CAVE HILL, Barbados, CMC – Combined Campuses & Colleges will be looking to create more history, when they face Windward Islands in the semi-finals of the WICB Regional first-class championship, starting today at the Three Ws Oval.
This season has been the most successful for CCC, since their entry into the competition three years ago. It’s the first time they have won four matches, finished at the top of the preliminary competition with 57 points, and reached the semi-finals.
At the same time, a few of the young players that have been exposed have fitted into the fabric of the side, and made their mark at various times throughout the season.
It’s a small wonder that the Windwards have reached the Final Four. Prior to the start of the season, it was clear they would miss West Indies captain Darren Sammy and batting kingpin Devon Smith to the World Cup, off-spinner Shane Shillingford to an international ban for an illegal bowling action, as well as veterans Rawl Lewis and Deighton Butler to retirement.
They have been the bedrocks of the visitors’ side over the years, but they still managed to reach the Final Four, collecting just two wins, and losing three times, including against their opponents this weekend to finish fifth in the preliminary competition with 41 points.
CCC player/coach Floyd Reifer said his side’s record for the season speaks for itself, and they are prepared to continue their successful run.
“The guys are playing well and they are confident,” he told reporters on the eve of the match. “It only goes to show that our programme is developing.
“The young players are developing well, and we have enough guys that are doing well with both bat and ball, so it says a lot about our organization.”
He added: “We have been working really hard from the inception three years ago, and we have taken our licks.
“But from last year, when we were so competitive in the Caribbean Twenty20 Championship, we have been progressing fairly well. Once we continue to play as a team, we will continue to do well.”
Windwards captain Liam Sebastien felt his side was ready to shrug off their tag of perennial under-achievers on such occasions, and be fierce in their pursuit of an upset – and ultimately, the title.
“We will enter the semi-finals looking to be competitive, and looking to win the game,” said. “We are not here to make-up the numbers, or because we have to be here.
“Both teams have the same goal in mind, but we are working hard towards the big prize of getting to the final.”
He said: “To many, it is surprise that we have reached the semi-finals because a number of familiar faces have not been with us.
“So to reach this far has been pleasing to us as a team, and especially for Windwards supporters. We do not want to let them down, so we are going to try and apply the pressure on the CCC this weekend, and try to reach the final.”
Up to the time of publication, CCC had not named their final squad from which they would choose their final 11, but they are not likely to stray too far from the combination they put together for the previous match.
Their captain Omar Phillips did not take part in the final practice session yesterday, but Reifer indicated that they still expected him to take his rightful place in the squad over the weekend.
West Indies opening batsman Devon Smith is one of three changes made to the Windwards side for the match.
The left-hander, a member of West Indies’ failed World Cup campaign, will replace another left-handed batsman Atticus Browne, but Sammy will not be in action.
Smith will strengthen the batting, but the bowling will be weakened because Kenroy Peters and Mervyn Matthew are both nursing injuries.
Windwards selectors have called up Grenadian batsman Lynden Lawrence and Dominican left-arm seamer Vincent Lewis will replace them.
Both Peters and Matthew will be sorely missed as they have been among the leading bowlers after the preliminary competition, both having claimed 21 victims.
The two sides have contested five matches over the last four seasons. Windwards have won three times, twice at the Three Ws Oval, and CCC have won two times, including the fixture earlier in the season.
CCC: Omar Phillips (captain), Ryan Austin, Nkrumah Bonner, Carlos Brathwaite, Kyle Corbin, Romel Currency, Kavesh Kantasingh, Kevin McClean, Gilford Moore, Shervon Penco, Floyd Reifer, Raymon Reifer, Jamal Smith, Shacoya Thomas
Windward Islands: Liam Sebastien (captain), Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Kevin James, Lyndon James, Lynden Lawrence, Keddy Lesporis, Vincent Lewis, Garey Mathurin, Nelon Pascal, Dalton Polius, Devon Smith, Keswick Williams
Umpires: Nigel Duguid, Clancy Mack