Pressure? What pressure, says hero Athanaze

Alick Athanaze (left) is congratulated by Roland Cato after taking Volcanoes to a sensational win in the Regional Super50 final. (Photo courtesy CWI Media)

ST JOHN’S, Antigua,  CMC – Regional Super50 final hero, Alick Athanaze, says he was never daunted by the tense circumstances late in his side’s run chase, as he steered Windward Islands Volcanoes to a dramatic three-wicket victory over Barbados Pride here late Saturday night.

Entering the contest with Volcanoes on 205 for seven and requiring a further 28 from 33 deliveries for victory, the 19-year-old stroked a nerveless run-a-ball, unbeaten 23 to see off the threat from the defending champions, with three balls left in the game.

In his first match for Volcanoes after replacing the injured Tyrone Theophile, the left-hander put on 31 for the eighth wicket with captain Shane Shillingford (7 not out), and struck the winning runs when he drove pacer Shamar Springer to the cover boundary.

“I’ve been in situations like this before so it was just a matter of keeping it simple, staying as calm as I could, keep knocking it around and bat until the end,” said the Youth World Cup star, who was the leading run-scorer at the recent ICC showpiece in New Zealand.  “I’ve batted with [Shillingford] before because he’s from Dominica obviously so it was nothing new, so we just had to keep doing what we were doing and hope things come out good for us and they did at the end and we’re thankful for that.”

Despite his heavy scoring at the recent event, West Indies Under-19s failed to live up to expectations, missing out on the second stage of the competition.

With the Super50 triumph his first taste of title success, Athanaze said it was definitely the highlight of his fledgling career.

It will rank at the top. It’s the first time I’ve ever won a championship so it’s right there at the top,” he pointed out.

“Coming in the team as a youngster it was kind of scary so right now I can walk with my head high.”

In addition to his heroics with the bat, Athanaze also had a major impact when Volcanoes fielded. First, he removed Pride top-scorer Johnathan Carter (80) with his off-spin to a superb catch in the deep by Kavem Hodge.

He then produced one of the highlights of the tournament when he leapt acrobatically airborne to his left at a shortish mid on, to complete an astonishing two-handed catch and account for Shamar Springer off left-arm seamer Obed McCoy.

A Dominican, Athanaze witnessed the devastation of his country by dangerous category five Hurricane Maria last September, and said he hoped his performances had inspired his countrymen.

“I just love my people and I just want to keep them happy,” he said. “I know I am making them proud and so it was just good I could go out there today and continue to do what I do.”

The triumph for Volcanoes was their first domestic 50-overs title in five years and their third in the history of the championship.

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