Guyana snatch thrilling win over Leeward Islands
--Injured de Groot plays hero role

By Sean Devers in Antigua
Stabroek News
February , 2000

A valuable 59 from West Indies player Neil McGarrell spearheaded Guyana to a thrilling two-wicket victory over the Leeward Islands despite an inspired spell of fast bowling from pacer Curtly Ambrose in their fourth round Busta Cup four-day cricket at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG) yesterday in fading light.

The 27-year-old McGarrell, used as make shift opener in place of the injured Nicholas de Groot batted resolutely all day until the stroke of tea to spur his team to 157-8 after being set 154 for victory in a low scoring but tension filled encounter.

He added 56 important runs with his captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul for the fourth wicket after 36-year-old West Indies bowler Ambrose had rocked Guyana with two wickets in two balls with the score on 33.

Ambrose bowled his heart out on a good track for batting to finish with 5-39 from 34 overs. But McGarrell batted for 264 minutes, faced 179 balls and hit three fours and the only six in the game to set Guyana on course for 16 points to take them to 36 in the competition.

Injured deGroot should be given an award for bravery and commitment. He first of all decided to miss his 4.45 pm flight to Guyana, to be with the team and then, with eight wickets down and nine runs required for victory, joined Colin Stuart after the new ball was taken at 5.05 pm, and saw Guyana home.

DeGroot, batting with a broken finger was three not out while Stuart was unbeaten on six as Guyana clinched a nail biting victory.

Scores - Leewards 221 & 136 Guyana - 204 & 157-8.

Earlier, Guyana resumed on 24-1, 130 runs away from victory and progressed to 33 before the towering Ambrose removed Semple and Ramnaresh Sarwan in two balls.

Semple, Guyana's leading run scorer this season with 291 runs, looked uncomfortable before he dragged a ball which cut back, onto his leg stump after adding just two to his overnight four.

The very vocal Guyana support group in the ground was silenced the very next ball when Sarwan touched an away swinger and was well caught at second slip by Dave Joseph.

Chanderpaul (11) and the correct looking McGarrell (29) saw Guyana to 54-3 by lunch, 100 away from victory.

Ambrose troubled all the batsmen in an unchanged 10-over spell during the pre-lunch session, which was interrupted for 26 minutes by a slight shower of rain.

After lunch the Leewards claimed the prized scalp of Chanderpaul when the Test left hander pulled at left arm spinner Keith Arthurton and was caught by wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs to leave the score on 89-4.

Chanderpaul, who made a magnificent 83 in the first innings, hit three fours in his 31 and his departure sparked hope in the Leewards camp.

McGarrell, dropped on 17 off Kerry Jeremy, reached his 50 with his third four. His 50 came from 251 minutes and 174 balls and he was rock solid since he faced his first ball on Sunday evening, hitting the only six in the game.

McGarrell and Dowlin carried Guyana to 109 when the latter departed on the stroke of tea, caught low down at mid wicket by Warrington Phillip off Ambrose.

At the break, with rain threatening, Dowlin was on five and Guyana were 109-5, still 45 runs short of 16 points with 40 overs left in the day.

Mahendra Nagamootoo was caught by Jacobs first ball after tea off Ambrose who was on his second hat-trick in the innings and all of a sudden the fortunes had changed and Guyana were in trouble on 109-6. Nagamootoo seemed outraged at the decision and stood at the crease showing umpire Eddie Nichols that the ball had come off his shoulder. He later escaped with a stern warning from match referee Hudson Knight.

Dowlin and Vishal Nagamootoo then joined forces to see their team to 137 with a gritty 28-run seventh wicket stand before Dowlin, batting with a runner due to a strained hamstring muscle, was removed by Jeremy for 17.

With 10 runs for victory, Nagamootoo (22) attempted a second run and was run out, as the crowd - which had built tremendously after tea - went wild.

DeGroot strode to the middle and along with the level headed Stuart saw their side home in high drama, with Stuart edging Jeremy to the third-man boundary with the scores tied.

Close to 100 Guyanese fans then rushed onto the field and wrapped a huge Guyana flag around de Groot.

The Guyana side, minus their big hearted hero DeGroot, departs Antigua this afternoon for St. Vincent where they take on the Windwards in their fifth and final preliminary round game at the Arnos Vale ground from Friday.

DeGroot is expected home today while up to yesterday afternoon, no word was received by the Guyana team here on a replacement for the GCC opener. Reon King was named man-of-the-match.