Trinbago Knight Riders: The CPL 2020 Invincibles

The eighth edition of the Caribbean Premier League was very different from the previous seven editions, as this edition was played entirely in Trinidad and with no spectators. The main reason for this was of course because of the COVID-19 situation. But there was something more historic that unfolded during the 23-day tournament. That’s right, the home team known as the Trinbago Knight Riders created history. Not only did the Shah Rukh Khan owned franchise win all their 10 round robin matches, but also came out victorious in the two knockout matches that followed including the all important final. By doing so, they became just the second T20 cricket team (after Karnataka who won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2018-19) to win all their (12) matches enroute to the title. But how did it all unfold? To know about TKR’s invincible CPL 2020 journey, you’ll have to read further.

Match 1: TKR vs Guyana Amazon Warriors

The opening match of CPL 2020 was between three-time winners TKR and three-time finalists Guyana. The match was reduced to a 17-over affair due to inclement weather. Opting to bowl first, the Knight Riders got off to a dream start as Ali Khan sent opener Brandon King packing in just the third ball of the game. Hetmyer’s unbeaten 63 off 44 and a mini cameo by Kiwi Ross Taylor (33 off 21) set the tone for Guyana to claw back. But veteran and T20 specialist Sunil Narine had other ideas. It was definitely his day because first, he returned with excellent figures of 2 for 19 in his 4 overs. And second, while chasing 145, he scored a fine 50 off just 28 balls. The Knight Riders romped home in just 16.4 overs with 4 wickets in hand.

Match 2: TKR vs Jamaica Tallawahs

Next up was former champions Jamaica, who had the likes of Andre Russell, Mujeeb, and Lamichhane in their ranks. The Tallawahs were put into bat by Knight Riders skipper Kieron Pollard and the move paid dividends as the Tallawahs lost three wickets in as many overs. Wicketkeeper and Kiwi international Glenn Phillips scored a fine half-century to give the Jamaican franchise a decent total on the board. Chasing a modest 136, Trinbago lost Simmons in the very first over itself, but Narine and Colin Munro stitched together a fine 75-run partnership to bring the Knights back into the contest. Narine scored a second successive half century before falling, but Munro (49* off 46) stayed till the end as the Knight Rider romped home with 11 balls to spare. They were victorious by 7 wickets and sealed a second successive win.

Match 3: TKR vs Barbados Tridents

For the first time in the tournament, Knight Riders lost the toss and were put in by the Trident skipper, Jason Holder. As usual, Simmons and Narine opened the batting but both did not make much of a contribution. It was up to the middle order to score the runs and they did exactly that. First, it was Munro and Darren Bravo, who scored fine fifties. Munro scored a 30-ball 50 before being dismissed, but Darren played till the end and scored a fine 54* off 36 deliveries. And towards the fag end of the innings, Pollard played just 17 balls and scored a whopping 41 runs to give the Knight Riders a healthy total of 185 runs. The target seemed stiff but when the chase began, the Tridents raced away and collected 68 runs for the first wicket inside 8 overs. But cricket is a funny game, and the next 8 overs saw the Tridents lose 5 wickets. They were pegged back and despite mini cameos by Holder and Ashley Nurse, the Knight Riders took the game by 19 runs.

Match 4: TKR vs St Lucia Zouks

Up next for the Knight Riders was a Daren Sammy-led St Lucia Zouks outfit. Toss was won by Pollard and he had no hesitation in bowling first, especially with rain around. The Zouks lost early wickets and it needed two Afghan internationals, Najibullah (21 off 21) and Mohammed Nabi (30* off 22) to take the score beyond the 100-run mark. But as soon as Nabi was looking in ominous touch, the rains came pelting down with the score reading 111 for 6 in 17.1 overs. When the match resumed, Trinbago had a D/L target of 72 runs off 9 overs. Simmons fell early and twenty odd runs later, they lost two more crucial wickets. At 27 for 3 it looked doom and gloom, but Darren Bravo and Tim Seifert had other ideas. Bravo’s unbeaten 23 runs and Seifert’s unbeaten 15 runs took the Knight Riders over the line as they recorded their fourth straight win in as many games.

