Deserving Super50 title for Barbados

Patience and professionalism were key ingredients, which marked Barbados Pride’s capture of the 2017 Regional Super50 Championship.

Blessed with a very strong team, Barbados had a big reputation to live up to. Nothing less than winning the title would have been acceptable.

After dominating Group ‘B’ in Barbados with only one defeat against Jamaica Scorpions, Jason Holder’s team went to Antigua on a high. They brushed aside Leeward Islands Hurricanes by 110 runs in the second semi-final and duly beat the Scorpions by 59 runs in the Day/Night Final at the Coolidge Cricket Ground last Saturday.

With the luck of the toss, the Pride scored 271 for nine off 50 overs, thanks mainly to a second consecutive century from Shai Hope and an attacking 69 by Holder.

The Scorpions were bowled out for 212 in 44.3 overs.

It is always easy to reflect on perceived mistakes when a team is in command but there were aspects of Barbados’ fighting spirit, which underlined their understanding of what was required to be champions.

After Kraigg Brathwaite (22) and Kevin Stoute (41) added 59 in 12.3 overs for the first wicket, the batsmen gradually became bogged down against the spinners and to such an extent that at 138 for five in the 35th over, there was need for a revival.

The elegant Hope and an inspirational Holder kept level heads, recognising that eventually something had to give.

Their sixth wicket partnership of 127 in 13.4 overs was well calculated.

Both batsmen played some wonderful strokes at a stage where the scoring rate needed to be lifted significantly. And as it turned out, 110 runs came off the last ten overs.

-Hope’s acceleration was revealed in his statistics. He made 101 off 98 balls including five fours and five sixes at No. 3 where he batted throughout the Tournament before he was eighth out, run out, with the score 269 in the 50th over. He reached his half-century off 69 balls, hitting four boundaries.

Holder’s 69 came off 47 balls with five fours and four sixes. His fifty took 39 deliveries and contained three fours and three sixes.

The comments by Holder in relation to the way he and Hope batted were most noteworthy.

“When I went in to bat with Shai, I thought it was important for us to get a partnership and I just needed to be positive as well,” Holder said.

“There was no point me going out there and trying to soak up balls and put pressure back on us. It was a period where I had to consolidate a bit but still had to remain positive and it was important that I kept instilling confidence in Shai and made it easier for him by rotating the strike.

“I was able to do that and I was able to launch. But again, Shai Hope was absolutely outstanding and must be given credit for the way he played in this tournament. He didn’t have the best of starts but he finished the back end – the most important part of the tournament – really well.”

Holder also stressed on the consistency of the team.

“I thought the guys were very, very consistent all tournament long. We put in the performance needed to win this final and I don’t think a better team could have come up and won this final so congrats to the Barbados Pride team and everyone who would have contributed to this.”

Even though Jamaica had amassed a record 434 for four in the semi-finals against last year’s champions Trinidad & Tobago Red Force in a 292-run victory, they knew it would be a different ball game chasing 272 to win.

Kemar Roach and Holder bowled intelligently with the new ball and early pressure was created when Roach removed left-hander Steven Taylor (nine) and Jermaine Blackwood (seven) – both to attacking strokes – to leave the score 26 for two by the end of the fifth over.

Then as the pressure built with the introduction of left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and off-spinner Ashley Nurse, they lost wickets steadily and were really up against it at 122 for seven in the 31st over.

A revival by Rovman Powell and Jerome Taylor, with an eighth wicket partnership of 59 in 9.3 overs, kept interest in the game but it was always going to be a tough ask with the scoring rate mounting and only a couple wickets in hand.

Powell lived up to his reputation as a big hitter by scoring 65 off 59 balls including five fours and four sixes before he was last out.

Not surprisingly, there was much debate over his position at No. 8, just as there was with his introduction into the attack as the last of seven bowlers – he took two for 27 off three overs of medium-pace – against the background of scoring 95 off 45 balls at No.4 and taking five for 36 off eight overs as the fourth of five bowlers in the semi-finals.

In the circumstances relating to the final, skipper Nikita Miller’s decision to stick with the spinners when the Barbados batsmen were struggling was understandable. Instead of being so critical of his tactics, even with the re-introduction of experienced fast bowler Jerome Taylor, praise should be heaped on Hope and Holder for their counter-attack.

Such is the beauty of the game.

Applying the basics helped Barbados’ cause as well in the field. And Benn, the “old” man of the side at the age of 35, also found a way of psychologically getting under the skin of the batsmen with his hilarious chatter.

Benn was the leading wicket-taker with three for 33 off ten overs; Holder took two for 28 off nine overs, Carlos Brathwaite, two for 43 off 6.3 overs and Roach, two for 54 off eight overs.

The top three Barbados batsmen in the tournament all had a maximum of ten innings and significantly, their aggregates and averages followed each other. Kraigg Brathwaite scored 484 runs including two centuries and three half-centuries (ave: 53.77; Strike Rate 64.50), Hope 482, also with two hundreds and three fifties (ave: 48.20; SR: 79.80) and Jonathan Carter 308 including three half-centuries (ave: 34.22; SR: 88.25).

Holder, however, boasted of the best strike rate of 122.41, having scored 213 runs (ave: 26.62).

Hope, whose last five innings produced scores of 63, 56, 62, 125 and 101, also had the honour of effecting the most dismissals (21) as a wicket-keeper (17 catches and four stumpings) in the Tournament, apart from being named the top all-rounder.

By the way, Kraigg Brathwaite’s aggregate was the second highest after Kieran Powell, the Leeward Islands captain and opener, who made 513 (ave: 64.12; SR: 87.99) including three centuries and two half-centuries.

Nurse was the top wicket-taker all told, grabbing 26 wickets at 12.50 runs each with an economy rate of 3.55.

Benn took 18 wickets (ave: 10.22; Econ: 2.83), Holder also had 18 (ave: 14.55; Econ: 3.51) and Roach 12 (ave: 19.16; Econ: 4.39).

Benn’s economy rate was also the best among bowlers who took at least six wickets and the only one, who conceded less than three runs an over.

It was Barbados’ seventh title in a record 20 Finals.

The team, management and all of those who played vital roles in the preparation must be extremely proud.

Now, as they savour the success, there is a reminder that the Regional Digicel first-class Championship resumes in a couple weeks with all of Barbados’ remaining matches (five) at home.

Cricket fans certainly have a lot more to look forward to.

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 three-and-a-half 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

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