A number of West Indies players have returned from recent international duty to spice up the rivalries in the eighth round of the 2019-20 West Indies Championship, which began on Thursday.
Players such as West Indies Test captain Jason Holder, left-handed batsmen Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer, as well as pacer Alzarri Joseph are among the changes to the teams in what could be a pivotal round of the Championship.
After all, the race for the Headley/Weekes Trophy, symbol of supremacy in the Championship, is still very open, after there were unexpected outcomes in the previous round of matches that have impacted on all of the teams.
With a maximum of 24 points available in every round, 72 points are left on the table for each team in the Championship, so they all, especially front-running Barbados Pride and five-time defending champions Guyana Jaguars, will chase as much as possible to make further advances on the right end of the points table.
Pride currently head the standings in the Championship on 116 points – 30.2 clear of the Jaguars – and this weekend’s day-night contest, a renewal of the longest-running rivalry in the domestic West Indies first-class competition, at the Guyana National Stadium could play a huge role in the final destination of the title.
Trinidad & Tobago Red Force and Windward Islands Volcanoes, the two teams which won in the previous round to solidly move into mid-table positions, will be seeking to enhance their chances of getting seriously into the final mix for the title at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy.
And, Leeward Islands Hurricanes and Jamaica Scorpions will be looking for a strong finish to the season when they face-off at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.
RED FORCE VS VOLCANOES IN TAROUBA, TRINIDAD
Red Force will relish the return of Bravo to further boost their batting line-up, which came into the picture strongly with their victory in the previous round against the Pride at the venue for this weekend’s contest.
Volcanoes are not so blessed, but the choice of left-arm pacer Obed McCoy as an injury replacement for Test pacer Shermon Lewis could add more firepower to their attack, which set up their victory over the Scorpions in the previous round.
Weather badly disrupted their fourth-round match last month in Dominica, but the storyline remains similar going into the contest is similar to that match.
Neither side will want to fall behind and will chase a big haul of points that would keep them in step with the front-running pair.
Their rivalry has been fierce in the PCL era of the Championship with the Volcanoes holding a 5-4 edge over Red Force – and the visitors have reason for hope in this match, having won the contest between the two sides last season.
RED FORCE (from): Imran Khan (captain), Bryan Charles, Cephas Cooper, Joshua da Silva, Jyd Goolie, Kyle Hope, Akeal Hosein, Jason Mohammed, Uthman Muhammad, Khary Pierre, Anderson Phillip, Isaiah Rajah, Daniel St. Clair
IN–Bravo, Hinds; OUT–Bryan Charles, Khary Pierre
VOLCANOES (from): Sunil Ambris (captain), Roland Cato, Keron Cottoy, Kenneth Dember, Larry Edward, Andre Fletcher, Kavem Hodge, Ryan John, Obed McCoy, Preston McSween, Kimani Melius, Devon Smith, Emmanuel Stewart
IN–McCoy; OUT–Shermon Lewis
UMPIRES: Lyndon Rajkumar, Patrick Gustard (Jamaica)
MATCH REFEREE: Hayden Bruce
RESERVE UMPIRE: Kellman Kowlessar
HURRICANES VS SCORPIONS IN NORTH SOUND, ANTIGUA
Hurricanes too, will be excited to have Joseph lead their attack, but the return of West Indies leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr to their colours, after he spent the last two seasons with the Pride, comes at the right time.
West Indies off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall will be missing from the line-up for this match, and the presence of Walsh and his new bag of tricks is a more than adequate cover for his fellow international.
Hurricanes had easily their best batting performance for the season against the Jaguars in the previous round on the road and earned a draw. Replicating that performance will be their challenge.
Scorpions had a match to forget in the previous round. They were bowled out for a double-figure total in the second innings, after scoring nearly 400 in the first innings, and though the bowlers made things interesting in the chase, they lost.
A big haul of points could still keep the Scorpions a long-shot for the title, so there is still an incentive for them to keep up appearances, but the Hurricanes are practically out of the race and playing for the enhancement of personal records will be a motivation.
Again, bowling appears to be the strength for both sides, but it will be the batting that could ultimately turn the match in favour of either team.
All 11 matches between the two sides in the PCL era of the Championship have been won, with the Scorpions holding a 7-4 edge, including a five-wicket victory in the fifth round this season.
HURRICANES (from): Jahmar Hamilton (captain), Keacy Carty, Montcin Hodge, Amir Jangoo, Alzarri Joseph, Jeremiah Louis, Kian Pemberton, Jaison Peters, Kieran Powell, Ross Powell, Akeem Saunders, Hayden Walsh Jr, Terance Warde
IN–Joseph, Peters, Walsh; OUT–Sheno Berridge, Rahkeem Cornwall, Adelvin Phillip
SCORPIONS (from): John Campbell (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Gordon Bryan, Derval Green, Patrick Harty Jr, Andre McCarthy, Jamie Merchant, Marquino Mindley, Paul Palmer Jr, Denis Smith, Alwyn Williams, Oraine Williams
IN–McCarthy; OUT–Dennis Bulli
UMPIRES: Danesh Ramdhanie (Trinidad & Tobago), Leslie Reifer Jr (Barbados)
MATCH REFEREE: Vanroy Burnes
RESERVE UMPIRE: Bernard Joseph
JAGUARS VS PRIDE IN PROVIDENCE, GUYANA
Bowling has been the Pride’s strength this season and the opportunity of Holder and fellow West Indies pacer Kemar Roach forming a four-pronged pace attack with the season’s two leading fast bowlers, Chemar Holder and Keon Harding, is mouth-watering.
Holder returns from international duty with West Indies in Sri Lanka and Roach comes back after he was rested for the previous match and the Pride – humbled by arch-rivals Red Force in the previous round – will be boosted on both sides of the ball with their selection, along with left-handed batsman Jonathan Carter, returning from injury.
The Jaguars had to settle for a draw in the previous round, but they will remind everyone that last year the Pride had a similarly powerful arsenal and it failed to fire, and they posted 548 in the first innings and clinched a comfortable six-wicket victory.
Both teams will be well aware of the huge interest in their match. Pride have been the bridesmaids in each of the five successive title seasons for the Jaguars and this contest could have big implications for them and other teams too.
Jaguars currently hold the edge over Pride in the PCL era of the Championship, winning half of the 10 matches the two sides have played during the period, but the visitors have the incentive of a season sweep to further motivate them, having won the second round match this season.
JAGUARS (from): Leon Johnson (captain), Christopher Barnwell, Anthony Bramble, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Shimron Hetmyer, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Veerasammy Permaul, Akshaya Persaud, Raymon Reifer, Romario Shepherd, Kevin Sinclair, Vishaul Singh
IN–Hetmyer, Paul, Shepherd; OUT–Tevin Imlach, Keon Joseph, Nial Smith
PRIDE (from): Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Shane Dowrich, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Jason Holder, Kyle Mayers, Shayne Moseley, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican
IN–Carter, Holder, Roach; OUT–Dominic Drakes, Kevin Stoute, Tevyn Walcott
UMPIRES: Nigel Duguid, Deighton Butler (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
MATCH REFEREE: Reon King
RESERVE UMPIRE: Nandkumar Shivsankar
Source: CWI Media