TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO will return to the world stage where they created such a favourable impression two years ago.
Even before stepping onto the field for last night’s Caribbean Twenty20 final, their passage for the lucrative Airtel Champions League in India was booked with an easy nine-wicket victory over Jamaica in the second semi-final at Kensington Oval on Saturday night.
With English county Hampshire qualifying for the final earlier in the day, the victory for Trinidad and Tobago guaranteed their Champions League ticket by virtue of emerging as highest-placed Caribbean team in the tournament.
And they will go back to the sub-continent aiming to go one better than their second-placed finish of 2009.
They appeared to be favourites to capture the US$62 500 top prize in the Caribbean Twenty20 final after another clinical performance in which they won comfortably.
They chased down a hardly daunting target of 137 for the loss of just two wickets with 13 balls to spare.
For the second straight night, opener Lendl Simmons dramatically changed gears after a slow start and his 51 off 49 balls led the chase that allowed Trinidad and Tobago to preserve their unbeaten record.
Even with ten runs still required, the players stood in front of the dug-out with their hands on each other’s shoulders, national flag in hand, waiting to race onto the field to celebrate another significant achievement.
The emotional outburst at the end gave the impression that they had won the tournament and afterwards they saluted their band of supporters at opposite sides of the ground in the Greenidge & Haynes and Party Stands.
A crowd of about 4 500 would have wanted a much more competitive affair, but Jamaica’s batsmen never coped with Trinidad and Tobago’s varied attack.
Leg-spinner Samuel Badree, for so long a potent weapon in the extra shorter form of the game, and emerging off-spinner Sunil Narine once again combined to apply pressure and deceive batsmen, while new fast bowler Kevon Cooper produced another swinging yorker that caused damage.
By the end of the eighth over, Jamaica were against the ropes at 35 for three.
Among those back in the pavilion was Marlon Samuels, who failed to pick a doosra from Narine two balls after lifting him over long-on for six.
Had it not been for Andre Russell’s aggressive 36 off 17 balls that included three sixes, Jamaica could have been in for an embarrassment.
Very few would have expected them to successfully defend 136, especially after Simmons and Adrian Barath lashed 40 from the first five overs.
To their credit, Jamaica kept themselves in the contest briefly by limiting Trinidad and Tobago to only 13 runs from the next four overs when Russell and medium-pacer Dave Bernard were in operation.
It brought back memories of Barbados’ run chase against Trinidad the previous night, but the batsmen this time were able to respond to the pressure.
While Barath was busy from the beginning on the way to 37 from 34 balls, Simmons showed a measure of caution.
He had reached only nine from as many overs before he exploded to blast four sixes.
Barath was needlessly run out, falling to a wonderful direct throw by Samuels from short mid-wicket, and
Man Of The Match Simmons was bowled by Taylor after completing his second half-century of the tournament.
Darren Bravo entertained the crowd with an unbeaten 25 off 19 balls.