ST JOHN’S, Antigua, (CMC) – Back-to-back victories for Jamaica Scorpions have not blinded captain Rovman Powell to the glaring issues facing his side ahead of Wednesday’s first semi-final against favourites Trinidad and Tobago Red Force.
Scorpions lost the first three games of their Super50 campaign before wrapping up with wins against Leeward Islands Hurricanes and Barbados Pride, to book their place in the final four but Powell said improvements were needed in all departments.
“The discussion is we can’t be dropping simple catches and we can’t be fielding like how we’re fielding, and also the batting is of some concern,” was Powell’s frank assessment following Sunday’s thrilling 51-run victory over Pride at Coolidge Cricket Ground.
“The middle order, the top order, we have to start trying to get a start, work harder to get a start up top and then the middle order can come to the party.”
He added: “It’s a semi-final so we can’t leave it there. We still have to go back to the drawing board and see if we can get into the finals.”
Defending a modest 218, Scorpions got a magnificent six-wicket haul – including a hat-trick – from part-time off-spinner Andre McCarthy to rout Pride for 167 in the 42nd over.
But not for the first time, their batting failed miserably, slumping to 87 for eight before number 10 Odean Smith smashed an unbeaten 68 and staged two last ditch half-century stands to rescue the innings.
The match was a virtual repeat of Friday’s contest against Hurricanes when Scorpions successfully defended 220.
They were down and out at 135 for nine but were rallied by an 85-run, last wicket stand between Fabian Allen (44) and Jeavor Royal (38).
Only two of their specialist batsmen – Brandon King and McCarthy – have scored fifties in the competition, a statistic Powell acknowledged had to improve.
“It’s for the key batters to buckle down and start putting scores on the board,” he urged.
“We showed in the bowling department that we are a capable unit so it’s for myself and the other capable batters in the middle order to start scoring runs.”
However, Powell explained that the form of the lower order had not been by accident, with plenty work having gone into their batting behind the scenes.
“They’re doing very well in the nets,” Powell revealed.
“We reinforced the batting by placing them lower down because we realise that when Jamaica do well in 50-over cricket it is the lower half that generally score the runs and not the top half.
“That’s an interesting stat that we revisited in our team chat and realised that the lower half is as important as the top half.”
Needing to win Sunday’s decisive game to reach the semis, Scorpions seemed on their way out of the tournament with Pride well placed on 141 for two in the 29th over.
But McCarthy and left-arm spinner Allen combined to take the last eight wickets for 26 runs as Pride suffered a stunning collapse.
“To be honest, we believed [we had enough]. We believed Barbados let go of the game when they let us score so much runs in the back end,” Powell pointed out.
“We just took that. Cricket is about momentum and we took that going into our bowling display and I think it was a total team effort.
“We knew if we could bat close to the 50 overs we would get a score that we could defend. If we got close to the 50 overs we would get close to 200 runs and once we got that we could make a game of it.”
The West Indies all-rounder also said there had been no specific instructions to McCarthy before he entered the attack.
“I just give him the ball and told him to do what [he normally does], to find some wickets for us and if he can find a breakthrough or two then he can start building some pressure,” Powell said.
“Six for 16 doesn’t happen all the time and to see it come up in such a tough game like this is very, very special.”