Ramdin leads T&T to big-money glory
Trinidad & Tobago 122 for 5 (Ramdin 41) beat Middlesex 117 for 8 (Dexter 39, Rampaul 4-25) by five wickets
A superbly paced 41 off 28 balls by Denesh Ramdin powered Trinidad and Tobago to victory over Middlesex in the battle of the trans-Atlantic Twenty20 champions and with it the prize of US$280,000. Ramdin added a decisive 67 in eight overs with the 19-year-old Darren Bravo as Middlesex dropped crucial catches in the closing stages, and Bravo sealed the victory by launching a mighty six with four balls remaining.
It has been the question on everyone's lips. How would a team react to the pressure of a huge pay-day? While it would be harsh to say that Middlesex choked, they certainly wilted under the strain after putting themselves in a position to walk away with the money. Despite reaching just 117 in their 20 overs, they held T&T's run chase under control for two-thirds of the innings. Then it all came apart, with the difficulty of catching under the low floodlights a deciding factor.
The vital momentum shift began when Ed Joyce dropped Bravo at long-on on 6, despite having time to steady himself under the high catch. At that point T&T needed 54 off 38 balls and swing became decisive in Neil Carter's comeback over which cost 18 runs.
Moments earlier Carter dropped a chance at short third-man with Bravo on 17, then the first ball of his third over - the 17th of the innings - was lofted high towards long-off by Ramdin. Eoin Morgan back-tracked only to palm the ball over the ropes. It would have been a far from simple catch in brilliant sunshine, while playing for drink money, never mind when the fielders have thoughts of thousands of dollars on their minds, but it showed Middlesex were fraying at the edges.
To make matters worse for Middlesex - and Carter - two balls later a high no-ball was upper-cut over third man for six. Suddenly, from needing more than nine-an-over, T&T required a run-a-ball with Bravo and Ramdin riding on their adrenalin rush. Shaun Udal recalled one of his trump cards, hoping Tyron Henderson could repeat his match-winning heroics from the domestic Twenty20 final in July, but Bravo and Ramdin knew they had done the hard work.
Ramdin couldn't quite see the chase across the line, falling to Ben Scott's second outstanding stumping of the innings, but Bravo finished the match in a fitting manner as he drove Henderson into the stands. Bravo, the younger brother of West Indies allrounder Dwayne, showed immense maturity after coming in at 46 for 3 in the 11th over.
T&T's top order had been tied down by fine new-ball bowling from Murtagh and Carter before Dawid Malan showed the other side of his game. Malan's first ball was slog-swept out to deep midwicket by Sherwin Ganga - where a catch was, for once, comfortably held - and the fifth beat Daren Ganga with a sharp leg-break.
Middlesex have built their Twenty20 success around spin, but not the part-time variety of Malan who had one wicket before this innings. For once, though, their key pairing of Udal and Murali Kartik didn't have a major bearing on the chase which proved crucial in the final outcome. T&T managed to play out Kartik's four overs, while Udal was hampered by a hamstring injury he picked up in the pre-match warm-ups. Nothing was going to stop him playing in this match, but while he was pulling up lame his team was pulling up agonisingly short of their jackpot.
The match-winning partnership between Bravo and Ramdin was one of the most free-scoring periods of action over the first three matches. Middlesex's innings had been another struggle containing just six fours and three sixes, which all came from Neil Dexter during his late burst of 39 from 25 balls.
He was one of only two Middlesex batsmen, along with Scott, to score at better than a run-a-ball against an impressive T&T attack. Ravi Rampaul began and ended the innings in style to claim four wickets, while the 12 overs of spin - ranging from Samuel Badree's brisk leg-spin with the new ball, to Sherwin Ganga's floaty offerings against the club-wielding Henderson - went for 62 runs.
Middlesex's half-way scoring rate of four-an-over can often be seen in the Test arena, but it probably wasn't what Allen Stanford had in mind, shortly before this match, when he said Test cricket could co-exist with Twenty20. Mid-way through their chase T&T were only marginally in front and it was anyone's game. It was a battle of nerves and two young West Indians held theirs.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo