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How Guyana’s imperious winning streak was snapped on the cusp of glory

by Aadya Sharma 3 minute read

After seven editions of the Caribbean Premier League, Guyana Amazon Warriors remain trophyless. On five of those seven occasions, they have stumbled at the last hurdle, including in this year’s finale, on Saturday. And yet, they couldn’t have asked for a better lead-up to the final than the one they had this time around.

They scored a perfect 10 in the group stage, winning each of their games, a feat uncommon in the upper folds of T20 cricket. For the most part, they appeared to be steamrolling towards their maiden title win. It ended when they were pipped by Barbados Tridents, who had gone into the final with a contrasting run.

On paper, Guyana had all the makings of a champion T20 side. Led by Shoaib Malik, the only player with over 100 T20I appearances, the side contained a batch of fresh T20 stars in Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, as well as old warhorses, such as Imran Tahir and Ben Laughlin. Coach Johan Botha, himself a 15-year veteran of the format, had a solid team to work with.

Once the tournament was underway, it wasn’t just the big names raking in the applause – Guyana’s biggest takeaway came in the form of 24-year-old Brandon King, who totalled 496 runs in 12 innings at 55.11, and ended atop the tournament run charts. It’s a performance that could make him a subject over whom IPL sides outbid each other in the near future.

Even though the team dominated the tournament, they seldom did it as a combined batting unit, with one standout performance invariably headlining each win. Nicholas Pooran and Hetmyer chipped in with match-changing half-centuries, and Malik, the only overseas captain in the league, held his own with the bat in two games.

Chandrapaul Hemraj shapeshifted into a defining role-player based on the situation. One day, he would be tearing open Trinbago’s top-order with a spell of 3-15; on another, he would slam a 42-ball 66 against the same team, providing rollicking support to King.

Yet, it wasn’t just their batting muscle that was winning them matches. Their diverse bowling attack stepped up in unison, a fact that was stated by skipper Malik in his post-match chats, with four of their bowlers scalping at least 10 wickets in the tournament. Imran Tahir, in his own inimitable style, led the bowling charge with 16 wickets, with Romario Shepherd and Chris Green picking up match-clinching four-wicket hauls at different stages of the tournament.

Their streak extended to 11 in Qualifier 1, where King slammed an unbeaten 132 to power them to the final. But even amid that high, Malik didn’t want to get too carried way. “We don’t want to be thinking about the next game, that puts you under pressure,” he said after the win.

When a team has had a run like the one Guyana did, it could lead to heightened expectations from a knockout clash, especially a final. Barbados, who managed a mid-season resurrection, knew they weren’t starting as the favourites. The absence of that tag can often times be elevating, as it lends a degree of freedom.

This was the game where Guyana’s long line of stroke-makers needed to come together as one. But they couldn’t, and as a result, their team fell well short of a 172-run target, after the bowlers had been stunned by Jonathan Carter’s 27-ball unbeaten 50 at No.7.

In a way, the outcome typified the fickle nature of T20 cricket, which isn’t governed by a team’s past form, or by that obscure entity that experts love to talk about: ‘momentum’.

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