There was some delightful batting by the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force cricket team, the likes of which I have not seen for many a year! It was the first two days of the first game (January 9–12) in the West Indies (WI) Championship four day match at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba. Their opponents: Jamaica Scorpions!
After winning the toss, Darren Bravo, the newly elected captain of T&T, decided to bat on a docile pitch that wasn’t much help for the bowler.
That should not stop a good bowler from using the atmospheric conditions to assist him in tricking the batsman into a false stroke. It was a windy day with brief showers interrupting play a couple of times on the Friday and at least once on the Saturday.
Bowlers, of any persuasion, can use these conditions, especially where the surface is flat and not offering any help. Too many use a dead wicket as an excuse for not bowling penetratingly.
The reason is, really, that they are not willing to think and use more guile in their flight, or in their movement through the air which includes drift, swing and disguised deliveries to starve a batsman and force him into error.
A benign pitch is also not helpful to a batsman from the point of view of stroke-making as it tends to be sluggish, the ball not ‘coming on’ to the bat, thereby not allowing the batsman to drive through the line (direction) of the ball. Sometimes it can be a battle of attrition between bowler and batsman, caused by the pitch.
Having said all that, the batting of the Red Force was superb. Led by Bravo, the neophyte skipper, the innings picked up nicely, after the fall of Kyle Hope, through steady batting by the stubborn Jeremy Solozano plus debutant Keagan Simmons who advertised his talent with a well-played 89.
Both are left-handed batsmen and their youthfulness predicts a rosy future for them if their approach is on the right track and they refuse to be distracted. Their partnership of 135 showed the maturity of the two by setting the foundation for their team. They both deserved hundreds. The 24-year-old Solozano made 73. However, they played sound hands for their team and that’s the important consideration.
When the captain joined Simmons after the dismissal of Solozano, the innings continued without stutter. Bravo carried on the good start, giving it some muscle in the middle, while guiding the 21-year-old in the process.
When Simmons departed, Joshua Da Silva, also 21, joined the captain and carried on confidently to the close. Although a commendable score of 241 for 3 wickets, it was slow under normal conditions, but the slowness of the wicket unquestionably played its part against the batsmen.
It was to the batsmen’s credit that they didn’t take chances to attempt a quicker scoring rate hence giving away their wickets and robbing themselves of any advantage they may have had.
Batting with maturity and confidence
On the Friday, Bravo was sent back to the pavilion by Derval Green for 66 after adding 59 with overnight batsman Da Silva. Yannic Cariah then strode to the wicket.
Cariah, it should be remembered, was the captain of the WI Emerging Players (WIEP) that won the regional 50-over title in the Super-50 tournament last November. Da Silva was on that team as the wicketkeeper batsman.
Their partnership in the middle would have been pleasing to any cricket fan but especially to their coach and the selectors. They played beautifully! Cariah was full of confidence in his strokeplay and never have I seen him play better.
He was certainly marching to a different tune than before. His footwork was quick and sharp, his swing of the bat, faultless! When he went to the wicket the young wicketkeeper was on 53, when he completed his hundred the partnership was worth 160.
Da Silva was the perfect foil. He executed shots all round the wicket without being tempted to take chances to increase the scoring rate. He was excellent. His driving was effortless, his timing flawless.
The two WIEP batsmen ran between the wickets with great understanding and precision. It was a most impressive show. They did what they had to do and accomplished the end result, capitalising on the fine work of the previous batsmen, with great aplomb!
The maturity, the self-confidence, the skill, were all so striking that it made me proud just to look at the T&T team approach their innings with such intelligence and knowledge.
Kudos must be given to the batsmen, to total 461 for 4 declared in a truly sublime performance. I extend congratulations to all and especially the two 21- year-olds, Da Silva & Simmons, but also to Cariah, Solozano and skipper Bravo.
After making Jamaica follow-on, the game ended in a draw.
Congratulations to the coach Mervyn Dillon and the manager/assistant coach David Furlonge. A positive start which, it is hoped, would lead to consistent top-class performances.