COLUMN – Fitting Sagicor T20 Final
If ever one wanted a fitting final in the eight-year history of the BCA Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship, next Friday’s clash between Sagicor Life UWI and ESA Field Pickwick under lights at Kensington Oval is it.
Why? Both swept all before them this season to create a new record of becoming the first teams ever to simultaneously contest the Final without losing a match since the tournament started in 2008.
Competing in Zone ‘A’, which had an anomaly of seven teams when compared with six each in the other two zones, UWI defeated last year’s champions Massy Stores Spartan, the 2010 champions ICBL Empire, Lee’s Bistro Carlton, who won the title in 2009, LIME and Nicholls Baking Combermere after winning by default against Caribbean Alliance/Akobah Gardens Foundation, who joined Combermere and Guardian General Barbados Youth, as well as other school sides in boycotting the first two rounds because of team selection issues with the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPSS) and the Barbados Cricket Association.
UWI then knocked out Police and LIME.
In Zone ‘C’, Pickwick beat Police, BRC Electronics on Edge BCL, Barbados Youth, YMPC and BDFSP, followed by thrilling wins by four wickets with one ball to spare over Carlton, and by three wickets off the very last ball against old rivals CounterPoint Wanderers.
It will be a record-equalling fourth final for UWI, joining Empire. The 3Ws Oval-based team must now be heavily tipped to capture the title for a record third time.
For Pickwick, it will be their first final.
The semi-finals produced contrasting results. Inspired by an impressive new ball burst from Nino Henry and later a hurricane half-century from Rovman Powell, UWI crushed LIME by seven wickets on Tuesday, while skipper Kyle Hope, with a telling, unbeaten, fourth half-century in this year’s tournament, carried the Foursquare Oval side home on Wednesday.
UWI were again in a luxurious position to pick young, talented players from the region. They went into the match with only three Barbadians –– Floyd Reifer, their coach/stand-in skipper, former West Indies captain and local batting stalwart; former national captain and West Indies all-rounder Ryan Hinds, who is in his first year with UWI after 11 seasons at Empire and nimble, rookie wicket-keeper Justin Bramble.
But the players who caught the eye were Player-of-the-Match Henry, a 22-year-old fast bowler from Antigua, who took four for 13 off four overs and Powell, an attacking 21-year-old Jamaican, who blasted 60 off only 30 balls with five sixes and three fours as UWI won with 3.1 overs to spare.
Operating in two spells equally divided from the Malcolm Marshall end at the south, Henry bowled lively and intelligently to remove openers Renaldo Hyland and captain Cyprian Payne in his first two overs, and also counted veteran Randy Thomas, who top-scored with 51 in LIME’s disappointing 107 for nine off 20 overs, among his scalps.
Henry looks a good prospect and though one would want to see more of him in the longer version of the game, his action, approach to the wicket, along with good pace and accuracy, are qualities, which should serve him well.
Powell reached his half-century off 24 balls with three fours and four sixes. He was eventually dismissed in the 14th over with only nine more runs needed to win.
The way Powell strikes the ball is awesome: Clean and far with excellent timing. Here is yet another player, who appears to have a fair amount of talent.
What more can be said about 26-year-old Hope, a player whom I have dubbed King Kyle at the moment?
On the heels of an outstanding weekend with the bat in the BCA Elite division three-day championship, he has achieved another personal landmark in the Sagicor T20 Tournament.
When he scored a career-best 74 against Carlton in the quarterfinals, Hope reached exactly , 000 runs and now has an aggregate of 1,063 runs (average 36.65) including seven half-centuries in 36 matches.
With Pickwick chasing what appeared to be a relatively modest target of 101 on Wednesday, he again had to come to the rescue after they slumped from the comfort of 72 for two in the 14th over to 75 for six in the space of six balls.
And even though Hope and the experienced fast bowler Zahir Motara revived the innings with a partnership of 24 in 5.3 overs, Pickwick found themselves still needing four runs off the last over from left-arm spinner Chad Clarke-Reifer, operating from the Joel Garner end, and two off the final ball after Motara was run out for four off the fifth.
Fittingly, Hope was on strike and he swung powerfully over the head of mid-off and into the boundary to spark wild celebrations by his team-mates and fans.
Hope’s knock of 63 not out off 68 balls with seven fours and one six lifted his aggregate to 356 –– the only batsman with over 300 runs –– from seven innings including two not outs, at an average of 71.20.
It also won him a second consecutive Player-of-the-Match award.
He no doubt now has his sights set on breaking the record for the most runs in a season –– 425 in 11 matches by all-rounder Kevin Stoute of Empire in 2012.
Last weekend, Hope saved Pickwick from defeat against Spartan at Queen’s Park in the opening round of the Elite division championship after they were forced to follow-on. He made 85 and 119 not out and also reached 5,000 runs in the major local three-day Competition in which he now boasts of 5 121 runs (ave: 48.37) including 12 centuries in 78 matches.
And talking about the Elite Championship, the fighting spirit of UWI was again in evidence last Sunday against St Catherine before they lost by seven wickets at 3Ws Oval.
Following-on with a deficit of 192 and going into the last day on 68 for five in their second innings, UWI soon lost Rovman Powell, who had topscored in the first innings with 58, after 11 runs were added.
But they then staged a remarkable recovery through centuries from Kavem Hodge and Floyd Reifer.
The pair added 194 off 259 balls for the seventh wicket with Hodge, who started the day on 48, first reaching his century in 182 minutes off 143 balls with seven fours and two sixes.
Reifer got to his hundred in 110 minutes off 103 deliveries including seven fours and six sixes.
Hodge made 127 after a virtual four-hour stay during which he faced 196 balls and hit eight fours and three sixes.
Reifer was last out for 156. His knock lasted 235 minutes, 213 balls and contained eight fours and ten sixes.
With a target of 130 to win in 20 overs, St Catherine got home with only eight balls left in fading light, thanks mainly to another fine, unbeaten half-century (52) from Alston Bobb, a 31-year-old Vincentian better known for his left-arm spin bowling and who has played 13 first-class matches, to follow a career-best 92 not out in the first innings.
The Elite division championship has been off to a very bright start with eight batsmen hitting centuries in the opening series.
And even in the face of the Caribbean Premier League gaining the much expected big attention, local fans ought to trek to Kensington Oval next Friday, July 10, for the Sagicor General T20 final.
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 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. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.