Guyana Jaguars excitedly poised for greater honours in 2017

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Sports Analysis and Records with BRIJ PARASNATH

THE Guyana Jaguars team proved their overall strength, tenacity, temperament and exceptional fighting spirit as they created history with back-to-back WICB Professional Cricket League (PCL) Regional 4-Day crowns in 2016. At the end of the first round of the 2016-17 PCL Regional 4-Day season, they are excitedly poised for greater honours.
The Jaguars franchise team topped the 2015-16 Regional First Class competition with 149 points from eight victories and two drawn fixtures from the 10-match fixtures. Barbados Pride placed second with 142 points from seven wins, one defeat and two drawn matches while Jamaica were third with 85 points (4 wins and 6 defeats). Trinidad and Tobago Red Force were fourth with 81 points (three wins, 5 defeats and 1 draw); Windwards Volcanoes fifth with 61 (2 wins, 6 defeats, 2 draws) and Leewards Hurricanes 50 (1 win, 7 defeats, 2 draws).
The Jaguars’ players have made all Guyanese proud of their wonderful achievements and they are strongly poised to make it a unique regional hat-trick of titles in the double round-robin competition.
At this time of the year, all the Jaguars players, team officials, Guyana Cricket Board officials and supporters should be in very good festive spirit.
For the 2015-16 PCL season, Guyana’s skipper Leon Johnson led the way with the most runs and topped the overall regional season’s batting aggregate with 807 runs (57.64), including two centuries, from ten matches and 17 innings. His teammate Vishaul Singh also impressed with the bat for the Jaguars and his appetite for big scores saw him finish third on 712 runs (5-.75), including three centuries; from ten matches and 16 innings. Windwards’ Devon Smith was second with 719 runs (47.93), including two centuries; from eight matches and 15 innings.
Regional First Class aggregate wicket record-holder Veerasammy Permaul, who was the main bowling catalyst for Guyana’s historic triumph in the inaugural 2014-15 Professional Cricket League season with a record haul of 67 wickets; emerged once again as the team’s leading bowler.
Together with his Albion SC teammate Gudakesh Motie-Kanhai, they collected 40 wickets each and were fourth overall in the wickets aggregate list.
While the Guyanese players have surprised everyone and registered back-to-back triumphs in the PCL Regional 4-Day competition, much attention has been focused on whether they can create further history and achieve a unique hat-trick of title wins.
It is good to note that at the end of the first round matches for the 2016-17 PCL First Class Regional 4-Day competition; the Guyana Jaguars are currently in second position on 64.6 points and are within striking distance of frontrunner Jamaica Scorpions who jumped to the top of the points table with two convincing victories in the fourth- and fifth-round matches.
As defending champions, Guyana Jaguars who held the lead initially, lost their topmost position after they suffered a shock third-round defeat to Leewards at the St Kitts’ Warner Park, the venue with the shortest boundary markers in the region.
Despite the major setback in which their unbeaten record streak of 18 matches was broken, the fighting Guyanese unit, under the brilliant leadership of West Indies Test player Leon Johnson, rebounded in grand fashion and registered a convincing ten-wicket victory over an uninspiring Trinidad and Tobago outfit in their fifth-round encounter at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence, on December 19 last year.
The Jamaica Scorpions maintained their slim lead with 67.6 points after they secured three outright wins over Windwards, Trinidad and Tobago and Leewards. It is good to note that they had lost their first round encounter to the Guyana Jaguars who would be seeking to regain the upperhand during the second round of matches.
Barbados Pride are in third spot with 47.2 points; followed by Windwards Volcanoes on 41.6 and Leewards Hurricanes 39.4. Trinidad and Tobago Red Force occupy cellar position on 35.6 points.
Altogether, there have been six centurions in the first-round matches, with Guyanese veteran star performer Shivnarine Chanderpaul leading the way with two individual centuries that were crucial to keep the Jaguars in contention for the 2016-17 season top honours.
