Andre Russell had one of those days that cricketers everywhere dream of – a hat-trick and a century in the same match, and on his captaincy debut that too.
Russell almost single-handedly ensured Jamaica Tallahwahs opened their CPL 2018 campaign with a four-wicket victory against Trinbago Knight Riders on Friday, in a match that saw plenty of records tumble.
Russell’s century, which came off 40 balls, was the fastest in CPL history, and the totals notched up – the Knight Riders’ 223/6 and the Tallahwahs’ 225/6 – were the highest in the tournament. All of 448 runs were scored between the two sides, of which Russell, incredibly, contributed a 49-ball 121*.
What made Russell’s knock even more astonishing was that he rescued his side from the pits: the Tallahwahs were 41/5 at one stage, and given the Knight Riders had posted 223/6, victory looked extremely unlikely.
But Russell cannot be discounted, especially when he’s given a lifeline – Ali Khan dropped him off the first ball he faced, and he teed off thereafter.
With Kennar Lewis providing support, the two added 161 runs for the sixth-wicket, a stand that was the bedrock of the chase. Lewis scored a 35-ball 51.
The stand was broken in the 18th over, with 22 runs still to get, but Russell took charge and finished things off in the final over, lifting a six – his 13th – off Sunil Narine.
“With Andre, it was pretty easy to bat,” Lewis later said. “I just rotated the strike. I played simple. He’s my brother.”
The feeling was mutual. “I believe in Kennar,” said Russell. “That’s the reason he is in the lower order with me. He’s there to back up. I’m happy for him. He’s like a brother to me. I got emotional when he got to his fifty.”
The Knight Riders could well have reached a total closer to 235 had it not been Russell’s hat-trick. Chris Lynn’s 27-ball 46 and half-centuries from Colin Munro (61 off 42) and Brendon McCullum (56 off 27) had set things up well, and heading into the final over, they were 212/3.
McCullum then hammered a four off Russell, but Dre Russ fought back. McCullum miscued a full-toss and walked back the very next ball, Dwayne Bravo (29) was cleaned up by a yorker, and Denesh Ramdin holed out. Russell ended with 3/38.
To think it all happened on the day he was made captain. “First game as a captain at this level, definitely it’s a good start,” he said. “I am going to enjoy this till it lasts. The hard work has been paying off.
“I appreciate the drop catch. These things happen in the game. I’m happy that I can contribute to the team, I’m happy for the boys.”
Bravo, the Knight Riders skipper, admitted Russell was an unstoppable force on the day. “Well played to him and congrats on winning the first game as a captain,” he said. “Not much we can do, I’m very happy for him personally. He proved why he’s the best in the world at the moment. I hope he stays fit and healthy.”