It was a joy to witness the two semi-finals and the final of the CG United Super50 Regional 50-over tournament, which brought the competition to its exciting climax last week.
The day/night games were played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
Semi-final 1 took place on November 16. The defending champions, TT Red Force (RF), played Barbados Pride (BP).
It featured an excellent 112 by the RF skipper Nicholas Pooran, with quality support from wicket keeper Amir Jangoo, 81, plus a superb 54 by Darren Bravo; Akeal Hosein chipped in with a delightful 42, ensuring the RF crossed the 300 hurdle.
Also, it was the first time for the tournament the RF had batted first. Previously, they chose to field any time they won the toss. This time, on losing it, they were sent in.
It made me wonder why teams would prefer to field first on winning the toss.
The only time to send a team in to bat first is if the pitch is very moist and will give one’s bowlers the assistance that will allow them the advantage initially.
Not to do that, I believe, shows a lack of confidence in the batting skills of one’s team, not knowing how to approach an innings when there’s no target at which to aim.
However, Pooran and his batsmen came good on a wicket, which, though slow-paced, had slightly variable bounce. Maybe this is what Shai Hope, captain of BP, expected of the pitch and was hoping his bowlers would use it well.
It didn’t turn out their way, mainly because of the slowness of the pitch: batsmen had the necessary time to adjust.
Nonetheless, the runs were on the board and BP would then have to take stock and plan their innings carefully.
However, in a semi-final, there’s no turning back, no second chance to remain in the tournament if the game is lost.
Enter Shannon Gabriel, the powerfully built, menacing fast bowler, who dismissed four wickets for 43 runs with some superlative bowling.
The cricket at this stage, with the contest between Roshon Primus and the pacy Trinidadian, was of the highest quality, and it was sad to see so few spectators present at the ground to witness this drama unfold.
Primus’s 130 not out was pleasing to the eye and he played the 90-mph speed of Gabriel and the mysterious spin and guile of Sunil Narine with concentration, determination and skill.
If the bowlers only strayed in line and length, he stood tall and pounced on the ball with a fury that reminded me of all great batsmen.
This game could have gone either way, and no blame could have been cast on either team; it was just a cricket match that swayed in favour from one team to the other until, at the end, cricket won.
After barely recovering from a pulsating semi-final between TTRF and BP, we were treated to another outstanding and exciting game of cricket the following day.
Semi-final 2 had to be decided between the Guyana Harpy Eagles, led by Shimron Hetmyer, and Rovman Powell’s Jamaica Scorpions (JS).
Brilliant batsmanship was again on display. Hetmyer scored an attractive 85 which deserved a century, in a total of 318 for nine, with Sherfayne Rutherford contributing 56.
JS, after a strong start, revealed the determination of their in-form skipper, who played an absolutely fabulous innings for 105 not out to see them across the line.
Brandon King (64) is a batsman who performs just below his top-quality level and needs to concentrate more deeply.
He’s a top-of-the-line player, but it would do him no harm wrong to take a leaf from his captain’s book.
Then there is Odean Smith, who collected five for 65. A determined bowler, he needs more practice and self-confidence to help him with his no-ball, wides and inaccuracy problems. Nevertheless, he has ability.
The final was another hard-fought game, though low-scoring compared to the semi-finals. This was due to some big-occasion nervousness. TTRF were fighting to maintain their standing as champions; and it showed.
They lost wickets regularly when batting, plus their fielding was poor. Chadwick Walton (80) was perfect in his role as anchorman and Andre McCarthy gave fantastic support with his contribution of 55.
Gabriel was missed, leaving the field after bowling four overs.
A great week of cricket. A pity there was no crowd. The tournament should change venues for finals and have home games.