There is definitely a great desire by Barbados Pride to capture the regional first-class title this season.
In demolishing Trinidad & Tobago Red Force by 299 runs early on the fourth and final day of the fifth round at Kensington Oval last Sunday, Kraigg Brathwaite’s team widened their lead at the top of the points table over second-placed and champions for the last five seasons, Guyana Jaguars, who were held to a draw by Windward Islands Volcanoes in Grenada.
Jamaica Scorpions moved from fifth to third following a five-wicket win over rock-bottom Leeward Islands Hurricanes at Trelawny Stadium.
So now the points show: Barbados Pride 84.2, Guyana Jaguars 60.8, Jamaica Scorpions 57.4, Windward Islands Volcanoes 50, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 46.6 and Leeward Islands Hurricanes 32.6.
Apart from reeling off four consecutive wins, one of the significant factors for Barbados in picking up points relates to the potency of their pace bowling.
In that department, they have attained 14.2 points compared with Guyana (8.8), Jamaica (8.4), Windward Islands (8), Leeward Islands (7.6) and Trinidad & Tobago (4.6).
Since a three-wicket defeat against the Windward Islands in the first round at Arnos Vale in St. Vincent, Barbados must be applauded for the way they have been paying attention to detail.
In sequence, they beat Guyana by seven wickets at Kensington Oval, Jamaica by 119 runs at Sabina Park in Kingston, Leeward Islands by an innings and 81 runs at Warner Park in St. Kitts and now Trinidad & Tobago.
Considering that Jamaica and the Leeward Islands succumbed with a day to spare and Trinidad & Tobago before lunch on the last day, there is a clear message being sent by Barbados.
The margin of victory against Trinidad & Tobago gives the impression of a one-sided match but that was not the case after the first two days when fortunes fluctuated.
On a well-grassed pitch or “green top” if you like, any captain would have wanted to win the toss and put the opposition in.
The luck went the way of Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados were in dire straits on 47 for six by the 23rd over as the seam attack of Terrance Hinds, Daniel St. Clair and Uthman Muhammad utilised the conditions intelligently.
Effectively, Barbados had lost six wickets for 24 runs in 14.1 overs after Brathwaite and Shayne Moseley added 23 for the first wicket.
Left-hander Moseley, with a few confident strokes, scored all 23 runs before he was gobbled up, low at second slip by Joshua DaSilva off Hinds in the first ball of the ninth over.
Muhammad then removed Shamarh Brooks for two and Justin Greaves (nought) in the space of four balls in the 16th over.
Next, Brathwaite, offering no stroke, was leg before wicket by left-armer St. Clair for four in the last over before lunch as Barbados limped to 33 for four off 20.3 overs.
The dismissals of the in-form Kyle Mayers (10) and Shane Dowrich (three) shortly after the interval sparked a debate as to whether Barbados would reach 100.
But experienced all-rounder Kevin Stoute found a solid partner in Test fast bowler Kemar Roach and gradually they rebuilt the innings with a combination of attacking strokes and sound defence.
The 34-year-old Stoute looked assured and Roach understood his role in a crisis as they added 87 in 98 minutes before Roach fell for 38.
Then Stoute and yet another experienced player in Ashley Nurse pushed the score to 160 before Stoute was dismissed for 52 in 126 minutes off 85 balls with nine fours.
Nurse made 48 off 47 balls containing seven boundaries as Barbados rallied to 209 all out off 60 overs.
By the close, Trinidad & Tobago were 52 for one off 19 overs, no doubt fancying their chances of gaining a significant first innings lead.
But Barbados fought back gallantly to dismiss them for 175 in 56.3 overs as the fast bowling trio of Roach, Chemar Holder and Keon Harding bent their backs.
Harding grabbed five for 57 off 17.3 overs including opener Jeremy Solozano, who topscored with 50 before he was brilliantly caught and bowled, low by Harding, as he pulled.
Left-hander Solozano was third out, sparking a collapse as four wickets fell on the same score – 88.
Roach took two for 38 and Holder, two for 61.
At stumps on the second day, Barbados were 127 for two following the dismissals of Brathwaite for 58, again leg before wicket without playing a stroke, this time off Hinds and Brooks (four).
The 25-year-old Moseley was on 49 and looking quite determined for a big score. With a bit of luck, he went on to hit a career-best 155 not out – his third first-class century in his 25th match. He batted for 468 minutes, faced 317 balls and struck 17 fours and was duly named Player-of-the-Match.
Stoute again played well for an unbeaten 55, featuring in a stand of 116 with Moseley as Barbados declared on 342 for five.
By then Trinidad & Tobago appeared to be drained and set 377 to win, they stumbled to 48 for four off 18 overs at the close of play with Roach and Holder equally sharing the wickets.
They were fired out for 77 in 32.2 overs as Barbados raced to victory after 72 minutes’ play on the final day.
Harding, 23, was again the main wrecker with five for 19 off 10.2 overs for a match haul of ten for 76.
Holder took three for 29 and Roach, two for 28.
The 21-year-old Holder now has 24 wickets (ave: 16.41), while Harding has 23 (ave: 18.65) to boast of being the top two wicket-takers among fast bowlers for the season.
Both have been impressive and while Holder seems certain to gain selection in the West Indies team for the tour to England, which features three Tests in June, Harding has stepped up as a contender as well.
The presence of Roach, who has 13 wickets at 16 runs each in three matches, is helping Holder and Harding significantly in their learning process.
The win against Trinidad & Tobago was the largest by runs for Barbados in the modern era (from 1966) and their second largest ever following a margin of 334 against British Guiana (now Guyana) at Kensington Oval in 1904.
After a one-week break, the Championship resumes next Thursday.
Barbados will be at home against the Windward Islands, no doubt seeking revenge. Jamaica clash with Guyana at Trelawny and the Leeward islands oppose Trinidad & Tobago at Warner Park.
Once they can maintain their dominance, it will be hard to stop Barbados from grabbing the title.
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]