The perennial bridesmaids meet 2017's losing finalists. The Guyana Amazon Warriors have been the nearly team throughout the history of the CPL, advancing to the final five times but never claiming the title. The St Kitts & Nevis Patriots finished runner-up four years ago, coincidentally during Chris Gayle's first rodeo with this year's host franchise, and he is now back trying to turn a silver medal into gold.
The first half of this campaign saw these teams in far different situations to the ones they enter the playoffs in. The Patriots shot like a cannon out of the gates, winning their first five matches behind the sizzling form of Sherfane Rutherford, who scored three fifties in that stretch. But as Rutherford's bat has cooled down, so have the Patriots as a whole, winning just one of their last five league games.
The Amazon Warriors, meanwhile, only won two of their first five - needing a Super Over to get over the line in one of them - but have since won four out of five with different heroes stepping up on each occasion. Whether it has been Gudakesh Motie, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, or the captain Nicholas Pooran, the Warriors have been resilient thanks to a variety of match-winning performances. The Warriors come into this match with all the momentum but if the Patriots can rekindle their early-season form, it could be the formula for an exciting semi-final.
Guyana Amazon Warriors WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
St Kitts & Nevis Patriots LWLLL
In the spotlight
Romario Shepherd had 36 runs in the tournament entering the final match of round-robin play. There, he scored twice as many in incredible style, digging his side out of a hole at 75 for 7 while scoring at a strike rate better than 200, then took three wickets in the chase. He's been the tournament's joint-leading wicket-taker with 18, and has been especially valuable at the death.
Evin Lewis helped the Patriots clinch a spot in the playoffs with an unbeaten 101 off 52 balls on the penultimate day of group play, but was missing in action a day later. He's the tournament's second-highest run-getter and is coming into good form heading into the T20 World Cup.
Fitness permitting, Lewis should be back in the Patriots XI for the semi-final clash. Joshua Da Silva's half-century at the top of the order gives the selectors an interesting dilemma as to who should take the gloves, though. Another coin toss may happen between picking Sheldon Cottrell and leaving him out for an extra spinner in Jon-Russ Jaggesar.
St Kitts & Nevis Patriots (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Devon Thomas, 4 Sherfane Rutherford, 5 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 6 Fabian Allen, 7 Joshua Da Silva (wk), 8 Dominic Drakes, 9, Jon-Russ Jaggesar, 10 Paul van Meekeren, 11 Fawad Ahmed.
The Warriors' winning combination over the final weekend looks difficult to break up as they try to make it to their sixth final. Though with Shoaib Malik out of form, a tough call may need to be made to keep faith in the long-time middle-order stalwart or look elsewhere for runs and middle-overs spin, potentially from Kevin Sinclair.
Guyana Amazon Warriors (possible): 1 Brandon King, 2 Chandrapaul Hemraj, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Nicholas Pooran (capt), 6 Anthony Bramble (wk), 7 Romario Shepherd, 8 Odean Smith, 9 Gudakesh Motie, 10 Naveen-ul-Haq, 11 Imran Tahir.
As the tournament has gone on, the wickets have continued to wear down and assist spin. But there have still been plenty of runs on offer thanks to the short boundaries. There were a few rain interruptions during the final weekend of play, but those came in the mid to late afternoon and were brief so a full match shouldn't be difficult to get through.
Stats and trivia
- Captain Dwayne Bravo continues to extend his illustrious career record at the CPL. His eight wickets this season have extended his CPL mark to 114, 18 more than the next closest bowler Rayad Emrit.
- The Amazon Warriors have advanced to the tournament final on both previous occasions when the knockouts were staged in St Kitts. Both their preliminary final wins came against the Jamaica Tallawahs, before they lost to the Barbados Tridents (2014) and Tallawahs (2016) in the finals.
"We need to go to the end and try and win the finals. We've been in the final five times and haven't won it yet. We want to try to get the first."
Romario Shepherd in the post-match presentation on Sunday was well aware of the Warriors' playoffs record entering this year's knockout stage.
"To me TKR is the best team in the tournament so to get the result I'm very proud of the squad. Evin is the best in the world at the moment."
Dwayne Bravo feels that the win over the Knight Riders on Saturday is a truer reflection of his side's capabilities.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna