10th May 2013
Behind the Bowler’s Arm – match reports
Regional 4-Day Tournament Final: Barbados v Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
Day 2: Barbados 369 (Brathwaite 122) lead Trinidad & Tobago 110 (Cummins 5-30) & 140-4 (Simmons 111no) by 119 runs
Back in February I went to spend the day at my favourite cricket ground in Barbados: The 3Ws Oval on the UWI campus. Surrounded by attractive green trees, and with an open, welcoming feel it is less the concrete and bucket seats of modern stadia (a persona Kensington Oval has adopted in recent years), but more the friendly, rural atmosphere of quaint English out-grounds. Think Tunbridge Wells, or Southgate.
That Thursday was the second day of Combined Colleges and Campuses’ home fixture with Barbados. The scores after Day 1 (which I’d missed – the demands of having a job) were: CCC 109; Barbados 170-0, the students having been blown away by Chris Jordan (7-43), and with Brathwaite and Edwards not out respectively 55 and 93.
The boys from the big playground were poised to bully the infants in the little playground. I looked forward greedily to a run feast.
If memory serves me right (since I have tried to forget that day’s play), there was a paltry, solitary boundary before lunch. It was a morning of indeterminate poking and prodding. My oh my it was turgid! But Barbados were only interested in grinding out the result, not providing the smattering of spectators huddled in the shade with a demonstration of scintillating strokeplay.
There were less than two hundred runs added in the day from ninety overs. It was cheerless. It was boring. But it was ultimately productive. The eventual lead was 263, and an innings and 185 run victory was secured.
How context can change expectations! This morning, the second day of the four-day final, with my colours (ultramarine and gold) firmly nailed to the mast, I’d have been delighted to witness a day of similar attritional acquisition. Today, the game is not the thing. It’s not the taking part – it’s the winning.
Brathwaite and nightwatchman Searles continued. The former looking as though he was settling in to bore me to tears again (yes please); the latter actually shaping like a proper batsman.
There was the suspicion that Searles’ superior batting potential had given him the nod over fit again Tino Best (despite Best’s record breaking 95 in a Test at number 11 in the order). If Searles could amass 25-30 then the knowing smiles of quiet self-satisfaction on the selectors’ faces would broaden. But having spent most of the first half-hour firmly on the front foot, he went back to Gabriel and was trapped in front of leg stump. 169-3. This brought in semi-final hero Carter.
The game was flowing comfortably in Barbados’ direction. The sun was shining and fresh, cooling breezes drifted across the ground, soothing the brow. At moments like this the world feels to be in perfect equilibrium.
But life, like cricket, can mix-in the odd googly. A Spanish TV crew came and parked itself all about me. Two artificial ‘fans’ and an interviewer were ushered into the three vacant seats in front. The camera pointed at them, with me firmly focused as the back-drop, resplendent in my BCA tie, cream flannels, beige jacket and MCC straw boater. Clearly I’d been picked out as a ‘character’ to provide suitable wallpaper.
The group jibbered away amongst themselves, and jabbered away to camera for a full ten minutes. They then turned to a genuine supporter to the left of them and asked him what he enjoyed about cricket? In a broad Bajan accent he replied.
I’m sure they understood less than I did. But importantly his enthusiasm, like his two gold front teeth, absolutely shone through. Presumably satisfied that this snapshot of local colour was ‘in the can’ they left. Next stop a pina colada at a local beach bar? Topped off by an evening at Oistins with fish fry and rum?
Drinks: 196-3. Brathwaite 73, Carter 13. Both untroubled. Carter had already essayed a gorgeous on-drive that oozed class. The spinners wheeled away unthreateningly. Barbados’ numbers slowly stacked up. Before the start of play Roland Butcher had predicted a “long, hard, painful” day in the field for Trinidad & Tobago. They were certainly looking bruised.
Carter cut a Cariah long hop for three. The strong return from the deep was lazily covered by Ramdin, skidded through him and headed off to the un-policed square leg boundary. A rare scoring shot of seven.
