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Group B of the Saint Lucia Premier League T20 tournament concluded in unexpectedly dramatic fashion on Tuesday night. Not the game at the Philip Marcellin Grounds, though. That one went strictly according to plan.
Vieux Fort North Raiders made a very sedate 124/5, Travis Gifford 45 runs off 41 balls, whilst Xavier Gabriel took 1-19 from his four overs, giving defending champions South Castries Lions a soft target of 125. Tonius Simon is one of three men to have an aggregate of at least 125 runs this season. Tuesday night, the 23-year-old left-hander rang up an unbeaten 52 off just 32 balls, his second half-century in three matches, to guide the Lions to victory for the loss of just two wickets.
At Gros Islet, though, the home team lost in stunning fashion, after a thrilling victory over the Lions last week. Knights opted to bowl against the Mon Repos Pioneers, who looked set for a smallish total after 15 overs, with just 110 runs on the tins, and the seventh wicket falling at the first ball of over 16. Skipper Mervin Wells (35) and former Saint Lucia captain Craig Emmanuel (38) had combined for a fine 70-run partnership, before both departing on 94.
Things changed in a hurry in over 17 when Evanus Emmanuel opened his arms and smote Tarryck Gabriel for three sixes and a four. He would make just five runs thereafter, but Emmanuel had set up a strong finish for the Pioneers, who ended on 153 all out on the last ball of the innings. Their explosion should have surprised no one, as Pioneers had just last week rung up the second-highest score ever in the admittedly brief history of SPL T20.
In reply, though, Gros Islet looked imperious. Tarryck Gabriel more than made up for his own expensive bowling, and his team’s many dropped catches, hitting 52 off 42 balls. Vidal Crandon has been full of runs all season, and when he was the first man out for 43, his team was comfortable on 87 in just the ninth over, which went for 18 runs. But Craig Emmanuel was turning the screws at the other end, conceding just five from his first two overs, and five still from his first three.
Garvin Serieux Jr. did not contribute much with the bat, but he joined Craig in choking the supply of runs, keeping West Indies B player Kimani Melius very quiet. After Gabriel went out at 110/2, Dane Edward followed at 113/3, then Melius on 118/4 – having added just 10 runs in 30 balls. By the time Vernillius Gabriel ended his cameo knock of 25 off 19, the Knights had all but fallen. They ended 10 runs shy, at 143/7, leaving a largely Mon Repos crowd happy.
And so the final four is set. All roads lead to Philip Marcellin Grounds on Monday, June 10 for the semifinals. From 2 p.m. the South Castries Lions will continue their title defense against the Mabouya Valley Renegades. At 6 p.m. the Choiseul Craft Masters will put the league’s only unbeaten run up against the Gros Islet Knights.