Match 5: TKR vs Guyana Amazon Warriors

Knight Riders were up against the Guyana franchise for round 2 in CPL 2020. The Warriors were out to seek revenge, but found themselves in a spot of bother at 12 for 3 inside the third over. Hetmyer (26 off 30), Ross Taylor (26 off 23), and a late blitz by all-rounder Keemo Paul (28* off 26), saw the Amazon Warrior end their innings on 112 for 7. Chasing a meager score of 113, Simmons and Tion Webster gave the Knight Riders a steady start. 34 runs into the chase, Simmons was castled by leggie Imran Tahir and next ball Munro faced the same fate. Guyana clawed their way back into the game when Chris Green got the better of Webster with the score reading 52 for 3 in the 11th over. The Knight Riders needed a partnership and it was Darren Bravo and Tim Seifert who did exactly that. Bravo (26* off 28) and Seifert (39* off 30) stitched together an unbeaten 63 runs partnership as the Trinidad and Tobago franchise walked away with another victory.

Match 6: TKR vs Barbados Tridents

Game 6 for Knight Riders was against defending champions Barbados Tridents. The Tridents were sent into bat, but lost Shai Hope early. Charles and Mayers got the Tridents back into the game with twin forties. While Charles scored a 37-ball 47, Mayers scored 42 facing the same amount of deliveries. Towards the end of the innings, mini cameos by Nurse (19 off 9), Rashid Khan (12 off 6), and Santner (8* off 3) gave the Barbados Tridents a challenging score on the board. Chasing 149 for a sixth successive victory, Trinbago Knight Riders were reeling at 36 for 4 and had lost their big guns including Darren Bravo and Tim Seifert. Simmons was still out there, but fell when the team seemed to be rebuilding. At 77 for 6 in 14.2 overs, all seemed lost but there was still hope; hope in the form of skipper Kieron Pollard. The runs were flowing courtesy the skipper’s bat and the big man tonked 9 glorious enroute to a stellar 72 off 28 balls, but fell in the last over of the game. 8 runs were still required and 4 balls were left, then it became 7 off 3. Next ball, and BOOM, Kharry Pierre smashed a six and took a single off the next ball to give the Knight Riders a stellar 2-wicket win.

Match 7: TKR vs Jamaica Tallawahs

The Tallawahs won the toss and put the Knight Riders in. Narine gave his team a thunderous start with a 11-ball 29 runs before nicking behind. Munro at three, and Simmons took advantage of the fast start and collected as much runs as possible in the powerplay. Simmons found run making difficult and fell for a 28-ball 25, in the tenth over. Seifert came in at four but just lasted 13 deliveries. Pollard promoted himself to five, especially after his jaw dropping display with the bat in the previous outing. The skipper scored 33 runs of 16 balls while Munro’s 65 off 54 helped the Knight Riders post a mammoth 184 runs on the board. The target for the Tallawahs was stiff, and losing a wicket on the first ball doesn’t help at all. But they clawed their way back, thanks to Glenn Phillips (41 off 31) and Nkrumah Bonner (26 off 30). Both fell, and a couple more too, and the target seemed farfetched. But Andre Russell had other ideas as he walloped 5 fours and 4 sixes enroute to a fighting 50. He stayed till the end, but couldn’t prevent the Knight Riders from winning again, this time by 19 runs.

Match 8: TKR vs St Kitts And Nevis Patriots

In their eight round robin clash, the Trinbago Knight Riders were up against St Kitts And Nevis Patriots, a team they hadn’t faced until now. The Patriots were languishing at the bottom of the CPL table, and the Knight Riders were keen on making it 8 from 8. Put in to bat, the Knight Riders were rocked early, first losing their new opener Amir Jangoo and second, losing Colin Munro to an injury, who had to retire hurt. Simmons was still out there in the middle and he looked in fine nick. He was ably supported by Darren Bravo (36 off 36). Simmons fell just short of a hundred (96 off 63), but gave his team a solid 174 runs on the board. St Kitts and Nevis Patriots never looked in control of the chase and despite Lynn scoring 34 runs, he chewed up 46 deliveries. There was no momentum in the chaseand wickets kept tumbling. In the end, the Knight Riders cruised to a convincing 59-run win.

