Hitting out: Trinidad and Tobago batsman Darren Bravo smashes a six during his match-winning innings of 64 against the Windward Islands in a Caribbean Twenty20 practice match at UTTground, O'Meara on Thursday night. T&T won by five wickets with one ball to spare. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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GOOD WARM-UP

T&T whip Windwards in T20 prep

By Roger Seepersad

Trinidad and Tobago got exactly what they wanted from their final Caribbean Twenty20 warm-up match on Thursday night.

Coach David Williams desired a confidence booster, which the defending champions would have needed especially with the loss of key bowler Ravi Rampaul just days before they face rivals Jamaica in the tournament opener.

Taking on the Windward Islands at the UTT ground in O'Meara in their final on Thursday, T&T put to bed any doubts that they are indeed the team to beat in the shortest version of the game.

Without Rampaul, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Lendl Simmons, they were able to overcome a determined Windward Islands outfit by five wickets and with one ball to spare in front of a small crowd.

The Windwards, who were without regular skipper Darren Sammy, who is due to join the team before the tournament bowls off tomorrow, chose to bat first and piled on a competitive 143 runs for the loss of seven wickets off their allotted 20 overs.

T&T replied with 144 for five off 19.1, with Darren Bravo leading the way with 64 off 47 balls with three fours and four sixes and captain Denesh Ramdin adding 42 off 38 balls (one four and two sixes) in a 106-run stand for the fourth wicket which took the hosts to the brink of victory.

When the visitors took to the crease, the top run-scorer from the previous Caribbean T20 tournament Johnson Charles led the charge, putting on 46 for first wicket with Andre Fletcher.

Charles got the momentum going for the Windwards in the third over of the match when he lifted left-arm spinner Yannick Ottley over the long on ropes for two consecutive sixes.

The Windward Islands right-hander followed up with two fours and a six off Rayad Emrit's first over.

But the T&T all-rounder, who replaced Rampaul in the line-up, came back with the final ball of the over to send back the aggressive St Lucian before he could do further damage.

Two balls later, Emrit trapped Fletcher lbw with the score on 49 before number three batsman Miles Bascombe salvaged the innings with a 38-ball 46 to lead the Windwards to a good total.

Devon Smith made 17 off 18 balls, and Lyndon James added 12 off 11 balls.

The Windwards, who defeated T&T in the opening match of last year's Caribbean T20, could have scored a lot more but fast bowler Shannon Gabriel flipped the script, removing James and Shane Shillingford in the penultimate over of the innings which cost just two runs.

A couple of dropped catches also allowed the Windwards some room to breath and this will be an area the T&T players will have to improve on when the actual tournament bowls off.

Another area of concern would have been the top-order collapse that saw T&T slip to 23 for three after four overs.

Though Simmons should add more stability to the top order, William Perkins struggled to get the ball away, scoring just three off seven balls before he was bowled by Mathurin in the second over of the chase.

Evin Lewis, promoted to the opening spot due to the absence of Simmons, hit one six before falling to Liam Sebastien, while Dwayne Bravo was bowled off the second ball he faced leaving his younger brother Darren and Ramdin with a lot of work to do to bring them back into contention.

Bravo took the initiative and started to hit boundaries to keep the scoring rate up, while Ramdin nudged the ball around for some quick singles as the pair monopolised the so-called "middle overs" to shift the momentum T&T's way.

After a slow start, Bravo got things rolling with a straight six off pacer Nelon Pascal and pulled Sebastien for another six in the following over. Pascal got the treatment again in the ninth over of the innings with a four and another six over long-on to keep the momentum going.

The pair took the score to 129 in 17th over before Bravo was caught by Pascal at long-off. Ramdin was bowled by Pascal in the 18th over but T&T were almost home. The home team will have their final training session today and will open their title defence against last year's runners-up Jamaica at Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain from 8 p.m. tomorrow.

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