Kurt Wilkinson knows the sense of big occasions.
Recalled to the Barbados team after a string of low scores earlier in the season, the 21-year-old right-hander chose the final of the Carib Beer International Challenge to produce his most significant innings of the season at Kensington Oval yesterday.
When he walked on to the ground mid-way into the second session, Jamaica had dominated the first half of the day by reducing the Cup champions to 98 for three.
Choosing to field first, the Jamaicans made the most of a pitch that was bouncy in the early stages to dismiss Sherwin Campbell, Philo Wallace and Ryan Hinds, before Wilkinson arrived to team up with Floyd Reifer to orchestrate a splendid Barbados revival in the second half of the day.
By the close of an absorbing exchange, Barbados were 228 for three with the Jamaicans unable to gain a wicketfor the final three-and-a-quarter hours.
Wilkinson, playing for the first time since he was dropped after five matches, compiled an unbeaten 74 to double his aggregate for the season, while the left-handed Reifer was 59 at stumps and their crucial unfinished partnership for the fourth wicket was worth 130.
A scoring rate of a shade more than two-and-a half-runs an over suggests it might have been a boring day's play, but it won't be totally true.
There were occasions when Wilkinson and Reifer played some polished strokes, but it was understandable that their efforts were centred on occupation of the crease.
Jermaine Lawson, the exciting fast bowler who clocked the fourth fastest delivery in the World Cup, made an impression early on by wrapping Wallace, Campbell and Reifer on the gloves with rising deliveries. His participation, however, was limited by an upset stomach that kept him off the field for a period.
Wilkinson's innings showed some level of character after his earlier failures of the season.
"I haven't been getting a score lately, so I just decided to go out there and bat and bat long," he said.
"I was hopeful. I want to thank the selectors for having faith in me."
His 166-ball innings included 10 fours, none better than a glorious cover-drive off medium-pacer Dave Bernard and he motored to his half-century with a succession of boundaries in a partnership in which he outscored the usually fluent Reifer.
"My aim was just to go in there and bat with Floyd and work the ball around and give himmost of the strike," Wilkinson said.
"It was great to bat with someone like Floyd. He is always someone who you can feed off of."
This was not vintage Reifer, but his contribution was very important in the circumstances.
It is rare for someone like Reifer to bat for as long as four-and-a-half fours for only four boundaries and a six off 182 balls. He knew his role, however, and Barbados could not have afforded the loss of his wicket after Jamaica took the early advantage.
Wilkinson appears tobe one who relishesbig occasions.
Last September, his 62 as an opening batsman in the Red Stripe Bowl final against the same opponents, helped in Barbados' victory and four years ago, in similar circumstances to yesterday, he led a grand recovery in the 1999 North youth final against Trinidad and Tobago at the same venue.
Barbados were 120 for five and his first innings 75 and his second innings century after a similar run of low scores paved the way for the hosts to win the title and earned him a place in the West Indies team for the Youth World Cup in Sri Lanka.
Yesterday, Barbados needed him after the Jamaicans, appearing in their third successive International final, won the honours in the first half of the day.
Campbell was prepared to attack Lawson and Jerome Taylor, but his top-edged hook off the rising 18-year-old sensation resulted in a catch low down by Lawson running in off the long-leg boundary.
The rampaging Wallace smashed four fours and two sixes in his 35 and passed 600 runs for the season before sweepingoff-spinner Gareth Breese down the throat of deep square-leg.
Once Wallace was gone, the scoring slowed considerably.
Only six runs were scored in the last half-hour before lunch, which was taken at 69 for two and the session between lunch and tea produced 71 runs for the loss of Ryan Hinds.
As usual, Hinds was typically solid, but itmust be worrying to him that he is often failing to convert his 20s and 30s into big scores.
His 38 took the better part of two-and-a-half hours in which he was never troubled. Then out of the blue, his on-drive against Breese was magnificently caught low down by the tumbling Bernard at mid-on.
Barbados vs Jamaica
Carib International Challenge
India A tour of West Indies
Carib Beer Cup
WI Domestic Season