ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – After a shift in the balance of power in the previous round, the three leading teams will be looking to take advantage of the three trailing teams, as they jostle for supremacy in the fifth round of the Digicel Regional 4-Day Tournament, ahead of the long break for the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, plus the Regional Super50 Tournament.
History has set up what should be an intriguing contest between hosts Leeward Islands Hurricanes and current leaders Jamaica Scorpions which starts on Thursday at Warner Park in St. Kitts.
Elsewhere, two-time defending champions Guyana Jaguars face Trinidad & Tobago Red Force at the Guyana National Stadium, starting on Friday, the same day that Windward Islands Volcanoes meet Barbados Pride at Windsor Park in Dominica.
In Basseterre, St. Kitts: Momentum will be the key word for both the Hurricanes and Scorpions following contrasting results in the previous round of matches.
The Hurricanes will be looking to regain the energy they had from early in the season, after the weather in the Trinidad capital of Port of Spain and defeat to the Volcanoes derailed them in the last two rounds of matches.
Over the same period, good fortune has favoured the Scorpions, after the weather saved them a few blushes against the Pride before the golden left-arm of their captain Nikita Miller catapulted them to the top of the table with a record-setting bowling performance that led to a sensational victory over Red Force.
Recent history is however, on the side of the Hurricanes. First, they have won on the last two occasions the two sides have played at Warner Park, i.e. last season and the season before, and secondly, it’s where they created history earlier in the season with the highest successful, fourth innings run chase in modern R4Day history (1966 onwards).
The spin of Liam Sebastien and Shane Shillingford were the Hurricanes’ undoing in the previous round, and how well they cope with Miller and his leg-spin bowling side-kick Damion Jacobs could be the key to the outcome.
In Providence, Guyana: The Jaguars will be looking to take advantage of a Red Force side low on confidence and finish the first half of the season in pole position.
The weather got in the way of the Jags making a bid for victory against the Pride in the previous round, at the same that the Red Force stumbled to their second defeat in a season they started with a sound victory over the Volcanoes.
This could well be another absorbing contest, considering the results of matches between the two sides at this venue. Neither has a major advantage over the other. Of the five matches, they have each won once, and it would be interesting to note that the Red Force has held the aces in the other three which have all been drawn.
It’s true the Red Force perhaps may have fielded stronger units for those previous five matches, but it may be something they could draw upon to find the inspiration they may require to defy the Jaguars.
In Roseau, Dominica: A compelling contest is expected between the Volcanoes and Pride in what is typically one of the fiercest rivalries in the R4Day.
The Volcanoes will be pumped up to face a team against whom, if no other, they typically rise to the challenge to confront, following their stunning, come-from-behind victory over the Hurricanes in the previous round.
At the same time, the Pride – boosted by a number of returning West Indies players – were engaged in an engrossing battle with the Jaguars in between the showers, but had to settle for a draw.
After the two sides traded barbs in the first half of this decade, the Pride have steadily taken over, winning three of the last four matches under the franchise format and their hand is strengthened when it is revealed that they have never lost to the Volcanoes in any of the Windward islands since the start of the new millennium.
The Pride will also have fond memories of the previous occasion they played at this venue, when they dismissed the Volcanoes for less than 100 twice in a victory by an innings and 101 runs in a low-scoring match on a difficult pitch.
Batting will be the key in this match, after all, the Volcanoes have struggled in this area, except for the previous round, so they will be hoping for a similarly defiant performance, and though the Pride has the edge in this department, they will have to contend with arguably the best attack on paper.