TEN years after losing their first Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) final in Trinidad, Guyana Amazon Warriors wrote their name in the history books with a commanding display to lift their first title.
The victory was made all the more sweeter as they did it against their rivals Trinbago Knight Riders, the winningest team in CPL history.
It has not been an easy journey for Guyana. An unprecedented five defeats in the CPL finals left many fans wondering whether the team would ever be anything more than bridesmaids.
At Providence Stadium in Guyana on Sunday, the ExxonMobil-sponsored Amazon Warriors finally walked down the aisle, to end a decade-long courting that often led to heartbreak.
Tears of joy streamed down the face of Guyana skipper Imran Tahir after the victory, sealed by nine wickets, after destroying the vaunted TKR batting for 94 runs.
TKR fans could only look on in horror after seeing their team dismantled on a bowler-friendly surface which most of the batsmen failed to adjust to.
After being inserted to bat, TKR openers Mark Deyal and Chadwick Walton started cautiously amid tight bowling from Guyana. Deyal looked to burst the shackles in the third over, with a straight six and a boundary laced through cover off pacer Dwaine Pretorius. But looking for a third boundary in the over, Deyal got a slight inside-edge that crashed into his stumps.
Romario Shepherd then had the raucous Guyana crowd on their feet by trapping Chadwick Walton leg-before for ten, with a ball that kept considerably low and caught the Jamaican unaware.
Pretorius continued to test the TKR batsmen with a probing line and length, assisted by prodigious bounce. The South African caught the edge of the dangerous Nicholas Pooran's bat with a ripper, only for wicketkeeper Azam Khan to shockingly grass the simplest of chances.
Anger, disappointment and dismay were evident on the faces of the Guyanese players, wary of how Pooran would make them pay.
One ball later, their concerns were put to rest as Pooran advanced down the track and top-edged a pull shot to Shepherd at mid-off, to be dismissed for one. The relief on Khan's face was palpable as he looked to the heavens as his teammates celebrated.
TKR skipper Kieron Pollard walked to the crease with his team in deep trouble as they closed the powerplay on 41 for three.
Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie was introduced into the attack and removed Pollard for "duck" in the seventh over. Enticing the former West Indies captain with a ball wide of his crease and turning away, Pollard tried to swat it over the midwicket fence, but could only find the safe hands of Saim Ayub.
Akeal Hosein (one) and Andre Russell (three) followed in a shockingly similar fashion, caught attempting big shots against the spin of Motie and leggie Tahir.
With the Guyana bowlers tightening their grip, Carty and former TKR captain Dwayne Bravo sought to reverse the slide with a pragmatic approach – unlike their teammates earlier.
With the score 54 for six after ten overs, the TKR pair looked for singles, until faced with a bad ball.
The pair put on 32 runs and tried to shift momentum with a 16-run over off pacer Ronsford Beaton in the 14th over. Carty, as he had against Guyana in the final game of the preliminaries, showed his class with a six over midwicket,
However, Tahir broke the partnership by trapping Bravo in front to make it 81 for seven.
Pretorius helped wrap up proceedings, getting rid of Sunil Narine (one) and Ali Khan (one) in the 16th over.
Carty, running out of partners, was last dismissed for 38 off 45 balls (two fours, one six) as he tried to push TKR to a competitive total.
Chasing the small target, Guyana lost opener Keemo Paul caught by Pollard at mid-off off Akeal Hosein. But Ayub and Shai Hope, the most prolific batsman this CPL, ensured there were no surprises with an 84-run partnership that steered their team towards the inevitable.
The left-handed Ayub (52 not out) benefited from two dropped catches by wicketkeeper Pooran, off Narine, and duly capitalised. The Pakistani stayed aggressive and sent the crowd into rapture with three sixes off left-arm spinner Waqar Salamkheil and two off pacer Ali Khan. His last maximum, off Khan, in the 14th over, sealed the deal and sparked fireworks over Providence.
Hope, with a calming, unbeaten 32 off 32 balls, hugged an emotional Tahir as the players stormed the field to celebrate. After years of disappointment and doubt, Guyana have finally done it.
Summarised Scores: TKR 94 all out (18.1 overs) - Keacy Carty 38; Dwaine Pretorius 4/26, Gudakesh Motie 2/7, Imran Tahir 2/8 vs GUYANA AMAZON WARRIORS 99/1 (14 overs) - Saim Ayub 52 not out, Shai Hope 32 not out.