Never give up, and never ease up
The 2018 season of the Caribbean Premier League, up to Thursday night, has so far seen record scores with its free-swinging, big-hitting batsmen knocking up huge totals as the white balls disappear into the night sky much to the enjoyment of large crowds, especially in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.
After 14 matches, the fans have been treated to a record total of 195 in the opening match; to seven totals of over 200 runs; and to a new record of 226 runs by the St Lucia Stars in winning their first match in 16 starts by some superb hitting by the likes of AndrÈ Russell, Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmeyer, Colin Munro, David Warner, Martin Guptill, and company.
Leading the way as sixes after sixes lit up the skies like exploding pyrotechnic displays night after night were Russell - the fastest century off 40 balls; Pollard - the joint fastest 50 off 18 balls in T20 cricket; Darren Bravo - 94 not out off 36 balls; Hetmeyer - 100 runs off 47 balls; and in the match between the Stars and the Trinbago Knight Riders, a T20 record of 34 booming sixes.
In spite of some dodgy umpiring decisions and poor captaincy, which saw the Jamaica Tallawahs losing matches without their two master hitters getting a hit, the entertainment also paraded the excitement of two matches ending in a last-ball finish; another finishing with a six-over cover off the penultimate delivery of the match; some brilliant catches; some wonderful wrist-spin bowling, especially by Fawad Ahmed and Adam Zampa and the teenage Sandeep Lamichhane and Qais Ahmed, and some promising fast bowling by Oshane Thomas.
Throughout my life, however, I have always heard the sayings "never give up" and "never quit", "until the Fat Lady starts singing", "until the final whistle", or "until the last ball is bowled".
I have also heard that you never ease up, even when things seem easy.
I knew what they meant, especially when I remembered surprising and shocking results in sports, things like Lindy Delapenha engineering four goals in the last 10 minutes to lead Munro to a surprising 5-4 victory over Calabar in the Olivier Shield in 1945; the victory of Nick Faldo in the US Masters after Greg Norman had entered the last day, leading by six strokes in 1996; and the knockout of Mike Tyson by the 40-1 underdog Buster Douglas to win the heavyweight boxing title in 1990.
Recently, however, I remembered them again, and I fully appreciated the importance of never quitting, or giving up, or taking it easy in anything, and especially in sports.
Two situations during the CPL tournament stirred my memory.
The first one was on August 10 in the Caribbean Premier League at Queen's Park Oval when defending champions Knight Riders posted a new tournament record score of 223 runs, and after cornering the Jamaica Tallawahs at 15 runs for three wickets and 41 for five, appeared home and dried.
And it was worse when Russell was dropped first ball at zero, something that would have left Jamaica, had the catch been taken, at 41 for six and for all intents and purposes, dead and waiting to be buried.
RECOVERED TO WIN
The last ball had not yet been bowled, however, the Fat Lady had not yet started to sing, and the Tallawahs recovered to win the match at 225 for six with three deliveries to spare courtesy of a magnificent sixth-wicket partnership of 161 off 11.3 overs between Kennar Lewis, 53, and Russell, who blasted 121 not out off 49 balls, an explosion that included 13 magnificent sixes.
The second occasion was in St Lucia at the Daren Sammy Stadium on August 16 when the champions, Trinbago Knight Riders, took on the hapless and winless St Lucia Stars, who were hunting their first win in the tournament after 14 consecutive defeats stretching back to last season.
After rushing to an imposing total of 212 for two, their best ever, and after the Knight Riders were struggling at 71 for three after 9.2 overs, the Stars looked all over the winners and ready to break their losing spell.
In a match in which Rahkeem Cornwall scored 53 runs off 29 balls, Warner 72 not out off 55 balls, and Pollard 65 not out off 23 balls, including 50 off 18 balls in a thunderous innings, and in which 82 runs came of the last five overs, St Lucians jumped and danced in happiness, especially when the Knight Riders slipped to nine for two and 71 for three.
Although they never eased up, or at least did not appear to do so, the Stars were about to break their losing streak with what they, and their prime minister, Allen Chastanet, hoped, and were confident, would be a winning run.
For the next 8.4 overs, however, the hunter became the hunted as Brendan McCullum and Darren Bravo, and especially the left-handed Bravo, made merry against some average bowling in a partnership of 137 balls, which ended at 208 for four after 18.1 overs.
At that stage, with five runs needed for victory, the Stars made a desperate bid for victory, and before Denesh Ramdin ended the proceedings with a flowing drive over cover off the penultimate ball of the match.
In a brutal display of batting, Bravo, 94 not out, hit 10 sixes, including five during a Pollard over which saw the first four balls of the over sailing over the boundary and the last ball doing the same.
At the end of a match that saw the record for the number of sixes in T20 cricket, the Daren Sammy Stadium was as quiet as a churchyard when it was all over.
The Stars finally celebrated after their following match when Pollard blazed 104 runs off 54 deliveries with eight sixes to signal a wild celebration.
One match later, however, the Stars were back to normal when they were blown away for 69 runs and were defeated by the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
In a humbling performance, a line-up that included Andre Fletcher, Pollard, Darren Sammy, Lendl Simmons, and Warner was in and out in under 13 overs.
That, however, was not as bad as Portland's performance last Saturday against Melbourne in the Jamaica Cricket Association's 50-over competition.
With 10 of the Melbourne players, including all of their bowlers, away on CPL duty for various franchises, Portland, playing at home with nine players, were destroyed for 33 runs in 9.2 overs and 50 minutes, inclusive of the time each batsman took going in trying to bat, with six batsmen failing to score and extras contributing 16 runs.