Defiant JDF, plucky Kingston
Tony Becca, Contributor
This year's Senior Cup cricket season came to a thrilling climax at Sabina Park last Sunday courtesy of the Jamaica Defence Force and Kingston Cricket Club.
In an action shoot-out for the title, the JDF, last winners in 2003, and Kingston, last winners in 2001, gave it their best shot, with the JDF squeezing out a first innings lead, and later hanging on for a draw against a brave and adventurous Kingston.
It was a match in which the best of cricket, brilliant attacking play and superb defensive play, were on show, and at various times at that. It was a match after which, were I the president of the Jamaica Cricket Association, especially in this day and age, I would have raced around boundary with bells on and with the two teams following in my footsteps.
Down to the wire
It was a match which went down to the wire in both innings. In the first innings when JDF dropped to 162 for nine, still needing another 35 runs for what seemed the all important first innings lead, and in the second innings when JDF, needing 194 for victory, dived to 115 for eight with eight overs remaining.
It was a match which neither team deserved to have lost, except, maybe Kingston, who may now still be lamenting the decision which caused them to bat on for 30 minutes or so longer than they probably needed to do.
After losing first innings lead, Kingston went to bat with fire in their eyes and blasted 215 for six in the twinkling of an eye with captain Brandon King slamming 92 off 60 deliveries and Andre Bryce supporting with an unbeaten 90.
At 2.15, Kingston led by 171, but they batted on to 2.45 and added another 22 runs while losing a few wickets.
Young King is a new and inexperienced captain, but he, or his advisors, committed the cardinal sin of not leaving himself with enough time in which to win the match.
After trailing on first innings, he had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The feeling, before and after, is that he should have set himself a second innings lead of around 150, give himself enough time, probably 170 minutes plus 15 overs, to dismiss the opposition, and go for it.
As it turned out, Kingston just failed to win it, and King will always remember, not only those wasted 30 minutes, but probably more than that, probably the few more minutes after he got out and when the team batted on and on, when momentum was clearly in Kingston's favour.
The cricket, especially on the second day, was all action. It was dramatic and exhilarating, from start to finish, and fit for a full audience rather than for the precious few, the dedicated few, that were on hand.
Dennis Bulli, the left-arm wrist spinner, who grabbed six for 65 to limit Kingston on the opening day, was the man of the match. He also batted with intelligence, and with skill, to guide JDF to first innings lead, and he was there at the end, in the second innings, also.
Batted for more than an hour
In the first innings, with last man Reynard Leveridge, who scored three not out, Bulli batted for well over an hour to reach 51 not out. It was his highest score of the season, indeed for many seasons, and he hit six fours and two sixes, two of the fours coming when JDF needed six runs for the lead, one an on-drive to the square-leg boundary, and the other, next delivery, a front-foot drive to the long-off boundary.
In the second innings he batted for 37 minutes, faced 30 deliveries, and scored zero not out.
The innings of the day, of many a day, and probably of the season, however, was that of 19-year-old King.
After failing in the first innings, he walked out to bat in the second innings, he was hit on his helmet early in the proceedings by left-arm speedster Sheldon Cottrell, and suddenly he batted like a man on a mission.
Standing tall and erect, in a lovely, copybook stance, and looking every bit like a batsman, like one who can really bat, he played one of the finest innings seen from a Jamaican in many, many seasons, especially while driving off the front-foot.
He drove them all, spin, pace, and those in between, the ball racing along the green, green grass on five occasions, and on seven occasions, it disappeared into the stands.
He was particularly severe on Leveridge, the bowler rated the fastest in the competition before the return of Cottrell, an on-drive off the giant of a man that whistled into the stand behind wide long-on. And the one-handed shot against Bulli, left-handed stroke which sailed over the sightscreen and landed in the stands behind the bowler, was also a joy to see.
It was, however, nothing when compared to that of seeing Cottrell, a West Indies speedster, bowling towards the end, with seven fielders ringing the boundary.
Rasheed Outar made 64 with some sweet boundaries, and there was also Bryce's solid display. They were, however, short of King's treat. His was not a classical innings, and he did not parade his ability to cut and to hook, and to drive off the back foot, except on one glorious occasion.
It was, however, an innings born out of necessity, an innings for the occasion, and one which marked him as one for the future.
It was the best Cup final for a long, long time at Sabina Park, and it ended with Cotterell and Bulli, under immense pressure, strolling down the pitch to have a chat after almost every delivery, blocking delivery after delivery with seven fielders hovering around the bat, and with some spectators cheering each defiant stroke, others shouting, hopefully, "catch him" after each delivery, and with a jubilant few of the small band of happy spectators running on to the field at the end.