Guyana 211 and 22 for 0 trail Barbados 246 (Bradshaw 81, Hinds 52) by 13 runs

Ian Bradshaw, the Mr Level-Headed of Barbados' cricket, saved his country from a near embarrassment yesterday. Showing the value of a sound, calm approach, and more significantly, choosing the right ball to despatch, the reliable allrounder put up his hand to bail Barbados out of troubled waters on the second day of their Carib Beer Challenge semi-final against Guyana.
When he strode onto the Carlton Club immediately after lunch, Barbados, responding to Guyana's 211, were in tatters on 101 for 6 and seemingly intent on duplicating the horrors of the embarrassing collapses they went through at the same venue two months ago.

When he returned to the dressing room just after 4 pm to a deserving ovation from a fair-sized Saturday evening crowd in which the support for either team was about the same, his skilful innings of 81 had carried Barbados to an insignificant, but handy first-innings advantage of 35.

The fact that Barbados were able to make 246 was largely a measure of Bradshaw's ability to counter the spin of Mahenadra Nagamotoo and Neil McGarrell that posed such a big threat in the pre-lunch session. It was also due to a wonderful support effort from Ryan Austin. He might have made only 14, but it was very important that he was able to solidly defend for an hour-and-three-quarters in a face-saving eighth-wicket partnership of 66 with Bradshaw that was finally broken when Barbados were one run shy of Guyana's total.

While most of those before Bradshaw were unable to cope with the experienced spin twins, the slimly-built left-hander made Nagamootoo and McGarell pay dearly for the leg-stump line on which they opted to concentrate. Bradshaw carted them for four sixes, two against each, with three landing on the roof of the club pavilion and the other just to the left of the Guyana dressing-room.

It was only the lack of partners that induced Bradshaw into attempting anything rash. Left with No. 11 Pedro Collins, he chased at a wide ball from pacer Reon King and was well caught low by the diving wicketkeeper Derwin Christian. By then, Tino Best's breezy 21 had assisted Barbados' cause, and a few of those who went before him should take a leaf out of his book when it comes to batting responsibly.

While wickets were falling, captain Ryan Hinds batted impressively for 52 off 98 balls, stroking eight attractive boundaries before King trapped him lbw.

For the first two hours, Barbados were thoroughly outplayed, mainly against fast-medium Esaun Crandon and leggie Nagamootoo, but some of it was caused by their own undoing. While the runs flowed, the rate of wickets and the mode of some dismissals were alarming.

Spectators were still filing into the ground when an uncertain Wayne Blackman padded up to his fourth ball and was lbw to Crandon. The noise that reverberated 15 minutes later seemed to suggest there were ten times more people than were present at the time. The uproar was over a horrific, cross-batted non-descript stroke Dwayne Smith attempted to a ball that didn't have the length for such a stroke. As he missed and the ball uprooted his stumps, Smith walked off the ground to a host of uncomplimentary remarks from those in the pavilion.

Things returned to a sense of normalcy as captain Ryan Hinds and Dale Richards batted with all the assurance in the world. Richards stroked five fours in his 29 before he paid the price for moving back to Neil McGarrell's left-arm spin, and was lbw. Floyd Reifer arrived to replace Richards, hit a confident boundary before gifting his hand with a casual return catch to Nagamootoo. It was the first of three wickets for regional first-class cricket's highest wicket-taker who dealt Barbados a cruel blow with a double-strike on the stroke of lunch.

Alcindo Holder, short of runs since the first three matches, made 16 before falling to a bat/pad catch at forward short-leg, and next ball, Patrick Browne edged a tentative defensive prod. It made way for Bradshaw, and the rest was history.

His heroics has set the stage for a second innings contest in which the winner will earn a place in the next weekend's final, to which it appears that Cup champions Trinidad and Tobago are certain to advance.