Rookie batsman Roland Cato said both he and Kavem Hodge knew any successful Windward Islands Volcanoes run chase in the Regional Super50 final, would depend heavily on them, especially after the innings lost early wickets.
The 20-year-old Cato top-scored with 54 as Volcanoes recovered from a stuttering start to beat defending champions Barbados Pride by three wickets in last Saturday’s final at Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua and secure their first domestic 50-overs title in five years.
Volcanoes were wandering at 72 for three in the 19th over in pursuit of 233, before Cato and Hodge, who made 39, put on 80 for the third wicket to revive the innings and lay the platform for victory.
“When I went into bat knowing we had just lost three quick wickets, me and Kavem just had a quick discussion knowing that one of us had to bat through [the innings] or bat as deep as possible in order for us to get the total,” said Cato, who was adjudged Man-of-the-Match.
“I didn’t bat right through but I think it was an all-round performance [from the guys].”
The title triumph represented a huge turn around in form for Volcanoes who started Group A of the preliminary stage in Barbados with three straight defeats.
But they went on a five-match winning streak to finish second in the group and reach the semi-finals, where they beat Guyana Jaguars to qualify for the championship game.
“I’m feeling really happy now especially since knowing how we started, losing the first three games, and knowing that we had to win all [of the remaining games] in order to win the competition,” Cato noted.
“Hats off to the guys. I think everyone gave 100 per cent.”
Captain Shane Shillingford, the leading bowler in the tournament with 23 wickets, helped take Volcanoes over the line in a 31-run, unbroken eighth-wicket stand with 19-year-old Youth World Cup star, Alick Athanaze, who was unbeaten on a run-a-ball 23.
“It’s an amazing feeling. Where we started from, once we picked up momentum in the middle of the tournament, we never looked back,” said the former Test off-spinner who finished on seven not out.
He praised his young players who he said represented a bright future for cricket in the sub-region.
“I think Kavem Hodge is a very talented player alongside young Athanaze who was coming from New Zealand (Under-19 World Cup) with the form he had,” Shillingford explained.
“These youngsters are very promising and it is very good for Windwards cricket.”
Meanwhile, Athanaze said he was never daunted by the tense circumstances late in his side’s run chase.
In his first match for Volcanoes after replacing the injured Tyrone Theophile, the left-hander struck the winning runs when he drove pacer Shamar Springer to the cover boundary.
“I’ve been in situations like this before so it was just a matter of keeping it simple, staying as calm as I could, keep knocking it around and bat until the end,” he said.
“I’ve batted with [Shillingford] before because he’s from Dominica obviously so it was nothing new, so we just had to keep doing what we were doing and hope things come out good for us and they did at the end and we’re thankful for that.”
With the Super50 triumph his first taste of title success, Athanaze said it was definitely the highlight of his fledgling career.
“It will rank at the top. It’s the first time I’ve ever won a championship so it’s right there at the top,” he pointed out.
“Coming in the team as a youngster it was kind of scary so right now I can walk with my head high.”
In addition to his heroics with the bat, Athanaze also had a major impact when Volcanoes fielded. First, he removed Pride top-scorer Jonathan Carter (80) with his off-spin to a superb catch in the deep by Hodge.
He then produced one of the highlights of the tournament when he leapt acrobatically airborne to his left at a shortish mid-on, to complete an astonishing two-handed catch and account for Springer off left-arm seamer Obed McCoy.