Mohammad Hafeez last night engineered a remarkable comeback that sent the Guyana Amazon Warriors to the summit of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League and the Antigua Hawksbills crashing out. Hafeez hit an unbeaten half-century in a thrilling Match 20 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium to sign off his Limacol CPL with a bang.
Hafeez will join up with his national team for their tour of Zimbabwe this week but before he departed the Caribbean, Hafeez stained the memories of LCPL fans with his brilliance both mentally and physically. The Warriors were chasing 167 runs set by the Hawksbills in their final round-robin match of the league. At the halfway stage, the visitors were well on the backfoot, chasing the match. Though no wickets had fallen by the tenth over, at 56/0, the Warriors still needed a further 111 runs from the last ten overs. Just two overs into the second half, the Warriors lost Lendl Simmons and Trevon Griffith in the same over to Gavin Tonge.
It is there that Hafeez met up with James Franklin. Together, they both gave the Warriors some hope of winning the match. They put on 48 runs from just 22 balls. Franklin hit 25 runs from 16 balls, including two sixes and a four. At that point, the Warriors looked well in the contest but Ricky Ponting, playing in potentially his last game at the time, executed some brilliance as Franklin tried to steal a single. From backward-point, with one stump to aim at, he threw it down. It left question marks as to his retirement. The old man still has it. The task still looked tough for the visitors though. When Franklin was run out with the score on 106/3, the Warriors still needed 61 runs from 35 balls.
Christopher Barnwell aided Hafeez with a 34 run partnership from 20 balls. Barnwell struck 16 runs from 12 balls. But Hafeez was the man. He never tried too much. He calculated the game to the very last ball, as he would later explain in the presentation ceremony. By the time of the final over, when the Warriors needed 16 runs to win, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and Tonge had all been bowled out. Rahkeem Cornwall and Orlando Peters had gone for 46 runs in their three overs combined.
Marlon Samuels chose to give the ball to Devon Thomas, who had not bowled for the night. The first ball saw Ramnaresh Sarwan get run out trying to get two runs to get Hafeez back on strike. Hafeez got a single off the next ball giving Sunil Narine strike. Thomas tried a slower ball with 14 runs required and Narine pulled him so far the ball never came back. Narine’s six had left eight runs to get from three balls. They scampered a single off the fourth ball from a good yorker. With seven required from two balls, Thomas missed the yorker, bowling a low full toss that Hafeez flicked over square-leg for six. The game was tied with one run to get from one ball. The field moved in to prevent the single, but Hafeez went over it, crashing the ball over long-on to break a stadium’s heart.
He had reached his 50 in the process. In the last ten overs, the Warriors scored 115 runs, some 55 runs more than Lendl Simmons, Trevon Griffith and Martin Guptill (retired hurt) all put up in the first half of the innings. Hafeez had pulled them out big time before he jumped on a plane.
The drama all started with the Hawksbills’ purposeful batting though. From the moment both openers stepped onto the field, they appeared to fully understand the job at hand. The idea for the batsmen was to score quickly without losing wickets, and they almost executed to perfection. The opening stand put on 26 runs in three overs before Johnson Charles was caught at point. But it was what happened after that left the Amazon Warriors shell-shocked. Samuels joined Kieran Powell at the crease and both batsmen took the attack to the bowlers.
They both played their shots and got value for it as well. They batted with relative ease. The Amazon Warriors bowlers looked more shocked than anything else. When the boundaries weren’t coming, the batsmen rotated the strike nicely. It was a really well constructed partnership and Samuels led it. He struck 43 runs from 30 balls. His knock included two fours and three sixes. Together with Powell, he had put on 71 runs from ten overs before he fell. As Samuels left, the momentum seemed to leave with him.
Devon Thomas joined Powell but he needed time to settle in. Krishmar Santokie came back and accounted for Powell’s wicket. The left-hander had played a really good innings, hitting 47 runs from 45 balls. He had struck four fours and a six. But Ben Rohrer brought back the momentum as he came to the crease. In his first six balls, he had struck two fours and a six. He unleashed his big-hitting against Christopher Barnwell in the 19th over, slamming the bowler for a six in an over that cost 24 runs. At the other end, Thomas had gotten his eye in and he too was in on the act. He smashed Barnwell for two sixes in that over, one off a no-ball and the other off the resulting free-hit.
In the last over, Thomas was out obstructing the field. He dug out a yorker from Santokie and tried to scamper a quick single. As Santokie picked up the ball and threw to the wicket, Thomas had changed his direction of running and taken the lash of the ball. He was out obstructing the field. He had batted extremely well though, hitting 30 from just 19 balls. Two more wickets fell in the over in Kemar Roach and Sheldon Cottrell. Rohrer was left at the other end on 25 not out from 17 balls. Mohammad Hafeez copped the Digicel 4G Fastest Scorer award for his Strike Rate of 217.39. He was also Man of the Match. Devon Thomas received the Limacol Super Six award.
The Warriors will stay at the top of the table but second and third may shift. The Jamaica Tallawahs and the T&T Red Steel face off in the final round-robin match of the league this afternoon. The Red Steel finally got their slice of luck in the form of Hafeez, and now they’re into the semi-finals. From here on in, history only counts for statistics, and statistics don’t really matter; it is how you play on the day. (CPLT20.com)