Ramdin’s keeping was well below his best. One terrible leg-side ball from Gabriel was so badly directed that Ramdin had an age to get across to cover its line. He did get there – and promptly let it through both his gloves and legs. If it was the distraction of captaincy that was affecting Ramdin’s keeping, then it doesn’t bode well should the West Indies’ vice-captain have to step into the breach.
After lunch Katwaroo took over the stumping duties.
Rain threatened intermittently, and at 11.43 with Barbados 222-3 the heavy blue cover was dragged across the pitch by the army of yellow-coated ground staff, signalling an early lunch.
It had been a surprise not to see Richards bowl before the interval. He’d been the pick of the bowlers the previous evening. Retrospectively, after an afternoon spell in which he took four wickets, the hiatus was mystifying.
Carter was yorked by Gabriel for a polished 47, and the middle order all fell cheaply to Richards. Benn, and subsequently Roach, hung around with the dogged Brathwaite, who was finally ninth out for 122 runs of steady accumulation. A match-winning occupation of the crease.
Roach and Cummins swished and swiped an additional forty, though not all their shots were strictly those of tail-enders. Cummins hit a magnificent lofted drive over mid-off. Roach played the shot of the day (thus far; we didn’t know yet what was to come): a sumptuous cover drive through extra, so delicious he indulged in the conceit of remaining in the pose until the ball crossed the rope.
All out 369. A lead of 259. Tea was taken between innings. There were thirty overs left tonight.
The first ball of the innings from Roach, a bouncer, Simmons flailed at, and was fortunate not to touch. The second, he advanced down the wicket and cross-batted a short, rising ball over long-off for six. An incredible shot, which revealed an even more incredible state of mind. Off the fifth ball he repeated the dose. It was fuller, and his bat went through it in a straight, flowing arc. This would be a daring start in a T20 match.
After a Barath single, Simmons faced Cummins and another ambitious drive found the inside edge and flew to the fine leg boundary. He then pulled a length ball for four. After two overs he was 22 not out.
Over 3: Simmons cleared his left leg from the line and slogged Roach through the vacant mid-wicket. He did it again. Roach moved around the wicket. Simmons paddled very fine for four. 38-0. Barbados were rattled. Cummins then pinned Barath in front for 2. Whither Solozano?
Benn came into the attack in place of Roach to bowl the fifth over. Simmons hit him over the Hall & Griffith stand at long on. Next ball, he cut him backward of point for four. Then, same shot, in front of square for three.
Cummins thumped down a wayward leg-side bouncer. Cariah gloved a flapping hook to the keeper. 54-2 off 5.1 overs. I don’t really enjoy the shortest, most contrived version of the game. But this mayhem was taking place within the theatre of ‘proper cricket’. It was electrifying.
Mohammed flashed and missed. Next ball he steered a snorter from Cummins to third slip to complete a pair. Six overs gone – 54-3. Simmons 48 not out (18 balls), Cummins 3-2-11-3.
Perhaps Trinidad & Tobago were aware of an evening flight back to Port-of-Spain they could catch if it was all over tonight?
Cummins to Simmons: Simmons backed away a dramatic distance to leg, was followed by Cummins, but still savagely cut the ball up and over the Greenidge & Haynes stand. 55 not out from 20 balls.
This was insane! A maniac had gone berserk with a bat and was creating bedlam.
Next over he repeated this audacious upper cut off the bowler. At the other end another wicket tumbled. Benn smartly held a return drive from Hosein at knee height. 87-4, 10.3 overs.
Captain Ramdin arrived and had a quiet word with Simmons, who dutifully tapped a couple of singles off Cummins to the deep-set field. But there was no such self-restraint when he next faced Benn: 4, 2, 6, 4.
Nurse replaced Cummins, and Simmons cut him for four to bring up his hundred from 53 balls in 91 minutes. The fifty partnership was raised with another six off Benn, Simmons’ seventh.
At 5.41 the light had faded sufficiently for the umpires to call a halt. T&T 140-4 off 24 overs. Simmons 111no, Ramdin 13no. An absolutely unbelievable session. The game may still be all over by lunch tomorrow. But, good Heavens above! – I have never before seen an innings, or a passage of cricket, quite like this.