The Caribbean All Time XI test championships begin with the quarterfinal clash between Combined Islands and Trinidad & Tobago. Since Combined Islands are seeded fifth they play the second “leg” away in Port of Spain. The picturesque Antigua Recreation Ground is the venue for the 1st leg. The pitch is dry with a bit of grass. Sir Viv Richards & Brian Lara walked out for the toss on a sunny day. Lara called heads as Richards tossed and won the spin. He decided to bat even though there was grass on the pitch presumably not wanting to bat 4th.
Jeff Stollmeyer & Larry Gomes walked out as the expectant crowd cheered the already assembled Combined Islands XI. A testing opening spell by Roberts & Ambrose produced a wicket inside the first half hour as Larry Gomes inside-edged, what he thought was a juicy half-volley from Ambrose, onto the stumps. The crowd loudly cheered as the Prince of Trinidad walked into the middle even though he was the opponent. Stollmeyer & Lara made slow progress and right around the hour mark a jaffa from Roberts saw Stollmeyer fend a rising short ball to Jacobs. Logie & Lara steadied the ship till lunch as Trinbago were 8 shy of three figures.
Logie departed a quarter of an hour past lunch as he drove Ambrose uppishly into the arms of Arthurton. A tiring Ambrose & Roberts were removed by Richards and Lara began to cut loose, driving Davis in an over for 4 consecutive boundaries. He hooked Kenny Benjamin over deep backward square for a six to bring his 50. Gomez performed the supporting role by giving Lara enough of the strike. Trinbago & Lara went into tea 10 shy of 200 & 100 respectively.
Gomez was trapped in front by Roberts in the 2nd over after tea after Lara hit Davis for back to back boundaries off the 1st two balls of the last session of the day. Richards, surprisingly, spread the field as he decided to choke the runs. Murray & Lara added 63 patient runs as the 5 pronged pace attack bowled with exceptional discipline. Murray was removed by Ambrose as the ball crept under the custodian’s bat. Julien & Lara took the score to 276 without further damage. Lara ended day one on a majestic 141.
Lara’s hopes of extending his 5 hour vigil on day 1 were dashed as he feathered an Ambrose outswinger to Richards at 1st slip off the 7th ball of the day. Allrounders Julien & Bravo took the total past 300 with Julien taking most of the strike and doing most of the scoring. He departed when he pulled Kenny to Winston placed at square leg for the mistimed hook. Bravo then added 50 runs with Gray to take the score to 371 at lunch.
Roberts & Winston Benjamin wrapped up the Trinbago innings half an hour after lunch with Bravo cruelly falling 1 run short of a well deserved 50. The Islands’ opening pair of Smith & Williams walked out with exactly 50 overs left in the day. In a hostile new ball spell Bishop removed both openers for not much leaving the Islands’ reeling at 14/2. Richards & Richardson steadied things and kept the scorecard ticking and went into tea having added 75 runs for the 3rd wicket.
In the post-tea session Richards cut loose against the medium pace bowling of Bravo & Julien and the spin of Ramadhin. Richards was especially hard on the mystery spin of Ramadhin hitting him for 3 6s in an over to bring his 50 up. Lara had no answers to Richards’ belligerent mood as even his spreading of the field could not stop the runs from leaking. Richards hit the last two balls off the day for a 4 & 6 to remain not out on 109 of just 100 balls as Combined Islands ended day 2 on 208/2.
Richards began where he left dismissing the Trinbago bowlers all around the park. Richardson also joined the party match Richards shot for shot as they added 95 runs in the 1st hour. Richards’ 50 runs in the session came off just 40 balls. Lara brought Ramadhin back after the drinks break and Richards, hitting one shot too many, top-edged the off-spinner to Julien at deep midwicket placed specifically for that shot. A captain’s innings of 159 off just 141 balls studded with 19 4s and 5 mighty 6s. Richardson, almost unbeknownst to the crowd, completed his 100 in the 1st hour.
Richards’ dismissal brought a spring to Ramadhin’s steps as he found his miserly line and length. The first hour brought 95 runs but 2nd brought just 22 runs as Ramadhin gave nothing away. The post lunch session began the same way. As Ramadhin bowled unchanged through the session earning the wicket of Arthurton along the way. Islands ended the post lunch session on 389/4. Just 64 runs were added in the session for the loss of Arthurton.
