Leewards face stern test without key players

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (CMC) – An erratic Leeward Islands will be put to a stern test this weekend when they face rampant leaders Jamaica in the eighth round of the WICB Regional four-day tournament starting today at Sabina Park.

The visitors, already without four key players including their captain Runako Morton, have been inconsistent this season and could find themselves struggling against a Jamaica side that are yet to lose at the halfway point of this year’s first class competition.

It means that the Leewards, fifth in the standings on 31 points, will have to do without leading bowler Anthony Martin, attractive opener Kieran Powell and fast bowler Lionel Baker.

Morton and Martin have been dropped for indiscipline stemming from a recent incident while Powell and Baker are unavailable for differing reasons.

Morton has been one of his side’s leading run-getters with 323 runs while leg-spinner Martin has been the spearhead of the bowling attack with 23 wickets.

The flashy left-handed Powell has scored 291 runs to date but is out injured and Baker, who has taken 13 wickets in two matches, is with the West Indies team for the fourth Test. These players further deny the Windwards two more of their top performers.

Team manager Hugh Gore remained optimistic, however, pointing out that he did not expect the double suspension to impact the side heavily.

“It has not affected the team’s morale. What was done needed to be done,” he told CMC Sports yesterday.

“The morale has remained high. We have had an up and down season but we are remaining positive.”

A decision on who will lead the side was expected to be made following a 7 pm (8 pm Eastern Caribbean time) team meeting.

Jamaica, meanwhile, will be confident of a win not only because of their current form but after their win over Leewards in the first half of the competition.

They lost first innings but rebounded spectacularly to dismiss Leewards cheaply in their second innings and win by six wickets.

In the last round, they crushed the Windward Islands by an innings and 13 runs an hour into the final day of that encounter in Dominica and now believe they have the momentum to increase their lead in the competition.

“Really, our chances of winning the championship are as good as any other team in the competition,” coach Junior Bennett said.

“As I said before, we have played six matches and we have a further six to go and we have to continue to play good cricket and be positive and we will get the results.”

Jamaica have named an unchanged squad from their last outing.

Teams (from):

Jamaica – Tamar Lambert (captain), Wavell Hinds, Brenton Parchment, Dave Bernard Jr, Danza Hyatt, Andrew Richardson, Odean Brown, Donovan Pagon, Keith Hibbert, Nikita Miller, Gavin Wallace, Xavier Marshall, Jason Dawes.

LEEWARDS – Shane Jeffers, Montcin Hodge, Austin Richards, Codville Rogers, Tino Willett, Omari Banks, Steve Liburd, Devon Thomas, Wilden Cornwall, Gavin Tonge, Justin Athanaze, Brent Defreitas, Akito Willett.