With the commanding styles in which they disposed of their opponents in the semi-finals, Barbados Pride and Jamaica Scorpions have set the stage for what should be an enthralling Final in the Regional Super50 Championship at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua Saturday.
Jamaica Scorpions were ruthless en route to a 292-run win over last year’s champions Trinidad & Tobago Red Force on Wednesday and Barbados Pride brushed aside Leeward Islands Hurricanes by 110 runs yesterday.
Having played in the same Group B in Barbados with the Pride first winning by one wicket and losing by 74 runs in the return match – both at Kensington Oval – in addition to the entertainment they have provided, it is a truly fitting showdown.
Barbados, with a squad parading 12 players who have represented West Indies in either Test, One-Day International or Twenty20 matches, were installed as favourites to take the title from the outset.
Yet, they know that performances and not just reputation will be vital in their quest for silverware.
Jamaica, after losing their opening match against Combined Campuses & Colleges Marooners by 75 runs at 3Ws Oval, have shown that they have the all-round strength to grab the title as well.
Their batting was breath-taking on Wednesday in amassing the highest ever regional limited overs total of 434 for four off 50 overs after they were sent in.
The stage was well set by Chadwick Walton and left-hander Steven Taylor, who added 174 in 21.2 overs for the first wicket and then Jermaine Blackwood and the exciting all-rounder Rovman Powell, sustained the tempo.
Just look at the statistics. Walton 117 (96 balls, nine fours, seven sixes, strike rate 121.87); Taylor 88 (71 balls, eight fours, five sixes, strike rate 123.94); Blackwood 108 not out (88 balls, six fours, six sixes, strike rate 122.72) and Powell 95 (45 balls, six fours, nine sixes, strike rate 211.11).
That was real ball-beating as pacers Shannon Gabriel, Ravi Rampaul and Rayad Emrit and spinners Khary Pierre and Imran Khan were treated with disdain. Only off-spinner Jason Mohammed managed to concede less than six runs an over.
So the bowling figures showed Gabriel 9-0-91-0, Rampaul 10-0-83-2, Emrit 8.3-0-78-0, Pierre 6.3-0-77-0, Mohammed 6-1-24-1, Khan 10-0-69-1.
Trinidad & Tobago could only muster 142 all out in 26.3 overs. What a disappointment!
Mohammed made 62 not out off 63 balls with seven fours and one six at No. 4 as Player-of-the-Match Powell grabbed five for 36 off eight overs with his medium-pace.
Jerome Taylor took three for 27 off 5.3 overs and fellow fast bowler Reynard Leveridge, two for 31 off five overs.
Barbados made 314 for seven off 50 overs after winning the toss and dismissed Leeward Islands for 204 in 47.3 overs.
The match will long be remembered for an excellent all-round performance with the bat and gloves by Shai Hope.
The talented 23-year-old hit a career-best 125 off 108 balls – his second List A century – with eight fours and five sixes at No. 3 and effected a record seven dismissals including five catches and two stumpings.
Kraigg Brathwaite was again solid at the top with 54 off 84 balls including five fours.
Barbados scored 111 off the last ten overs as captain Jason Holder lashed an unbeaten 42 off 26 balls with two fours and three sixes and Carlos Brathwaite 27 off 11 deliveries including three sixes.
Opener Montcin Hodge top-scored for the Leewards with 63 off 111 balls containing seven boundaries and Jeremiah Louis got 41 not out off 32 balls, also with seven fours.
Off-spinner Ashley Nurse took three for 37 off ten overs to push his tally to 25 – still the leading wicket-taker in the Tournament.
Carlos Brathwaite picked up three for 56 off 7.3 overs and fellow pacer Kemar Roach, two for 36 off ten overs.
While there was some speculation over how Jamaica and Barbados would adapt to the conditions in Antigua, the one-sided results in the semi-finals revealed that once teams are strong and confident, they could rise to the occasion.