The post lunch session continued in the same vein as Lara placed an in-out field to both stop the runs and attack the batsmen. He rotated his bowlers to keep them fresh. The visiting side kept chipping away and the last hour brought 2 wickets to Ramadhin. After taking a bit of stick from Richards on day 2, Ramadhin almost single-handedly kept things from getting too far ahead as the home side ended day 3 just 88 runs ahead after King Richards’ blistering start at the beginning.
Lara began day 4 with Ramadhin and he duly delivered by removing Winston Benjamin off the 1st ball of the day. He bowled unchanged for the 1st hour off the day and picked up all 4 wickets to fall ending the home side’s 1st innings at 505. A disappointing total for Combined Islands as they were looking at a minimum of a 200 run lead the way Richards & Richardson were going.
Trinbago, trailing by 122 runs, began steadily with their opening pair adding an even 100 runs. Richards brought back Roberts & Ambrose and the pair picked up 3 wickets in 7 balls sending the openers and, in a big blow, captain Lara for just 2 with half an hour to go before tea. Gomez & Logie steadied the ship adding 77 runs for the 4th wicket before Gomez fell to rising delivery that he edged to Richards. Logie added 48 with Murray taking the lead past 100. With minutes left in the day, Davis found an extra yard of pace to remove Murray and then Logie off the last ball of the day.
Combined Islands were in full control of the test. The lead was 110 with just 4 wickets left. The last recognized pair of Julien & Bravo were at the crease. The pair provided stiff resistance batting through the morning session adding 75 priceless runs in the process. Davis broke through the resistance trapping Julien in front and Richards brought himself on to quickly polish the tail off 40 minutes into the afternoon session. The T&T innings ended at 353 setting the Combined Islands to get 232 in 51 overs to take 4 points to Queen’s Park Oval.
Lara began with his new ball pair with an extremely defensive field. With the last ball before tea Bishop trapped Williams in front. The home side were 49/1 in the 16 overs bowled. 183 runs to win in 35 overs. Richards began the post tea session like a man possessed. He dispatched one Bravo over for 5 4s in the process bringing his 50 up in just 37 balls. Ramadhin returned and slowed things down a bit but he could do only so much with Richards in such fine nick. Islands moved briskly to 142 as the last mandatory 15 overs began.
Ramadhin sent in an off-break slightly quicker through the air. It hit one of the roughs created by Julien and hurried Richards into a cut shot. The quicksilver Logie snapped him at point to virtually end things. Smith found himself short of the crease as Lara threw to the keeper’s end from mid-on when he saw the opener was ambling towards the crease. Arthurton was out caught in the deep trying to force the pace. Richardson donned the role of the enforcer as Jacobs kept giving his vice-captain the strike. The two added 51 in 9 overs when Richardson knicked Ramadhin to the keeper with just 2 overs to go.
Islands needed 23 runs to win off 12 balls as Lara gave the ball to Bishop. Bishop bowled an immaculate over hitting the blockhole for 6 balls in a row. The batting pair could manage just 4 runs of the over needing 19 runs to win off the last over. Lara bravely gave the ball to his spinner. Ramadhin shortened the length expecting Benjamin to come down the track but he waited in his crease and swung it over midwicket for 6.
Benjamin took a single off the next ball. Jacobs wildly swung at the 3rd ball but managed to edge it past the keeper. Bishop used some football skills to stop the boundary but the pair scrambled 3 runs. 9 to win off 3. Benjamin came down the wicket to hit straight back past the bowler. Logie posted at long off cut it off just before the ball reached the boundary and the batsmen could only score two runs. Lara had just two men in the circle and 7 men posted on the boundary. Ramadhin deceived Benjamin in flight as he missed but Jacobs scrambled for the single.
Lara took his time to decide the field on the final ball. He posted all men on the boundary knowing that Combined Islands needed a six to win it. Ramadhin bowled a quicker one in the blockhole as Jacobs swung and edged it to fine leg. They could take just two. A thrilling end to an engrossing contest over 5 days. Ramadhin held his nerve to save two points for his side. Richards was named man of the match and there was all to play for in Port of Spain.
Result: Match drawn. Combined Islands take 1st innings lead.
Points: Combined Islands 2, Trinidad & Tobago 1.