There is a very special place for Sagicor Life UWI in the history of the BCA Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship following the first ten years.
Since the Tournament started in 2008, UWI’s record five titles can only be described as truly remarkable when one considers that they were achieved in the last six seasons: 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
They have also featured in an unmatched six Finals, losing in 2010 to ICBL Empire.
Captained by all-rounder Nicholas Kirton, UWI swept to a 65-run win over Crane Resort St. Catherine in last year’s Final on June 30 at Kensington Oval.
UWI scored 145 for five off 20 overs and dismissed St. Catherine for 80 in 18.4 overs.
It was the lowest ever total in a Final.
The margin of victory was the second largest in terms of runs in a Final, just one run behind the 66-run defeat inflicted on BDFSP at 3Ws Oval in 2016 when UWI amassed the highest ever score in a Final – 186 for seven off 20 overs.
In last year’s Final, UWI lifted the tempo in the ‘death” overs after they were sent in on a slow, dampish pitch with heavy clouds hovering over the ground, amidst a threat of rain.
The stage was set by diminutive stroke-player Leniko Boucher and wicket-keeper Justin Bramble, who added 76 in 12.3 overs for the first wicket.
Boucher, in his first season with UWI, top-scored with 56 off 48 balls including five fours and two sixes, while Bramble, in only his second match of the Tournament for the season because of injury, made 26 off 35 deliveries.
Once they were parted, the next four wickets fell for 25 runs in 4.5 overs, as St. Catherine no doubt felt they were back in the game.
But Kirton and former Barbados captain and West Indies all-rounder Ryan Hinds then changed gear in breath-taking style, putting on 44 in just 2.4 overs.
Kirton slammed an unbeaten 29 including one four and three sixes off 16 balls, while fellow left-hander Hinds made 16 not out containing two sixes off only six deliveries.
Significantly, apart from Boucher, a former national Under-19 team player, the top seven batsmen in the UWI team were left-handers – somewhat of a unique batting line-up at any level of the game.
With a varied combination of pace and spin, UWI then sliced through the cream of the St. Catherine batting, leaving the first-time finalists tottering on 29 for six by the end of the eighth over.
It took a last-wicket partnership of 21 in 5.1 overs between veteran all-rounder Derick Bishop and Damien Browne to bring a little respectability to the total, with Bishop hitting the top score of 23 not out off 25 balls.
Chemar Holder, a talented fast bowler who was one of the key players in spurring the West Indies Under-19 team to the title at the ICC Youth World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016, created the early problems by firing out skipper Omar Phillips and fellow Barbados Pride player Kenroy Williams in the space of four balls in the third over of the innings.
A combination of sharp fielding, which resulted in two run outs, and crafty bowling from a trio of left-arm spinners – Kavem Hodge, Hinds and Larry Edward – tightened UWI’s grip.
Then burly Marlon Welcome-Goodman, better known for his powerful left-hand batting, grabbed the last three wickets with clever right-arm medium-pace bowling.
Welcome-Goodman, in his first season with UWI after representing four other teams – Barbados Youth, Maple, Carlton and BDFSP – took three for 17 off 3.4 overs.
The previous lowest total in a Final was 92 all out in 20 overs by Wanderers in 2014 when they lost by eight wickets to Spartan.
In fact, only one other team – Empire – were bowled out for under 100 in a Final. That was in 2011 when they fell for 96 in 19 overs as Maple swept to a 31-run win to become the first team to capture the title twice.
St. Catherine’s batting woes started from the fourth ball of the innings with Shamar Cooke being run out for nought by a direct underarm throw from short midwicket by the fleet-footed Jonathan Carter to the ‘keeper’s end as a sharp single was attempted.
Left-hander Phillips was a victim of the pull, caught at mid-on by an ecstatic Kirton for eight in the third over.
Williams, flashing outside the off stump, was caught at the wicket by Bramble for a ‘duck’ to make in 19 for three.
Mario Rampersaud, another Barbados Pride player, was bowled by Hinds for four as the left-hander searched for a drive in the fifth over.
Ulric Batson was yet another victim of the drive, bowled off stump by Hodge for one to leave the score 17 for five after 5.5 overs.
When veteran Alcindo Holder was run out for 15 by Edward’s throw from backward point, a sorry looking scoreboard showed 29 for six after 7.5 overs.
The dismissals of the last four batsmen summed up St. Catherine’s mind-set.
Dwayne Skeete, swinging, was bowled by Edward for four before Welcome-Goodman said goodbye by snapping up the last three wickets.
Darnell Greenidge, swinging, was caught at long-on by Kirton for 15, Shakeem Blades was brilliantly caught low at deep square-leg by Boucher for nought and Browne, swiping, was bowled middle stump for five.
UWI had been given a fairly brisk start with 33 runs coming off the first four overs. One of the most memorable strokes was a drive for six over extra-cover by Boucher off off-spinner Blades in the third over.
Bramble was badly dropped on six with the score 30 by Rampersaud, running to short fine-leg, off left-arm pacer Greenidge in the fourth over.
At the end of the Powerplay (sixth over), the score was 44 with Boucher on 30 off 21 balls and Bramble, 12.
Boucher, oozing with confidence, drove off-spinner Williams over cover for six to move to 45 in the 11th over. In the same over, he reached his half-century as Browne parried the ball into the long-off boundary. It came off 43 balls and contained five fours and two sixes.
Williams broke the stand by bowling Bramble as he attempted a pull.
Welcome-Goodman, hitting out, was caught at long-on by Browne off Bishop for one to make it 77 for two in the 14th over.
Then Boucher hit a full toss from Williams into the hands of long-off in Blades.
Carter, back in the side after he was dropped from the West Indies One-Day International team for the last three matches against India, struck Bishop for six over midwicket in the 16th over.
But, in swinging across a low full-toss from medium-pacer Batson, he was leg before wicket in the first ball of the next over as the bowler cleverly sent down a maiden with 44-year-old head coach and former West Indies captain Floyd Reifer at the crease.
Reifer failed to score off six balls – caught at point by Blades from a drive off Greenidge.
It let in Hinds, the UWI assistant coach.
The onslaught by Kirton and Hinds was telling as St. Catherine soon found out.
And UWI and their loyal supporters had every reason to celebrate another title in style.
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).Email:Keithfholder@gmail.com