Jitters in chasing targets of over 180 came sharply into focus for Barbados Pride in losing their first match of the Regional Super50 Championship at Kensington Oval Thursday night.
Though still favoured to capture the title, a 74-run defeat against Jamaica Scorpions would have served as a wake-up call for Jason Holder’s side as they now brace themselves for the semi-finals in Antigua next week.
They will be joined in the Final Four by Jamaica Scorpions and from Zone A, Leeward Islands Hurricanes and defending champions Trinidad & Tobago Red Force.
It is almost certain that Barbados Pride, with 28 points, will top Zone B following the last round of preliminary matches Saturday when they oppose Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners at Kensington Oval, while Jamaica, on 23 points, clash with ICC Americas at the Windward Club ground, Lucas Street.
Guyana Jaguars finished with 18 points, CCC Marooners are on nine and ICC Americas, five.
But it is still a fairly open battle to determine the winners of Zone A. If Trinidad & Tobago win their last two matches against West Indies Under-19s and Leeward Islands, they will head the Zone.
Going into the penultimate round Friday, Leeward Islands were on 28 points from seven matches, Trinidad & Tobago, 21 (six), Kent Spitfires, nine (six), Windward Islands Volcanoes, eight (seven) and West Indies Under-19s, four (six).
Psychologically, Barbados Pride, who were last year’s losing finalists, would probably feel more at ease meeting the Leeward Islands in the semi-finals but adjusting to the conditions at Coolidge must be a key ingredient as well.
Barbados Pride’s dominance in the preliminaries was expected, based on the strength of the team and advantage of playing at home.
A commanding win by 145 runs over Guyana Jaguars in their first match at Kensington after amassing 302 for seven off 50 overs was followed by victories against ICC Americas (by eight wickets at 3Ws Oval); Jamaica Scorpions (by one wicket at Kensington Oval); Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners (by 200 runs Kensington Oval); ICC Americas (by 171 runs at Windward Club, Lucas Street); and Guyana Jaguars (by two wickets at 3Ws Oval).
Yet, it has been evident that there is some uneasiness by Barbados Pride in pursuit of winning targets over 180. In the eight-wicket victory over ICC Americas, the target was a paltry 104 off 50 overs.
Their win over Jamaica was achieved with two overs to spare after they were set 191 in 50 overs. Barbados lost wickets steadily and were limping on 143 for eight in the 38th over before a revival was led by Ashley Nurse, with an unbeaten 21 and Player of the Match Kemar Roach, who made 23 in a partnership of 42 in nine overs.
Needing 187 for victory against Guyana, Barbados slipped from 119 for two in the 36th over to 180 for eight in the 49th, before triumphing with three balls remaining.
Shai Hope top-scored with 63 off 129 balls including four boundaries and Kevin Stoute, in his first match of the Tournament after replacing opener Anthony Alleyne, who was reportedly rested, made 51 off 61 deliveries including five fours. The pair put on 70 in 20.5 overs for the second wicket.
Set 256 to win Thursday, there was another worrying batting collapse with the last nine wickets tumbling for 63 runs in 14.4 overs.
After Kraigg Brathwaite (52 off 83 balls with two fours) and Hope (56 off 70 balls including eight boundaries) added 115 in 22.2 overs for the second wicket, the only other batsmen to reach double-figures were Nurse (26) and Holder (20) as Barbados were bowled out for 181 in 40.2 overs.
They were undermined by off-spinners John Campbell, who took four for 43 off ten overs and was named Player of the Match and Damani Sewell, with three for 46, also off ten overs.
Skipper and left-arm spinner Nikita Miller picked up the last two wickets to finish with two for 36 off 9.2 overs.
So let us examine the dismissals of the Barbados Pride batsmen in that defeat.
Stoute, cutting, was caught at third man by Campbell off left-arm pacer Gavon Brown for one (3-1; 3.2 overs).
Hope, driving, was caught at mid-off by Rovman Powell off Campbell (118-2; 25.4 overs).
Left-hander Jonathan Carter, cutting, was bowled by Sewell for three (121-3; 26.4 overs).
Roston Chase, playing across a low full toss, was leg before wicket by Campbell for nought (122-4; 27.3 overs).
Kraigg Brathwaite, attempting to steer to third man, was bowled off the inside edge by Campbell (129-5; 29.2 overs).
Shane Dowrich was caught at deep midwicket by Powell off Sewell for seven (137-6; 32.2 overs).
Carlos Brathwaite was caught at short extra-cover by Miller off Sewell for one (146-7; 34.2 overs).
Holder was caught at the wicket by Chadwick Walton off Campbell (171-8; 38 overs).
Jomel Warrican was caught at short extra-cover by Sewell off Miller for nought (178-9; 38.4 overs).
And Nurse was caught at deep square-leg by Jermaine Blackwood off Miller (181 all out; 40.2 overs).
Jamaica Scorpions scored 255 for eight off 50 overs after winning the toss.
Devon Thomas topscored with 65 off 73 balls including four boundaries at No. 5. His fifty came off 59 balls with three fours.
Opener Walton made 58 off 69 deliveries, striking six fours and one six. He reached his half-century off 61 balls including five fours and one six.
Off-spinner Nurse took three for 38 off ten overs and fast bowler Cummins, three for 39 off five overs.
Now, here is how the Jamaica Scorpions lost their wickets.
Left-hander Steven Taylor, cutting, was caught at backward point by Warrican off Nurse for 45 (99-1; 17 overs).
Walton, advancing and swinging, was bowled middle stump by Nurse (127-2; 22.3 overs).
Andre McCarthy was brilliantly caught and bowled, diving low to his left, by left-arm spinner Warrican for eight (140-3; 25.4 overs).
Blackwood, pulling, was bowled off the inside edge by pacer Holder for 32 (172-4; 32.3 overs).
Left-hander Campbell was caught a short fine leg by Kraigg Brathwaite off Nurse for three (178-5; 34.5 overs).
Powell was caught at long-on by substitute Shamarh Brooks off Cummins for 23 (242-6; 46.2 overs).
Thomas was also caught at long-on by substitute Brooks off Cummins (252-7; 48.1 overs).
And Sewell was leg before wicket by Cummins for one (253-8; 49 overs).
After making the various comparisons in relation to the dismissals of both teams, one can also debate whether it was a matter of complacency in the way Barbados played throughout the match.
Kraigg Brathwaite has led the batting with 357 runs including two centuries, at an average of 59.50, followed by Carter (221 runs; ave: 36.83), while Nurse is the leading wicket-taker in the Tournament with 19 scalps at 11.36 runs apiece and an economy rate of 3.52.
Holder has 13 wickets (ave: 14.30; ER: 3.47) and veteran left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who was rested for the last three matches, 11 (ave: 8.54; ER: 2.68).
Now after Thursday’s showing, the players and team management have every reason for a critical review with the focus on lifting performances overall and capturing the title.
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. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com