Posted on

Cup – straight up

Ezra Stuart

Cup – straight up

Social Share

THERE HAS BEEN a change in the captaincy, but the Cup-winning legacy of “The Home of Champions continues!”New ICBL Empire captain Jamal Smith couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to his stint as skipper of one of the island’s most successful cricket clubs than the capture of the Sagicor General Twenty20 title at Kensington Oval on Friday night.Die-hard fans of the Bank Hall side were singing “the blues” in last year’s T20 final when the Jason Haynes-led outfit lost to Carlton, but it took first-time captain Smith, their tall wicketkeeper batsman, just one year to ensure Empire’s name would be inscribed on the cup of the Barbados Cricket Association’s newest competition.Smith, who didn’t face a ball in any of his team’s five matches, said he was confident of victory once Empire posted 152 for eight, adjusted to 161 with nine penalty runs. UWI managed only 135 for six, losing by 26 runs.“To be honest, I always felt that as long as we posted a score above 150, it would be hard for UWI to make them,” he told SUNSPORT after the match, noting Empire’s strategy was to bat first once they won the toss.“Traditionally, we always bat first, because we think we have a decent batting line-up to do the job and then it is just a matter of applying yourself when you go to bowl. We, as a unit, prefer to be in the field when the pressure is on,” he reasoned.Smith praised the batting of Ryan Hinds, noting that he “assessed the situation very well” in his top score of 37 off 33 balls – taking the Empire score from 37 for one in the fifth over to 121 for five in the 17th over when he was out – and the spin bowling of Trinidadian guest player  Dave Mohammed.“The pitch was not exactly a belter in terms of getting away your shots and [Hinds] batted deep into the innings and he allowed us to be able to post a decent total,” the skipper said.He added that Mohammed’s spell was crucial.“He gave us an attacking option in the latter overs. His variations proved a little difficult for the guys because they couldn’t premeditate and play certain shots, so I would say that combination won it for us.”Smith said he wasn’t daunted playing against the UWI side, which included most of the regular Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) players who played in the regional competitions and also a few seasoned Windward Islands representatives.“If you look into the Empire squad, at least eight of our guys played first-class cricket as well, so I would say it was pretty even in terms of experience at a higher level.; so it was just a matter of executing,” noted Smith, who is also a student of the Cave Hill Campus and, ironically, has represented CCC over the past couple of seasons.The versatile former Barbados Under-19 player, who is also a useful off-break bowler, had some advice for the T20 organisers.“In Twenty20, there is always a need for initiative and my only criticism would’ve been that I felt the final itself should’ve been played in more of a party atmosphere in terms of some kind of after-party. “That would probably mean that it won’t be played necessarily on a Friday evening, with all the activities going on for Crop-Over right now. “They could probably look at a Wednesday and bring out the crowds, because last year there was actually a good attendance and a good spirit afterwards because the people love to party.”