Twenty-four years ago, Port-of-Spain was painted in red–the blood of an attempt coup. Yesterday, however, it was painted in red again–the love of a nation for the T&T Red Steel, who did not disappoint and gave them a wonderful nine-wicket victory over the St Lucia Zouks.
The battlefield this time was not the Red House but the Queen's Park Oval and soldiers stationed at the venue were not involved in battle but were there to ensure that the exuberant fans did not rush onto the field after Red Steel registered their fifth win in the Limacol Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 tournament.
After incisive bowling from Dwayne Bravo's men restricted the Zouks to 136 for nine off their 20 overs, the home team romped to victory at 137 for one off 14.4 overs.
The assault by Evin Lewis and Kevin O'Brien could well spark an inquiry into the performance of the opposition, as they attacked with full force.
Lewis armed with a heavy BAS bat flayed the offerings from the Islanders and the white missile took to the air, landing among the civilians. He rushed to a half century off just 24 balls–hitting four sixes and four fours. This landmark, his second in successive games after his 72 against the Jamaica Tallawahs, all but ended the interest of the Zouks.
Lewis and O'Brien posted their century stand off just 10.4 overs and the fans were jumping. While the two batted, life in T&T looked perfect, as total strangers were hugging each other in the stands, celebrating the T&T Red Steel. Lewis fell just before the victory was formalised, getting 77 off 45 balls with 12 fours and two sixes.
O'Brien then brought up his second half century off the series off 40 balls with three sixes and three fours. He remained 55 not out at the end.
Earlier, Sammy won the toss and surprisingly batted first given the fickle nature of the weather. Prior to him winning the toss, he had to contend with the bad news that Under-19 player Ray Jordan broke the arm of one of his top batsmen Brad Hodge during practice, ruling him out of the tournament.
The Red Steel, on the other hand, received a boost with the visit of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar lending her support, after two weeks of uncertainty as to whether the T&T brand could be used as part of the team's name.
Zouks openers Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher failed to get going and leg-spinner Samuel Badree had both men back in the dug out with just 33 runs on the board. Charles swiped at a googly and was stumped and Fletcher's dismissal was even uglier as he played an awful heave only to see the ball crash into his stumps. He gave Badree his 100th wicket in all T20 cricket and soon the PowerGen man would complete his spell of four overs conceeding only 13 runs.
The South African Rolef van der Merwe then swatted two fours and a six but Badree then had a hand in sending him back via a Javon Searles long-hop, he made 21 off 18 balls.
Another cameo was on the menu as Keddy Lesporis sent two balls into the stand before he was snapped up by Dwayne Bravo. His 20 off 17 balls, gave the visitors hope but he was too anxious for big shots and paid the ultimate price.
After this, there was a steady procession to and from the dug out as only skipper Sammy withstood the challenge from a well-oiled Red Steel unit.
The West Indies T20 captain stayed to the end and finished 46 not out off 35 balls with four sixes and one four.
The bandwagon now shifts to St Lucia where the T&T Red Steel will meet the St Lucia Zouks again on Saturday.
Red Steel vs Zouks
A Fletcher b Badree 4
J Charles st Pooran b Badree 15
R Merwe c Badree b Searles 21
K Lesporis b Bravo 20
T Willett c Taylor b Cooper 10
D Sammy 46
S Tanvir c Badree b Edwards 1
M Mathew run out 1
S Shillingford run out 1
R Jordan run out 6
G Mathurin not out 0
Extras lb5, w6 11
Total 9 wkts (20ovs) 136
Fall of wkts: 20, 33, 52, 70, 97, 101, 103, 112, 133.
Bowling: F Edwards 4-0-33-1 (1w), S Badree 4-1-13-2, S Benn 4-0-31-0 (1w), J Searles 1-0-14-1, D Bravo 3-0-18-1, K Cooper 4-0-22-1.
T&T Red Steel innings
K O'Brien not out 55
E Lewis c Charles b Shillingford 77
DM Bravo not out 0
Extras lb1, w3, nb1 5
Total wkt (14.4) 137
Fall of wkts: 129.
Bowling: S Tanvir 2-0-16-0, G Mathurin 2.4-0-26-0, D Sammy 1-0-20-0, M Mathew 2-0-18-0, R Jordan 2-0-19-0, S Shillingford 4-0-26-1, T Willett 1-0-11-0.
Result: T&T Red Steel won by 9 wkts.
Man of match: Evin Lewis.?