Losing cricket teams have been out-thought, out-gunned, out-batted, out-bowled and generally out-played. But yesterday in the Super50 Cup final at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua, for the first time Kieron Pollard’s Red Force simply out-talented the Guyana Jaguars by 152 runs.
The game was essentially over once Lendl Simmons had powered the Red Force to a massive 362 for 5 with a boundary-studded, (15 x 4, 7 x 6) run-a-ball 146.
Thereafter, the eventual result seemed inevitable; only the margin of victory remained to be settled.
And when both Shimron Hetmyer (20 off 12 balls) and Chandrapaul Hemraj (14 off 15) departed in successive overs with only 44 runs on the tins, the Jaguars looked in danger of defeat by over 200 runs.
Skipper Leon Johnson (0 off 5) was next, as he fell into the trap that had been set for him to be caught low down at backward point by Anderson Phillip off Ravi Rampaul—and an embarrassingly large margin looked a distinct possibility.
In the end, however, a fighting, unbeaten 97 by all-rounder Raymon Reifer (7 x 4, 3 x 6) enabled them to get their total past 200 and the deficit down to just above 150.
But Simmons and his opening partner Evin Lewis (57, 3 x 4, 4 x 6) had essentially taken the game away from the Jaguars. Having been asked to take first strike on a pitch that had no devil in it, the pair shared an opening partnership of 121, speckled with a high percentage of boundaries.
Johnson inexplicably opted to give the new ball to Kevin Sinclair and Reifer rather than to one of Romario Shepherd or Nial Smith as might have been expected. It backfired. Simmons and Lewis had themselves a whale of a time, racing to 100 off just 13.3 overs.
Johnson did little with the resources at his disposal, using his bowlers completely unimaginatively in apparently pre-arranged pairs. Except for over #23, delivered by medium pacer Smith, only left-arm finger spinner Gudakesh Motie (10-0-43-1) and right-arm off-spinner Sinclair (10-1-50-0) were used between overs 12 and 30. The spin twins slowed the pace of the scoring and, for an hour during the middle overs, conceded not a single boundary.
To get from 100 to 150, the Red Force used up almost exactly the same number of balls as they had to get to 100 in the first place.
And they lost Lewis, well caught by Barnwell at long-off trying to force the pace.
In the event, Red Force were merely becalmed before the storm. Darren Bravo’s 47 (3 x 4, 2 x 6) came off 52 balls and Nicholas Pooran’s 39 (3 x 4, 4 x 6) off just 15. And once Simmons had advanced to the three-figure landmark in over #37, the score raced from 219 for 1 to 310 for four just eight overs later.
After the opener’s departure in the 45th over, skipper Pollard (23 off 16) and Denesh Ramdin (27 off 18) made modest but rapid contributions to push the challenge well beyond the reaches of the outclassed Guyanese.
The start the Jaguars needed to launch an assault on their mountainous target never came. Under immense pressure from the scoreboard, Tevin Imlach was trapped right in front in Phillip’s second over. And Rampaul removed danger-man Hetmyer, caught at the wicket for 20, in his third and Johnson in his fourth.
In between, Hemraj had smacked a juicy short ball from Jayden Seales straight down Phillip’s throat on the square-leg boundary.
By the tenth over of the innings, half the side plus one was back in the pavilion with a mere 55 runs to their credit.
Pollard’s foot off the pedal, Reifer and Sinclair, both recently named on the West Indies white ball squad for the six encounters against Sri Lanka, shared a level-headed association which took the score from 55 for 6 to 94. Sinclair (19 off 31) then lost his patience and hoisted Akeal Hosein straight into Seales’ safe hands at long-on.
He is unlikely to do that again soon. With the camera focused on him, the WI white ball skipper could be seen in conversation with the 21–year-old in the post-match mêlée, his gestures suggesting advice that balls like that should be played with the spin into the offside.
Too late to help the Jaguars. Verasammy Permaul’s defiance had lasted 35 balls before the recalled Rampaul (10-1-52-4) induced a fatal deflection into his off-stump. And Motie had shown he’s no mug with the bat, reaching 28 off the 34 balls he faced.
When Phillip (7-0-40-2) breached his defences, Smith could not keep Seales’ (7.5-0-40-3) first ball out to allow Reifer, out for 90 in the semi-final, to get the three runs he needed to try to reach the century he so richly deserved.
The win earned the Red Force’s their 13th title and their first since 2016. Having won the last CPL without losing a single game, Pollard’s Trinidad and Tobago outfit have now damblayed the feat in this year’s 50-over tournament, going seven games unbeaten.
In his pre-match interview, the Red Force skipper had warned that ‘winning is a culture’ and he corrected interviewer Daren Ganga at the start of the post-match interview to say that winning is everything.
But it was hard to be certain for whom his Parthian shot was intended.
“God doh sleep,” he leaned into the microphone to say à propos of nothing, “Cricket is played on the cricket field.”
Leaving his listeners to speculate that the two very, very confident appeals for catches at the wicket which the same umpire had turned down in the semi-final against the Jamaica Scorpions were stuck in Polly’s craw.
Red Force 362 for 5 (L/Simmons 146, Evin Lewis 57, Darren Bravo 47, Nicholas Pooran 39, Romario Shepherd 2/105)
Guyana Jaguars 210 all out (Raymon Reifer 97 not out, Gudakesh Motie 28, Shimron Hetmyer 20, Ravi Rampaul 4/52, Jayden Seales 3/40, Anderson Phillip 2/40)
Result: Red Force won by 152 runs
Man-of-the Match: Lendl Simmons
Sir Richie Richardson Trophy for Best batsman: Jason Mohammed (T&T Red Force) 327 runs
Sir Curtly Ambrose Trophy for Best Bowler: Gudakesh Motie (Guyana Jaguars) 17 wkts
Best All-rounder: Andre McCarthy (Jamaica Scorpions) 8 wkts & 291 runs
Gus Logie Trophy for Most Catches: Shimron Hetmyer (Guyana Jaguars)
Jeffrey Dujon Trophy for Best Wicketkeeper: Denesh Ramdin (Red Force & Emmanuel Stewart (Windward Islands Volcanoes) 9 dismissals.