-as Jamaica and leaders Windwards clash in key fourth round match
CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – Title-holders Jamaica and championship leaders Windward Islands will clash in the feature game when the fourth round of the TCL Group West Indies Under-19 Challenge bowls off here today.
Both sides are coming off victories which pushed them to 21 points each after the third round which ended here Saturday.
The Windwards pulled off a seven-wicket win over Guyana at the Gros Islet playing field while Jamaica secured a five-wicket win over the Leeward Islands within the last hour at the Beausejour Stadium.
“I am expecting it to be what it is – a top-of-the-table clash,” Jamaican coach Robert Samuels told CMC Sports.
“The Windwards will be playing at home and they have been playing some good cricket. We had a hiccup at the start but right now we are playing some good cricket.
“The tournament has been hectic but we will have a day’s rest and will be putting our best foot forward against the Windwards.”
He added: “If we do our best it should be good enough. I am expecting a very good game. We have a few niggling injuries in the camp, but nothing major. We should have a full squad to choose from.”
Windwards manager Shawn Edwards, meanwhile, cautioned opponents not to underestimate the talent that resided in his team.
“There is a misconception that the Windwards are failures. Our players are comparable to others in the tournament but our preparation has always let us down in the past,” Edwards noted.
“The guys did some work in their individual islands and we had a one-week camp before the start of the tournament and that has made a big difference for us.
“We are very confident going into game four. Jamaica has been one of the teams we have had success against in recent times. They beat us last year at home but we had the better of them in 2008 at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.
“It’s been a mixed bag. Given the kind of cricket we have played in this campaign I am confident we have what it takes to overcome them at Beausejour.”
Barbados has stayed within striking distance of the leaders with 18 points at the end of round three.
Coach Dexter Coppin is, however, banking on three full days of cricket at the Dennery Cricket Ground to secure a possible outright win over Guyana who have remained on 15 points after their defeat to the Windwards.
“I feel very comfortable how the team has been playing and we are looking for maximum points against Guyana,” said Toppin.
“The boys are in good spirits and have been playing some good cricket. We have had tough luck with the weather. We had a chance to force an outright win over the Leewards but the rain set us back and with a small lead against the Trinidadians, the rain again set us back at Dennery a bit,” he lamented.
The Barbadian coach said a win would be crucial to his team’s chances of capturing the TCL title.
“We have to play to look for a win to be in with a chance. We have to win to be in it and we must play positive cricket in our remaining two games,” he asserted.
Guyana on the other hand need to re-energise their campaign after being top of the standings after the two first rounds.
“We will have stronger challenges in our final two matches as the teams we will be coming up against have been traditionally strong teams in this competition,” Guyana’s manager Alvin Johnson pointed out.
“Our batting has been a major let down and we hope the players will pull some weight in that department in the remaining fixtures.”
Right arm leg-spinner Amir Khan has been the stand-out player for the Guyanese with a haul of 22 wickets in three matches played so far.
“Our bowlers will also have to support Khan and bowl around him if we have to restrict our opponents and place ourselves in positions where we can force an outright win in our remaining games,” he suggested.
The Leewards are rooted at the bottom of the table with three points and take on Trindad and Tobago who have 12 points to their credit, in a clash at the Gros Islet Playing Field.
“I hope we can improve on our mistakes and do better over the next two games. We can’t win but hopefully we can improve,” said Leewards coach and former West Indies all-rounder Winston Benjamin.
“The guys are not concentrating for long periods and have not shown responsibility in their shot selection. Shot selection has been poor throughout the whole tournament.”