Rampaul swings Trinidad to triumph
Day 4 Trinidad & Tobago 304 and 200 beat Barbados 229 and 226 (Blackman 54, Rampaul 7-51) by 49 runs
Just like he did on Saturday to swing the balance in Trinidad and Tobago's favour, pacer Ravi Rampaul rose to the challenge with three wickets yesterday to hand the hosts their second regional cricket title for the year.
Fittingly, it was Rampaul who ended Barbados' innings, and their faded hopes of the regional first-class double when he accepted a return catch from number 11 batsman Corey Collymore, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration by both T&T's cricketers and the crowd at Guaracara Park in Pointe-a-Pierre.
And it seems a good sign for T&T cricket, at least in the near future, to see that West Indies captain, triple World Test batting record holder Brian Lara, stood in the back row as his fellow local players celebrated with the Carib Beer Challenge trophy on the podium. For once, they have done it all without his input.
On the day Rampaul shared the Man-of-the-Match prize with T&T skipper Daren Ganga, whose crucial, innings best knocks of 120 not out in the first innings and 44 gave the home team defendable targets and a sniff at victory.
According to Ganga at yesterday's post match presentations: "It was very important for me to bat through the innings, being the senior batsman in the team."
Truth, be told, though, it was the rampaging Rampaul, with swing, pace, and deadly accuracy, who snatched the match back from possible defeat at the hands of the Carib Beer Series champs, who overcame a first innings deficit to defeat them in the their season opener.
The 22-year-old Rampaul has not enjoyed a full season since he returned home prematurely from the West Indies 2004 tour of England because of injury.
Since then, he has struggled on the journey back, but his fighting spirit put the icing on a fantastic season for T&T.
He attributed his performance to the training scholarship last year, in Australia.
"It's a good feeling to really achieve something," Rampaul told the Express. "It did me well. The stint in Australia helped me a lot."
The visitors looked like a thoroughbred running away with the Challenge Cup up until the final 40 minutes on Saturday. But the wickets of Shamarh Brooks and Dwayne Smith lbw to Rampaul, and Floyd Reifer in between as well as Wayne Blackman-accounted for by Rayad Emrit- the pendulum had swung the other way.
Yesterday, with the Bajans resuming on 118 for five, an early breakthrough was required to keep T&T's grip on the match tight.
Barbados captain Ryan Hinds and nightwatchman Tino Best held Rayad Emrit and Rampaul at bay for three overs. Then in the fourth over, and Rampaul's second, Hinds tried to clear the infield but picked out Richard Kelly at short midwicket.
Wicket-keeper Patrick Browne joined Best, who had played valiantly for 30 with some fluent strokes. Best did not stay very long, thereafter though and became Rampaul's sixth victim of the innings, slashing outside of offstump and into the gloves of wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.
The injured Alcindo Holder, batting with a runner, put on 30 with Browne, before he tried to clout Dave Mohammed into the extra cover fence, and top-edged behind the wicket, for an easy catch to slip fieldsman Dwayne Bravo. Browne continued his quest to carry Barbados towards their target with some scintillating strokes, none better than a swordsman-like pull off Amit Jaggernauth over midwicket for six.
But Browne's 88-minute, 71-ball vigil, which included seven fours, came to an end when he mis-read a ball by Mohammed, and it squeezed between bat and pad and trickled onto the stumps, with the score on 215.
The deficit was 49, and the score, 226, when Rampaul, perhaps anticipating a mouth-watering lunch, accepted the return chance off Collymore, with just two balls to go in the last over before the break.
It signaled the end for the Bajans, a disappointing end to an impressive first-class season for them. But T&T, having waited more than two decades for last year's regional first class titles, and with many talented young players waiting in the wings, may just have entered a golden era.