Now, one of the eagerly awaited spectacles will no doubt be the Jamaica new ball pair of the experienced Jerome Taylor and rookie Leveridge.
Though with only eight wickets at 29.87 runs apiece and an economy rate of 4.42, Leveridge has impressed with genuine pace and hostility, giving the batsmen something to think about.
Jerome Taylor and leg-spinner Damion Jacobs are the joint leading wicket-takers (16) for Jamaica – Jacobs at an average of 17.06 (ER: 4.26) and Taylor (ave: 15.68; ER: 4.44).
The Barbados batsmen must also be wary of the tidy, teasing off-spin of John Campbell, better known for his batting but who has the ability to pick up vital wickets as he did in the 74-run win. In fact, Campbell has 13 wickets (ave: 16.46; ER: 4.70).
Skipper Nikita Miller, with his left-arm spin, is a seasoned campaigner and though with just eight wickets at 30 runs each, his economy rate is relatively good at 3.46.
Powell will be their other bowler. He has eight wickets (ave: 23.75; ER: 4.78).
The top five batsmen in terms of aggregates for Jamaica have been Walton 324 (ave: 36.00; SR: 100.30); Blackwood 306 (ave: 43.71; SR: 77.46), Powell 291 (ave: 41.57; SR: 115.01); Steven Taylor 255 (ave: 36.42; SR: 93.06) and Andre McCarthy 239 (ave: 39.83; SR: 83.27).
Some observers have tended to place great emphasis on strike rates as far as batsmen are concerned, but such arguments should also be put in perspective.
For example, Kraigg Brathwaite’s role is clearly one of batting deep into the innings. He has an aggregate of 462 runs including two centuries and three fifties, at an average of 57.75 with a strike rate of 66.47.
His opening partner for the last four matches, Kevin Stoute, has 109 runs (ave: 27.25; SR: 70.32).
After disappointing scores early in the Championship, Hope has certainly improved significantly and to such an extent that his last four innings have produced 306 runs (63, 56, 62 and 125) of his aggregate of 381 (ave: 42.33; SR: 75.29).
The middle order with the likes of Jonathan Carter, 300 runs (ave: 37.50; SR: 91.46), Roston Chase 207 (ave: 29.57; SR: 107.81) and Shane Dowrich 110 (ave: 22.00; SR: 85.27), along with big-hitters in Holder 144 (ave: 20.57; SR: 113.38), Carlos Brathwaite 91 (ave: 15.16; SR: 108.33) and Nurse 87 (ave: 14.50; SR: 97.75), underline why Barbados are such a dangerous side.
The bowling has been very potent. Nurse’s 25 wickets have been at a cost of 11.32 runs with an economy rate of 3.47.
Roach and Holder have been steady with the new ball apart from picking up wickets and veteran left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn continues to take wickets while maintaining a very good economy rate and average.
Holder has 16 wickets (ave: 14.62; ER: 3.57), Benn 15 (ave: 10.00: ER: 2.74) and Roach 10 (ave: 17.60; ER: 3.96).
Chase’s off-spin has also been very handy with five wickets (ave: 16.40; ER: 3.30).
Carlos Brathwaite has six wickets (ave: 31.16; ER: 4.85).
The fact that Barbados can also turn to the occasional off-spin of Kraigg Brathwaite or the medium-pace of Stoute and Carter, points even further to their all-round strength.
Regional sponsored limited overs Tournaments started in 1976, and it will be Jamaica’s 13th Final and their first since 2011 when they won the title for the eighth time.
Barbados are contesting an unprecedented 20th Final but with only six trophies to show. Their last success was in 2014.
And the last time Barbados and Jamaica met in a Final was in 2002 when Barbados, under the captaincy of Courtney Browne, the current West Indies chairman of selectors, won by 33 runs at Kaiser in Discovery Bay, Jamaica. The Jamaica captain was Robert Samuels, who is now the Jamaica team head coach.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org