Match 9: TKR vs St Lucia Zouks

The Knight Riders’ penultimate match of the group stage was against Daren Sammy’s Zouks. The Zouks won the toss and as usual, put the Knight Riders into bat. Simmons fell early, but Webster and Seifert steadied the ship. Just when things were looking good for the Knight Riders, Webster was sent packing. The Knight Riders did manage to stitch a few partnerships here and there but lost wickets at the wrong time. But they did finish with a flourish, all thanks to Darren Bravo (50 off 42) and Kieron Pollard (42 off 21). The Knights ended on a healthy 175 runs. The Zouks began the chase in a positive fashion and despite losing  one of their openers, Mark Deyal and Andre Fletcher were looking in good nick. Just when it seemed the match would swing the other way, the skipper came on and picked up crucial wickets. The St Lucia Zouks found it hard to recover from those blows and in the end gave the Trinbago Knight Riders a ninth successive win on the trot.

Match 10: TKR vs St Kitts And Nevis Patriots

The last league game was an inconsequential affair for both teams because the Knights were already in the play off and the Patriots were rock bottom. But the match did hold some significance, especially for the Knights, who were seeking a clean slate (10 wins in 10). Bowling first, the Knight Riders were on song right from the word go. Wickets kept tumbling, with Fawad Ahmed being the wreaker-in-chief with four scalps. Soon, the Patriots were bundled out for a paltry 77 in the penultimate over. Chasing a modest 78, began in good fashion. Although they lost one of their openers, but Simmons and Seifert ensured there were no more hiccups. The Knights sealed a comfortabled 9 wicket victory with 51 balls to spare. In the process, they won all their 10 group games as they headed into the knockout stages of the tournament.

Match 11: Semi-Final – TKR vs Jamaica Tallawahs

The Knight Riders were on a roll, but the knockouts are a different ball game and any slip ups now could end their campaign then and there. They were up against Jamaica Tallawahs, a team that finish fourth in the ladder. Pollard won the crucial toss and sent the Tallawahs batters in to bat. The Knights got of to a dream start as wickets kept falling. In no time, the Tallawahs were 4 down for just 25 runs on the board. Nkrumah Bonner (41 off 42) and skipper Rovman Powell (33 off 35) did their best to bring the team back in the game with a fine stand. But they were soon dismissed and Knight Riders took the game by the scruff of the neck. They kept the Tallawahs down to just 107. Chasing 108 for a place in the final, Knight Riders did lose fit again Sunil Narine early, but Simmons (54* off 44) and Tion Webster (44* off 43) seemed to be batting on a different wicket. They both added an unbeaten 97 runs for the second wicket as the Knight romped home with 5 overs to spare.

Match 12: Final – TKR vs St Lucia Zouks

In the big final, the Knights were facing first time finalists St Luica Zouks. The Knights were flying, but the Zouks did well to reach the summit clash. Trinbago won the important toss and elected to bowl first. The Zouks were rocked early with the dismissal of Cornwall, but Deyal and Fletcher bought them back into the contest. Fletcher’s attacking 39 runs off just 27 balls gave the Zouks the upper hand after 10 overs. Once he was dismissed, wickets started to fall at regular intervals. Despite 20-odd runs by Roston Chase and Najibullah, the Zouks were unable to bat the 20 overs. They were bundled out for 154 in 19.1 overs. In reply, Knight Riders were pegged back early by Chase and Kuggeleijn. By the 4th over, the Knights were 2 down for 19. It seemed tough out there but Simmons and Darren Bravo were keen on batting on. The runs started to slowly pick up pace, and the Knights were getting closer and closer.  Soon Simmons changed gears and Darren Bravo followed suit. It was an absolute massacre of the Zouks bowlers. Simmon finished on an unbeaten 84 off 49 while Bravo was unbeaten on 58 off 47. The Knights cruised to the title. They were simply relentless all thoughout the tournament, and finished the campaign without a single loss.

The Trinbago Knight Riders created history by becoming just the second T20 team (after Karnataka in 2018-19 season) to go unbeaten enroute to the title. Surely, an impressive feat for Pollard and his men. They will now be known as the CPL 2020 invincibles, and rightly so! Kudos!

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