Guyana Amazon Warriors 218 for 6 (Malik 67*, King 59, Russell 2-35) beat Jamaica Tallawahs 137 (Russell 40, Phillips 40, Keemo 3-34, Tahir 2-21) by 81 runs
Shoaib Malik had a stellar all-round evening. He made an unbeaten 37-ball 67 to lift his team to 218. He made a bold move to bowl legspin at Chris Gayle early on, and eight straight overs of spin at Jamaica Tallawahs to strangle them before Andre Russell could come in. He closed the day with crucial catches, smart bowling changes, and a massive 81-run win. It was Guyana Amazon Warriors' fifth straight win, and they remain unbeaten this season.
A fifty from Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer's 44, and Imran Tahir's two wickets were the other key performances for Amazon Warriors. Tallawahs are now in last place with only one win in six matches.
Pristine Hetmyer, pesky Smith
Jade Dernbach got opener Chandrapaul Hemraj with his first ball, but was taken to the cleaners by Shimron Hetmyer after Amazon Warriors were put in. Dernbach was taken for four boundaries in his second over, starting with a lovely front-foot pull past mid-on, and some deft touches to find the boundaries at point and fine leg. At the other end, Brandon King was far from comfortable, swishing and playing away from his body outside off with little success. At one point he was 9 off 15. Tallawahs, however, continued to be generally on the shorter side allowing Hetmyer to cash in with plenty of stylish front-foot pulls.
Dwayne Smith's wobbly seaming deliveries bothered King even more, coming in and usually shaping away off the pitch as the batsman kept pushing away. Smith snuck past Hetmyer's inside edge too, dismissing him for 44 after clipping the top of off stump. In his first three overs, he went for only 20 and took a wicket.
But some more short-pitched bowling from Zahir Khan and the rest of the attack kept even King in the hunt, as he managed to keep finding the boundaries. A fair percentage of those came off edges, but he signed off against Smith by ruining his figures - after four dot balls in the bowler's final over, King hit two sixes to bring up his fifty. When he got out, Amazon Warriors had 117 in the 13th over.
Malik's finishing touches
Shoaib Malik was also fed his share of short balls, but the Amazon Warriors captain barely needed any help on the night. He was deft, using angles to find the third man boundary off the back foot, the point boundary off the front foot, and had a compulsive eye for the extra cover fence as well. Scattered into this mix was one emphatic slog onto the roof against Ramaal Lewis and a drill over long-off against the offspinner, too. Sherfane Rutherford chipped in with an effective 6-ball 15, as Malik hauled the team to 218 with his unbeaten 67, helped along greatly by the home team who dropped him twice, and dropped four catches overall.
The spin gamble works
Malik's great evening didn't stop with his batting innings. In their defence, his strategy to get his spinners' overs out of the way early proved to be decisive. It was Chris Green, the offspinner, who took the new ball as usual, but from the other end came Imran Tahir. Gayle smoked a generous full toss over midwicket from him first ball, but Tahir followed with one that held its line and had the opener caught off the leading edge at short third man. That early dent grew exponentially thereon to damage Tallawahs' chase.
Legspinner Qais Ahmed came on for the third over, although a slew of loose deliveries handed Tallawahs some respite. But Tahir got three overs at a stretch, and with Malik switching between Green and Qais at the other end, Tallawahs' start was stifled. Walton stepped out and sliced a Tahir full toss to extra cover, Javelle Glen top-edged to Malik at extra cover off Green, and even Qais had redemption - George Worker swatting a full toss straight to long-on.
Malik's decision to bowl eight straight overs of spin left Tallawahs at 51 for 4, with the required rate rapidly climbing, and theoretically leaving little in terms of a release for Russell.
Getting past Russell
Still, Russell took off straightaway. In the ninth over, it was still spin, with Green bowling around the wicket. Russell expertly chopped his first ball to the point boundary, got a six next ball at long-on off a complete mis-hit, and finished the over at 16 off five with a smart chop over point. Those five balls seemed to have made some kind of an impact.
Keemo Paul came on for the first over of pace in the 10th over, and his nervous slower balls kept being dug in short. Two of them were dismissed over midwicket consecutively by Russell, and even Glenn Phillips helped himself to one over square leg as 21 came off the over.
Tahir dropped a tough return catch of Russell next over, and the allrounder had settled in nicely on 38 off 16 when Odean Smith was brought on in the 13th over.
It was Malik's last gamble on the night, effectively handing Odean the responsibility of bowling four straight overs into the 19th. And it was a gamble that worked. The fourth ball was a short one wide outside off and Russell's attempted hoick was pouched at extra cover. It was Malik who completed the catch. And, really, the match.
In 12 balls, Tallawahs lost five wickets to fall from 111 for 4 to 120 for 9. Three of those wickets came from one Keemo Paul over, and Malik even managed to add a run-out to his bag.