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The win was engineered by a courageous unbeaten 93 from opener and man-of-the-match Azeemul Haniff, who fittingly hit the winning boundary when victory was achieved. The other not-out batsman was wicketkeeper Vishal Nagamootoo, who kept his cool in an unfinished 33-run eighth-wicket stand when the Guyanese romped home before a handful of spectators.
Final scores were: Leeward Islands 275 and 158; Guyana 228 and 208 for seven.
The win carried Guyana to 18 points, following the six gained from their first innings lead over Trinidad and Tobago in the first round match, played at Guaracara Park in Trinidad.
It was a case of fortune following the brave in the case of the left-handed Haniff, who was dropped on three occasions but nevertheless held the innings together in a fine display, spanking 12 fours in 311 minutes off 205 balls.
Fast bowler Adam Sanford was the pick of the Leeward Islands bowlers with four for 61 from 22 overs.
Resuming at their overnight 53 for two, after early morning showers had delayed play for 35 minutes, the pair of Haniff and Lennox Cush went merrily on, although the Leewards missed out on dismissing Haniff twice in quick succession in the first hour. On 44, Omari Banks put him down at gully off fast bowler Adam Sanford while Sylvester Joseph was the culprit at slip when Haniff had added two more runs.
The third-wicket partnership had progressed to 76 in 113 minutes with the score on 113 when Cush seemingly got a rush of blood. Having clobbered a Sanford short delivery through mid-wicket for four, the fast bowler tempted him once more with another short rising one that Cush slugged to short mid-on where Keremy Jeremy took a simple catch.
Cush’s 36 included four fours in 113 minutes off 64 balls.
From a position of strength, Guyana slipped to 113 for four when Travis Dowlin was adjudged lbw off the first ball he received from Banks, the stocky batsman pushing his pad instead of his bat to the tall off-spinner.
Worse was to come as on the stroke of lunch, Andre Percival, who joined Haniff, was trapped lbw for 11 from a full-length delivery from Sanford who was sending down short deliveries at will.
At lunch, it was 126 for five with Haniff unbeaten on 58. Haniff found a useful ally in Mahendra Nagamootoo after the interval, the latter carrying the attack to the Leewards bowlers, playing several handsome dives, especially through the offside.
Over-ambitiousness however cost Nagamootoo his wicket, as he drove too often, lifting Curl Simon straight to Jeremy at mid-off to depart for 27 and Guyana 173 for six. Nagamootoo’s 27 included three fours in 57 minutes off 48 balls.
Two runs later, the Leewards were back with a great chance when captain Neil McGarrell was brilliantly taken by Alex Adams at gully off Simon.
The homesters also missed another opportunity to get rid of Haniff with the score on 187 when Stuart Williams floored a chance at slip off Banks, who failed to produce the same form as in the first innings.
Haniff and Vishal Nagamoootoo, in a tension-filled atmosphere, rose to the occasion as Guyanese go to St Croix a happy bunch where they will oppose West Indies B in their third round fixture.
Guyana’s coach Albert Smith described the victory as a good one for Guyana. He said the game was fought very hard over the four days with both sides showing their strength and it was good for Guyana to emerge victorious.
Smith however pointed out that he was a bit worried when Guyana lost three quick wickets, knowing the strength of the opposition’s bowling attack. The bowlers, he said, were very consistent and his main problem was whether the Guyana batsmen would have had the patience to see the team home.
“Generally it was a good fight from the Leewards, but well played by Guyana,” Smith quipped.
The Guyana coach showered praise on Haniff for his fine knock, which he described as extremely important and one of the best that he has played for Guyana. “He showed maturity as wickets tumbled around him,” Smith said.
Skipper McGarrell, while elated, said the victory was a little too close for comfort. While praising Haniff, the Guyana captain said the bowling on the third day also played a major factor in Guyana’s win.
Unlike Smith, McGarrell said he wasn’t really worried at any time that victory would not have been achieved as Guyana possessed capable batsmen down the order to see them through.
A disappointed Leewards coach, Haydn Walsh said losing the game outright was a painful experience, “especially when you seem to be in control of something and then dropping some 12 catches in the match.”
The former Leewards opener, pointed out that “coupled with that, we just did not bat properly in the second innings; we just didn’t play good cricket and really deserve to lose.”
Walsh described the batting in the second innings as very undisciplined. “We were well on course at 50 without loss but for some reason or the other, the fellas just lost focus and did their own thing and the whole team played the price for lack of discipline.”
According to Walsh, “we would definitely have to lick our wounds. It’s definitely going to be a learning experience for the Leewards team. They need now to buckle down, as this game is not only played with the technical skills, it all has to do with what you carry upstairs”.
LEEWARD Islands first innings 275 (S. Williams 78, J.
Mitchum 60; M. Nagamootoo four for 74)
Guyana first innings 228 (S. Chattergoon 49, L. Cush 43; O. Banks six for 57)
Leeward Islands second innings 158 (N. McGarrell three for 17, R. King three for 54, M. Nagamootoo three for 54)
GUYANA second innings (o/n 53 for two)
A. Haniff not out 93
S. Chattergoon c Banks b Sanford 17
K. Arjune c wkpr Simmons b Sanford 0
L. Cush c Jeremy b Sanford 36
T. Dowlin lbw Banks 0
A. Percival lbw Sanford 11
M. Nagamootoo c Jeremy b Simon 27
N. McGarrell c Adams b Simon 2
V. Nagamootoo not out 11
Extras: (lb-7, w-2, nb-2) 11
Total: (for seven wickets, 73.2 overs) 208
Fall of wickets: 37, 37, 113, 113, 126, 173, 175,
Bowling: Jeremy 10-2-26-0 (nb-2), Simon 14-2-27-2 (w-2), Sanford 22-5-61-4, Banks 25.2-4-85-1, Willet 2-0-2-0.