GROS ISLET, St Lucia (CMC) – Gutsy Guyana withstood a devastating assault from superstar Chris Gayle to stun Jamaica and book a spot in Sunday’s Caribbean Twenty20 final against defending champions Trinidad and Tobago.
Floored by Gayle’s astonishing, unbeaten 122 off 61 balls which fired Jamaica to an imposing 183 for six off their 20 overs, Guyana found the character to lift themselves off the canvas and overhaul their target with eight balls to spare and complete the highest ever successful run chase in tournament history.
They were powered by Christopher Barnwell who struck a marvellous 88 off 49 balls, capitalising on a ragged Jamaica bowling and fielding effort at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
The right-handed Barnwell smashed seven fours and four sixes in an amazingly unflappable innings, anchoring two partnerships which lay at the heart of the run chase.
He put on 79 off 55 balls for the third wicket with opener Trevon Griffith whose 41 required 36 balls and included a four and two sixes.
When Griffith departed in the 14th over with victory still in the distance, Barnwell dominated a 61-run, fourth wicket stand off just 26 balls with Narsingh Deonarine (12 not out), to all but seal the result.
By the time he was run out in the 18th over scampering a quick single, the Guyanese camp and supporters were already chanting victory and Leon Johnson (12 not out) delivered in style, pulling the fourth ball of the 19th over from fast bowler Andre Russell through backward square for four, to set off wild celebrations.
A victory for Guyana in the playoff final seemed farfetched when Gayle set the venue alight with a breathtaking exhibition of power hitting.
The broad-shouldered left-hander emerged from a circumspect start to blast five fours and 12 astonishing sixes, deflating a Guyana attack that had stifled scoring early on as Jamaica laboured to 41 for three after ten overs.
Gayle’s bombardment reduced the role of his partners to that of spectator, as only captain Tamar Lambert with 23 from 17 deliveries managed to make it past ten.
The pair plundered 96 off 45 balls in a fiery display as 142 runs flowed from the last ten overs of the innings, and Guyana could do little to stem the tide.
The century was Gayle’s ninth in T20s but first in the region, and it marked only the second triple figure score in regional T20s following John Eugene’s even hundred for St Maarten against St Vincent and the Grenadines, five years ago.
Amidst the carnage, 20-year-old fast bowler Ronsford Beaton proved outstanding, bowling with pace and variation to snare two for 25 from his four overs.
Sent in, Jamaica were under pressure from early as Guyana’s opening bowlers proved accurate and denied Gayle many big scoring opportunities.
He did break free to clear long off with off-spinner Steven Jacobs in the third over but a few balls later, David Bernard Jr tried to replicate the effort and holed out in the deep at ten for one, Griffith taking an excellent catch, just inches inside the ropes.
Barnwell then sent back Nkrumah Bonner without scoring when he got one to jag back off the seam and hit the top of off-stump at 15 for two in the next over and when Danza Hyatt pulled leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo to Beaton at deep mid-wicket for seven, Jamaica were slumping at 33 for three in the ninth over.
With Jamaica quickly running out of time and balls, Gayle proceeded to unveil a spectacular show, the likes of which had hardly been seen before in regional cricket.
He opened up in the 12th over when out-of-form left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul entered the attack, blasting 28 from the Guyana skipper’s over.
Scoreless off the first delivery, Gayle then smashed four consecutive sixes and then blasted a boundary off the final ball, to lift the tempo and send Permaul scurrying from the attack.
The over signalled the beginning of hostilities and the 14th over sent down by Bishoo went for 21 runs, as Gayle and Lambert tore into Guyana’s bowling.
Gayle eventually reached his century in the penultimate over of the innings from Bishoo, clearing long off with the leg-spinner with another brutal strike. He followed up with two more sixes as the over leaked 19 runs.
Faced with the pressure of having to score at over nine an over to win, Guyana started bravely and never once backed down, despite losing Derwin Christian off the fourth ball of the innings with just four runs on the board.
Ramnaresh Sarwan struck three fours and a six in 19 off ten balls before missing a heave and having his stumps rattled at 34 for two in the fourth over.
Barnwell and Griffith then combined to play superbly to keep their side in the contest. However, Griffith pulled to Russell at deep mid-wicket off left-arm seamer Krishmar Santokie to halt the momentum and Guyana were soon left needing 65 off 36 balls for victory, at 119 for three.
Barnwell took matters into his own hands, however, exploding with a series of massive strokes that saw 53 runs come from the next three overs. Bernard gave up 20 runs in the 15th over, the 16th from Cotterrell went for 15 runs and Santokie then bled 19 from the 17th.
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