Trinidad & Tobago 210 for 8 (Ganga 64) beat Windward Islands 205 (Smith 81) by five runs
Tante Merle was resurrected here yesterday, and Trinidad and Tobago's cricketers kick-started Carnival celebrations with a tense, nerve-jangling victory in the KFC Cup final against the Windward Islands.
In an absorbing duel in which fortunes repeatedly swung back and forth, the match was decided in the final over which the Windwards started requiring eight runs with just a solitary wicket in hand. By then, there had been so many twists and turns no one at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex dared to predict who would win.
Desperate singles were scampered from the first two balls and a dot ball went into the scorebook from the next ball. As Ezekiel Francis and Mervyn Matthew tried to steal another single, Ravi Rampaul, on his follow-through, effected an under-arm run-out to give Trinidad and Tobago victory by five runs.
It was a superb finish that brought back memories of that so-called Tante Merle match between Trinidad and Tobago and the Combined Islands that ended in a tie at the Queen's Park Oval in 1975. This did not go down to the final ball, but the end was just as gripping and the exchanges throughout the day were fierce and competitive.
Trinidad and Tobago have not lost a match in the shorter form of the game this season and you saw why. When their backs were to the wall, they fought brilliantly. When they were batting, they were 45 for 3, and later 118 for 5. To their credit they managed 210 for 8 from their 50 overs. When they fielded, they had the Windwards 82 without loss and later 188 for 7 with 23 runs needed from 26 balls. To dismiss the Windwards for 205 was a job well done.
"This is a great victory," said victorious skipper Daren Ganga. "Words cannot describe the sort of effort and fight we showed as a team. That is the character and quality of our team. We were pushed to the line and we responded well. I want to commend the guys. They played brilliantly. Everyone played his part."
Windwards' victory charge was admirably led by Devon Smith, whose 81 was another impressive effort, and when there was a wobble in the middle of the innings, captain Rawl Lewis counter-attacked with 39 off 37 balls. When Rampaul spectacularly yorked Lewis to leave Windwards 188 for 8, Trinidad and Tobago put their noses ahead and prevailed in the end, leaving the Windwards ruing their missed opportunity.
"I'm extremely disappointed. It's hard enough to get to the final, but when you're in a position like that and you lose, it's very difficult to take," Lewis said. "Experience played a big part in the end. You had more balls than runs, but the guys went for big shots."
Apart from Rampaul, three others played a big part in the Trinidad and Tobago defence of their total. Dave Mohammed claimed the first two wickets after the Windwards' fine opening stand and added another in the penultimate over when Gary Mathurin missed a big swing and was bowled. Mohammed also took a splendid diving catch at backward point that prised out Smith.
Kieron Pollard showed his value with the ball, grabbing three mid-innings wickets, and Sherwin Ganga slowed the Windwards' advance with ten overs of mean offspin in which he conceded only 17 runs. It followed his vital 64 and he was the obvious Man-Of-The-Match.
Yet again, it was predictable that the captain winning the toss would field, and Trinidad and Tobago, batting first for the first time in the tournament, struggled for the vast majority of their innings. For the second successive day, Deighton Butler was a handful with the new ball even if he was wicketless. His partner Mervyn Matthew bowled well to remove Adrian Barath and Daren Ganga. At the start, there was a bit of give in the surface and some sideways movement, but the track improved as the match progressed and it was the best of the three separate pitches presented for the semi-finals and final.
Trinidad and Tobago owed a lot to Sherwin Ganga for getting them to a total they could work with. After they lost Lendl Simmons, Kieron Pollard and Denesh Ramdin, Ganga, with a mixture of responsibility and enterprise, stabilised things and later found key partners in Richard Kelly and Dave Mohammed.
Ganga hit only two fours, but he also clouted two sixes, and his partnerships of 43 with Kelly, and 38 with Mohammed, were vital in the circumstances. Kelly was aggressive from the beginning, hitting 41 off 50 balls; Mohammed was just as attacking in his 19 off 29 balls.