Captain Andre Morgan leads the way for Manchester High

South/Central Bureau

Monday, March 25, 2019

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Captain and lead all-rounder for Manchester High School Andre Morgan seems to smile only occasionally.

But a wide grin appeared when asked how he felt about leading his team to victory over mighty St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) in last week's all-rural ISSA Grace/ Headley Cup cricket final at STETHS.

“Excited, very elated,” said Morgan, just a few minutes after his team had completed a memorable five-wicket win over the defending champions and many-time title winners in their backyard.

The inspirational Morgan led from the front and was the major difference between the teams, excelling with bat and ball from start to finish.

After losing the toss on the first day, Morgan took four wickets for 29 runs with his stiff fast medium to help restrict STETHS to a first innings 186.

Then came his most telling contribution. With Manchester High reeling at 26-5 in late afternoon, Morgan countered with a succession of bold attacking strokes, hitting a six and five fours in an unbeaten 45-ball 32 as his team closed the first day at 70-6.

He continued the repair job on the second day and found a determined partner in Wavel Anniford who made 56. The two batted through the entire pre-lunch session and into the afternoon, sharing a seventh -wicket stand of 133, to turn the game on its head.

When Manchester High were eventually bowled out for 214, Morgan remained unbeaten on 85. By the end he was struggling with cramps, having faced 219 balls and stroked a six and 10 fours.

Thereafter, Manchester High never eased up. Bowling aggressively, Morgan took the first two wickets when STETHS batted a second time to end with match figures of 6 for 69, as the defending champions were restricted to 190.

Left with a target of 163 to win, Manchester High kept their tactical discipline impressively, defending stoutly and choosing the right balls to attack before reaching their victory target at 5:40 pm on the third and final day. Once again, Morgan was at the centre of things. With Manchester High shakily placed at 77-4, he shared a stand of 81 for the fifth wicket with an immovable Javardi Francis — who made an unbeaten 53 off 141 balls — to ensure victory.

With five runs remaining, a mentally weary Morgan was dismissed for 45, but by then it was all over bar the shouting. Manchester High players and supporters were already celebrating.

It was a stunning victory for Manchester High, since, as STETHS coach Clive Ledgister pointed out, STETHS — with more than 30 Headley Cup titles in the last four decades — had retained 10 players from the team which swept all before them a year ago. The talented off spinning all-rounder Nigel Palmer, who has migrated, was the one missing from the 2018 season.

It was only the second ISSA Grace/Headley Cup title for Manchester High after winning in 2013 against Vere Technical High.

Morgan told the Jamaica Observer Central that a sense of duty to the team inspired him when he went to the crease in the first innings with Manchester High in shambles at 26-5.

“I was very nervous, but I knew the team was depending on me, so I knew I had to do it for them,” he said.

Plaudits for Morgan came from friend and foe at game's end. STETHS team management and supporters, as well as Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) rep and principal of Spalding High George Henry, hailed his determination and talent, and Manchester High Principal Jasford Gabriel and coach Barry Barnes were effusive.

“Andre Morgan is a high quality all-rounder. With both bat and ball, he changed the game. He is an inspirational leader. And he really got the job done for us on the big occasion,” said an exultant Gabriel.

Barnes described him as someone “who is strong mentally and does well in school”.

There was also plenty of praise for the entire team. “STETHS were overwhelming favourites to win this by virtue of 31 titles and many senior players. It just shows what teamwork and determination can do,” said Gabriel.

Barnes hailed his team for playing “three days of hard, determined cricket… I really didn't expect them to go all this way”.

While noting that his own team was “too complacent”, STETHS coach Clive Ledgister praised his opponents for their tactical discipline, mental strength and determination.

“I think this is one of the most disciplined teams I have seen from Manchester High School,” said Ledgister.

The STETHS coach said he would be working to help his players understand that defeat can actually make them stronger.

“It's my role to keep them motivated and let them understand that this is not where it stops. This is just a curve ball that life throws at you, and you have to learn to recuperate and get yourself back together. That is what the game of cricket is all about,” said Ledgister.

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