hitter at No. 3, smoking 30 off 11 balls over the next three overs before he was bounced out by Wahab Riaz. Lendl Simmons copped a rough lbw decision from Langton Rusere next ball on a delivery pitching outside leg to put Wahab on a hat-trick. It was the last moment of joy for the Tridents for the next hour as Fletcher and Pollard combined for a 148-run stand.
Fletcher brought up his half-century off 34 balls in the 12th and appeared on his way to becoming the sixth player in CPL history to score a century. A rib-high no ball by Floyd Reifer in the 17th was followed by two more off the free hit and last legal ball of the 17th over to take Fletcher to 80 off 50 balls, but he fell three balls into the next over when his attempted scoop over fine leg found the man stationed at 45.
The joy of sixes
Instead of Fletcher, it became Pollard who brought up triple figures in the final over with his eighth six driven flat over long-on. It was the 17th six of the innings, one short of the CPL record set a night earlier on the same ground when Darren Bravo snuffed out the Stars in an extraordinary chase.
The shot that brought up Pollard's ton also created a new CPL record for the highest ever innings total, the third time it has been broken this season after Trinbago Knight Riders total of 223 chased down later that night at Queen's Park Oval by Jamaica Tallawahs thanks to Andre Russell striking the CPL's fastest hundred.
On the opposite side, Raymon Reifer was in danger of creating the wrong kind of history. With figures of 0 for 67 off 3.3 overs, three more sixes would have given him the distinction of the worst bowling figures in the history of T20 cricket. But the ignominious distinction of 0 for 81 held by Sarmad Anwar of Sialkot Stallions remained intact after Reifer had Pollard out next ball caught at deep square leg. Darren Sammy pulled Reifer to deep midwicket to put the left-arm seamer on a hat-trick before Qais Ahmad whiffed at the final ball.
In a format where legspinners have proven to be the most prized wicket-taking commodity, Qais Ahmad was a curious bystander as he didn't bowl at all on Thursday night during TKR's stunning chase. Captain Pollard showed more faith on Friday and was rewarded when the Afghan wristspinner returned 2 for 29.
Dwayne Smith, the owner of four CPL centuries, was keeping the Tridents in the hunt for another stunning chase with a composed half-century. At the halfway mark, Tridents were 75 for 1, one run and two wickets better than Knight Riders were a night earlier. But Qais struck a key blow six balls after drinks getting Smith to top edge to deep square leg, which was followed by a somersault celebration. Two balls into his next over, Qais had Hashim Amla stumped to trigger a gleeful flying ninja kick through the air.
Slow your roll
In spite of the damage done by Qais, Tridents refused to fold as Nicholas Pooran charged ahead with a pair of sixes. But one ball after a one-legged six straight down the ground, McCoy snuck in a back-of-the-hand slower ball, inducing a skier to Warner at long-off in the 14th.
McCoy's last two overs were held back and Tridents continued to threaten as a result as Steven Smith and Shai Hope combined for 46 runs over the 16th and 17th overs. But McCoy's return in the 18th netted Smith with another clever slower ball sliced to the point sweeper and he capped his spell in the final over getting Holder to drive to long-off. After McCoy's final ball was guided by Hope to point for an inconsequential single, Pollard dropped to his knees and pointed his folded hands to the starry St Lucia sky, giving thanks to a higher power for bringing The Curse of the Zouks to an end.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna