Barbados won the patience game and first day honours of the Carib Beer Challenge Final against Trinidad and Tobago at Guaracara Park. Not the favorites to win against a T&T team playing at home and already the new holders of the regional four-day Carib Beer Cup, the Bajans nevertheless created a good position for themselves by diligently going about their work.
So well did they stick to their plan, that T&T, to the disappointment of a large Saturday crowd, had lost eight wickets for 223 runs by the end of play. Rayad Emrit’s bold, unbeaten 37, made in the last hour of play, improved what had threatened to be an even more humble score. His 33-run eight-wicket partnership with Mervyn Dillon – bowled with the second new ball – and an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 19 with Dave Mohammed (11*), held up the Bajans late in the afternoon on a day on which events took time to unfold. It also gave his team-mates hope that opener Lendl Simmons’ fine 84 would not have been in vain.
Having won the toss for the second straight match, Daren Ganga again opted to take first strike. Unlike last weekend, there was not the consideration of extra grass or added moisture to think about. And in the opening spells of new ball bowlers Pedro Collins and Ian Bradshaw, there was nothing to suggest Ganga had erred.
Ganga, opening the innings with Simmons instead of Dwayne Bravo and Ganga’s omitted brother Sherwin, would have been pleased with his team’s start up until the first change, when Corey Collymore was introduced with the total on 37 for 0. Colleymore, playing his first competitive match since knee surgery last December, may have appeared to be a fitness risk in a final. But his opening spell was superb: in those five overs, he did not concede a single run. His control was spot-on and on a surface that offered him little real help, he still managed to worry the batsmen with movement both ways.
Eventually, Ganga himself was fatally confused, falling lbw offering no stroke to a delivery which moved back into him, and not away as he had anticipated. The score then was 41, but the Bajans had successfully curtailed the runs given away by the opening bowlers. By lunch, T&T had reached just 55. Only one wicket was down, but Simmons and new partner Bravo had been unable to dictate terms to the visitors.
Bravo, never at his most fluent facing left-arm spinners, looked uncomfortable against Hinds. Like a cat pawing at some mysterious object, he gingerly felt his way through his innings against the Bajan skipper, especially after lunch. Twice, Dwayne Smith, under the bat at forward short-leg, put him down as he tried to turn Hinds away. But eventually, when he reached 25 and had added 59 with Simmons, Bravo fell to Collins, back at the northern end, who induced him to snick a drive at a ball angled across him, to Floyd Reifer at first slip.
Brian Lara, warmly greeted as always by the crowd, now arrived at the crease in the last hour before tea. But the score was only 100 for 2. The T&T batsmen spent time at the wicket but had been unable to take control. And before tea was actually taken, Barbados had edged in front with the capture of Lara’s prized scalp. Looking like a man short of time in the middle, Lara became Collins’ second wicket of the session when he was lbw to an in-swinging full toss which he walked across and missed.
T&T went to tea on 112 for 3, with Simmons still there on 55, patient, resolute but highly fortuitous from four hours at the crease. He could – and from the television evidence probably should – have been either lbw to Collymore in his second spell on 43; run out when he was 44; or dismissed by a return catch to off-spinner Ryan Austin at 48. But on each occasion, umpire Norman Malcolm, TV umpire Khemraj Barrasingha and Malcolm’s counterpart Billy Doctrove ruled in his favour.
Like a ghetto youth, dodging bullets in some on-going gang war, in some so-called hot spot, Simmo lived very dangerously at times. But it was shaping like a day on which he would survive and go on to his second century against Barbados this season. A confident lofted off-drive off Hinds, which took him to 84, seemed to signal the coming of that landmark. Simmons had used his feet well to the spinners when going over the top. But, next ball, he perished by the sweep, a too cute attempt, which he top-edged into the grateful Smith’s hands. That was overdue reward for the Hinds-Smith combination.
Even more, Simmons’ departure marked the critical decline of the T&T innings. From 161 for 4 when he went, the home side plunged to 170 for 7. Jason Mohammed caught by first slip Reifer, and Richard Kelly, bowled playing on, were both Bradshaw victims in a belated second spell. And Hinds accounted even more critically for wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, bowled playing down the wrong line of a ball which spun across him. All the apparent rescuers were gone. But in Emrit, the Cup champs seemed to be finding another one.