Disappointing and hurtful!
Those words would be apt in summing up the failure by Barbados Pride to beat Guyana Jaguars in the key Digicel Regional eighth round first-class match at Kensington Oval.
In earning a draw, Guyana maintained their top position in the table and must now be favoured to capture the title for the third straight season.
Barbados knew how vital it was to win and take over the lead. They dominated play from the opening day until complacency seemingly set in as tea approached on the final day.
With Guyana following-on and up against it on 235 for eight off 90.4 overs – just five runs ahead half-an-hour before tea – after starting the day on 119 for three, Barbados were unable to drive home their excellent position.
Frustration then set in. And ironically, with Barbadian Raymon Reifer showing stout resistance, Clinton Pestano and Gudakesh Motie were able to score vital runs before Guyana were bowled out for 322 in 119.2 overs – 67 minutes after tea.
It left Barbados with a victory target of 93 in 12 overs and despite getting 11 runs off the first over, they could not sustain the scoring rate and finished on 75 for five.
The scores at the end of the subsequent overs before the last were 14 (second), 25 (third), 28 (fourth), 33 (fifth), 36 (sixth), 39 (seventh), 46 (eighth), 61 (ninth), 70 (tenth) and 72 (11th).
Reifer’s role with the bat was admirable. In the past couple seasons, he has lifted his game tremendously against Barbados as though wanting to prove a point. He went to the crease at No. 6, scored 35 not out and not only batted for the longest period in the second innings (224 minutes) but also faced the most balls (175 balls), hitting one four and one six.
With Pestano and Motie scoring freely, the game gradually slipped away from Barbados. Pestano made 38 in 47 minutes off 56 balls with five fours in putting on 55 in 15 overs for the ninth wicket, while Motie helped himself to 29 in 50 minutes off 44 balls, also with five boundaries, in a stand of 32 off 13.4 overs.
Effectively, therefore, the last two wickets added 87 runs. And when the Barbados team and backroom staff reflect on those statistics, there must be a feeling of dejection.
The killer instinct needed was simply lacking and some of the tactics were baffling. One did not see the sort of energy required to quickly wrap the innings up. Where was the aggression?
While it is the responsibility of the captain to inspire his players, there were times when you got the feeling that a couple individuals were not pulling their weight. What a shame!
The run chase was always going to be challenging from the point of view that there were no fielding restrictions when compared with the limited overs or Twenty20 versions.
And while the Barbados batsmen were able to score at least eight runs an over off the left-arm medium-pace of Reifer, who took four for 49 off six overs, credit must be given to fast bowler Romario Shepherd, who bowled with good pace and maintained a fairly consistent line and length outside the off stump with a deep set field.
Shepherd picked up one for 26 off six overs.
Earlier, in removing the overnight pair of Vishaul Singh (37) and veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul for the topscore of 63 before lunch – there was a rest day on Sunday to accommodate the first T20 International between West Indies and Pakistan – Barbados had put themselves in a favourable position to press for a win.
Now with two rounds remaining, Guyana Jaguars are on 109.8 points, Barbados Pride 99.2, Jamaica Scorpions 95.2, Windward Islands Volcanoes 74.2, Leeward Islands Hurricanes 66.4 and Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 63.8
So mathematically, the main contenders for the title are Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica.
Both Guyana and Barbados have their remaining matches at home. Guyana’s opponents are Windward Islands (April 15-18) and Leeward Islands (April 21-24), Barbados clash with Trinidad & Tobago (April 7-10, Day/Night) and Jamaica (April 15-18), while Jamaica play Windward Islands in St. Vincent (April 7-10) and Barbados.
Psychologically, the dates for Guyana’s last match will give them a chance to determine what they need to do in relation to the battle for the title.
Generally, the pitch was flat and Barbados batted extremely well to amass 480 for three declared off 137 overs after winning the toss.
West Indies Test and One-Day International player Shai Hope led the way with a career-best 215 not out, which earned him the Player-of-the-Match award, while skipper and opener Kraigg Brathwaite, also a West Indies Test player, made 143 and Shamarh Brooks, 67.
Guyana were then bowled out for 250 in 89.2 overs with wicket-keeper/batsman Anthony Bramble hitting the top score of 77 and Chanderpaul, 50.
Pacer Miguel Cummins took five for 41 off 18.2 overs and off-spinner Roston Chase, four for 46 off 29 overs as the last five wickets tumbled for 11 runs off 8.1 overs with the second new ball.
In the second innings, when Guyana lost three wickets for five runs – all to the inspirational Cummins – in 23 deliveries, again off the second new ball, another swift demolition appeared to be in the making before they rallied.
Cummins took three for 57 off 22 overs and bowled his heart out for match figures of eight for 98 off 40.2 overs.
But the sight of debutant fast bowler Keon Harding sending down only 17 overs in the match including five in the second innings, was a major concern. It led to all sorts of speculation as Chase shared the second new ball with Cummins in both innings. Significantly as well, Chase used the new ball with Cummins at the beginning of the second innings.
At the end of the match, the Barbados management reported that Harding sustained a side strain on the second day but even so, the fact that he was on the field throughout the first innings and for most of the second still opened a can of worms about his fitness from the outset.
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