Berbice team who won the 2014 Guyana Inter-County Games. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

2014 Guyana Inter-County Games | Photo Gallery
By Sam Sooppersaud
In a nail-biting, hair-raising, fan-praying finish, Berbice defeated Demerara to wrestle away the Guyana Inter-County Championship from the 2013 defending champions. It was a game that lived up to it’s billing, and the rich tradition of past Berbice-Demerara encounters, both in New York and in Guyana. From the very first ball bowled in the game to the last, fans were treated to a masterpiece of a Twenty20 cricket contest. The Idlewild Cricket Complex in Rosedale, Queens, New York, was buzzing with shouts and cheers on Saturday, August 9, 2014, as supporters threw in their support to the boys representing their home county in Guyana.

Zamin Amin had figures of 5 Wickets for 4 runs against Essequibo. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Let me take you on the road that ultimately lead to that encounter.  Earlier in the day, Berbice took on Essequibo in the semi-final game.  Demerara by virtue of their being the 2013 reigning champion was automatically slated as a finalist. The winners, of course, took on Demerara.  Essequibo took first knock, but after having set a solid platform, self-destructed  towards the end of their inning. They lost Tamesh Balwant in the second over (16-1) and L. Farnum, the England based Essequibian, in the fifth over (46-2).  The run rate at this stage of the game was a solid nine runs per over.  At this rate a projected score of 175 was envisioned.

The pair of Andy Mohammed and Prashad Mahadeo kept the scorers busy. At 103-4 at the end of the 14th over, Essequibo was on solid ground to launch an attack in the “Happy Hour.” However, they failed to do so, miserably.  Once Mohammed (40) and Mahadeo (38) lost their wickets, the remaining batsmen fell like a deck of cards. Only D. Mangru (15) of the remaining seven batsmen was able to score in the double figures. From 103-4 Essequibo were bundled out for 129 runs.

Leading the destruction of the Essequibians was that wily slow left arm spinner, the former USA national captain, Zamin Amin. He was literally unplayable. He drew lines all around the hapless batsmen.  With his wizardry, he returned the awesome bowling figures of 3 overs, 5 Wickets for 4 runs. Yes, folks, a fiver for four runs!  (a la Sunil Narine).  K. Ganesh 1-27), K. Bux (1-10), V. Seenarine (1-20), Y. Bisnauth (1-19), and T. Carmichael (1-12) contributed to the downfall of the opponents.

In these days of Twenty20 cricket, having to chase 130 runs for victory is considered a “stroll in the park.”  At least for the Berbicians, with their power-packed batting lineup, they were buzzing with confidence.  This was a “jog in the park” rather than a mere “stroll.” They sent out Mohsin Khan and Derrick Narine to open the innings. Both have scored heavily, so far this present cricket season. Only last weekend, in the Indo-Caribbean Federation game, Khan scored in the 70s and Narine in the 60s.

Essequibo drew first blood in the third over, when Derrick Narine pounced on Shiv Raghubar’s short-pitched ball outside the off stump, only to give a waist-high catch to V. Persaud patrolling the covers. (21-1: 2.3 overs). Khan settled down and began playing piercing shots to the boundary in classic style. The Berbice score kept creeping towards the required total but they were loosing wickets. In the 15th over Mohsin Khan fell with the score at 96-4. He was run out while on 59, when attempting a second run.

Derrick Narine was named MVP for his 77 in the final against Demerara. Photo by Shem Rodney

Essequibo claimed another victim three runs later. It is now 99-4.  Five overs – 30 balls to score 31 runs – a mere formality.  Once again, the opponents had to face the nemesis of their batting, Zamin Amin. This time the “old-timer” was wielding a cricket bat. He methodically crafted a game-winning 26 runs in 18 balls. Final score: Berbice 130 runs in 18.2 overs. Andy Mohammed (2-26),

S. Raghubar (1-26), F. Goberdhan (1-27), and A. Azeez (1-18) accounted for the wickets that fell.

The finals commenced with Berbice winning the toss. Skipper Karan Ganesh inserted Demerara to take first knock. His reason for this, as he told commentator, John Aaron was, “Whatever total they make, I have confidence that my boys can get the runs.” The Demerara skipper Zaheer Saffie, in his answer to John Aaron about what total he had in mind for his team, said, “We would try and score as much as we can. A score of about 180 would give them a good fight.”

From the very first ball bowled, fans had reasons to scream, and players to exchange frequent high-fives. Ball #1. Karan Ganesh to Steve Messiah. A half volley just about the off stump. The batsman leaned into the ball and employing his bottom hand, sent the ball soaring into the direction of long off. However, Alex Amsterdam was patrolling the long-off boundary and he scampered in towards a dying ball, which was descending rapidly. Amsterdam dived forward and snatched the ball with both hands inches from the ground. He ended up stretched out on his stomach, but with a prized possession in his had – the cricket ball, which just came off the bat of Steve Messiah.

Yes, cricket fans, it was that kind of a day at Idlewild Park.  Demerara 0-1. Messiah gone, first ball duck. The players ran towards Amsterdam (not the city in Hollland) and there were high fives all around. Even the Berbice supporters were “fiving” each other. After all, they were able to get Steve Massiah for a duck, and in the first ball of the inning! Awesome. Reason to celebrate.

