With much focus on the third and final Test between West Indies and England in St. Lucia, a fighting four-wicket win by Barbados Pride over Trinidad & Tobago Red Force at Kensington Oval in the regional first-class Championship last Sunday probably had some of its credit diminished.
It was the second day of the Test at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium and West Indies, seeking a clean sweep of the series, were under pressure at the crease replying to a first innings total of 277 all out.
They were bowled out for 154 and eventually lost by 232 runs on the fourth day, thus capturing the series 2-1.
The Barbados Pride batsmen were also having problems in pursuit of a victory target of 324 on the fourth and final day.
Trinidad & Tobago had dominated play from the opening day and were favoured to win. Spurred by centuries from Lendl Simmons (138) and Jason Mohammed (121), they scored 358 all out in the first innings – fast bowler Marquino Mindley took five for 78 – and then dismissed Barbados for 282 with leg-spinner Yannic Cariah picking up five for 59.
That Barbados effort was due mainly to an eighth-wicket partnership of 117 between wicket-keeper/batsman Tevyn Walcott (63) and off-spinning all-rounder Ashley Nurse (75). Opener Shayne Moseley contributed 56.
Trinidad & Tobago then scored 247 for six declared with skipper Denesh Ramdin hitting 86 and Joshua DaSilva and Simmons, 65 each.
Barbados started the last day on 15 without loss and were struggling on 104 for five off 32.3 overs by lunch. Their main hope of pulling off a win rested with captain Jonathan Carter, who was on 45.
Digesting lunch could not have been easy for the Barbados team.
The batsmen dismissed were Moseley, his opening partner Rashidi Boucher, Aaron Jones, Kevin Stoute and Nicholas Kirton.
Moseley, pushing forward, was caught at first slip by Jeremy Solozano off left-arm pacer Daniel St. Clair for six from his overnight three (20-1; 9.1 overs).
Boucher, returning to the side for the first time in five seasons, flashed outside the off stump and was caught at second slip by DaSilva off fast bowler Ravi Rampaul for 15 after resuming on 12 (24-2; 12.1 overs).
Jones, driving, was bowled by off-spinner Bryan Charles for 11 (53-3; 18.1 overs).
Stoute, also driving, was caught at extra-cover by DaSilva off leg-spinner Imran Khan for 11 (81-4; 23.2 overs).
And Kirton, pushing, was caught and bowled by Cariah for 12 (104-5; 32.3 overs).
Joining Carter after the interval was Shamar Springer, a talented all-rounder, who likes to play strokes.
But the situation called for a level head and with guidance from the experienced Carter, the pair batted intelligently to provide intrigue.
By tea, they were still together with the score 229 for five off 64 overs. Carter was on 104 and Springer 64.
Carter had reached his fifth first-class century in 177 minutes off 121 balls with ten fours and two sixes. His half-century took 93 minutes off 57 balls and included five fours and two sixes.
Springer got to his fifty in 75 minutes off 55 deliveries with four fours and two sixes.
When Springer fell shortly after the interval, leg before by St. Clair as he played across, interest in the match heightened.
Springer scored 66 in 127 minutes off 105 balls with five fours and two sixes. His partnership with Carter was worth 128.
As it turned out, Carter found another solid partner in Walcott and they completed the task 70 minutes after tea with Barbados scoring 326 for six off 81.2 overs.
Player-of-the-Match Carter made a career-best 149 not out in 276 minutes off 185 balls with 14 fours and four sixes. He ended the match in style, lifting Charles over long-off for six.
Walcott was unbeaten on 48 in 63 minutes off 56 deliveries, striking seven fours in a stand of 94.
It was the third win of the season for Barbados, who have also lost three matches.
Leaders Guyana Jaguars, on 112.4 points, remain favourites to capture the title for a fifth straight season. They are followed by Leeward Islands Hurricanes on 83.2, Windward Islands Volcanoes 75, Barbados 73.6, Jamaica Scorpions 59 and Trinidad & Tobago 58.8. Guyana and Windward Islands have played seven matches and the other teams, six.
In relation to West Indies, the batting was a let down in St. Lucia after comprehensive wins by 381 runs with a day to spare in the first Test at Kensington Oval and by ten wickets inside three days at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.
Captain Jason Holder, who missed the last Test because of a one-match suspension for slow over-rate in Antigua, made a few significant points in the live post-match interview before proudly receiving the Wisden Trophy.
“We need to continue to build and not just rest on our laurels,” he said.
Looking at the averages, all-rounder Holder and fellow Barbadian, fast bowler Kemar Roach stood out.
Holder amassed the most runs (229) including an unforgettable 202 not out in the second innings at Kensington Oval, and also had the best average of 114.50.
To boot, he took seven wickets at 17.85 runs each, along with four catches.
Wicket-keeper/batsman Shane Dowrich made his presence felt with the bat and gloves. He scored 204 runs (ave: 51.00), highlighted by an unbeaten 116 at Kensington Oval when he and Holder added 295 for the seventh wicket on the third day.
Dowrich’s eight catches were also the most in the series.
Roston Chase showed his value to the side as an all-rounder. He scored 160 runs (ave: 40.00), hitting 102 not out at No. 5 in a second innings total of 252 in the last Test.
As an off-spinner, Chase took eight for 60 in the second innings in Barbados, having scored a half-century in the first. He can now boast of being one of only five players in history to grab an eight-wicket haul and score a century in the same Test series.
Having a settled opening pair is vital. The experienced Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell, playing in his first series, featured in four half-century partnerships for the first wicket including three in succession, though neither managed a fifty.
Left-hander Campbell made 176 runs (ave: 35.20), falling in the 40s three times with a best of 47.
Brathwaite scored 138 (ave: 27.60), his highest being 49. Though he gained praise from veteran England fast bowler James Anderson for his ability to leave well, Brathwaite will no doubt concede that the manner of a couple of his dismissals was disappointing.
In his last 14 innings, Brathwaite has managed just 186 runs without a half-century at an average of 14.30. It a worrying slump for such a gritty batsman with 3449 runs including eight hundreds and 17 half-centuries, at an average of 34.83 in 56 Tests.
Shai Hope promised much more than his 119 runs (ave: 23.80) after his enterprising 57 in the first innings in Barbados.
His statistics for his last 13 innings are unsatisfactory, with 249 runs (ave: 19.15) including a solitary half-century.
After 29 Tests, Hope has scored 1459 runs including two hundreds and five half-centuries, averaging 28.05.
Of the other main batsmen, Shimron Hetmyer made 160 runs (ave: 32.00) and fellow left-hander Darren Bravo, returning to the Test team after an absence of over two years, just 59 (ave: 11.80) including a dogged 50 in the second Test.
There is no question about Hetmyer’s talent. Naturally attacking, he seems destined for a bright future.
Roach bowled splendidly to take the most wickets (18) and also topped the averages (13.88). He set the stage by grabbing five for 17 in Barbados as England tumbled for 77 – the lowest total in a Test at Kensington Oval.
The 30-year-old Roach moved the ball, looked sharp and also sent down the most overs (96.5) and maidens (34). He was named Player-of-the-Series.
His new ball partner, Shannon Gabriel, took nine wickets (ave: 31.22) from 96.1 overs, while Alzarri Joseph, with ten wickets (ave: 23.80) proved to be a potent part of the pace attack.
Keemo Paul, brought in for Holder in St. Lucia, picked up three wickets (ave: 23.00) before he was injured in the field on the third day.
Now as the regional first-class Championship resumes on Thursday after a break this weekend, the attention will also turn to the five-match One-Day International series between West Indies and England with the first two matches in Barbados on February 20 and 22.
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