The Trinidad and Tobago cricket team got close...but not close enough...to turning victory into defeat against the Windward Islands yesterday morning at the Queen’s Park Oval.
Unexpected mid-morning drama descended on the Oval with T&T requiring a “mere” 98 runs for victory in their WICB Regional Four-Day Tournament fixture.
At a serene 79 without loss with Justin Guillen (41, four fours, two sixes) and Imran Khan (29, three fours) in charge, they proceeded to lose six wickets for five runs, just like that, to the off-spin combination of Liam Sebastien (5.3-1-25-3) and Shane Shillingford (7-0-30-3) before sanity was restored.
Captain Denesh Ramdin was forced to the crease at 84 for six after Rayad Emrit--sent ahead of the skipper--was lbw to Shillingord without scoring. So Ramdin topped off his Man-of-the-Match performance in this game with an unbeaten 12, as he and his replacement behind the stumps, Gibran Mohammed, completed a four-wicket win for the home side. The skipper himself got the winning run at 11.30.
Ramdin and Mohammed were required because Guillen, Khan, Daren Ganga (five), Darren Bravo (zero), Jason Mohammed (zero) and Emrit (two) completely lost the plot.
Guillen, Khan and Mohammed in particular were guilty of playing rash shots to give catches to Garey Mathurin at mid-off (Guillen) and mid-on (Khan) and to be bowled (Mohammed).
The T&T bats took their eyes off the ball in such a manner so as to take some of the gloss off what was, based on the previous three days, a dominant display.
“We came here for 12 points and got it in the end. But having said that, our batting was disappointing in the second innings. Having 70-odd without loss and then losing a couple quick wickets, I had to go and finish it off,” was Ramdin’s comment afterwards.
“The guys knew what went wrong, it’s just for us to bat in pressure situations and not be relaxed. Hopefully against Jamaica we can put on a better show.”
The late flurry of wickets would have heartened Darren Sammy, the Windwards and West Indies captain.
Besides the combined effort of Shillingford and Sebastien on a pitch that was still not especially helpful to the bowlers, the last wicket pair of injured pacer Delorn Johnson (40) and Mathurin (32 not out) added an enterprising 47 to get the target to as much as 98 when play resumed, before Bravo at first slip caught Johnson off Emrit.
“When I look back at the game,” Sammy said later, “150 would definitely have given us a good chance but that said, look at the first innings. We dropped five or six catches. One of them made us pay in Ramdin scoring that 150, he batted really well after that and being in a good position overnight on the second day I think 119 for two, collapsing to 200 and a little bit all out set us back. And then in the second innings we lost wickets in clusters, we didn’t bat in partnerships. But Windward Islands came out and fought again and that is good to see for our team spirit.”
Ramdin’s unbeaten 151 in the first innings set up the game for Trinidad and Tobago, paving the way for Sunil Narine to bag another ten wickets. The skipper, in fact, was not dismissed in the match.
He said “to an extent”, the responsibility of captaincy was helping him, but so too was his conscious effort to “be more patient at the crease" and "hit the ball more in the 'V' rather than square of the wicket”.
Ramdin’s work with the bat, however, might have come to nothing without the relentless Narine.
The “mystery” off-spinner bowled 56 of the 128 overs the Windwards batsmen faced in the match, taking the new ball in both innings.
And while acknowledging the work of “unlucky” quickie Shannon Gabriel, Rayad Emrit and debutant left-arm wrist-spinner Emile Rajah, who he hoped in future would gain experience, “gain confidence and do the job for Trinidad and Tobago as Dave Mohammed did”, Ramdin had no regrets about working Narine hard.
“He’s our best bowler at the moment and in cricket you need to bowl your best bowler to get wickets for you,” he said. “Sometimes (when) I think that he’s getting tired I give him a break and bring him back on.”
Sammy was also impressed with Narine’s work on a slow pitch, devoid of significant turn. He avoided becoming a victim himself in the second innings, but rued his failure to take his score well beyond 88.
“It was more disappointing that I didn’t carry on, because I think had I stayed there to bat the remainder of the day that 150-plus we were looking for was achieveable.”
After what transpired yesterday, it might have made all the difference.