St Kitts & Nevis Patriots relying on batting improvements to drive CPL hopes

CARIBBEAN PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW: Carlos Brathwaite will lead the St Kitts & Nevis franchise as they go in search of their first CPL crown

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Coach: Donovan Miller

Captain: Carlos Brathwaite

Overseas: Rassie van der Dussen, Laurie Evans, Mohammad Hafeez, Usama Mir, Aaron Jones

Last season: 4th in group stage

How did they do last year?

An interesting year for St Kitts and Nevis, who finished fourth in the group stage, but then appeared to find their best game as the tournament reached its knockout eliminators. They successfully chased 191 to see off Jamaica Tallawahs, before looking for a long time as though they were preparing to send Trinbago on their way as well.

After restricting them to an eminently gettable 165 in the second final qualifier, a combination of chasing pressure and some excellent slow bowling by Sunil Narine and Fawad Ahmed ripped the wind out of the Patriots’ sails, leaving them 20 runs short of a final berth.

It represented an adequate season for a side that relied on frequent contributions from all parties rather than individual dominance. Chris Gayle was not at his buccaneering, brutal best, while only the Universe Boss and wicketkeeper Devon Thomas passed 200 runs for the season. Far more was expected from Evin Lewis, who managed just 126 runs in 11 innings.

Who are their key players?

Evin Lewis: With Gayle now having returned to Jamaica Tallawahs, the pressure is on Lewis to step up and display the form that he has shown on both the international stage and in T20 cricket around the world.

His struggles in 2018 came alongside an average of just 11.45, which included a single half-century. Lewis strikes the ball as well as anyone in world cricket and much will be expected of him, given the absence of Gayle. Who knows? It may well free him up.

Carlos Brathwaite: The World T20 winner has risked becoming something of an enigma in recent years. His stock appeared to have fallen almost as quick as it rose with those four legendary successive sixes off Ben Stokes back in 2016. His hitting prowess had appeared to fall away in the years since, while his bowling has often seemed somewhat powder-puff, given his enormous frame.

However, he reminded the cricketing world of his talents at the World Cup, coming from nowhere to drag his team within literal inches of an astonishing victory over New Zealand.

As the new captain of his franchise, replacing Gayle, it will be intriguing to see how he goes and, indeed, how he opts to use his own unique talents. Nobody will know how to get the best out of him better than the mercurial man himself.

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Carlos Brathwaite almost led West Indies to a historic win over New Zealand

What are their biggest strengths?

The value of left-arm seamers was highlighted during the World Cup, and the quality of Sheldon Cottrell was plain for all to see. The charismatic, saluting seamer has seen his stock fly through the roof in the last year.

He will be key – especially with the new ball as Brathwaite’s team looks to make early inroads into opposition batting lineups. He is joined by the thrillingly talented Alzarri Joseph, the West Indies speedster who took six for 12 on his IPL debut for Mumbai Indians earlier this year.

With the bat, the Patriots have invested wisely. Sussex’s Laurie Evans has long-been one of the county circuit’s most consistent performers in the shortest format and has improved his game by playing in competitions beyond the UK.

Rassie van der Dussen is another who, like Evans and Cottrell, has seen his stock rise slightly later in his own career. He and Evans should provide a decent supply of runs in a middle order that struggled last year. Jason Mohammed, who was with Guyana last year, will also improve the batting.

Where might they have a weakness?

There is a lot of weight of expectation on the West Indian pair of fast bowlers. If Joseph and Cottrell come off as they can do, then it will place the Patriots in a superb position.

However, with a shortage of high-quality spin, they could come unstuck, especially without the runs of Chris Gayle.

Prediction

It looks set up for another decent year for Donovan Miller’s side – well-balanced, with plenty of options. If the batting can fire better than it did last year and take some pressure off the fast bowlers, Brathwaite’s boys could surprise a few.

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