Tony Becca: The sweet taste of victory
The Senior Cup season has been sorted out and, after the uncertainty at the start, it is now moving towards a knockout stage of four quarter-finals and two semi-finals ending in a winner-take-all final.
So far, in a season marked by poor performances, some poor facilities, and after its belated start, there has been, on the surface, so to speak, a few interesting moments of individual brilliance, or so it appears, including an unbeaten 300 out of a total 437 for three by Xavier Marshall - the St Ann-discarded Jamaica and West Indies batsman who slammed 18 fours and 23 sixes.
Last week's matchup between St Thomas and Melbourne at Goodyear Oval, however, was something special.
It was a match that demonstrated, fully and properly, what victory means, especially to rural folks playing against city teams.
The match was played on a good, hard pitch in whispering distance of Church Corner and Morant Bay, and it was expected to be closely contested, especially as Melbourne were without five of their regular players, including Nikita Miller and Damion Jacobs, their top two spin bowlers.
And there were also some interesting side lines to the match.
Apart from it being a clash between town and country, a few players, on both sides, once played on the other team, including, of course, Carlton Baugh, the former Melbourne man now playing for St Thomas.
Born in Seaforth, St Thomas, I am a member of Melbourne and was once the secretary and president of the club, and Denis Gordon, who was born in Danvers Pen, St Thomas, once played for Melbourne, is a member of Melbourne, and was, up to a few months ago, one of the club's vice-presidents, is now the president of the St Thomas Cricket Association.
And there were others.
Apart from Oneil 'Coco' Wright, who once played for St Thomas, but now plays for Melbourne, there is Jowayne Robinson of St Thomas, who once played for Melbourne after leaving St Thomas and Kingston.
And there is also Keith Campbell, who is a former member of Melbourne and now is the manager of St Thomas.
It was a weekend of contrasting atmosphere as the match progressed throughout the two days.
At one stage, with almost a full house of hometown supporters, it was as quiet as a church, then it was as noisy as a street parade, then it was as silent as a graveyard, and finally, at the end of it all, it was an earth-shattering cacophony of noise as all of St Thomas, or so it seemed, erupted into ecstasy.
After winning the toss, Melbourne raced to 171 before the first wicket fell as Andre McCarthy, 82, and Tareque White, 95, enjoyed themselves.
At that time, the hometown fans were weeping and wailing.
202 for two at lunch
At lunch, it was 202 for two, and amidst all the second guessing, the worst was feared by the hometown fans.
After lunch, however, eight wickets fell for 79 runs, and normalcy returned and lasted through St Thomas' opening stand as Kevin Williams peppered the Melbourne bowling before he was dismissed for 74 at 91 for one.
On Sunday morning, after resuming on 117 for three with Fitzroy Reid still batting, and with Baugh, Jamie Trenchfield, and the promising Shamar Brown to come, there was hope around.
Within 40 minutes, however, with Reid, Baugh, and Brown numbered among the departed, and with the scoreboard reading 134 runs for seven wickets with three falling at 134, St Thomas were 147 runs behind with only three wickets in hand.
With the entire day to come, the talk was all about saving the follow-on.
The fall of Baugh was greeted with a wild, almost unending celebration as the Melbourne players raced around the field in total glee, and when Trenchfield was dismissed at 169 for eight, the end seemed inevitable.
The result, it seemed, was nothing but a forgone conclusion. The 'Fat Lady' was about to start singing.
None of the St Thomas batsmen was any good, and they were a waste of time, were among the comments of the hometown supporters. Even Kevin Williams, who smashed six fours and seven sixes in his innings, came in for the proverbial stick.
He was good, but he should have cooled himself for he knew what was behind him was what the fans thought of Williams' otherwise glittering performance.
Only captain Baugh received any sympathy as criticism were rife about the batting of the one-time fast bowler Robinson at number three, Baugh at number six, and hometown idol Trenchfield, a Jamaica representative, at number seven.
Baugh, it was said, was simply too keyed-up for the occasion of his old club versus his new team.
After 134 runs for the loss of seven wickets, the eighth wicket took the score to 169, the ninth wicket took the score to 229, and finally, the 10th wicket took the score to 300 before Omar Brooks, batting at number 11, was dismissed for 30.
Keno 'Pigeon' Wallace, batting at number eight and scoring 51 not out, and Kenroy 'Nagamooto' Williams, batting at number nine and scoring 55, were the chief destroyers of Melbourne in a match in which 92 boundaries were hit - 69 fours and 23 sixes, and in a match in which the last pair added 71 runs.
It almost never happened, however, as with nine runs to go, wicketkeeper Stetson Smith dropped Keno Williams off Shane Anderson, and with three runs to go, there was a crazy mix-up close to the third-man boundary when Williams, probably going for a boundary to cap what was a thrilling performance, sliced a high catch, and McCarthy from gully, John Ross Campbell from slip, and Wright coming in from third-man, collided in going for it, and the catch was dropped.
A few hundred St Thomas hearts skipped a beat, but a few minutes afterwards, after Williams and Brooks had steadied themselves to find the three runs in singles, and after Williams had thumped two successive sixes in celebration, it was time for St Thomas to explode into happiness - a situation which ended with a collection and a cash presentation to Keno Williams and Brooks for their heroics.