Tournament favourites Barbados Pride and the dangerous Jamaica Scorpions will lock horns again for the third time in the Regional Super50 when they square off in a highly anticipated final at Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua this afternoon.
Installed in Group B staged in Barbados, both teams inflicted defeats on each other during the preliminaries. Pride drew first blood on January 30 when they edged home by one wicket in a low-scoring contest at Kensington Oval and Scorpions hit back 10 days later when they walloped the hosts by 74 runs at the same venue.
Pride, boasting a phalanx of West Indies stars, topped the group by winning seven of their eight games while Scorpions advanced to the final four by finishing second.
In the semi-finals, Scorpions flexed their muscles with devastating effect as they crushed two-time reigning champions Trinidad and Tobago Red Force by 292 runs, behind a record-breaking batting effort where they piled up 434 for four off their 50 overs.
Chadwick Walton (117) and Test batsman Jermaine Blackwood (108 not out) gathered maiden List A hundreds while Rovman Powell (95) and Steven Taylor (88) pummelled career-bests, performances which did not go unnoticed by Pride captain Jason Holder.
“Obviously they are heavily reliant on their top order. It’s been very good for them in the last few games and obviously Rovman Powell is a very dangerous factor. We all saw what he can do when he came in – he came in in the last game and just exploded,” the West Indies Test and one-day skipper pointed out.
“Working on their top order and trying to put their middle order under some pressure by getting early wickets would be key for us and then obviously when we bat, we have to be very, very patient up front, keep wickets in hand and then we will be able to blast at the end like in the last game.”
He added: “The guys are obviously up for it. We had a good day’s rest [on Friday] after playing [on Thursday]. It’s been a pretty hectic schedule over the last few weeks with a lot of cricket so we try to have as much downtime for guys to refresh and refocus.”
Pride will be hardly lacking in weapons of their own. Opener Kraigg Brathwaite has been superb with 462 runs – the second most in the tournament – while Shai Hope has scored 381 runs.
Off-spinner Ashley Nurse has been the tournament leading wicket-taker with 25 wickets and has been supported by Holder’s 16.
They all shone in Thursday’s semi-final when Pride easily brushed aside Leeward Islands Hurricanes by 110 runs, with Hope carving out a career-best 125.
“Shai was obviously outstanding. He led the way with the bat obviously well supported by Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and the guys at the bottom,” Holder noted.
“It was very good to see them (lower order) coming and finishing off the innings. If it’s one area where we have faltered in our batting this year was finishing off the innings after the top order had set the tone and it was very good to see how the guys executed [in the semi-final] both with the bat and ball, and also in the field.
“Hopefully we can go into [Saturday’s] final with that same intensity and finish off that game.”
Scorpions, meanwhile, have not had one dominant player in either department. Walton (324) and Blackwood (306) have been the only batsmen to pass 300 runs while fast bowler Jerome Taylor (16) and leg-spinner Damion Jacobs (16) have led the bowling group.
Captain Nikita Miller said Scorpions were under no illusions about what was required if they were to beat Pride in the final.
“In order for us to win tomorrow we have to bat good. If we don’t bat well, Barbados will be the champions but we are looking forward to the game so hopefully everything can click,” Miller said.
“Jamaica has always been a very good bowling team over the years. We have not always been that good or consistent with the bat but since those two first games in the preliminary round, we’ve put some good scores on the board and we’ve been batting better since that first game loss.”
After similar performances throughout the preliminaries and then dominant wins in this week’s semis, Miller pointed out there was not much separating either team.
“On form, these are the two best teams in the final so we’re hoping it can be a cracker for the fans,” the left-arm spinner said.
“We’re looking forward to it. We had a good semi-finals, they had a good semi-finals. We played two games in Barbados and both games were entertaining as well so we’re looking forward to this one. It’s a final so the best team on the day will be the champions.”
The game bowls off at 1:30 pm.