There has been plenty discussion on Barbados Pride’s three-wicket loss to Windward Islands Volcanoes in the Final of the Regional Super50 Championship at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua last Saturday.
Perhaps the strongest argument relates to the total of 232 for nine off 50 overs, which was clearly about 25 runs short after Barbados Pride won the toss on a fairly easy-paced pitch.
And as the Windward Islands Volcanoes triumphed with three balls remaining, one can also point to a few dropped catches at vital stages as well as a couple baffling bowling tactics.
Having won the title last year, there were expectations of a Barbados Pride repeat even with the knowledge that the task would be challenging once they advanced to the semi-finals due to the absence of nine key players either with the West Indies team in Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers or the ‘A’ side for the unofficial three-match ‘Test” series against England Lions.
Those nine were Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich, Jomel Warrican and Miguel Cummins with the ‘A’ side and Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Carlos Brathwaite, Ashley Nurse and Kemar Roach with the One-Day International team.
That number increased to 11 even before the end of the preliminaries with Barbados topping Group ‘A’ at home, as there were injuries to veteran left-am spinner Sulieman Benn (finger) and pace bowling all-rounder Justin Greaves (ankle).
No other team was so disadvantaged. All told, Barbados Pride used 21 players.
On the contrary, going into the semi-finals, Windward Islands Volcanoes only missed two players from their original squad – experienced batsman Andre Fletcher who also keeps wicket and pacer Kesrick Williams. Williams is with the West Indies team in Zimbabwe while Fletcher is playing in the Pakistan Super League.
Having a togetherness was a key factor on the big stage and the Volcanoes were able to boast of the luxury of seven players who turned out in all ten of their matches – skipper Shane Shillingford, Devon Smith, Johnson Charles, Kirk Edwards, Kavem Hodge, Kyle Mayers and Larry Edward, compared with three for Barbados Pride – captain Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Jonathan Carter.
And by the way, Edwards and Mayers, as Barbadians, must have had something to tell the Pride team after the match, as well as the likes of Shillingford, Hodge, Edward, Roland Cato, Obed McCoy and Tyrone Theophile – all of whom have played in Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) domestic competitions in recent seasons -(Shillingford for Pickwick, Hodge and Edward for UWI, Cato for Yorkshire, McCoy for Wildey and Theophile for BDFSP). You can also add Fletcher (LIME, now Gladiola) and Williams (UWI) as Windward Islands players who have paraded in BCA competitions in the last seven seasons.
Yet, the Pride must be commended for showing that there is plenty talent in Barbados’ cricket.
In the 13-run win on the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method over Kent in the first semi-final, there was solid, intelligent batting, which spurred Barbados to 263 for three off 50 overs after winning the toss.
Kraigg Brathwaite led the way with an unbeaten 105 off 135 balls including eight fours and two sixes, which earned him the Player-of-the-Match award, while the in-form Chase scored 81 off 74 balls with nine fours and two sixes and Omar Phillips, 62 off 70 balls, hitting ten fours.
Set a revised target of 230 off 43 overs, Kent made 216 for eight.
Now in the Final, despite losing the wicket of Phillips for nought with the score three in the second over, Brathwaite and Carter consolidated with a partnership of 69 in 15.4 overs before Brathwaite fell for 30.
Carter and Chase then put on 68 in 14.3 overs but once Carter was brilliantly caught on the long-on boundary by Hodge off off-spinner Alick Athanaze for 80 off 108 balls including eight fours and one six, the match took a significant twist.
Six wickets tumbled for 55 runs in 12.1 overs including three at the same score – 195. Unacceptable.
Following Carter (140-3; 32 overs), reflect on the manner of dismissals during the slump.
Kevin Stoute, defending, was bowled by left-arm spinner Larry Edward for five (151-4; 35 overs).
Chase, slog sweeping, was caught at deep midwicket by Hodge off Edward for 44 (187-5; 40.4 overs).
Kenroy Williams was run out for five (195-6; 42.5 overs).
Hayden Walsh, driving, was caught at short extra-cover by Kirk Edwards off off-spinner Shillingford for nought (195-7; 43.4 overs).
And Shamar Springer was caught at short midwicket by Athanaze leaping to his left off left-arm pacer McCoy for 22 (195-8; 44.1 overs).
That was a period of pain for Barbados.
In the circumstances, the inexperienced pair of wicket-keeper/batsman Tevyn Walcott (18 not out off 22 balls) and left-arm pacer Dominic Drakes (11 off 12 balls) should be given some credit in helping to push the total to a fairly competitive one.
Deep inside, however, the Pride knew that the pressure would turn to the bowlers to deliver.
There was a positive attitude and to take the wickets of the three most experienced batsmen in the Windward Islands team – Smith (29), Charles (16) and Edwards (ten) – to leave the score 72 for three after 18.5 overs, would have given them a lift.
As Hodge and Player-of-the-Match Cato were gradually rebuilding the innings, perhaps either Chase or fellow off-spinner Williams could have been used for a few overs and Stoute’s experience as a medium-pacer should have been entertained for a couple more overs.
Stoute bowled three overs for 15 runs after Carter had done an admirable job by conceding just 25 runs off ten overs while picking up a wicket, Williams had just one over for seven runs and Chase did not bowl.
Hodge and Cato managed to accelerate the scoring rate and helped by a couple dropped catches, added 80 in 17.2 overs for the fourth wicket.
Hodge made 39 off 65 balls, while Cato topscored with 54 off 64 balls including four fours and two sixes.
Even after Mayers was dismissed for a run-a-ball 32, making the score 205 for seven in 44.3 overs, there was still hope of a Barbados win.
But as it turned out, Athanaze, the top West Indies Under-19 team batsman at the recent Youth World Cup in New Zealand, who made 23 not out off the same number of balls, was dropped by a seemingly nervous Walcott off fast bowler Keon Harding, and along with Shillingford (seven not out off 14 balls), carried the Windwards to victory.
Left-arm pacer Drakes, the son of former Barbados and West Indies fast bowling all-rounder, Vasbert Drakes, took three for 38 off ten overs. At the age of 20, he appears to have a bright future, like a couple of his young team-mates.
From a personal perspective, Chase amassed the most runs all told (558) including one century and four half-centuries at an average of 62.00 to put himself firmly in line for a recall to the West Indies ODI squad.
The other leading batsmen for the Pride were Carter (302 runs; ave: 33.55), Hope (301 runs; ave: 50.16 in six matches) and Kraigg Brathwaite (294 runs; ave: 32.66).
Among the bowlers, Cummins took 11 wickets (ave: 8.09; ER: 3.29); Roach, ten (ave: 13.60; ER: 3.70) and Nurse, also ten (ave: 14.00; ER: 3.83).
The Windward Islands have now won the title four times in five Finals with their other triumphs in 1989, 2000 and 2013.
It was an unprecedented 21st Final for Barbados including four in the last five years. They have won seven titles – 1976, 1977 1988, 2002, 2010 (shared in a tie with the Leeward Islands), 2014 and 2017.
So as the Barbados Pride management and players reflect on the season including the four-day Championship in which they were also runners-up, the authorities can argue that despite no silverware, the future remains bright.
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 over 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.