A well-oiled Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) will be seeking to take advantage of the out-of-sorts St Lucia Stars and maintain their grip as table-leaders; when the two sides collide under lights at Darren Sammy National Stadium in Gros Islet St Lucia from 21:00h tonight.
The Shoaib Malik –led Amazon Warriors has bounced back from defeat to the Barbados Tridents at Providence to dish out a sound thrashing of the Jamaica Tallawahs in Lauderhill to claim their place as table-toppers again. They will now want to fortify their stronghold over the other franchises by taking full advantage of the Stars who after making their highest score against Barbados Tridents 226 last Friday, also a CPL record, fell for the third lowest score against the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots (69) in their next game four days later.
When the two sides met earlier in the tournament, the Amazon Warriors won by three runs in a low-scoring encounter at the Providence National Stadium in match four thus setting up a good rematch for the books at the home of the fading Stars. At Providence, the hosts made 141 for 4with Luke Ronchi top scoring with 42 while Qais Ahmad bagged 3/15 from four overs before the Stars choked in the small chase. Rayad Emrit picked up three wickets including Captain Kieron Pollard and Rahkeem Cornwall with successive balls in over number 19 which left Keemo Paul with 16 to defend in the final over. The Stars tried but were restricted to 138 for 7 when their overs ran out.
With Shimron Hetmyer fresh off his maiden hundred in the previous clash against the Tallawahs along with scores of 79, 22 and 21, the Guyana Amazon Warriors will be hoping for some more magic from their leading run-scorer against the dwindling Stars.
Skipper Shoaib Malik after making a few positive starts, broke his first shackle on his way to a possible big score when his 50 in the last match played a key role during his century partnership with Hetmyer against the Tallawahs. With no big partnership yet, openers Luke Ronchi and Chadwick Walton could use this encounter against the Stars to forge a proper foundation at the top, paving the way for Hetmyer and company.
Guyana’s lower-middle order still remains a bit hazy with Jason Mohammed getting slightly better with every innings but needs to up his firing rate and Guyanese left-hander Sherfane Rutherford having a mixed tourney following his top-score of 48 in Guyana.
South African professional, Cameron Delport has joined the Guyana Amazon Warriors squad in St Lucia following his stint in England’s Vitality T20 Blast with Leicestershire and could start ahead of either Mohammed or Rutherford while his cover, the impressive off-spinner Chris Green makes way.
With a consistent wicket-taking barrage of bowlers, few worries in that department will bother the Warriors. Their frontline spinners; Imran Tahir, Green, Devendra Bishoo all have wickets under their belts while the seamers Emrit and Paul have been making inroads with veteran Sohail Tanvir likely to return to the squad after missing out in the last match.
Despite their woes, the Stars have been putting in work as they showed they were capable of reaching 200 with ease. The last game against the Patriots was a complete reverse of what occurred compared to when skipper and centurion Kieron Pollard, David Warner, Rakeem Cornwall, Andre Fletcher, Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons who top-scored with 45when they last met, all fired in the past. If the aforementioned batsmen click then Guyana could either chase 200-plus runs or they could likely gun down a big target.
Their bowlers will play a key role in the match because of their misfortunes in the past which led to the team losing despite making a match-winning total. New Zealand pacer Mitch McCleneghan is their best bowler and could be the X-Factor against the likes of Hetmyer should they square off.
Dynamic Afghan teen spinner Qais Ahmad, who had 3 wickets in the first encounter versus Guyana, will also play a big role for the Stars along with fast-bowler Obed McCoy who has been important to the Stars upfront. The Amazon Warriors, with 6 points from four games sit at the top but are closely trailed by the defending champs Trinbago Knight Riders and Jamaica Tallawahs also with six points.
The Warriors have much to play for and as much to lose should the Stars, in their seventh match and penultimate at home, spring an upset as they are almost certain that their Hero CPL 2018 campaign is almost over. (Clifton Ross)