THE SURPRISE packages of last October’s regional 50-over competition have started the Caribbean Twenty20 tournament on a winning note.
You can’t call it a surprise this time, however.
Windward Islands, who stunned big guns Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica in the longer version a few months ago, served notice of their championship aspirations with a 28-run victory over the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) last night.
Before a modest crowd at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua, the Windwards won by a handsome margin in the end, but they had to fight for most of the way.
Batting first after winning the toss, they posted a challenging 189 for three that surpassed any total in the inaugural tournament last July.
It was built around Andre Fletcher’s impressive unbeaten 88 off 59 balls that was highlighted by his ability to work the ball around for the majority of the overs and a savage onslaught at the death.
CCC made a gallant effort from the first half of their chase, lashing 98 for two from the first ten overs when Vincentian openers Romel Currency (39 off 24 balls) and Miles Bascombe (36 off 24 balls) were finding the boundary with regularity.
Windwards, however, refused to buckle under the threat and turned things around with the help of their four seamers, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Mervin Matthew and captain Darren Sammy.
Sammy, so often a source of inspiration at this level, chipped in at almost every turn. When he arrived at the crease with only two overs left, he joined Fletcher in the fireworks by smacking 18 off only five balls.
When Bascombe was increasing his acceleration, Sammy ended his innings with a wonderful piece of fielding in which he swiftly moved to his right on his follow-through to intercept the ball and run out the batsman at the striker’s end.
When the Windwards needed someone to stem the flow of runs just after the half-way stage, Sammy combined with Peters, Matthew and Pascal to restrict CCC to 31 runs in the next five overs.
By then, the asking rate had climbed to a shade over 12 an over with 61 required from the last five overs, and it proved to be more than too many for CCC.
Pascal, surprisingly held back until the 11th over, started with a fine over that cost two and followed up with the key wicket of Floyd Reifer with an unplayable yorker after the player/coach had looked dangerous in rushing to 24 off 16 balls.
CCC would have been regretting their effort in the field when three catches of varying difficulty went to ground and a few more balls went through the legs of jittery fielders.
Fletcher made the most of chances on zero and 53, both of which went to skipper Currency. The first, at slip, should have been taken, but the second was a lot more difficult.
In tandem with youngsters Johnson Charles (37 off 29 balls) and Keddy Lesporis (34 off 27 balls), Fletcher gave the Windwards the needed impetus to the extent that their most experienced batsman, Devon Smith, wasn’t even required to bat.
Reigning champions Guyana were to meet Jamaica in the nightcap match and today’s games will bring together Canada and Hampshire at 4 p.m. and Barbados and Leeward Islands at 8 p.m. (HG)