GUYANA Jaguars and Jamaica Franchise will do battle for top honours in their WICB NAGICO Super50 first semi-final encounter at the Queen’s Park Oval today from 13:30hrs.This year’s tournament is different as it marks the beginning of the new professional era of Limited-overs cricket in the Caribbean. And all four teams, including Trinidad and Tobago Red Force and CCC Marooners who are contesting the other semi-final tomorrow, are aiming to carve their own niche and create history by becoming the first-ever winners among the franchise-based teams in the NAGICO Super50 history.
Despite their shock one-wicket defeat to the CCC Marooners last Monday evening, the Jaguars who topped Zone A will be seeking to enhance their opportunity to advance to the final which is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.
They are up against Zone B runners-up Jamaica in a match that promises to be a high-tension encounter which will be punctuated with fluctuating fortunes throughout the 50-overs-a-side day/night affair.
The Christopher Barnwell-led Jaguars hold the advantage having played all three zonal matches at the same venue and have been better conditioned to deal with the dew factor during the night innings.
On the other hand, the Jamaicans lost their only match at the venue where they bowed to the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force.
But although the Jamaicans lost, they put up stern resistance and will definitely prove tougher than a depleted Barbados Pride and the CCC Marooners, who capitalised on a couple of questionably strategic captaincy decisions that worked in their favour and provided them with the opportunity to vie for greater honours that most people would have thought not possible because of the lack of experienced or star-quality players.
But the CCC outfits over the years have always been competitive and contested the 2013 final against Windwards who emerged victorious and clinched their only-ever regional Limited-Overs title at the 3WsOval in Barbados.
The Guyana Jaguars lost the momentum with their morale-boosting victories over Windwards Volcanoes and Barbados Pride. But they will have to put aside those depressing feelings and focus on fighting to the very end against opponents who have dominated the four-day format over the last six years.
Guyana’s last success in the 50 overs-a-side tournament has been under the leadership of West Indies Test stalwart Shivnarine Chanderpaul in 2005.
Chanderpaul is still providing invaluable service to regional cricket and his batting performance will be pivotal in the Jaguars’ setting of a very challenging total should they bat first, or he will be the mainstay should they be chasing a victory total.
His class and ability to rotate the strike on surfaces that have not been conducive for exciting strokeplay will be of immense value against the Jamaican spinners. They suit his temperament but provide serious challenge for free-scoring strokeplayers like Rajendra Chandrika, Barnwell and Royston Crandon.
The Jaguars selectors, Rayon Griffith (chairman of selectors), Esaun Crandon (coach) and skipper Barnwell will have to decide whether to keep faith with opener Trevon Griffith who failed miserably in all three encounters or opt for a new combination at the top of the order.
Should attacking shotmaker Jonathan Foo be declared fit, the selectors’ job will become easier. They will unhesitatingly opt for Foo but they also have a serious contender for a middle-order spot in Vishaul Singh who is a very solid defensive-type player who may prove invaluable against Jamaica’s spin trio of Nikita Miller, Dwayne Jacobs and skipper Tamar Lambert. All the free-scoring batsmen have struggled against the Jamaican spinners and even their pacers Marquino Mindley and Dave Bernard jnr.
Veerasammy Permaul, Anthony Bramble and Devendra Bishoo have provided enough evidence that they are gritty fighters and are much more adept with the bat to warrant promotion ahead of Steven Jacobs who has done extremely well with the ball but struggled with the bat.
Practicality rather than sentimentality is the call and should rule especially in the knockout phase. Those in form should be trusted to get the job done and be given the opportunity with greater number of overs to make a much more significant impact with the bat should the need arise.
The bowlers, apart from Raymon Reifer and to a lesser extent Ronsford Beaton, have responded to the call and demands in the various situation that presented themselves. Paul Wintz was truly impressive against the CCC Marooners and it’s difficult to leave him out.
But first-choice fast bowler Ronsford Beaton was guilty of lack of control and right bowling tactics against Windwards while there was significant improvement against Barbados Pride.
It will not be an easy decision for the Jaguars selectors but hopefully they would get it right and that the starting eleven will demonstrate renewed willpower and determination to overpower their opponents, who would also be striving for the same result to take then through to the grand finale.
Guyana and Jamaica have played each other on 19 occasions in List A matches with each team enjoying successes on nine occasions with one ending in a tie. The victorious team tonight will claim the overall advantage and a chance for regional professional franchise history.
By BRIJ PARASNATH
In Trinidad& Tobago