Jason Mohammed leads rescue act

Jason Mohammed produced an innings-saving maiden first-class century and Amit Jaggernauth chipped in with a record last-wicket support to pull Trinidad & Tobago back from the precipice on the first day of the Carib Beer International Challenge semi-final against the Windward Islands at Guaracara Park yesterday. In their team's hour of greatest need - 171 for 9 - the pair fashioned a new last-wicket T&T regional record of 84 runs to give their side a final, fighting total of 255. The effort bettered, by 23, the 61 made by Ian Bishop and Mukesh Persad against Barbados back in 1997.

In reply, the Windwards lost Rommel Cuurency, Craig Emmanuel and most crucially Devon Smith in the day's last over - to the combination of Richard Kelly and Dave Mohammed - as they stumbled to 37 for 4 in their quest for first innings points. Undoubtedly, Jaggernauth's responsible 33 was one of the highlights of the day for a reasonable but unspectacular Guaracara audience.

But the day was Mohammed's. Taking the spot, if not the slot, in the order Brian Lara would normally have filled, 19-year-old Mohammed, in only his second game and third innings at regional level, came up with Lara-like runs in circumstances in which the watchers would have expected the Windies master to excel. Dropped three times in his unbeaten 124, Mohammed nevertheless showed the confidence and poise that made him a certainty for the West Indies Under-19s at the recent World Cup in Sri Lanka.

The work of Jaggernauth and himself, and earlier he and Kelly, also helped to spare Daren Ganga, their captain, further blushes. More than the greenish look of the strip, Guaracara's good batting record would have influenced his decision to bat first. But by lunch - 72 for 5 - Ganga had been made to look less than astute. Ganga himself was one of three batsmen out without scoring in the session as Deighton Butler (11-1-44-2), and Jean Paul (13-1-51-2) made good use of the early moisture in the pitch and the movement it yielded.

It was dramatic stuff from the time Sherwin Ganga snicked a Butler ball that left him to Junior Murray, the wicketkeeper, who then effected a tumbling left-handed take. The score was just 11. Next ball, Butler placed himself on a hat-trick when the elder Ganga was also adjudged by umpire Vincent Bullen to have edged to Murray. Dwayne Bravo survived the hat-trick ball. But, with five runs added to the total, he was a hapless bystander in his dismissal. A firm Lendl Simmons straight drive deflected off bowler Paul's outstretched right hand and struck the stumps with Bravo, backing up, well short of his ground. The end of the game's first hour found T&T in bad shape at 25 for 3. And things got much worse before they got better. At 42, there was more wobbling. Simmons, patient in getting to 15, succumbed to a low catch to Devon Smith in the slips off Paul, who had replaced Butler at the northern end.

Thirty-six minutes were still left before lunch when Denesh Ramdin replaced him. But before Simmons had stripped off his pads, Ramdin was coming his way, too, the second first-ball victim of the morning. Defeated by extra bounce, he gave his counterpart Murray his third catch of the morning. Mohammed, having been given his first life the ball prior to Simmons' dismissal, would have been forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by the swift decline. But uncertainty was not apparent in his play. Not unlike Ramdin, his former WI under-19 skipper, he seems to believe greatly in his ability. Primarily an on-side player despite his liking for the cut shot, he chanced his hand several times with lofted attempts over the mid-on region. But because of his general composure, which had been evident even in his debut game against Jamaica back in January, he and Kelly took their side to lunch on 72 for 5.

It was hardly a position of safety. But after the interval, the precocious youngster and the ambitious, progressing all rounder improved the situation greatly. Kelly, measuring his play but still finding the boundary ten times in his knock of 58 with his clean, left-handed hitting and some fine driving, eventually added a vital 124 for the sixth wicket with Mohammed.

They showed that batting was a relatively easy task on a pitch which had dried out under the sun. The problem was that there were no specialists left to support their effort. So when Kelly, losing concentration after getting to his third half-century of the season, tamely hit a Darren Sammy delivery into Rawl Lewis' hands at short extra cover, T&T lost control again, with Kelly's one of four wickets falling for just five runs.