All of the critics who were constantly beating up on Ashley Nurse and even making fun about his role in the Barbados Tridents team in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) must have egg all over their faces today.
Picked as an off-spinning all-rounder and having endured a tough time with the ball prior to last night’s second Qualifier against last year’s champions Trinbago Knight Riders at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba, Nurse suddenly turned from villain to hero as he starred with both bat and ball in a hard-fought 12-run win for the Tridents.
It was the third time Barbados Tridents had beaten Trinbago Knight Riders this season. The other victories were by 63 runs at Kensington Oval on September 26 (Match 23) and by seven wickets at Queen’s Park Oval on October 2 (Match 28).
The bottom line was that Jason Holder’s team, who were under the microscope for a lacklustre showing in the first half of the six-team Tournament, will now clash with cock-a-hoop Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Final tomorrow, again in Tarouba, starting at 5 p.m
One can argue that the Final is fitting in that Guyana are the only team to win all of their matches and Barbados were second in the preliminaries.
Last night, Nurse slammed an unbeaten 24 off only nine balls with three sixes for a fabulous Strike Rate (SR) of 266.66 and with fellow Barbadian all-rounder Raymon Reifer, who also scored 24 not out from 18 balls including two sixes, featured in a telling partnership of 48 off only 2.2 overs in a total of 160 for six off 20 overs after they lost the toss.
And mind you, 42 runs came off the last two overs, which psychologically put pressure on Kieron Pollard’s side.
Then, in his first bowl since September 22 – the 19th match against Guyana Amazon Warriors, which Barbados Tridents lost by eight wickets on the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern method at Kensington Oval, Nurse took two for 14 off four overs to be by far the most economical bowler in the match. He earned the Player Of The Match award, as Trinbago Knight Riders were bowled out for 148 in 19.3 overs.
Left-arm medium-pacer Reifer also played a telling role with the ball, removing the dangerous Sri Lankan all-rounder Seekkuge Prasanna, plumb leg before wicket with a dipping yorker, which hit the back pad off the first ball of the final over, for 51 off 27 balls containing four fours and fours sixes – his only two other innings in the Tournament were “ducks” with one not out – and Khary Pierre, caught at mid-on two balls later to seal the deal in finishing with two for 13 off 1.3 overs.
Cricket can be a cruel game. Though he had a couple fairly good knocks, the 30-year-old Nurse had bowled only 6.2 overs, conceding 68 runs without taking a wicket going into the match last night.
Virtually everyone was on his case and social media went wild. In relation to the playing roles of each member of the Tridents team for the last few matches, perhaps one of the most uncomplimentary comments was the listing of Nurse as a ZR conductor. And even if he smartly owns a couple ZR vehicles, the so-called jokes went much too far.
Yet, Nurse took them in stride and showed his mettle at a most crucial stage.
“It’s been what it is through the tournament,” he said in a typically, cool manner at the post-match television interview, moments after the Tridents’ victory at three minutes before midnight.
“I’ve been more or less playing as a batsman. Whenever I get the opportunity I just try to go out and do my best for the team. Everyone has a role to play. We have a great bowling team. If the captain doesn’t need my services on the night, it’s up to him. I always do my work in the nets and keep my head up. When you come to bat in the 17th or 18th over, I just throw caution to the wind and fortunately it came off.”
Nurse is one of five players in the Tridents team who have turned out in all of their 12 matches – the others are Holder, Jonathan Carter, Johnson Charles of St. Lucia and South African Jean-Paul Duminy, who unfortunately sustained a hamstring “twinge” while batting last night and was forced to retire hurt on ten.
There are many observers who contended that Nurse should have been dropped a few matches ago since he was not bowling and there were a couple other players who were likely to perform better with the bat.
But from a batting perspective, Nurse’s statistics, which now show 169 runs (ave: 28.16) with a SR of 144.44, are fairly decent when compared with other players in the side. And his SR is bettered only by Reifer with 156.52 (108 runs; Ave: 15.42).
Nurse has two wickets (ave: 41.00) with an economy rate (ER) of 7.93, along with seven catches.
Sometimes, in a quest to hammer the performance of a player, critics become too emotional and fail to look at the bigger picture.
For example, two of the specialist Barbados Tridents batsmen in Carter and Englishman Alex Hales have not lived up to expectations. Left-hander Carter has 168 runs (ave: 15.42) with a SR of 116.66, and Hales 169 (ave: 15.36) for a SR of 126.11.
Furthermore, Holder has struggled badly with the bat, scoring only 49 runs (ave: 6.12) with a SR of 94.23.
Holder, however, must be given credit for his pace bowling, picking up 14 wickets at 23.07 runs (ER: 7.17).
Hayden Walsh Jr, the little leg-spinner from Antigua, has warmed the hearts of many with the ball and in the field. His 21 wickets (ave: 12.19; ER: 8.08) are the most in the tournament and the crafty left-arm fast medium bowler, Harry Gurney of England, with 11 scalps (ave: 15.18; ER: 6.18) has also played a vital role.
Holder gave a wonderful assessment last night of how the Tridents have played.
“The beauty of our performances so far in this tournament is we’ve held on in close games,” he said.
“We also lost some close games but the majority of our games we held our nerve and been able to come out on top. We’ve scrapped for a lot of wins. It’s not ideal but I think it shows the character of the side. I think our bowlers were outstanding and I think the fielding had a lot to do with it too. The guys held our chances and we were clinical in the field.”
At the same time, one must also admire Pollard for his straight talking.
“When you look at our performance throughout the season, I think we deserved to lose this game tonight. You can’t turn up in a semi-final and drop a couple catches like that, simple errors, and not execute in a big game like that. It cost us in the end,” he remarked.
Ironically, the last time Barbados Tridents reached the Final four years ago, Pollard was their captain.
Now we all look forward to what should be a very competitive showdown tomorrow evening.
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: [email protected]