St Lucia Zouks have been the CPL's whipping boys since the competition's inception in 2013, reaching the play-offs only once and losing more than twice as many games as they had won coming into this season.
But a change of ownership has given them a new lease of life, and they sailed to a semi-final berth this season with six wins from 10 group games under new head coach Andy Flower. "Over the last five or six years at the Zouks, I've had too much of a role to play in the management," captain Daren Sammy admitted. "Me being closer to the end of my career, I really wanted a strong coach where I didn't have to do much of the talking, and just focus more on the on-field matters."
Sammy's own pre-tournament proclamations that he hoped to "raise eyebrows" among the West Indies selectors have been made to look optimistic by a return of 34 runs and one wicket in 10 appearances, but his captaincy has still been an asset for the Zouks in his galvanising effect on players, and his willingness to embrace Flower's matchup-driven philosophy.
As a result, the Zouks have regularly targeted opposition left-handers with their army of offspinners, led by Mohammad Nabi, and left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan, while 22-year-old Javelle Glen has been a breakout star with his legspin. Against a Guyana Amazon Warriors side that has relied heavily on Shimron Hetymer and Nicholas Pooran with the bat, expect Sammy to lean on his offies throughout.
With the bat, Roston Chase has been asked to play the Shoaib Malik role, according to Sammy, and has excelled with 203 runs at 40.60, while Afghans Nabi and Najibullah Zadran have been crucial in the middle order. Rahkeem Cornwall is yet to press on and make a big score, but has regularly provided top-order impetus.
After peaking too early last year, it looked for a while as though Guyana would fail to peak at all this season, as they started the tournament with two wins and four defeats, struggling to find any consistency with the bat as Brandon King's 2019 form evaporated and their young Caribbean talents failed to fire.
But Pooran's sparkling hundred against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots has sparked a run of four wins in a row, and it seems as though the Amazon Warriors are coming into the play-offs just as things are beginning to click. They have continued to lean heavily on spin this season, with Chris Green and Imran Tahir leading the way, while Naveen-ul-Haq - Afghanistan's answer to Jasprit Bumrah - has enjoyed a breakthrough tournament.
Guyana Amazon WarriorsWWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
St Lucia Zouks WLLWW
In the spotlight
Nicholas Pooran's maiden T20 hundred against St Kitts was an astonishing innings, with three consecutive sixes to reach the landmark the cherry on the cake, and seemed to vindicate Guyana's decision to make him vice-captain and bat him at No. 4. Yet his season has been mixed overall: he made 68 in defeat against the Zouks, but has only 66 in his other eight innings. St Lucia's strategy has generally involved using spinners who turn the ball away from the bat where possible, and Pooran's record against offspin - average 37.33, strike rate 123.89 - suggests he should up to the challenge.
He is the only man to score more than 2000 runs for a single CPL franchise, but Andre Fletcher has endured a difficult 2020 season for the Zouks, making 176 runs in 10 innings in the group stage. He has shown glimpses of form with scores of 42 against Trinbago and 46 against St Kitts, but shifted down to No. 3 in his most recent two innings. The self-styled 'Spiceman' made his name as a big-game player, bursting onto the scene with runs in the Stanford Super Series as an unknown 20-year-old; the Zouks need him to reprise that form.
Guyana left Chandrapaul Hemraj out for three games after a miserable start to the tournament, but he appears to have done enough to regain his place at the top of the order. Sherfane Rutherford has been in woeful form, averaging 5.57, and is not assured of a spot. The choice between Kevin Sinclair and Ashmead Nedd may depend on match-ups.
Guyana Amazon Warriors (possible): 1 Brandon King, 2 Chandrapaul Hemraj, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Keemo Paul, 7 Sherfane Rutherford / Romario Shepherd, 8 Ashmead Nedd / Kevin Sinclair, 9 Chris Green (capt), 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Imran Tahir
The Zouks have used 17 players this year, with some rotation around a solid core. Mark Deyal's 40 against Trinbago seems to have secured him a spot at the top of the order, while Javelle Glen will be difficult to leave out given his impressive all-round returns in the tournament. Zahir Khan should keep his spot, but Sammy may decide he wants the security of a third frontline seamer.
St Lucia Zouks (possible): 1 Rahkeem Cornwall, 2 Mark Deyal, 3 Andre Fletcher (wk), 4 Roston Chase, 5 Mohammad Nabi, 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Javelle Glen, 8 Daren Sammy (capt), 9 Scott Kuggeleijn, 10 Kesrick Williams, 11 Zahir Khan / Obed McCoy
Pitch and conditions
The second semi-final will be played on the same Brian Lara Academy pitch as the first, and if the surfaces throughout the tournament are anything to go by, it will be slow, low and helpful for spinners. The ball has generally come onto the bat better under lights, and with heavy rain showers in the forecast, dew could be a factor.
Stats and trivia
Shimron Hetmyer is the leading West Indian run-scorer in the competition so far, with 267. Only New Zealand's Glenn Phillips has more overall.
No seamer has as many wickets in CPL 2020 as Scott Kuggeleijn, whose strike rate - a wicket every 12 balls - is second only to Trinbago's Jayden Seales (min. 10 overs bowled).
Imran Tahir has taken at least 10 wickets in each of the last six T20 tournaments he has played in, dating back to last year's IPL. He has 15 so far in this CPL.
Andre Fletcher has taken 12 catches behind the stumps this year, leaving him with more wicketkeeping dismissals than anyone else.
"We were under some pressure so we had to come out with our backs against the wall to execute and win some games. But for the fans back home, we did it."
Romario Shepherd on Guyana's recovery from their poor start
"The cricket gods are crazy. I'd love to win my semi-final game, that's why we play. It's a clean slate now - what happened before doesn't matter, it's about how you play on Tuesday, and who wants it most."
Daren Sammy is in a confident mood ahead of the play-offs