Chennai: Trinidad & Tobago stayed alive in the tournament by beating Chennai Super Kings in their fortress, at their own game of choking oppositions out on a slow and low Chepauk track. The other game that the Super Kings call their own is good finishes with both bat and ball. Today, though, Kevon Cooper, who pays his bills through Kieron Pollard-like mix of medium pace and slower balls, scored 28 off 10 as T&T took 49 off their last five overs. When Dwayne Bravo, wearing a Trinidad wristband to go with his IPL yellows, tried breaking their hearts in the end, Cooper again came up with a seven-run 19th over to make sure Sunil Narine's figures of 4-0-8-3 didn't go waste.
It is often said that the only way to successfully defend low totals is to bowl oppositions out. No such theory holds for tracks that have all life vacuumed out of it. With this Chepauk track devoid of pace, turn and bounce, it has been all about bowling slow and sucking the life out of the opposition's innings. The Super Kings managed that well for the first 15 overs, but T&T managed to do it for longer, winning comfortably eventually even though the Super Kings lost only six wickets.
That the T&T openers put on only 52 in 9.3 overs despite desperate attempts to hit boundaries clearly demonstrated the two most crucial aspects of the game: that the pitch was difficult to score off or take wickets on, and that the batsmen would have been better off taking singles. Between them Simmons and William Perkins, T&T's new opener in the side at the expense of Jason Mohammed, scored 54 off 61. Of those 61, the duo failed to score of 31 balls.
Towards the end, Perkins managed to hit two sixes before he was done in by the slowness of the track again as an attempted late-cut went straight to point. Simmons was surprised by Saha's quickness at point, and Darren Bravo and Daren Ganga found fielders with precision to make it 72 for 4 in the 15th over.
Only when the Super Kings brought the quick bowlers back could T&T get a move on. It began when Barath somehow managed to impart pace on a late-cut to a slower ball from Albie Morkel. In the next over he managed to upper-cut another slower one, this time from Dwayne Bravo. However, Doug Bollinger got the better off him with another slower ball, threatening to nip the comeback in its bud.
Bollinger continued with the formula that had worked for them fine: bowl in the middle of the pitch, don't offer pace, and it would be near impossible to hit shots. However, Cooper managed to hit two such balls for sixes, and also dismissed a length ball from Dwayne Bravo over long-off. His decisive duel with Dwayne Bravo was yet to come.
This was a perfect scenario for Michael Hussey, and he started with two fours in his first two overs. Narine then turned the game around with mix of offbreaks and finger-flicked legbreaks. M Vijay showed he hadn't learned any lessons form T&T's failures, and got out slogging. Suresh Raina didn't pick the legbreak, and offered a return catch. Ravi Rampaul redeemed himself after the previous horror match to cramp Hussey on a cut and producing the edge.
A choke from the slower bowlers followed. S Badrinath and Wriddhiman Saha struggled to find even the singles. Daren Ganga persisted with single-saving fields, and his fielders were electric. Denesh Ramdin showed the importance of a specialist wicketkeeper even in twnety20 by diving either way on numerous occasions to deny the Super Kings runs off edges.
By the time Dhoni ran Badrinath out, the equation was down to 72 off 49. For the third time in a row, T&T had made a game out of a lot defence, but they needed to finish well. Cooper managed to do that against Dhoni, but Dwayne Bravo smashed Sherwin Ganga for two fours in the 16th over. Even as Narine came back to end Dhoni's misery, Dwayne Bravo reminded Rampaul of his horrors by taking 14 off the 18th over.
With 33 to defend in the last two, and their history in this tournament, T&T had cause for worry. Not with Cooper, whose mix of slower balls and yorkers conceded just seven, including an edge for four. Morkel hit two sixes off the last two balls, but that might only be of any significance if the Super Kings somehow advance to the next round based on net run-rate.