Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Guyana Amazon Warriors 142 for 7 (Hetmyer 54, Narine 2-17, Hosein 2-17) beat Trinbago Knight Riders 133 for 9 (Ramdin 28, Shepherd 3-15, Tahir 2-12, Smith 2-10) by 9 runs
Imran Tahir showed all of the nous of his 42 years, and none of the age, as Guyana Amazon Warriors pulled off a sterling defence of a competitive total, on a surface where run-scoring wasn't the easiest. Tahir's 2 for 12 in four overs derailed Trinbago Knight Riders' chase, as the defending champions began CPL 2021 with a nine-run defeat, having gone undefeated for 12 games while winning CPL 2020.
The Amazon Warriors had limped through most of their innings after being put in to bat, before a finishing flourish by a previously sluggish Shimron Hetmyer took them to 142 for 7. The nature of the surface at Warner Park in St Kitts though wasn't typically T20-like. It offered bite for spinners, and extra bounce too, which made the total challenging. Given the Knight Riders' batting depth, they would have still fancied chasing it down, especially after a reasonably bright start in the powerplay. But the advent of Tahir swung the momentum, and the Amazon Warriors bowlers then never let up.
Tahir, who was bowling in the Hundred in England four days ago, seemed as bouncily fresh as ever, returning figures that would have done him credit even if they came in five-ball overs. He conceded only singles across his four overs and struck once apiece in his first two overs. The Knight Riders, who had kept the required run rate within reach till the powerplay, were suddenly forced into taking more risks. They did have captain Kieron Pollard still available though, and the knowledge that a steep run rate could be reeled in if he got going.
However, Romario Shepherd struck the decisive blow when he got one to lift and move away in the corridor from back of a length, drawing an uncertain poke as Pollard was unable to keep hands from following the ball, nicking a catch behind. Once Pollard fell, with four wickets standing only and 57 needed off 36, the Amazon Warriors were in command. Shepherd ended with the best figures, having taken three big wickets with Lendl Simmons and Denesh Ramdin added to Pollard's scalp, to return 3 for 15.
The Knight Riders had ended up with a chase that was steeper than they would have thought, having kept the opposition on a tight leash for most of their innings. The Amazon Warriors started the tournament with a novel batting order, opting to send in Odean Smith at No.3. Smith had batted just four times in T20 games before this, never scoring more than 10 runs. However, the limited sample size was misleading, with Smith having a List A strike rate of 110.86 and a first-class strike rate of 102.08. The experiment proved reasonably successful with Smith biffing 24 off 15, but it also meant an overcrowded middle order was squeezed.
The Amazon Warriors also opted to send in Pakistan veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez ahead of captain Nicholas Pooran, who eventually ended up coming in at No.7, with only five overs remaining. No top-order batter had got going, and with two overs remaining, Hetmyer was still on 29 off 32. However, he belatedly found his range to loot 30 from the last two overs, ending with 54 off 41, and dragging the total into the defendable territory.