By Sean Devers
The 28-team East Coast Cricket Board, H. Nauth & Sons Contracting Engineers and Petrol Station T20 Cricket Competition climaxed with a pulsating last over victory for Lusignan in a thrilling final against Golden Grove at the Lusignan ground yesterday.
Both teams qualified for the Final with unbeaten records and Golden Grove gave Lusignan a run for their money in a game which went right down to the wire.
Man-of-the-Match Rajendra Naikbarran courageously hoisted pacer Dexter George for six over the head of Cordell Mars on the long-on boundary with six runs required from four balls, to spark wild celebrations from the Lusignan fans.
Naikbarran’s match winning shot, under plenty of pressure, carried him to an unbeaten 29 to follow-up his 2-17 from four overs of frugal off-spin to break the hearts of the Golden Grove team, playing in their first Final in 21 years.
The exhilarating contest lived up to the hype and at one stage, Golden Grove, who surprisingly opted to bat first on a track with preparation moisture, had Lusignan wobbling on the ropes at 75-5 in reply to their 108 all out off their allotted 20 overs.
But in the end, four wides in the penultimate over from the usually reliable Sherfane Rutherford were crucial mistakes and left seven required from the last over and the psychological pressure was mounting on both teams.
Naikbarran then took the ‘Bull by the horns’ and disregarded the pleading shouts from the home fans to ‘look for the singles’ by finishing the contest in emphatic fashion with one blow, to earn for his team the winner-take-all cash prize of $150,000 and the beautiful Trophy.
The match began in glorious sunshine on a sluggish outfield caused by overnight rain and the first over from Naikbarran was a maiden as Rutherford, a National youth player and the most accomplished batsman in the Golden Grove team, initially struggled to get the ball away as off-spinner Vishnu Ramjit, who operated with a ‘suspect’ action and Naikbarran bowled in tandem to keep the batsmen quite. The left-handed Rutherford broke the shackles by dumping Kumar Bishundial for two fours and a six in the same over.
John McDonald (9) fell to Ramjit at 33-1 in the seventh over before Rutherford (20) was taken at long-on trying to go over the top to Bishundial two runs later. George, who swept Naikbarran for four, was next to go off National under-19 Skipper Brian Sattaur for 10 at 56-3.
Terrence King, with a reputation of being an explosive power hitter, looked very tentative before he seemed unlucky to be LBW off what seemed to be an inside edge onto his pad off Bishundial for 10 as Golden Grove slipped to 64-4 in the 14th over.
Sattaur, part of a five-prong all spin attack, struck twice in quick succession to leave Golden Grove on 78-7 before a few lusty blows from Shaun Thomas (15) and Dellon Skeeth (15*), who hit a six to post the 100 mark, contributed important runs for their team towards the end of the innings.
Naikbarran, who picked up the two wickets in the final over, finished with 2-17 got support from Sattuar (3-31), Bishundial (3-32) and Ramjit (1-8).
A small but noisy crowd which included President Donald Ramotar and EECB President Bissoon Singh watched as Soomdat Bharratt was LBW to Skeeth for a duck with just a single on the board.
Ramjit joined Sattaur, who was hit on his shoulder hooking at a short ball from Rutherford and the pair, in contrasting styles added 59 for the second wicket to put the home team in control.
While Ramjit caressed Skeeth sweetly for four and played with plenty of tenacity and timed the ball majestically, Sattaur tried to hit the as hard and far as possible in his usually all out aggression to batting.
He got off the mark with consecutive back cuts off Rutherford for boundaries but he never suggested permanence and soon pulled Rutherford high to deep square-leg where King totally misjudged the catch and the left-handed Sattaur survived.
While Ramjit looked composed, Sattuar continued to play impetuously and was miss-stumped twice by McDonald, who endured a horrible day behind the stumps.
Sattaur showed sparks of brilliance in a dark cave of recklessness by depositing Richard Woolford for a couple of colossal sixes before Ramjit (17) was removed by Skeeth at 60-2.
When Sattuar, who reached the boundary thrice and cleared it a similar number of times in a cameo 38, pushed forward to Skeeth and was bowled off the inside edge at 61-3 and Leon Morgan (3) ran himself out at 67-4, Golden Grove were right back in the game.
Bishundial (1) was bowled by Rutherford and Shazam Ali (4) was spectacularly run out from a direct hit by Mars at long-off, Lusignan were 103-6 and the game was on a knife’s edge. But Naikbarran kept head to give Lusignan the win in their own backyard. Skeeth (3-18) was the best bowler for Golden Grove, who had to settle for the runner-up Trophy.
Singh, the ECCB President, said that despite the several obstacles faced by his Board, including problems with the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB), rain and the unavailability of grounds, several competitions were successfully staged this year. He also praised Golden Grove for showing that cricket in developing in all areas on the East Coast.
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