By Sean Devers
A noisy crowd watched as defending champions Demerara were whipped under lights in their own backyard by a Berbice team which looked better organized and more hungry for victory in last night’s Pepsi/Carib 20/20 Inter County cricket final at the Guyana National Stadium.
From the time former Berbice player Gajanand Singh, playing in his first competition for Demerara, appeared on the field with a different pair of pants from the rest of his teammates, the home fans sensed that all was not well after the much published controversy surrounding the selection of the Demerara team.
In the end, Berbice, who also beat Demerara in the preliminary round, reached 151-6 in 19.5 overs replying to Demerara’s 150-7 off 20 overs to win by four wickets.
Maxwell Fraser produced one of the worst performances by a Demerara wicketkeeper at this level and even those supporting the strange policy by the Demerara Cricket Board to appoint someone without a cricketing background to head their selection panel must now be having second thoughts. In cool conditions, Berbice won the toss and asked Demerara to bat on a flat track and fast outfield.
With the music from the Stereo Sonic sound system pounding in between overs in the grass mound and the Pepsi Tassa drumming offering ‘stiff’ musical competition beyond the boundary, the crowd, which included the Carib Girls and the entire Guyana under-17 cricket team, saw Demerara slip to 17-1 in the fifth over when Chris Barnwell (8) was removed by pacer Esaun Crandon.
Travis Dowlin, who gave up the captaincy minutes before the start of the competition, got going with an immaculate cover driven boundary off Esuan Crandon before playing an impetuous slog-sweep at off-spinner Royston Crandon and was bowled for eight at 41-2.
If Dowlin’s demise was orchestrated through carelessness, the run out of Shemroy Barrington (10), who swept Balram Samaroo for four to post the 50 in the 10th over, was irresponsible, as Demerara slipped to 79-3 in the 14th over.
Rajendra Chandrika swept left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul and then elegantly cut him for boundaries off successive balls but was never really allowed to put his foot on the gas.
Even though a reverse swept boundary off Samaroo brought the fans to life, Chandrika, who made 49 from 50 balls with four fours, was soon leg before to leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo at 90-4.
And with just five overs remaining in the innings Demerara were struggling. Steven Jacobs (7) lofted Samaroo to deep mid-off at 101-5 and Troy Gonsalves (6) was run out at 128-6.
But the left-handed Singh, who stroked the ball fluently in his 20-ball 27 with three fours and national 20/20 player Deon Ferrier, who clobbered consecutive sixes off Permaul in the final over to finish unbeaten on 20 from nine balls, ensured that the hosts scored at 10 runs per over in their last five overs to reach the 150 mark.
The Crandon siblings, Esuan (4-0-13-1) and Royston (4-0-18-1) shared the new ball for Berbice and even in damp conditions caused by heavy dew, kept the shackles on the Demerara top order.
Berbice began their reply in enterprising fashion as Chris Barnwell’s first two overs with the new ball cost 27 runs before Ferrier made the break through in his first over by removing Richard Ramdeen (18) at 47-1 in the fifth over.
Devon Clements (21) was then bowled by Singh at 61-2 in the ninth over as Demerara, badly let down behind the stumps by Fraser, who struggled to glove the ball, fought back.
Royston Crandon (18) was caught and bowled at 84-3 by Singh, who also got rid of Assad Fudadin (9) at 111-5. But the Berbician off-spinner conceded 32 runs from his last two overs to finish with 3-40 from four.
Dowlin was surprisingly introduced by Skipper Zaheer Mohamed and his solitary over cost 13 runs even as Mohamed removed the dangerous Narsingh Deonarine (22) to a brilliant catch at long-on by Gonsalves, who did not bowl a ball in the contest.
With half of their side down and 40 needed from the last five overs, the home fans were still hoping that Berbice would once again ‘choke’ on the big stage away from home, but teenager Jonathan Foo produced an intelligent unbeaten 31 from just 17 balls with a four and three sixes (one in the final over from Ferrier who took 2-22 from 3.5 overs) as Berbice won with a ball to spare.
With four required from the last over, Esuan Crandon (12) was bowled by Ferrier but that was to be the last success for Demerara as Man-of-the-Match Foo and Delbert Hicks (3*) saw their team to victory to spark wild celebration among the Berbice supporters and end a wretched week for Demerara’s cricket. DDL’s representative Alana met the teams before the start of the match.
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