Bermuda Masters were crowned champions of the second annual Antigua Independence 20/20 Cricket Festival at Factory Ground in Antigua on Saturday. And the manner in which Bermuda grasped a narrow, four-run victory from the jaws of defeat was nothing short of remarkable.
With the match in the balance, and Canada seemingly in the driver's seat needing to score six runs for victory off the final over, a deafening silence descended upon the grounds as Bermuda all rounder Clevie Wade took the ball and slowly strolled back to his mark.
Tensions then mounted around the ground as the momentum shifted slightly in Canada's favour when Wade conceded two runs off his first delivery, leaving Bermuda's opponents to score five runs off five balls. Then fate intervened.
'At this point we decided to put our best fielders in the outfield and told Clevie to just ‘bowl at the stumps',' Bermuda hero and man-of-the-match Andre (Doc) Manders explained.
The advice ultimately paid off as the former St. George's Cup Match skipper, who thrives on the big occasion, stopped the opposition dead in their tracks. Wade delivered the first of two crushing blows in the over when he picked up a wicket with his second delivery, although the Canadians still held the upper hand, requiring five runs off four balls.
Wade, however, proved equal to the enormous task, tossing down three consecutive dot balls and then snaring his second wicket of the over with the final delivery of the match to apply the finishing touches and ignite wild celebrations in the Bermuda camp.
'We all couldn't believe what had happened after Clevie took that wicket with the last ball of the match,' an ecstatic Manders continued. 'That was really something because at the time the Canadians had one of their biggest hitters on strike. During the tournament we played against some pretty tough competition, but I think Canada were our toughest opponents. It feels really great to win this tournament because we all worked hard for this. And I feel the guys have done Bermuda proud. 'It was about team work and everything we did, we did it together as a team. And I think that's what made us successful in the end.'
Manders also paid tribute to team skipper Lionel Thomas.
'Lionel was a great captain because he always made the right decisions which kept us in the game at crucial periods,' he said. It was Bermuda's third straight win of the rain-affected tournament.
Earlier it was Manders (50) himself and Treadwell Gibbons (32) who laid the initial foundation for Bermuda's memorable triumph. Together the pair added 75 runs for the second wicket, Manders achieving the first and only local half century on tour off 36 balls. He hit four fours and a six.
'I was really determined to get a good knock today, and in the end I was able to come through,' the former Somerset Cup Match skipper said.
Gibbons also enjoyed his best knock of the tournament, belting four fours off 27 balls as Bermuda rallied after losing opener Allen Richardson (two) early.
'Treadwell and I had a really good partnership. The wicket was playing low but we still managed to hang around a bit and help the team to put up a good total to defend,' Manders said.
Middle order bat Wade again demonstrated his outstanding all round cricket prowess by weighing in with an unbeaten 15 as Bermuda rattled up its biggest total of the tournament for the lost of only four wickets in their allotted 15 overs.In reply the Canadians dug their heels in and appeared to be well on course for victory.
But it just wasn't to be as Wade took matters into his own hands and delivered the goods and put paid to the opposition's own hopes for glory.
Wade, rumoured to be leaving Southampton Rangers, finished with two for eight to lead the Bermuda bowling, while fellow seamer Hoyt Zuill, off spinner Manders, leg spinner James Swan and slow bowler Ricky Brangman sr. took one wicket apiece.
Afterwards during the official Award Ceremony, Bermuda claimed five of the six awards up for grabs with Manders taking home the Tournament's MVP, Final's MVP and Most Runs (74) Awards, James Swan the Best Bowling Award (four for 14 against New Jersey Masters) and Allen Richardson the Best Catch of the Tournament Award.
'They basically walked away with all of the trophies,' commented tournament organiser and former West Indies skipper Richie Richardson. 'The guys were all very happy and celebrated into the very late hours of last night (Saturday).'
Richardson also dubbed the second annual event as a 'beautiful' success. 'Although we experienced a lot of rain we still managed to get a few games,' he added. 'And overall the tournament turned out very beautiful and all the teams seemed very happy.'
Bermuda's victorious Masters return home today.