By Ravi Madholall
Guyana Jaguars closing in on history with another title after carted off an efficient seven-wicket win over arch-rivals Barbados Pride inside three days on Saturday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence in their ninth-round Professional Cricket League regional 4-day tournament.
Set a modest 114 for victory, the reigning champions, made great progression achieving the target for the loss of three victims. Versatile all-rounder Raymond Reifer was the hero with both bat and ball, grabbing nine wickets match-haul and scored a responsible half-century. Scores in the match: Pride 76 and 238; Jaguars 201 and 118-3.
Apart from Reifer’s substantial contributions, left-handed opening batsman Chanderpaul Hemraj took Center stage in pursuit of the total by proclaiming his pugnacious form with a cameo 51. Guyana Jaguars who have the prestigious trophy for four years in succession, certainly tightened their grip on it for the fifth straight year having led the points standing quite resoundingly. They marshalled along to six victories while they were beaten on three occasions but remain largely in front with 136 points.
However, they have to be cognizant of the fact that second-placed team Leeward Islands Hurricanes have kicked up some storms by placing second with 110.8 points and two more matches to go. Guyana Jaguars will confront Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in their tenth and final round commencing on Thursday at the same venue. A win here will unassailably give Guyana Jaguars the championship but if a defeat occurs, Hurricanes still in it for top honors. Their final two encounters are against Windward Islands Volcanoes and Barbados Pride.
Meanwhile, Guyana Jaguars may be under-pressured against the visitors from Thursday owing to their upset lost against the Red Force at the Queen’s Park, Port-of-Spain where they clashed already in this double-round format.
Both sides failed to make a big impact with bat in the first in the innings as Red Force tumbled out for 108 while the Guyanese only responded with 150. The hosts manufactured a better batting display by compiling a satisfactory 317 compliments of Jason Mohammed’s defiant 83. When Guyana Jaguars chased the 276 for victory, they showed temporary fight with 182 all out. Leg-spinner Imran Khan collected three wickets while several other bowlers supported with two scalps each.
Even though Red Force recorded the victory, Guyanese and West Indies dynamic all-rounder Keemo Paul was given the man-of-the-match award after he churned out a good performance with both bat and ball. Guyana Jaguars will be without him for this much highly anticipated contest as he is rehabilitating from a foot injury.
Sensational left-handed Shimron Hetmyer and veteran leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo are currently representing West Indies in the on-going England tour of the Caribbean. Their absence is obviously profound for the Guyana Jaguars combination as well but no doubt they are talented enough and will be confident to create history for the five regional titles, under the leadership of West Indies batsman Leon Johnson, who has been at the helm on all victorious occasions thus far.