Leewards wicketkeeper Jahmar Hamilton also recorded two centuries and is the overall leading run-scorer with 485 runs from five matches and eight innings.
Barbados Pride’s opener Anthony Alleyne is second with 451 runs from five matches and eight innings while Chanderpaul is third with 447 runs from five matches and seven innings. Alleyne notched one century, 186 versus Trinidad and Tobago Red Force at the Queen’s Park Oval in the second round.
Leewards’ Montcin Hodge registered a triple-figure mark, a heroic 114 against Guyana Jaguars in their successful fourth innings record-breaking run-chase at Warner Park in the fourth round when they halted the Guyanese 18-match unbeaten streak.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Barbadian-born franchise player Kyle Hope is fourth on the aggregate list with 410 runs from nine innings (four fifties, 86 the highest). He is followed by Jamaican John Campbell with 408 (5 matches, 8 innings), including four fifties with 88 as his highest.
WI Test player Jermaine Blackwood occupies sixth spot with 327 runs from five matches and nine innings.
West Indies triumphant West Indies youth captain and Guyana Jaguars’ promising opener Shimron Hetmyer is seventh with 292 runs from five matches and nine innings while Leewards’ Montcin Hodge with 289 runs (5 matches, eight innings, HS 114); Jamaica Scorpions’ Brendon King with 286 runs (2 matches, 3 innings) and Windwards’ Sunil Ambris with 274 runs (5 matches, 7 innings) makes up the top ten spots in the overall aggregate table at the halfway stage.
Among the other leading Guyanese players, WI Test opener Rajendra Chandrika and Barbadian-born Jaguars’ franchise player Raymon Reifer are in fourteenth and fifteenth positions with 251 (5 matches, 9 innings) and 244 runs (5 matches, 8 innings) respectively.
Skipper Leon Johnson is 17th with 232 (5 matches, 8 innings) while West Indies ‘A’ team member Vishaul Singh has 175 runs (5 matches, 8 innings) and Anthony Bramble 167 (5 matches, 8 innings). Singh and Bramble are 27th and 28th respectively.
Jamaica Scorpions’ left-arm spinner Nikita Miller, who enshrined his name in Regional First Class records with the best individual bowling figures of 9 wickets for 41 versus Trinidad and Tobago Red Force at Sabina Park, Kingston; heads the bowling aggregate with 30 wickets.
The spinners once again dominated the proceedings and are positioned in the top five slots. Miller is followed by left-armer Permaul (27 wickets), Leewards’ off-spinner Rakheem Cornwall (24 wkts), Scorpions’ leg-spinner Damion Jacobs (24 wkts) and Red Force’s leg-spinner Imran Khan (21).
Guyana’s exciting fast bowling prospect Keon Joseph and new-ball partner Raymon Reifer head the fast bowlers list with 16 wickets each alongside Windwards’ Shane Shillingford in the sixth, seventh and eighth positions respectively.
Motie-Kanhai, who made a big impression in his debut season last year also has 16 wickets. He, like all the other players; have played an important role in helping the Jaguars to be competitive and to regain their winning ways.
The Guyana Jaguars team members, including manager Rayon Griffith and coach Esaun Crandon were happy to end 2016 on a winning note. They will now switch their focus to the 50-overs format of the game and will prepare to re-establish themselves as a major force to be reckoned with.
Preparation, teamwork and fighting spirit have been some of the key factors that have contributed to the Jaguars’ Regional 4-Day double crown achievements.
The players got a much-needed break from the action on the cricket field.
However, while everyone enjoyed the festivities of the season and shared in the merriment, I am sure that the players and technical staff were also mindful of the challenges and demands for more success in 2017, especially the Super50 competition and to continue their drive to make it a unique hat-trick of PCL 4-Day crowns, emblem of Regional First Class supremacy.
The Guyana Jaguars have already demonstrated their resilience and fighting qualities in the two-innings competition.
They now need to redouble their efforts through strategic preparation and sustained intensity which will definitely help them to be ready to wage a serious battle in their quest for top honours in the Super50 tourney.