Barbados seal the title
Ruthless fast bowling by Tino Best and crafty left-arm spin by Ryan Hinds spectacularly turned an evenly poised match into a stunning collapse and a win over Guyana at Bourda that guaranteed them the island's 20th first-class title. In less than two hours Guyana were swept aside for 90 in only 30 overs. It turned the match on its head and set up Barbados' first victory in a first-class match in Guyana in 27 years.
It left Barbados with a modest target of 108 to achieve their fourth victory in five matches and even though they lost five wickets, the result, completed at 3:53 p.m. on the penultimate day, was never in doubt because of the outstanding work of Best and Hinds. On a strip which fast bowlers have long complained is too much in favour of batsmen, Best generated lively pace and disconcerting bounce to break the backbone of Guyana's batting inside the first hour.
Already set back by the unavailability of captain Ramnaresh Sarwan with a chipped bone in the right thumb, Guyana were virtually beaten from the time Best knocked over three wickets with fast bowling of awesome quality. The fear he put into batsmen at one end allowed Hinds to benefit with a five-wicket haul in which a few of his victims were dislodged when they tried to go after him.
It was Barbados' third successive win that was won in less than three days' playing time and emphasised the wide gulf between themselves and the opposition. It pushed them to 54 points from a maximum 60 and they can now sit back to find out who will be their opponents in the Challenge final in Trinidad from February 22 to 26.
Skipper Hinds described the season's performance as a big team effort, pointing to "hard work, unity, consistent performances and believing in everyone". He also spoke of an informal session among the players the previous night that had a big impact on what transpired yesterday. After the start was delayed by half-hour because of seepage from overnight rain, there was a steady flow of wickets. Guyana, who took a first innings lead of 17 runs, wobbled from 22 for 1 at the start of the day to 63 for 6 a quarter-hour before lunch. By then, it was obvious Barbados would not be denied.
"It was a total team effort. The bowlers really stuck it out. The fast bowlers really bowled well and allowed me to come in and bowl well," Hinds said. "We had a lengthy discussion - not a team meeting. The guys were on the balcony just talking cricket. We worked out that their batting was a bit inexperienced without Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Deonarine."
Hinds also dedicated the victory to last season's manager Lawrence Maxwell and birthday boy Fidel Edwards who turned 24 on Tuesday. It was Edwards' fellow fast bowler Best who worked up a storm with the key wickets of stand-in captain Travis Dowlin, Assad Fudadin, Azeemul Haniff and Royston Crandon.
"The inspiration came from God, my teammates, my coach. Last [Tuesday] night I asked God to give me the strength to work hard and bowl quickly," Best said.
His removal of Crandon and Haniff was a spectator's joy. Both were tested with lifting balls. The former ended up giving a catch to second- slip off the shoulder of the bat and the latter, in self-preservation, gloved a catch to first slip.
"Bourda is a hard, flat, placid surface. Wayne Daniel always says that if you bowl fast in the good areas, sometimes you get bounce," Best said. "Corey Collymore always tells me about hitting the ball on the seam. That is what happened. I just bent my back and everything worked out fantastically." Only three Guyana batsmen reached double-digits.
After the match, coach Vasbert Drakes lauded the quality of his attack. "The bowlers have been taking wickets consistently and quickly. They've been creating quite a bit of pressure," Drakes said. "The guys are happy with each other. They are playing 'team cricket'. The guys have been bowling in partnerships. We have some good quality bowlers. They are setting some high standards for themselves."