ST JOHN’S, Antigua – As has been the case in each of the last three seasons, the longest rivalry in the game in the West Indies will again take centre stage in the eighth round of the DIGICEL Regional 4-Day Tournament.
Strong second-placed contenders Barbados Pride face current leaders and reigning champions Guyana Jaguars, starting today at Kensington Oval, under a unique set of playing conditions.
A day later, Leeward Islands Hurricanes will look to use the boost of confidence they gained from a win last weekend to try and topple Windward Islands Volcanoes at Warner Park.
At the same time, the round gets into full swing, when Trinidad & Tobago Red Force and Jamaica Scorpions meet at Queen’s Park Oval, trying to recover from demoralising defeats in their previous matches.
In Bridgetown, Barbados: This match between the Pride and the Jaguars could be the primary decider this season in the destination of the Headley/Weekes Trophy, symbol of R4-Day supremacy.
A comfortable victory over the Volcanoes in the previous round have left the Pride 15.8 points adrift of the Jags, whose equally convincing win over the Red Force made them the first team to crack the 100-point ceiling this season.
These two teams have more or less been the most consistent over the last three seasons and another absorbing contest between two sides that seem evenly balanced on paper.
The teams will have to play smartly however, considering that the first three days will be contested consecutively before a rest day on Sunday to accommodate the first Twenty20 International between West Indies and Pakistan at the same venue, and return to conclude the match on Monday, March 27.
The pitch will be protected from damage by a rubberised matting cover and neither side may want to face the prospect of batting last on it, so the toss could be very crucial.
Statistics too, bear out how competitive it could become between the two sides: In the last nine matches between them since the start of this decade, they have each won three times and the other three matches have ended in compelling draws.
The Pride, however, should be cautious, considering that of the three Jaguars’ wins, two have been at the venue for this weekend’s match, so they should not expect an easy ride from the visitors.
In Basseterre, St Kitts: the Hurricanes will be hoping that the green grass of home will breed success against the Volcanoes in the all-Islands classic.
The home team came away from their encounter with the Scorpions last weekend unscathed and a bag of points, following a sensational victory in a low-scoring affair, but the visitors suffered a huge dent in confidence when their batting collapsed in the second innings and they suffered defeat.
For the Hurricanes though, this appears to be their bogey side, having lost six of the last seven matches against the Volcanoes, including a forgettable 94-run loss last December in the first half of this season.
In Port of Spain, Trinidad: Two teams that had their egos crushed in the previous round will be looking to regain ground, as the Red Force and the Scorpions strive for consistency, especially from their batting.
Both teams surrendered meekly after promising much against the Jaguars and Hurricanes respectively, eroding gains they had made in the earlier part of the season.
Oddly enough, however, both teams in the last three seasons have found it easier to win against each other when they are playing on the road, although the Scorpions bucked the trend in the first-leg match last December in Kingston.
So the Red Force will hope this trend will continue and this weekend will end in redemption for their side on home soil.
BARBADOS PRIDE (from): Kevin Stoute (captain), Anthony Alleyne, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Jomel Warrican, Kenroy Williams.
IN – Brathwaite, Harding, Williams; OUT – Jonathan Carter, Omar Phillips, Kemar Roach.
GUYANA JAGUARS (from): Leon Johnson (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Anthony Bramble, Shivanrine Chanderpaul, Rajendra Chandrika, Assad Fudadin, Shimron Hetmyer, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Clinton Pestano, Raymon Reifer, Romario Shepherd, Vishaul Singh
IN – Chanderpaul, Pestano; OUT – Veerasammy Permaul, Keon Joseph.