It is inevitable that Sagicor Life UWI will capture their fifth top league three-day title in ten seasons, while ESA Field Pickwick and Sierka Rentals Maple sweat over relegation as the BCA Elite division Championship concludes this weekend.
Going into the second day’s play tomorrow, front-runners UWI are well placed to beat Maple at 3Ws Oval. Tactical awareness, one of the hallmarks of UWI’s style, is expected to come into the equation.
Desperation confronts Maple and Pickwick, who are opposing last year’s runaway champions ICBL Empire at Bank Hall after both flopped with the bat last Saturday. Now, both need bowling points with the pressure much more on Pickwick.
After the eighth and penultimate series, only two teams –– UWI and Brathwaite Construction/Crane Resort St. Catherine –– were in contention for the title. UWI were on 119 points and St Catherine 116.
And although mathematically, four teams –– Empire (70), Massy Stores Spartan (63), Maple (56) and Pickwick (52) were in line for demotion of which rock-bottom Guardian General Barbados Youth (28) are exempt, realistically Maple and Pickwick faced the toughest task.
UWI needed at least 18 of the maximum 20 points on offer to secure the title. They have already gained seven by way of four bowling points by bundling out Maple for 72 in 25.2 overs after winning the toss and then picking up three for first innings in a close of play score of 146 for three off 39 overs.
Once UWI grab two points for batting by reaching 200, they can immediately declare and aim for an outright win inside two days, which if achieved, would secure the title with 137 points. St. Catherine can only reach a maximum 136 points with victory over Massy United Insurance Wildey at the SJPP ground.
With the luck of the toss, Pickwick’s gamble of batting proved hurtful as they were bowled out for 145 in 37.3 overs before Empire went to stumps on 65 for two off 26 overs.
So the onus is now on both Maple and Pickwick to look at what is needed in order to avoid relegation.
In the case of Maple, picking up at least two bowling points will be very vital. If attained, Pickwick must then gain full bowling points, as well as first innings lead, to edge Maple by one point in the event that both lose.
Should Maple be beaten without gaining any points and Pickwick earn four bowling points only, both will finish on 56 points but Maple would be placed higher on account of having two wins compared with a solitary win by Pickwick.
But Pickwick could nip Maple by one point if they earn five points in a draw and Maple are defeated without managing any points.
Cricket is indeed a funny game and nothing should be taken for granted but Pickwick, the second oldest club in the island at 133 years, will have to truly show their mettle to avoid demotion.
The promotion/relegation system was introduced in 2009.
Last year, Maple had four wins –– only second to Empire’s seven –– and finished third on 97 points including the most all told for bowling (34), while Pickwick were fourth with 79. Now, as both reflect on their struggles throughout the season, Maple in particular would concede that they suffered significantly from not gaining crucial bowling points. Their batting has also struggled but so, too, the likes of Empire, Spartan and Pickwick.
Maple, who won only their second top league title just two years ago (the other was in 1992), have mustered the least number of bowling points (17) among the ten teams –– six less than Spartan and Pickwick.
A clear indication of Maple’s tough times is underlined by the fact that their bowling points were attained by the end of Series 6 when they were fifth on 55 points. The solitary point picked up since then came from a no-decision against Spartan at Queen’s Park in the last round when rain washed out play on the final day.
As far as the title race is concerned, St Catherine can only hope for a miracle by Maple or weird weather intervention in which event they would have to beat Wildey.
Wildey were dismissed for 179 in 64.1 overs in the first innings and St. Catherine will resume on 43 without loss off ten overs.
While both UWI and St Catherine have four wins and one defeat, on reflection St. Catherine must still feel haunted by their quest for maximum points against Barbados Youth in the rain-hit sixth round at Lester Vaughan when they could have shown more urgency by pushing for a win inside two days.
Having dismissed Barbados Youth for 125 in 45.4 overs before closing the opening day on 124 for one off 17 overs, St. Catherine were 262 for six by the 38th at tea on the second day and batted on to score 306 for seven declared off 46 overs.
Barbados Youth then struggled to 114 for six off 29 overs at stumps before rain prevented a ball from being bowled on the last day.
Though rain led to an abandonment of play without a ball bowled on the final day in three other matches as well, St. Catherine should have declared on reaching 250 to give their bowlers an excellent chance of wrapping up the match with a day to spare.
That would have allowed them to open an 18-point lead over UWI, who moved to the top of the table by the next series with a four-point advantage following a win by an innings and 97 runs over Barbados Youth inside two days at 3Ws Oval, while Spartan came from behind to beat St. Catherine by 99 runs at Bayfield.
Now check UWI’s style in Series 8 against Pickwick at Foursquare Oval. They scored 204 for seven declared after 67 overs and after reaching 11 for one by the end of the first day, Pickwick were bundled out for 51 in 28.2 overs before being asked to follow-on.
Pickwick closed the second day on 145 for five, rallied to 201 all out, giving UWI just 49 to win, which they knocked off while losing four wickets.
And while St Catherine kept the title race alive by beating CounterPoint Wanderers by eight wickets at Bayfield, it was always going to be a tough task to stop UWI from adding to their amazing top league silverware since their first season in 2006.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com