FOR the first 37 overs of the game, St Lucia Stars were ahead and cruising. Then came that one over everyone talks about in this format.
With the Tallawahs requiring 40 off three overs in their chase of 174, Mitchell McClenaghan conceded 20 runs, and the Stars’ hopes of their first win of the tournament faded into their sixth successive loss. It was also the fourth-highest successful chase in tournament history.
(Scores:Jamaica Tallawahs 179 for 5 (McCarthy 61*, Phillips 32) beat St Lucia Stars 173 for 7 (Fletcher 84*, Samuels 54, Sami 3-27) by five wickets
Andre McCarthy recovered quickly from a run-out that led to Rovman Powell leaving the field like he was ready for a locker showdown, and struck a match-winning unbeaten 61 off 37 balls to lead the Tallawahs to a five-wicket win with two balls to spare.
It wouldn’t be much solace for the Stars, but they put on a much-improved performance with the bat. Andre Fletcher and Marlon Samuels blitzed fifties to lead them to 173, their highest score of the tournament.
The Darren Sammy National Stadium was hit by passing showers just before the start. On a slow surface, that moisture may have just done enough to negate the penetration of seam-up deliveries – a burst of rain will only quicken a pitch up slightly, not change its nature. That should have been an indication for the Tallawahs’ bowlers to take pace off the ball.
It took a few heaves and punches for the bowlers to switch to offcutters. It worked right away, an offcutter from Mohammad Sami took the inside edge of Johnson Charles and uprooted leg stump. The mode of operation didn’t change much thereafter.
Fletcher isn’t known for his ability to find gaps for singles. He is, however, an efficient boundary-hitter. The value of boundaries in T20s is high, but the utility of boundaries without consuming too many dot balls is significantly higher. In his 53-ball innings, he struck 24 singles and played 13 dots, effectively 24 runs off 37 balls.
He also hammered 11 boundaries, seven fours and a six, almost as many as the number of dot balls he faced. That meant he finished with 84 off 53 balls with a strike-rate of 158.49. A T20 masterclass beckoned if he could convert a few more of those dots into singles.
When McCarthy stabbed a ball towards extra cover, called for two and didn’t respond, the Tallawahs were reeling. They needed 81 runs off 46 balls with six wickets in hand, and Powell was fuming all the way off the field. For McCarthy, that could have been a scarring emotional blow.
Instead, he bided his time, found the boundary when he had to and delivered under duress. Imad Wasim also brought his experience and ability to a 45-run sixth-wicket stand that carried Tallawahs home. A few moments later, Powell was leaping onto McCarthy in joy.