GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Barbados Pride will hope to present the country with a fitting Independence gift with a victory over three-time defending champions, Guyana Jaguars, when the two teams clash their fifth round match in the Regional four-day Championship starting here Thursday.
Barbados celebrates 51 years of political independence from Great Britain on the opening day of the game, something the visitors will try to use as motivation to inflict Jaguars with their first defeat of the new season.
While Pride have had a stuttering start, Jaguars have been virtually flawless, and sit on top of the six-team standings with 64.8 points following four rounds of matches in the region’s premier first class competition.
Pride are third on 42.4 points but can narrow the gap if they manage to put together a strong enough performance over the weekend at the Guyana National Stadium, to stun an extremely confident Jaguars side.
And while a win would help the visitors claw their way back into the competition, one for the Jaguars would help them stretch their lead at what is the half-way stage of the tournament.
With the majority of Pride’s first choice players away on West Indies duty, much will rest on the side’s remaining experienced players to carry the fight to Jaguars.
Captain Shamarh Brooks, who struggled for form in the West Indies A series against the touring Sri Lankans last month, is without a significant score in three innings and but will need to step up for this encounter.
Left-hander Jonathan Carter, who suffered a pair in the first match of the season, rebounded with a hundred against Scorpions in Kingston and his form will prove crucial over the weekend.
Opener Anthony Alleyne has had an up-and-down season with two scores over 80 but four in single digits while all-rounder Kenroy Williams is yet to get among the runs, despite a half-century in the last game against Volcanoes.
However, it is in Pride’s bowling where the inexperience is reflected, and seamer Kevin Stoute and off-spinner Ashley Nurse, will be forced to shoulder much of the burden of the attack.
Jaguars have no such worries, with the likes of Test legend Shiv Chanderpaul, West Indies A left-hander Vishaul Singh and captain Leon Johnson all having gathered hundreds this season, and Test left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul, the leading wicket-taker with 26 scalps.
If history is anything to go on then the affair should be a keenly contested one, as no side has really dominated the other in terms of results over the past three seasons of the new Professional Cricket League era.
In fact, the two sides have won once in three meetings at the Guyana National Stadium, with the other match ending in a draw last year. In the six matches over the last three years, the teams have led each other on first innings three times apiece.
Overall however, Jaguars have won twice and Pride, once, in the six matches.
Pride’s season is yet to recover from its rocky start when they drew with Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in the first round at Kensington Oval, and then slumped to a heavy innings defeat to Leeward Islands Hurricanes also at home.
They mustered a draw in a rain-hit day/night match against Jamaica Scorpions in the third round but were good enough to trounce the win-less Windward Islands Volcanoes by 135 runs in their last round encounter at Arnos Vale.
For this weekend’s game, Pride selectors have made just one change, bringing in 20-year-old all-rounder Shamar Springer – one of the stars from West Indies’ triumph in last year’s Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
Springer, yet to make his first class debut, replaces leg-spinner Hayden Walsh.
Like Pride, Jaguars have also made one change to their squad, including the uncapped batsman Akshaya Persaud for the out-of-form Test batsman Rajendra Chandrika who has made just 67 runs in four innings this season.
JAGUARS – Leon Johnson (captain), Anthony Bramble, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Keon Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, Keemo Paul, Veerasammy Permaul, Akshaya Persaud, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Vishaul Singh
PRIDE – Shamarh Brooks (captain), Anthony Alleyne, Jonathan Carter, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Aaron Jones, Shayne Moseley, Ashley Nurse, Mario Rampersaud, Shamar Springer, Kevin Stoute, Jomel Warrican, Kenroy Williams.