With the selectors watching before they gathered to pick their final 15 for next month’s Regional Super50 tournament, very few players took the chance to press a last-minute claim for selection to the Red Force squad for Antigua, yesterday.
Isaiah Rajah aside, it was a pair of seniors -- skipper Kieron Pollard and veteran Dwayne Bravo who caught the eye.
Imran Khan’s XI eventually pulled off a four-wicket victory over the Pollard XI in the first match in the trial series to be staged at the Queen’s Park Oval. Chasing 191 to win, the Khan XI eventually reached 191 for six with 29 balls to spare. But the ease of victory was due largely to the input of Bravo.
Just helping out as a mentor, he sparked life into a Khan XI effort that was more a crawl than a chase when he came to the crease after Kirstan Kallicharan was snapped up low down by Evin Lewis at midwicket as he pulled at Uthman Muhammed to leave the total on 57 for three in the 18th over.
Up until then, the bowlers had been untroubled by batsmen content to treat their assignment as if it were the first innings of a four-day match. It was a sleepy time on a sunny afternoon. Even Rajah struggled to find the gaps for singles or boundaries.
“Fellows see a total on the board and instead of having to get six, seven runs an over, you only have to get three runs an over, so they feel there is no rush to get it,” coach David Furlonge observed. “You always want to see a little more urgency in the running and a little more rotation of the strike...You need to be a little more positive in your play.”
After all his years in international cricket, Bravo understands that well. And virtually from his first stroke yesterday, he changed the tempo. His aggressive intent seemed to provoke more ambition in left-hander Rajah and together they posted a match-turning 75 for the fourth wicket in 17 overs before Bravo (42, 60 balls, three fours, three sixes) fell to a Jayden Seales catch off Yannic Cariah.
Rajah eventually saw the match out with his unbeaten 61 off 96 balls (three fours, one six), sharing mini stands of 22 and 29 with Mark Deyal and Terrance Hinds (25), for the fifth and sixth wickets.
The knock of the day though came much earlier when Pollard put on a clinic for his men.
Bowlers got some early help from the pitch, and Pollard, having won the toss, found himself going to the crease at a perilous 19 for three at the end of the eighth over, Anderson Phillip removing both Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis, while Hinds trapped Cariah lbw. But the skipper took the crisis in stride, choosing patience over early aggression.
“I thought it was a well constructed innings,” Furlonge said. “He went in there after eight overs with three wickets down and he built an innings and batted excellently to get to 95.”
Pollard (three fours, eight sixes) was denied the extra five runs he needed for his century when Hinds bowled him at the start of the 38th over. “Unfortunate that he couldn’t get to three figures but as he said, he’s saving that for bigger occasions. But you saw somebody go out there with intent. He was focused on what he was doing. Even during the innings he was catching a little cramp and he decided to stick it out and bat out which is good.”
Furlonge knows what he has in Pollard. But yesterday, he, chief selector Rajendra Mangalie and his colleagues Mahadeo Bodoe and Richard Kelly Jr would probably have preferred to see some of the Super50 hopefuls play the Pollard way.
Pollard XI 190, 42.2 overs (Kieron Pollard 95; Anderson Phillip 3/22, Terrance Hinds 3/24, Rayad Emrit 2/23) vs Khan XI 191-6, 45.1 overs (Isaiah Rajah 61 not out, Dwayne Bravo 42; Bryan Charles 2/39)
—Khan XI won by four wickets