By Ravi Madholall
An intriguing battle is highly and intensely expected to unfold in the eighth-round regional four-day match between perennial rivals Guyana Jaguars and Barbados Pride from Thursday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence.
Guyana Jaguars are currently in second position with 85.8 points while their opponents are leading with 116 points, a considerably huge difference of 30.2 points with three more matches to go, including the eighth round.
Apart from their familiarity with home conditions for this day/night contest, Guyana Jaguars may not start off proceedings as favorite because Barbados Pride have been dominant this season with five consecutive wins.
Due to the double-round format, Guyana Jaguars and Pride already clashed in the second round with the host-team Pride manufacturing a seven-wicket triumph.
Statistically, of their seven games, Barbados Pride claimed five victories while they suffered a pair of defeats and on the other hand Guyana Jaguars only picked up three wins, two defeats and indulged themselves with two drawn encounters.
Guyana Jaguars are still in it with a chance of retaining the prestigious trophy and historically winning the title for six years in succession. But they have to win all three matches on an outright basis and hope Barbados Pride lose at least two of their three more assignments.
Both teams traditionally have strongly relied on their bowlers to come out on top and the Pride have been firing in all cylinders in that specific department since the commencement of the 2020 edition.
The pacemen have done an exceptional job bowling out oppositions cheaply and auspiciously winning by massive margins.
Guyana’s batting has shown some potency from the fifth-round when two centurions came up but before that they lacked consistency especially in the opening slot. With the availability of their senior batsman Shimron Hetmyer, Jaguars no doubt are expected to make changes so they can be more authoritative against the Pride’s quickies.
For the Pride veteran fast-bowler Kemar Roach made the early impression and is splendidly supporting by two young, promising seamers: Keon Harding and Chemar Holder while they will have the service of West Indies test captain Jason Holder in the lineup for this much anticipated pulsating showdown. Their spinners could be useful as well on a Providence pitch which is always characterized to be slow and low. Left-arm bowler Jomel Warrican and off-spinner Ashley Nurse, both men with international experience, are capable of making steady inroads.
With several of Guyana Jaguars’ premier batsmen are in good form, they should be confident to do well against the Pride’s bowling armory.
The middle-order has been consistent and they will certainly gravitate towards them on this occasion.
Leon Johnson, the skipper, is in rich touch having slammed a stupendous 189 not out against Windward Islands Volcanoes in the fifth-round while the Christopher Barnwell, the genuine all-rounder, carving out substantial scores as well including his 107 against the Volcanoes to be the other centurion in the Jaguars’ setup.
Discarded test batsman Vishal Singh, even though he was rested for the Volcanoes clash, reappeared with two 90s against Jamaica Scorpions and Leeward Islands Hurricanes in the respective sixth and seventh rounds.
Opener Tagenarine Chanderpaul lost his form after scoring a resolute half-century (68) in the third-round against Trinidad and Tobago. He had two more fifties (60&66) in the first two matches but since then he has been out of form badly only getting meager scores of: 5 and 12, 11 and DNB, 8 and 2, 9 and 4 chronologically. His opening partner Chanderpaul Hemraj did not create a big impact as well. He made a healthy half-century (81) against the Scorpions but picked up an injury and missed Jaguars’ last game versus Leeward Islands Hurricanes in the seventh-round.
In the drawn-encounter against Hurricanes last weekend on home soil, the opening batting area continued to be chaotic as Hemraj’s replacement Kevin Imlacl had a pair of ducks which further accentuated the unsolved problem at the top. Because of that the lower-order was asked on multiple occasions to come to the fore and the likes of dynamic all-rounder Raymond Reifer and wicketkeeper/batsman Anthony Bramble are doing a fine job with bat.
Their bowling will once again center around the stalwart and left-arm orthodox spinner Veerasammy Permaul whose effectiveness is admirable. He should be motivated as well since he is leading the bowling chart with 49 wickets so far. Pacer Romario Shepheard just back from West Indies’ duties will help boost them along with another medium-pacer Kemo Paul. Left-arm seamer Reifer has been a committed bowler and will be backed up by Barnwell, spinners Kevin Sinclair and Gudakesh Motie. Fast-bowlers Keon Joseph and Nial Smith have been dropped making way for Paul and Shepherd.