"It was difficullt...Tricky conditions, not an ideal wicket for T20 cricket. My ten years of international cricket paid off."
Dwayne Bravo, Man-of-the-Match, was straightforward about the challenge batsmen faced at the Queen's Park Oval in the second game of the Caribbean Twenty20 doubleheader on Tuesday evening.
Bravo and his captain Denesh Ramdin had just seen Trinidad and Tobago to a seven wicket victory over the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC). It was the first win for the defending champions after their no-result against Jamaica on Sunday. But it was a win that was workmanlike rather than stylish; not exactly the fare a large, red-clad crowd would have preferred.
The Barbadian players who had beaten Jamaica in the first match for their second win in as many matches, also had to be content with merely getting the job done, losing five wickets in chasing Jamaica's lowest ever T20 total of 72. In the second match, CCC who had amassed 159 for three in their first game the night before, laboured to 94 for eight. With he exception of the no-result, after three days of Caribbean T20 there had been just three scores above 100 in nine innings.
Speaking yesterday ahead of last night's clash against the Leeward Islands, coach David Williams admitted he was, "a little bit surprised," by the testing nature of the surfaces, not only in Tuesday's match, but in the tournament as whole thus far.
"We played there before the tournament started and the pitches were really playing well," he said. "The ball was coming on to the bat and the batsmen were able to play their shots." But speaking of the current situation, he noted that, "we have to make the adjustment and that is the challenge. It's a grafting pitch. You have to really graft on it to score runs and play with intelligence. The team that plays with more skill is going to come out successful."
T&T were the more skillful side Tuesday night. Using his experience, and focusing on occupation rather than heavy hitting, Bravo anchored the T&T chase with an unbeaten but not chanceless 36 off 42 balls. He and Ramdin put on an unbroken stand of 46 for the fourth wicket after William Perkins (19, two fours), having been missed twice in succession off a no-ball and then a legitimate delivery from leg-spinner Akeem Dewar, nicked a simple catch to slip off Ryan Austin's first ball of the match, next over.
With such a small total to defend it was a mission impossible for the CC bowlers and fieldsmen. Player/coach Floyd Reifer however, lifted spirits if temporarily with perhaps the catch of the series so far to dismiss Darren Bravo.
The batsman stood his ground a few seconds, nonplussed after Reifer, standing at mid-on, clung on to a fierce pull off seamer Kevin McClean, the catch being held with the Oval grass ready to caress the white ball. At that stage, with Lendl Simmons already back in the pavilion, removed via a catch to wicket-keeper Chadwick Walton off Jason Holder, T&T were 31 for two. Perkins exit made it 52 for three. But senior pros Dwayne Bravo and Ramdin did the necessary.
"We needed a victory tonight to get up there with the points," Ramdin said afterwards. "Dwayne and myself with that experience, we just knocked the ball around and got over the line.
"I thought it was a clinical performance the way we fielded and we bowled. It was a difficult wicket but we went out very positive."
Earlier, unlike on Monday night against Guyana, the CCC batsmen were not allowed to build a steady rhythm.
Keen to limit the quick singles the CCC opening batsmen were keen on getting, T&T were successful in forcing the opposition into a series of faulty shots as succeeding batsmen succumbed to the pressure of trying to push the score along.
Ramdin used six bowlers in total—Samuel Badree, Shannon Gabriel to open and then Sunil Narine, Yannick Ottley, Dwayne Bravo and Kevon Cooper. Switching them around often, the T&T captain never allowed the batsmen to settle against a particular bowler. In turn the unit as a whole stuck to their lines of attack and got due rewards.
After openers Walton and Raymon Reifer had put on 28 runs in the first five overs, left-arm spinner Ottley removed Reifer with his first ball, the batsman whipping the ball to the right of Dwayne Bravo at short midwicket, only for the diving fielder to grasp the ball with his right hand. The best partnership of the innings had just ended.
Thereafter the bowlers tightened the noose.
Cooper, cutting the ball back to the right-handers around off-stump was the most successful, picking up three for 17 in his three overs. Included in that lot was player/coach Reifer, removed via a very low tumbling catch by Badree at mid-on in the 16th over that required confirmation from the TV umpire. Reifer's removal for 15, the score 70 for five, was critical to keeping the score below 100. But Cooper would have got as much pleasure from the ball which nipped back and bowled Ryan Wiggins.
Narine (4-0-14-2) also hit the stumps. Walton, left stranded on 99 Monday night against Guyana was flummoxed by an off –break which struck his off-stump, the batsman offering no shot. It was a night for playing and missing for the CCC crew. However, McClean with one elegant hit over long-on helped gather 16 off the last over from Cooper to get his side up to 94.
It was but a token effort in the circumstances.