Cayman crash out of Stanford

St. Lucia 134 for 8 (Mathurin 39, Wells 20, Mohamed 3-35) beat Cayman Islands 88 for 8 (Best 24, Shervin Charles 2-8, Cyrille Charles 2-20) by 46 runs

Best hit

Best hit a magnificent 6
Photo: Colin Cumberbatch

Cayman Islands went out to the Stanford 20/20 tournament full of optimism despite the heavy odds against them.

Cayman, sponsored by Cable & Wireless, were brimming with confidence which was not entirely misplaced considering they had demolished British Virgin Islands only a couple of weeks before. But on Saturday their batting was poor against the St Lucia Pro Team.

Lucian pride was at stake as they were still smarting from two defeats in practice matches on home turf Cayman inflicted just before the last Stanford. Another reason for St Lucia’s likely superiority was that they had been training full-time under former West Indies all rounder and coach Roger Harper for three months. Cayman are still a totally amateur team, fitting in training around work and family commitments. Plus, Cayman’s average age is 34 compared to St Lucia’s 24. Experience can sometimes overcome youthful exuberance but taking into account all those factors, Cayman did remarkably well to be competitive at all. Coached by Theo Cuffy and managed by Stephen Best, Cayman may have also frozen under the glare. Nerves always play a part in huge events like this and the batsmen didn’t settle quickly enough.

For once, Cayman’s widely respected batsmen failed to make their mark and a few sloppy fielding mistakes as well as a generous number of extras, made the task even harder at the Stanford Ground in Coolidge. Nevertheless, Cayman’s small band of supporters, ably backed up by fabled bugler Pappy, made themselves heard despite the hundreds of Lucians who caught everyone’s attention with their energetic support, accompanied by an assortment of instruments.

Set 135 to win, Cayman stuttered to 88 for 8 to lose by 46 runs and go out of the 20-team tournament. At the inaugural Stanford 18 months ago, Cayman were magnificent, dispatching Bahamas comfortably before going out to eventually runners-up Trinidad and Tobago. There was no repeat this time. At least speedster Kenute ‘Gary’ Tulloch had the satisfaction of bowling the first ball in this tournament and taking the first wicket. At the last Stanford the 42-year-old veteran was the first bowler to take a five-wicket haul, so he’ll go down in the annals for many reasons. This time he was the most economical Caymanian taking two wickets for only 10 runs in four overs. All the other Caymanians bowled well. Ryan Bovell, despite getting knocked for 26 in his two overs, was the fastest on his side, registering 76mph. Conroy Wright also took a wicket. Alistair Ifill only conceded 11 runs in his three overs and deserved a wicket. So too Kevin Bazil.

Replying to St Lucia’s 134 for 8, Cayman found it difficult to maintain a high scoring rate on a pitch that restricted their chances because the ball kept flat. They reached only 46 for 2 at the ten-over mark thanks mainly to some tight bowling by Xavier Gabriel, Gary Mathurin and Alleyne Prospere.

Celebrated batsman Steve Gordon opened with Ainsley Hall who was caught early on for 2. Gordon looked to be heading for a big score but had to hobble off with cramp. By the time he returned it was a lost cause.

Cayman captain Pearson Best was the only batsman to get a reasonable score but he was trapped by medium-pacer Cyrille Charles for 24. Best hit three fours and a cracking six. Cayman lost three more wickets – Keneil Irving (1), Wight (2) and Bovell (1) – within the space of 10 runs to sink to 55 for 6 and the St Lucia bowlers just had to complete their allotted overs. Tulloch, of all people, came in at No.10 and somehow managed to hit Cayman’s only other six.

Earlier, St Lucia, got off to a poor start after choosing to bat, stumbling to 27 for 3 by the fourth over. But Cletus Mathurin, who scored a patient 47-ball 39, partnered with Sergio Fedee (17) to add 60 runs for the fourth wicket. Fedee was brilliantly run out by Wright, who received the US$10,000 prize for the Play of the Day, for throwing down the stumps from short third man. Mervin Wells contributed 20 towards the end to stretch St Lucia’s score while offspinner Saheed Mohamed claimed three wickets. Mathurin earned the Man-of-the-Match award for his knock, which was the match’s highest score.

Had Cayman played BVI again at Stanford they would surely be facing the Trinis in the second round on Sunday. BVI were humbled by Dominica the next night. Shane Shillingford won the $10,000 Play of the Day prize for a brilliant catch. BVI, chasing 140 for victory, were dismissed for a record low 73 in 17.2 overs. Turks & Caicos play Montserrat tonight, two more teams far weaker than St Lucia.

Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin attended the match. ‘I know everybody’s heartbroken, particularly because we all know that we could have beaten St Lucia because batting has really been our forte,’ he said. ‘We fielded very well and bowled brilliantly so to have the top item in our armory let us down is very disappointing. I talked to the guys and the coach and everybody feels that way.

‘A part of the problem was the pitch. It hadn’t been played on since the last Stanford and there were lots of cracks in it. The players said it didn’t play true, some balls kept low and others deviated. It really suited St Lucia who had a very good spin attack and also because Cayman batted second.

‘No excuses, at the end of the day, St Lucia won, but I think it’s important to realize how far the Cayman game has come in recent years. We’ve just got to get more used to playing on this stage. I think we lost the mental game which comes with time and experience, playing at that level. It was a huge event, broadcast around the world. Anyone would be nervous. We’ve just got to work on the fundamentals of the game and continue to attract young players and work with them.

‘From a government stand point I’m doing everything I can to improve sports facilities generally and cricket is up there on the list. And I think it’s important that youngsters who want to play the game see that it is something the government sees as is important by virtue of the programs that are developed and with the facilities that we develop I think interest will continue to grow. And as Cayman’s population approaches ‘critical mass’ to be able to produce teams that can compete well at least regionally. That way I think we’ll see cricket here grow from strength to strength in the next four or five years.

‘We have four very good players who are abroad at university, Joseph Kirkconnell being amongst them. Had they been in Cayman and available I think we might have seen a different result as well.’