The Berbice excitement was short-lived.  Skipper Zaheer Saffie walked out to the wicket and the very first ball he faced was dispatched to the boundary. The second ball followed suit. The crowd, and the Berbice bowlers saw the classic Zaffie at work.  Opener A. Khan complimented his skipper’s effort with his own, spraying shots around the cricket field. The second wicket partnership was worth 92 runs when Saffie went, caught Z. Khan off the bowling of (guess who) Zamin Amin. Andre Kirton did not last long at the wicket. He appeared a bit rusty with the bat. (Pardon the pun, Rusty).

In the space of nine runs Demerara lost two wickets, including the set batsman A. Khan (40). Now it is 101-4. Akeem Dodson strolled to the wicket with his ever-present confidence and took matters in his own hands. He played displayed a repertoire of shots. He frequently pierced the field, sending the cricket ball racing to the boundary ropes. The loose deliveries were dispatched, with that Dodson quickness to the boundary ropes.  Troy Dudnauth pitched in with 19 runs. Dodson (44) was the sixth wicket to fall, caught on the boundary off the bowling of. (Here we go again) Zamin Amin, ending a valuable 33-run partnership with Dudnauth.  Demerara 177-6.  The remaining batsmen contributed another 20 runs. The innings closed at 197 runs, requiring Berbice to score 198 for victory and the championship. Taking the wickets for Berbice were: K. Ganesh 1-38, T. Carmichael 3-40, Z. Amin 2-33, V. Seenarine 1-17, and T. Madramootoo 3-19.

Akeem Dodson was given the Outstanding Award for his 44 runs and three stump out. Photo by Shem Rodney

Berbice started their inning with an assault from “Schoolboy Wonder Batsman” Derrick Narine. He was on fire. In fact, he created a conflagration with his bat. Of course, no actual fire was involved, but Derrick sent flaming shots racing by the fielders who, many a times, had no chance to react. The former Guyana national speedster Andre Stoll, felt the brunt of Narine’s blade. He was pummeled for two 6’s and a boundary in consecutive balls. Commentator Lenny Achaibar commenting on one shot, said, “The ball raced to the boundary faster than it took to reach the batsman from the bowler’s arm.” Derrick Narine put on a show of power-hitting batmanship. Even a few fielders were seen giving “mini claps.”

The opening pair of Moshin Khan and Derrick Narine put on 54 runs. Khan (18), was the first to go, caught off the bowling of former Guyana national Under-19 spinner Kumar Nandalall. The second wicket partnership of Narine and T. Madramoottoo added 17 before the latter went for 1.

Alex Amsterdam joined Narine and together they took the score to 122 runs. Alex played the supporting role while Narine was the main attraction. It was power hitting at its very best. No slogging mind you, but proper, classy cricket shots. Narine went next, smartly stumped by wicketkeeper Dodson when the batsman lost his footing and stumbled a “hair’s width’ out of his crease. His 77-run inning was a gem. He had entertained everyone at the park. Numerous Demerara fielders came over to him and shook his hand or gave him a congratulatory pat on the back when he came back to the pavilion. Narine had played one of the best 20/20 innings seen in the New York area.

The fall of Narine’s wicket  (122-3) brought together skipper Karan Ganesh and Alex Amsterdam.  Now, 76 runs needed in 52 balls. The game was about evenly poised, maybe a bit in Demerara’s favor. But 20/20 cricket being what it is, no score is safe. Amsterdam was then run out attempting an ill-judged second run. Even a “dive in” did not save him from the quickness with which ‘keeper Akeem Dodson dislodged the bails.  Berbice 134-4 in 13 overs.  64 runs for victory in 42 balls. The screaming by the fans reached a crescendo. They kept exhorting their players onward with a series of tips and suggestions. But the players in the middle, batsmen and fielders kept their cool. A championship was at stake! No rash moves! They stuck to their proverbial guns.

2014 Essequibo Inter-County squad. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Skipper Ganesh found a solid partner in Z. Khan. Both batsmen batted sedately, rotating the strike and dispatching the seldom loose balls to the fence. The 41-run fifth-wicket partnership ended with Z. Khan being stumped by Dodson for 32 runs, the ‘keeper claiming his third victim of the inning. 175-5; 23 runs in 25 balls. The batting side now in the driver’s seat. Triston Carmichael and his skipper then brought the game home for their side. The winning run came via a cover drive off the bat of Ganesh for 4. Berbice 200-5 in 18.5 overs. Berbice had wrestled away the coveted trophy from Demerara. For Demerara,  Kumar Nandalall claimed 3 wickets for 25 runs and R. Bactowar 1 for 36.

Berbice had wrestled away the coveted Guyana (NY)  Inter-County Championship from Demerara.

The presentation of awards followed. MC John Aaron thanked the tournament organizers, Bhola Ramsundar, Quayaam Farook, and Insaf “Birdman” Ali,  for a job “well done,” and the sponsors for their contributions.  The Outstanding Player Award went to Akeem Dodson, 44 runs and 3 victims from behind the stumps. Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award to Derrick Narine for his brilliant 77 runs. Three cricket enthusiasts also presented monetary awards to this schoolboy sensation.

It was a day well spent at the cricket park.  Players and fans alike had a great time. Old friends were united over some “drinks” and new friendships were made. The organizers and sponsors wish to thank all those who turned out and contributed, in whatever way, to make this annual event a success.