Barbados virtually moved into the Final Four of the Red Stripe Bowl on the strength of an impeccable performance from stand-in captain Sherwin Campbell and incisive fast bowling from Pedro Collins yesterday.
Wary that defeat against Trinidad and Tobago would have eliminated them, Barbados played like men on a mission in their final preliminary match and were emphatic winners by 101 runs.
A day before his 29th birthday, the commanding Campbell, leading Barbados in the absence of an injured Philo Wallace, completed his first ever century in a regional One-Day match in an imposing total of 291 for seven from their quota of 50 overs.
Nine out of ten times, such totals automatically guarantee victory, but Trinidad and Tobago approached their daunting target with bold aggression until Collins intervened.
In the end, Trinidad and Tobago were all out for 190 and lost for the second straight day, but there would have been optimism when their openers were in.
Suruj Ragoonath, with typically exciting strokes, and Ian Bishop, who exchanged batting positions with Daren Ganga, gave Barbados a scare by posting 50 in the first seven overs, which were shared by Winston Reid and the wayward Hendy Bryan.
When Campbell summoned Collins, the left-armer responded with a terrific effort in which he bowled at sustained pace and removed both openers and, more importantly, gained the treasured scalp of Brian Lara.
Lara walked onto the Ronald Webster Park to take his position at No. 3 amidst wild scenes from a frenzied crowd after Collins removed Bishop with the first of five dismissals for efficient wicket-keeper Courtney Browne.
Whenever Lara put bat on to the ball, the 1 000 or so spectators erupted, and the champion left-hander appeared to be in ominous form when he spanked Collins through the covers for a four.
There was a hush in the stands, but a huge outpouring of celebrations among the Bajans when Lara flashed at his tenth ball and snicked a catch to Browne. The Barbados wicket-keeper gleefully accepted the offering and Collins was lifted high by his ecstatic team-mates, who knew that was match had been effectively decided.
It left Trinidad and Tobago 71 for three at the end of the 12th over in which Collins also outfoxed Ragoonath with a slower ball which was caught at mid-off.
Any thoughts of a victory by Lara?s team were quickly snuffed out by the cat-like Campbell, whose excellent saves in the covers triggered the run-outs of Lincoln Roberts and Richard Smith.
Before those two went, Collins also removed Denis Rampersad, his fourth victim in eight overs of discomforting pace in which he conceded 25 runs.
After Collins was finished, Ryan Hurley came on to bowl yet another economical spell at a time when it was obvious that Barbados would be all but assured of a place in the semifinals in Jamaica this weekend.
For them to miss out, unfancied Canada must convincingly beat Trinidad and Tobago and zone leaders Leeward Islands today and tomorrow.
Campbell completed a dream performance by ending the match with his first wicket at this level.
Batting on the ground where he made an unbeaten 169 in a Busta Cup match earlier this year, Campbell impressively reached his maiden century in his 27th match at this level and was given support through the innings after Barbados chose to bat first.
His 102 off 117 balls included five fours and a cut six over third-man in an expensive over from the ragged Ian Bishop that yielded 22 runs.
Campbell was strong on both sides of the wicket, especially through the off-side, and even improvised once or twice before a cross-batted heave cost him his wicket in the 43rd over.
He was partnered by Adrian Griffith for the first 15 overs, which produced 81 runs, and Roland Holder for the next 14 overs, in which another 66 were added.
By then, Mervyn Dillon, easily the best of the Trinidad and Tobago bowlers, had completed his allotment of ten overs that cost 29.
With Bishop proving expensive, Lara turned to three of his trundlers - Rampersad, Ganga and Lincoln Roberts - to come in very early and send down as many as 14 overs among them.
Lara also chose to keep back Dinanath Ramnarine until the 32nd over when Barbados were well set and the recuperating leg-spinner was roughly treated in the dying stages by Horace Waldron and Courtney Browne.
Waldron arrived after Winston Reid, who was sent five notches higher than his usual No. 10 slot, was out with 11 overs remaining.
Waldron made 43 off 36 balls that included two massive sixes off Ramnarine. The first was lifted over long-off and the second landed more than 40 yards clear of the long-on boundary.