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Bennett, 36 and 3 for 20, stars in victory over McNair
An invigorating all-round performance from rarely used Barry Bennett, spearheaded a superb team effort that lifted Tropical Sports Club to their second hold on the MME league championship trophy when they defeated McNair Lions in the final played at Best Academy yesterday. Bennett, playing because of an injury to regular opener Lindo, blasted an enterprising late inning 36, then returned later to claim 3 wickets in leading Tropical to victory. He was amply supported by two stifling bowling spells from off-spinners John Slocombe and Lyndon Johnson, a three wicket haul by Captain Patrick Harris, and some sharp, acrobatic Tropical fielding. McNair, the leagues’ Twenty20 champions, made a gallant effort, with former West Indies players Clayton Lambert and Junior Murray leading the way, but fell short under the collective team pressure applied by Tropical.

Scores: Tropical 204 for 9 off 40 overs; R. Holiette 58, A.Givance 51, Bennett 36; C. Belgrade 3 for 26; McNair 177 all out: C. Lambert 77, J. Murrray 43 ;P. Harris 3 for 18, Bennett 3 for 20

The grounds at Best Academy had dried out from the rains that caused the recent Georgia floods, and the field was in immaculate conditions. However, the morning was heavily overcast and some dark clouds hovered overhead with the threat of more rain looming in the distance. There was no wind.

McNair won the toss, and to no ones surprise, elected to field first. Tropical started with Johnson and Givance who was promoted to the opening spot in place of the injured regular opener Lindo, now playing as 12th man. The pair got off to a cautious start with Johnson surviving an early chance to Blake at mid-off. The let-off was short lived, as, with the score on 48, Johnson, on 12, swiped across the line to one from Hooper, and was bowled. Hooper then removed D. Hoilette for 3, and with some tight bowling from Blake at the other end they placed a stranglehold on the Tropical run rate.

Givance and R. Hoilette, though pinned back, held firm though this attack and saw the score pass the 100 mark with both Hooper and Blake finishing their spells. A Tropical middle order collapse ensued when Murray and Belgrave were introduced into the McNair attack. First, Murray had Givance caught by Belgrave, then returned the favor by gobbling up Harris, and soon had Williams caught by King. The Tropical score line changed from 114 for 2 to 126 for 5, and McNair seemed poised for the kill as the fielders swarmed the new batsman, Bennett. Two powerful pulls for four by Bennett moved the fielders back, and when he launched one over the top for maximum the momentum was wrested and the intent was evident as the overs approached quota. Hoilette fell at 184 via the run out route, having shared in the two sizeable partnerships of the innings – 55 with Givance, and 58 with Bennett. At 201, Bennett fell, and soon the Tropical innings closed at 204 for 9, a seemingly unlikely total at several stages.

A thin layer of clouds passed over the area and bright rays of sunlight streamed through like halogen lights in a stadium at dusk. The upper winds seemed to have picked up ever so slightly, and the dark clouds in the distance drew closer.

Two hundred runs were by no means an easy target under the still overcast conditions if the bowlers used it to their advantage. Tropical opening bowlers did not, and McNair got off to a flying start even though they lost Morian for 4 at 15 for 1. Ebanks was roughed up early for 23 off his first 2 overs as Murray seemed set and determined. This forced an early bowling change with Harris bringing Johnson and Slocombe into the attack and they quickly put the shackles on the Lions. Hooper tried to break loose by lofting one off Slocombe, only to be caught by Lindo - now subbing for the injured Phillips who twisted his knee on a fielding play. Lambert joined Murray, and the mental toughness and concentration of two test players wanting to win a game was on full display. Opting to see the two frontline bowlers, Johnson and Slocombe, complete their spells without further damage, they pushed the ball around for the occasional single and kept the scoreboard ticking, even though very slowly. But then, two mental lapses, one fatal. A quick single to a ball hit to Williams had Murray diving in the crease. He survived. On a second attempt for a single on a ball hit to the same fielder, a direct hit from square of the wicket caught him just short. No TV replay – end of a wonderful inning at 90 for 3.

With Slocombe (8-2-23-1) and Johnson (8-1-18-0) having completed their spells, and Phillips out with a twisted knee Harris turned to Williams and Wong. A beautiful over-the-shoulder catch by Ebanks removed Belgrave for nought. Lambert, sensing a need to accelerate the pace, stepped up his attack with a special liking to Williams. A towering straight drive for six, and a belligerent cover drive for four echoed around the grounds. But Tropical did not panic. With the score at 140 for 4, and 10 overs to go, it was still “game on.” Harris brought himself and Bennett into the attack, and it paid quick dividends. King was out immediately, caught by R. Hoilette off Bennett, and Blake followed – plumb in front to a yorker from Harris. Lambert, on 77, hoisted one to mid-wicket where Ebanks clasped it tightly, and the Tropical bench erupted. Harris and Bennett combined for 6 wickets for 38 runs off 9 overs in wrapping up the Lions inning.

The celebrations and presentation were hurried. A thick layer of clouds arrived. At 6:00pm the winds started to blow. Thirty minutes later the rains came.