This is a special time for the BCA Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship as the tenth season climaxes next week.
And following three exciting quarterfinals under the lights at Kensington Oval, there is heightened interest for the semifinals on Monday and Tuesday with the Final slated for next Friday.
It is a pity rain washed out play without a ball bowled in the first quarterfinal between gurus Sagicor Life UWI and Gladiola on June 14. By virtue of placing higher in the preliminaries (they won Zone A of the Super 12), UWI thus advanced.
The results of the other quarterfinals were: Crane Resort St. Catherine beat Massy United Insurance Wildey by four wickets on Tuesday, CounterPoint Wanderers beat Police by three wickets on Wednesday and Home Improvement & Hardware Supplies Maple beat ESA Field Pickwick by eight runs last night.
In the semi-finals, UWI will clash with Wanderers and St. Catherine oppose Maple.
History as well as form favours record four-time champions UWI to become the first team to capture a hat-trick of titles. It will also be their eighth appearance in the semi-finals, which is another unprecedented feat with 2011 and 2014 being the only years they failed to reach the last four.
UWI were champions in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, having played in five Finals. The other was in 2010, losing to ICBL Empire.
Maple are the next best team in relation to titles – two (2008 and 2011). It is the fifth time they have reached the semi-finals with 2010 and 2013 the other years. They were runners-up in 2013.
St. Catherine contested three semi-finals – in 2009, 2010 and 2013 – but never got to the big stage, while Wanderers advanced to this juncture twice before – 2014 and 2015. They contested the 2014 Final and were beaten by Massy Stores Spartan.
Carlton (2009) are the other champion team.
And for the records, Empire have contested the second most semi-finals (six – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016), failing twice (2013 and 2016) to make the Final. They have been runners-up on three occasions.
All of the Finals, apart from the first at Weymouth and the ninth at 3Ws Oval, have been played at Kensington.
While researching records on the tournament, there was fascination with some of the feats.
This column will share a few on batting, co-incidentally involving UWI. For instance, in the first year, veteran batsman Floyd Reifer of UWI wrote his name into the history books when he smashed six sixes in one over off the Wanderers slow bowler Simon Steel in Series 6.
Playing at the 3Ws Oval, left-hander Reifer powered his way to 88 not out off only 26 balls with nine sixes and five fours, batting at No. 5.
It led to UWI amassing what was then the highest total of the tournament – 226 for four – before going on to win by a whopping 133 runs.
“One thing I always wanted to do in my cricket career was to hit six sixes in an over and I was delighted I achieved it. To be honest, it did not really sink in,” Reifer, then aged 36, was quoted as saying.
“I was in a groove and everything just worked in my favour. When I came in we only had five overs left so I had to have a go. The first ball went straight and the second went straight. I went to Simon and told him I think this over will go for sixes, you or me.
“The third ball was a lovely hit over midwicket, the next went over long-off, fifth over cow-corner and the last went straight and far.”
Steel, who had represented the Barbados Under-19 team the previous year and was better known for his batting, was struck for 57 runs off three overs without taking a wicket.
Reifer said he played “good cricket shots” and “there was no swiping”.
His record of six sixes came on the 40th anniversary of the first ever feat of that kind by former Barbados and West Indies captain and all-round great, The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan in an English County championship match at Swansea. The bowler on that occasion in 1968 was Malcolm Nash, a left-arm medium-pacer.
“To hear that I did it on the anniversary of Sir Garry”s achievement is even more amazing. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Sir Garry. This feels really, really great.”
UWI also hold the records for the lowest and highest ever totals.
In the inaugural tournament, they were bowled out for just 30 in 11 overs to lose by 88 runs to Cable & Wireless (also known as LIME and BET, now renamed Gladiola) in the first semi-final at Kensington Oval.
Cable & Wireless had made 118 for six in 20 overs.
The highest total is 257 for three off 20 overs against Police who lost by 115 runs in 2014 (Series 3) at 3Ws Oval.
It is also a pleasure to share a bit of the report on the first final. Maple beat Cable & Wireless by four runs (the narrowest margin in terms of runs in a Final) in what was fittingly their 50th anniversary year.
In a truly, exciting match before a big crowd, the victory went a long way in lifting the spirits of the Trents, St. James team after the disappointment of finishing runners-up to St. Catherine in the First (now Elite) division championship for the second straight season.
Maple went into the match without two of their leading players in former captain Pedro Agard, who sustained a soft tissue damage to his left-arm forearm while batting in the Division 1 final at Kensington, and fast bowler Kemar Roach, who was in New Zealand with the West Indies team for a two-Test series.
Agard, then a veteran of 20 years at the club, was his team’s leading batsman in the tournament prior to the final while Roach’s bowling needed no introduction.
Yet, Maple were able to call on the vast experience of their coach Hendy Bryan (still the current coach), and to show that age is no barrier, they also included 50-year-old Curtis Small and fellow veteran batsman Andy Payne.
After winning the toss, Maple were given an excellent start by Shane Ramsay, whose role as a pinch-hitter proved telling as was the case in the quarter-finals against YMPC at Paragon when he lashed 57.
With firm strokes, Ramsay, better known as an off-spinner, scored 35 off only 13 balls with five fours and two sixes before he was caught at deep midwicket by Ashley Nurse off leg-spinner Nikolai Charles, whose first over – the third of the match – cost 18 runs.
When Ramsay fell, Maple were 43 for one after three overs. What a start!
Cable & Wireless then managed able to apply the brakes through the efforts of off-spinners Amory Holder and Nurse, who was re-introduced after his very first over of the match cost 12 runs.
Both Renaldo Parris and Kirk Edwards were kept quiet and soon Parris was run out for five off 12 balls by a direct throw from Charles with the score 46 in the sixth over.
In fact, following the dismissal of Ramsay, only 12 runs were scored off the next six overs. In this version of the game, that is a big plus for the side in the field.
When Holder, who bowled the only maiden of the match – the fourth – removed Don O’neal for one in the eighth over with the score 49, Maple needed to consolidate. And so they did.
Edwards, who started very slowly, soon got into stride and silenced his critics by playing some fine shots as his strike rate increased significantly.
Man-of-the-Match Edwards easily dominated a fourth wicket partnership of 53 in 7.4 overs with wicket-keeper Neval Grazette (15) before he was sixth out for the topscore of 56 off 55 balls with five boundaries off the last ball of the 19th over. The score was then 138.
Barrington Yearwood jnr helped to beef up the total towards the end with 18 off ten balls and a total of 150 for seven was always likely to be competitive.
Cable & Wireless started disastrously, losing their leading run-getter in the competition, veteran Ron Bates and his opening partner Randy Thomas – both to Khalid Springer, the Maple captain and seamer – within the first three overs.
Bates had his middle stump uprooted by a lovely inswinger while Thomas was brilliantly caught at extra-cover by Andy Payne.
The dismissal of captain Courtney Browne, bowled by his former Barbados team-mate Bryan, in his only match of the tournament, was certain to put pressure on Cable & Wireless.
At that stage, the score was 33 for three in the sixth over but Cable & Wireless kept the match alive with steady batting from seasoned campaigner Brian Johnson (21) and later, Holder and wicket-keeper Cyprian Payne.
Holder, in his best innings of the championship, made 45 not out off 31 balls while Payne scored 17 from 16 balls in a sixth wicket stand of 58 in six overs.
Maple, however, held their nerves at the ‘death’, limiting Cable & Wireless to 146 for seven. Finally, they had something to shout about as their supporters raced onto the field to join in the celebrations.
Is there more excitement in store next week? To mark its tenth season and as a credit to the wonderful sponsors, it deserves a thrilling climax.
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