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CRAIG COZIER in Antigua

Holder holds on

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ALCINDO HOLDER provided the bandage for a bruised batting chase and led Barbados to an unconvincing four-wicket win over the Leeward Islands with four balls to spare on Tuesday night in their Caribbean Twenty20 opener at the Vivian Richards Stadium.
The powerfully-built right-hander’s well-paced innings of 44 not out off 45 balls contained three fours and a six.
But, just as importantly, the 28-year-old collected 23 singles to lift Barbados out of the self-inflicted wounds of 23 for four in pursuit of a modest target of 113.
Javon Searles (15 off 11 balls) and Ashley Nurse (19 not out off 15) provided crucial assistance towards the end as Barbados avoided more embarrassment against the team they were forced to share the 50-overs title with last October after a similarly panicked run-chase in a low-scoring match.
Holder and Nurse forged a match-winning seventh-wicket stand of 46 off 31 balls.
Earlier, the Barbados attack – West Indies pacer Kemar Roach apart – were all magnificent in limiting the hosts to 112 for six off 20 overs.
Searles and Ryan Hinds each claimed two wickets.
It could have been much worse for the Leewards, who were rescued from the uncertainty of 44 for five in the 11th over by all-rounders Justin Athanaze and Tonito Willett.
Antiguan Athanaze provided the impetus in an innovative 34 off 25 balls while Nevisian Tonito Willett hit an unbeaten 31 off 32 deliveries.
Sulieman Benn and ino Best supplied early scalps after the Leewards won the toss and batted.
Benn’s flight foxed Montcin Hodge, who miscued to mid-off, while Chesney Hughes, the 19-year-old who forged a big reputation in county cricket with Derbyshire in 2010, looked anything but comfortable for his two balls against Best.
The first zoomed past a tentative stroke and thudded into the keeper’s gloves, the second clattered into middle and off stumps after breaching a static prod.
Searles further silenced the crowd when Kieran Powell mishit a pull head height to mid-on at 22 for three in the fifth over.
To the disappointment of a crowd of close to 3 000, Antiguans Devon Thomas and captain Wilden Cornwall fell cheaply and Barbados were well on top at 44 for five.
Roach, kept back for the crucial second half of the innings, bowled with good pace but the unorthodox Athanaze got the better of him to revive his team.
Nurse floored two deep catches during the momentum shift before Dwayne Smith’s excellent diving grab coming in swiftly off the deep midwicket fence showed him how it is done and ended Athanaze’s resistance.
When Smith lashed three meaty boundaries in Lionel Baker’s opening over, it seemed that the run chase was in cruise control.
But chaos in the running soon shifted the course of the match.
Kirk Edwards and a ball-watching Smith disagreed on a run after a misfield at mid-on, and Edwards was out by half the length of the pitch after running one and a half as Smith stood rooted at the non-striker’s end.
Next over, Jonathan Carter called Smith through for a single to short fine-leg but perished to Jacques Taylor’s direct hit.
Smith then left Bajans cursing for the umpteenth time with a dismissal as habitual as pudding and souse on a Saturday.
Full and straight from Tonge, and Smith’s stumps were scattered as he attempted a cross-batted haul.
When Ryan Hinds chased a wide one from Tonge and edged to the ‘keeper, Barbados were 23 for four in the fifth over and the Leewards were jubilant.
Holder and Carlo Morris slowly rebuilt in a stand of 29 before, after a brief rain delay, Morris top-edged a swipe at Hughes, who pulled off a fine return catch sprinting back 20 yards.
Holder found another valuable ally in Searles, but when he departed at 70 for six in the 15th over, the Leewards sensed a way through.
Holder took over manfully, and his six off the final ball of Cornwall’s spell helped tilt the balance.
Nurse lent level-headed support and was rewarded by hitting the winning runs, a savage pull for four through square-leg off Tonge.
Barbados face Hampshire today at 4 p.m.

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