Based on current form and with the added advantage of playing on their treasured home ground, Sagicor Life UWI are the unquestionable favourites to retain the BCA Sagicor General Twenty20 title next week.
Following the quarterfinals on consecutive nights at the 3Ws Oval this week, UWI had the most convincing win – by 136 runs over CounterPoint Wanderers on Wednesday.
It followed low-scoring matches in which last year’s finalists ESA Field Pickwick beat Carlton by six runs and ICL Empire defeated two-time champions Sierka Rentals Maple by four wickets.
BDFSP completed the semi-finals line-up last night with a comfortable 37-run win over Brathwaite Construction/Crane Resort St. Catherine.
Empire will clash with BDFSP on Monday and Pickwick meet UWI the following day with the final now rescheduled for Thursday instead of Friday.
Pundits tend not to hide their feelings on the nature of the pitches at the 3Ws Oval, generally regarded as slow. But in all fairness to the ground staff, some of the scores in the quarterfinals were more a reflection of batsmen still having a mind-set that T20 cricket is about smashing boundaries. And to their detriment, they allow too many dot balls.
UWI have been producing the exciting batting and big scores fans anticipate in this version of the game. Significantly, they have only chased once since the Super 12 started on May 8, and are the only team with three totals in excess of 200. On two other occasions they amassed big scores as well when compared with the other sides.
Their only defeat by three wickets with two balls remaining against St. Catherine was a high-scoring match, amounting to almost 400 runs.
In fact, apart from UWI, only Maple, with a total of 211 for six off Guardian General Barbados Youth ‘A’, managed over 200 before winning by 51 runs at Queen’s Park in the second round.
Simply look at UWI’s totals in sequence: 210-5 v Police at Weymouth (won by 77 runs); 193-7 v St. Catherine at 3Ws Oval (lost by three wickets); 185-5 v Massy United Insurance Wildey at Bayfield (won by 105 runs); 160-3 in 15.2 overs v Empire at Foursquare Oval (won by seven wickets); 212-7 v Pickwick at 3Ws Oval (won by 16 runs); 225-5 v Wanderers at 3Ws Oval (won by 136 runs).
Truth is, UWI boast of a very dominant batting line-up including the likes of Chadwick Walton, Kyle Corbin, Rovman Powell and veteran Floyd Reifer, compared with other teams still struggling to apply some of the basics such as rotating the strike apart from finding boundaries.
Their bowling is also quite unique in that, for example, they used four left-arm spinners against Wanderers – Kavem Hodge, Ryan Hinds, Linton Buchanan and Kristopher Ramsaran. Pace came from Jermaine Levy and there are a few other handy bowlers as well.
It is rare for UWI to be beaten but Pickwick could take some comfort in the fight they showed last Sunday, along with a bit of history. Just two seasons ago, in chasing 153, they crushed UWI, then the defending champions, by nine wickets with one over remaining in the quarterfinals at Kensington Oval.
Shai Hope is sure to remember that match as he slammed an unbeaten 92 off 54 balls including five fours and seven sixes.
On Sunday, Hope again underlined how much of a threat he can be with a knock of 74 off 37 balls containing four fours and seven sixes.
He and his older brother, Kyle, are the main hopes, with no pun intended, on which the Pickwick batting will be pinned. And Jamal Phillips can be a dangerous player at the top as he showed against Police with a swashbuckling 81 off 36 balls including ten fours and five sixes in the third series at Dayrells Road.
Like UWI, Pickwick’s bowling mainly comprises of the slow stuff – off-spinners Raymond Bynoe and Michael Matthews and left-armers Che Layne and Trinidadian all-rounder Yannick Ottley. Zahir Motara and Adeko Collymore will provide the pace.
On paper, Empire will be favoured to advance to their fifth final, having won the title just once in 2010.
All-rounder Roston Chase has carried the brunt of the batting including two half-centuries – 70 not out v Wildey at Bank Hall (Series 1) and 65 v UWI at Foursquare Oval (Series 4), in addition to a few other handy knocks.
Skipper Kevin Stoute, Kofie Hurdle, Justin Greaves, Nekoli Parris, Kodi Phillips and Andre Roach are players with the ability to produce telling knocks but there must be a worry about their consistency.
Roach rose to the occasion on Tuesday when he made 54 not out off 36 balls, counting five sixes and one four as Empire triumphed with five balls remaining. He went to the crease with the score 29 for four in the eighth over in pursuit of 104.
Empire’s bowling should put BDFSP to the test with an off-spinning trio of Parris, Chase and Shane Jones, plus left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican and seamers Greaves and Stoute.
On current form, however, BDFSP must believe that they deserve to reach the final for the first time.
The fighting spirit exhibited against St. Catherine last night would have made coach Alvin Greenidge very proud. Struggling on 59 for four after ten overs, they recovered to score 161 for six, thanks mainly to a sensible fifth wicket partnership of 93 in 9.1 overs between Rico Wiggins and Vitaly Wilkinson.
Wilkinson’s timing was a joy to watch as he lashed 58 off 30 balls including five sixes and three fours, while Wiggins made 40 off 38 balls with two fours and two sixes.
Then the new ball bowlers of left-arm spinner Tremaine Harris and off-spinner Ackeem Clinkett pinned down the batsmen and grabbed two wickets each in sharing the first eight overs and at the halfway stage, St. Catherine were crawling on 22 for four. They finished on 124 for six.
So with the sprint on for the title, the odds are heavily in favour of UWI stretching their record to a fourth title in the nine-year history of the Tournament, having first tasted success in 2012.
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 three-and-a-half 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.