Martin hat-trick helps Leeward edge into final

Leeward Islands 213 (Hughes 81, Sammy 4-47) beat Windward Island 209 for 9 (James 64, Martin 3-23) by four runs

Leeward Islands' opener Chesney Hughes struck a steady 81 to guide his side to 213, a total that his team, led by legspinner Anthony Martin's hat-trick, defended by four runs in a thrilling semi-final clash against Windward Islands at Sabina Park. Windward had their moments, with their captain Darren Sammy, who was recently handed leadership of the West Indies side, snaring four wickets to lead a clinical bowling performance. Lyndon James then struck 64 to anchor their stop-start chase, but it was not enough to take Windward into the final.

Leeward began well after winning the toss, with Montcin Hodge raising 44 off 57 balls with Hughes for the first wicket before Sammy made his first breach. Hodge's dismissal sparked a mini-collapse as Leeward lost their next three batsmen for a combined contribution of seven runs. Offspinner Liam Sebastien trapped Javier Liburd in front before Sammy had Gavin Williams lbw first ball. When Omari Banks nicked Sammy behind, also for a duck, Leeward were stuttering at 80 for 4.

Hughes, who had batted through the crisis, settled down to repair the innings along with his captain Wilden Cornwall. The pair adopted a cautious approach in their 76-run stand that spanned 103 balls. Hughes struck seven fours in his innings that came off 105 balls before being dismissed by offspinner Shane Shillingford in the middle of a miserly spell. Cornwall departed soon after, having contributed 38 off 57 balls, but the tail ensured Leeward crossed 200. Justin Athanaze stood out with 22 off 21 balls as Windward wrapped the innings in 49 overs.

Their batsmen had given Leeward a chance, and by the end of the first over of the chase, Lionel Baker had put them firmly on top. Opener Devon Smith and No. 3 Andre Fletcher fell for ducks to leave Windward reeling at 1 for 2. Keddy Lesporis and Johnson Charles arrested the slide, adding 59 for the third wicket in 17.1 overs. Athanaze removed Lesporis for 22, and one run later Charles was run-out, giving Leeward the upper hand once again. Sammy attempted to inject some urgency, but after hitting a four and a six, he succumbed to Jacques Taylor as Windward slumped to 85 for 5 in the 25th over.

Martin had settled into a stifling spell by now, and controlled the middle overs as Lyndon James tried to revive the innings along with the lower order. Sebastien contributed 24 off 47 balls and helped James add 80 in 18.2 overs, but Sebastien's fall in the 44th over evened the game once again. James was bowled by Martin with 40 required off 33 balls, and Leewards were on the threshold of the final when Shillingford and Mervin Matthew fell off the next two deliveries. Windward's last pair was not going to go down without a fight though.

Gary Mathurin struck 19 off 18 balls, while No. 11 Nelon Pascal hit 18 off 16 in a heart-stopping 35-run stand. The pair, however, ran out of overs as Leeward edged home. In the final, they will meet the winner of the second semi-final to be played today, between Barbados and Jamaica.