Red Steel 152 for 1 (O'Brien 90*, Taylor 51*) beat Antigua Hawksbills 151 for 8 (Thomas 38, Cooper 3-34)) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Irishman Kevin O'Brien became the latest batsman to mete out a healthy dose of punishment to the Antigua Hawksbills as his unbeaten 90 off 49 balls ensured a thumping nine-wicket win for the Red Steel at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Sunday in Antigua. O'Brien teamed with Ross Taylor (51 not out) to produce the highest partnership in Caribbean Premier League history, an unbroken 145-run stand for the second-wicket to comfortably break the previous record set by Raymon Reifer and Shoaib Malik in 2013 when they added 102 in tandem for the Barbados Tridents against Jamaica Tallawahs.
O'Brien and Taylor came together in the second over with the score 7 for 1 chasing the Hawksbills' 151 for 8 after Kennar Lewis yanked the gentle offspin of Rahkeem Cornwall to Ben Laughlin at deep midwicket for 2. It was the last bit of joy for the Hawksbills on the day as Taylor joined O'Brien at the crease and the pair spent the rest of the hot afternoon forcing the Antigua fielders to chase leather.
No one was spared from the onslaught but spinners bore the brunt of it from O'Brien. The Red Steel batsman had Bradd Hogg in his crosshairs from Hogg's first delivery when O'Brien stepped out of his crease to smash a six over extra cover to start the eighth over. O'Brien clubbed the gentle seam of Laughlin for a four and six to the same region in the 12th before bringing up his 50 off 29 balls with a single to square leg.
With the seamers not making any impact, Hawksbills captain Marlon Samuels tried going back to his tweakers but it made no difference to O'Brien. He continued using his feet to the slow bowlers, skipping down the track to launch Cornwell over the bowler's head for back-to-back sixes in the 14th. He came down the track once more to crunch Hogg over midwicket in the 16th for his seventh six before showing finesse to go with his power by executing a delicate cut past point off Hogg for his fifth four.
Taylor faced just three fewer deliveries than his partner, but unselfishly focused most of his innings turning the strike back over to the red hot O'Brien. He brought up his half-century in 44 balls by gliding a single to third man in the 17th and an O'Brien two through cover leveled the scores by the end of the over. Antigua's uninspiring performance in the field came to a conclusion when a sharp turning delivery from Hogg beat the keeper Devon Thomas to produce a bye for the winning run with 17 balls to spare.
The easygoing chase was set up by a solid performance in the field after Red Steel captain Dwayne Bravo won the toss and sent the Hawksbills in to bat. With the exception of a 66-run stand for the fourth wicket between Thomas and David Hussey, the Hawksbills struggled to piece together solid partnerships. Neither batsman made the most of their respective starts with Hussey slogging Sulieman Benn to O'Brien at long off for 30 before Thomas backed away to Kevon Cooper and edged an attempted drive to Pooran for 38 two balls into the 18th to make it 119 for 5.
The loss of both set batsmen robbed the Hawksbills of their best chance for a strong finishing kick. Bravo kept the pressure on by taking two wickets in the 19th over, getting Carlos Brathwaite to top edge a slower ball to fine leg before Sheldon Cottrell was out in front of another slower ball and ballooned a chance that Bravo claimed for himself. The Hawksbills troubles with change of pace deliveries continued through the end of the innings when a Cooper slower ball fooled Cornwall to give Cooper match-best figures of 3 for 34 and set up a target that was well within reach of Taylor and O'Brien.