Bridgetown, Barbados, November 16 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Former champions Crane Resort St. Catherine have been demoted from the BCA Elite division three-day Championship for the first time in the 11th season of the promotion/relegation system.
The fate of the clannish Bayfield, St. Philip team came against title-chasers Empire at Bank Hall on the opening day of the ninth and final series after Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP), the only other side facing demotion going into the round, gained maximum four bowling points against Barbados Youth, who are exempt from relegation, on home turf at Paragon.
With the luck of the toss, Barbados Youth reached 184 for nine off 56 overs after rain shortened play in post-tea session.
Prior to this series, BDFSP were eighth on 53 points, followed by Barbados Youth on 43 and St. Catherine on 36.
To have avoided relegation, St. Catherine needed at least 18 points, while hoping that BDFSP were beaten without gaining any points.
After losing the toss, St. Catherine managed to pick up four bowling points by dismissing Empire for 232 in 43.5 overs but they then limped to 45 for six off 16.2 overs at stumps, and now face the likelihood of a fifth defeat and third in succession for the season.
It is a hard fall for St. Catherine, who won the last of four top division titles as recently as 2016 - the others were in 1981 (shared with Carlton), 1997 and 2008 - after first competing at this level in 1978.
St. Catherine’s demotion to the First division also marks the second straight season a so-called “country” team has been relegated following Maple, a Trents, St. James side who were the 2013 champions and whose only other silverware was in 1992.
In 2012, the Championship was rebranded from the more than century-old First division to the Elite division with a settled number of ten teams.
Apart from Barbados Youth, since promotion/demotion started in 2009 with 16 teams, just three - Sagicor Life UWI, the most decorated with seven titles during this period, and long-standing arch-rivals Empire, the 2014 champions and Spartan, who shared the 2009 title with UWI - have not been relegated.
As it stands, Spartan and Empire, along with Wildey are battling for the coveted title next weekend.
Spartan, who entered the final round at the top on 107 points - Wildey and Empire were both on 92 - produced a disappointing and jittery batting peformance, falling for 167 off 47.4 overs in their first innings after they were sent in by Wildey at Queen’s Park.
Wildey reached 60 for two off 17 overs at stumps, putting the pressure on Spartan to now gain at least five points to lift the title.
Spartan were undermined by experienced left-arm spinner Steve Pinder, who took five for 72 off 19.4 overs including the scalp of opener Rashidi Boucher, who went into the match as the only batsman with 500 runs for the season (586; ave: 58.60) including two centuries and four half-centuries.
Boucher was bowled for five off the fifth ball of the day’s second over and Pinder, operating from the southern end, struck again in the second ball of his next over, also bowling all-rounder Stefon King for nought.
In fact, Wildey opted to give Spartan a dose of their own medicine as Pinder shared the new ball with another left-arm spinner, Pius Emilien, who took three for 31 off 12 overs.
Pinder and Emilien are among the leading wicket-takers for the season. Pinder now has 28 scalps, while Emilien has picked up 29 after his outstanding feat in this year’s BCA Super Cup in which he not only hauled in the most wickets (24) but also had the best economy rate (2.31) and average (8.58) as Wildey, formerly known as Banks and Banks Wildey) romped to their first one-day title in 40 years (on August 31) and only their second all told.
There were a few outstanding batting and bowling performances today.
Shian Brathwaite, the gifted Empire opener, hit a career-best 92 - his fourth half-century of the season - to lift his aggregate to 490 (ave: 40.83) in his second year and 15th match at this level.
Brathwaite batted for 154 minutes, faced 112 balls and struck 13 threes and three fours after putting on 113 in 19.5 overs for the first wicket with Kadeem Alleyne, who made 55.
Last season, Brathwaite turned out for Barbados Youth in six matches, scoring 347 runs (ave: 38.56).
Experienced St. Catherine all-rounder Kenroy Williams snatched six for 68 off 14.5 overs.
Apart from Brathwaite, two other batsmen reached the 90s with one unbeaten so far.
Jason “Grassman” Greene, the Wanderers opener, fell for 98 in a total of 227 all out off 60.5 overs after his team won the toss against Gladiola at Dayrells Road.
Greene was at the crease for 195 minutes, faced 167 balls and struck 12 fours before he was ninth out, bowled by wily off-spinner Michael Agard Jr. who grabbed six for 94 off 22 overs to push his tally of wickets for the season to 32 in six matches.
Johnnel Eugene, son of the former St. Lucia, Windward Islands, West Indies ‘A’ and Spartan batsman, John Eugene, hit 94 not out as last year’s champions UWI reached the day’s highest total of 254 for five off 67 overs after winning the toss against Carlton at Desmond Haynes Oval.
Left-hander Eugene’s knock has stretched for 216 minutes, 168 balls with nine fours and one six.
There was also a career-best 81 for Demetrius Richards of Barbados Youth after his previous 13 knocks this season had brought only 210 runs (ave: 16.15).