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The league stage of the CPL 2023 ended on Sunday with Jamaica Tallawahs sealing the last playoff spot and Amazon Warriors signing off with a resounding win over Barbados Royals. Here's ESPNcricinfo's weekly round-up
Guyana Amazon Warriors have been head and shoulders above the rest of the teams, suffering only one defeat. They finished at the top of the points table. Trinbago Knight Riders secured second spot with 13 points.
Saint Lucia Kings regrouped well after their regular captain Faf du Plessis had to leave the tournament with injury. Sikandar Raza spearheaded the team adeptly as they finished the group stage with 10 points. The last playoff spot was clinched by the Jamaica Tallawahs, who earned timely victories and now have a stab at defending their title.
The Kings will face Tallawahs in the Eliminator on Wednesday while Amazon Warriors will lock horns with Knight Riders in the Qualifier 1 on Thursday. The winner of the Eliminator and the loser of Qualifier 1 will battle it out in Qualifier 2 for the coveted final spot.
Barbados Royals never quite gelled as a unit and were at the bottom for most of the season. They remained lacklustre and were bulldozed by Amazon Warriors in their last match. Except for Rahkeem Cornwall's century against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, the top order was cold, and were left relying too often on individual brilliance.
On the other hand, Tallawahs have done well to recover from five straight losses midway through the CPL. However, when it mattered the most, two senior players (more on that later) helped register two massive wins against Patriots and Kings to cement the fourth playoff spot.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa marked his return with the Kings by hitting a stupendous 86 that made short work of the chase against Warriors. He did get a reprieve on 38, but after that he didn't give them a sniff. Rajapaksa in solid touch before the knockouts is a good omen for the Kings and a worry for the rest.
Mohammad Amir, the second-highest wicket-taker of CPL 2023, returned to the Tallawahs side, and set the stage ablaze against Patriots by taking 4 for 19 in a win. That spell, in retrospect, proved to be a major turning point in Tallawahs' campaign. He was also helped by Imad Wasim's three-for that sealed Patriots' exit.
The Tallawahs then turned up in their consequential final league game with a playoff spot up for grabs. Alex Hales slammed a majestic unbeaten 119 with 12 fours and seven sixes, peaking alongside his team at the right time. The Kings were never in contention in the chase, scoring only 79 in response to a 202-run target.
Shai Hope ransacked Royals in the last game of the group stage and scored the second-fastest century of the CPL off just 41 balls. He battered Cornwall for 4, 6, 6, 6, 4, 6 in the 16th over and his form, along with others in the XI, keep Amazon Warriors as one of the favourites to eventually take the crown.