Game on

bajans look to upset windwards in four-day semis

No one might have told Barbados when they disembarked in Dominica on Monday, but they are entering tomorrow’s semi-final of the WICB Regional Four-Day Championship against the Windward Islands as the clear underdogs.

Their hosts are no longer the Cinderella team of regional cricket and if Barbados needed any reminder, they can cast their minds back to March 25 when they were soundly thrashed by 216 runs by the Windward Islands on the third day of their preliminary round championship encounter at Kensington Oval.

Then their tormentor was wily West Indies off-spinner Shane Shillingford who grabbed match figures of 12 for 102 in his 49.3 overs. Barbados’ capitulation wasn’t pretty and they can expect more problems against Shillingford over the next four days. After all, the game is being played on his home turf and his record at Windsor Park is frightening.

In his two Test matches against Australia (2012) and Zimbabwe (2013) at Windsor Park Shillingford has taken 20 wickets at just overs 15 runs each. Barbados’ record against average spinners in recent times has not been flattering and coming up against a quality off-spinner they should therefore expect a wicket that gives Shillingford and any other tweaker assistance from day one. The tall Dominican has taken 46 wickets in five matches in the tournament so far.

But Barbados have spin options of their own which have performed well during the season. Off-spinner Ashley Nurse is the team’s leading wicket-taker with 30 wickets while beanpole left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn has 18 wickets in three matches.

The key bowler, however, in Barbados’ armory has been newcomer Miguel Cummins, the lanky new ball bowler. He is the tournament’s leading fast bowler with 26 wickets at just under 16 runs apiece and, though not of express pace, is sufficiently quick, and has impressed all and sundry with his control and movement.

Coach Hendy Springer is however pinning much of Barbados’ chances in the match on the return of fast bowler Kemar Roach.

“He brings experience to the team, having played the game at the highest level all over the world and having also played at this venue recently in the Test series against Zimbabwe. He will be familiar with the conditions here and we will be banking on his experience and knowledge when we take the field,” Springer said.

“A lot of our guys have not played here before so the experience of players such as Roach will be vital. He’s also one of the best fast bowlers in the world at the moment so we expect him to make a major impact on the game as well,” Springer added.

But Barbados’ bowling has not been an issue all season. It has been their abysmal batting. After an initially slow start West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite has struck form and has accumulated 440 runs at 55. The forgotten man of West Indies cricket captain Kirk Edwards has had an up and down season with a few good scores here but too many poor ones otherwise. And for all his obvious potential Jonathan Carter remains inconsistent and has not been getting the really big scores.

Springer underscored the benefit of the return of form of Brathwaite and the need for the team to bat well collectively.

“Kraigg has been good and is always focused on what he has to do. He is playing well and we hope he continues to do the job at the top for us. Every player has roles and responsibilities in the team and we expect everyone to show that fight which will be required. I believe this will be the kind of game where the team that bats better will come out on top,” Springer said.

Windward Islands, having already captured the regional 50-over title, will appreciate that 2013 is perhaps their best opportunity to do the double.

“It was an amazing honour to lift the Clive Lloyd Trophy at Kensington Oval after we beat CCC to win our first title in over a decade. That was a truly great feeling and memorable occasion. Now we want to get even better and win the four-day competition as well,” captain Liam Sebastien said in Roseau.

“The team is full of confidence after the way we played in the 50-over tournament. It is amazing what winning can do for a team and a group of people. We expect good crowd support in Dominica where people are passionate about the game,” he added.

The tournament’s leading batsman is Devon Smith, who has so far scored 682 runs at an average of over 85. His top score of 150 not out came against Barbados at Kensington Oval. His form with the bat and Shillingford’s with the ball could determine the outcome of the semi-final.

The match starts at 10 a.m. The second semi-final is being contested between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago at Sabina Park.

Windward Islands: Liam Sebastien (captain), Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Lyndon James (wicket-keeper), Delorn Johnson, Keddy Lesporis, Garey Mathurin, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Dalton Polius, Shane Shillingford, Devon Smith, Tyrone Theopille; Ian Allen (Coach)

Barbados: Kirk Edwards (Captain), Suliemen Benn, Rashidi Boucher, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wicket-keeper), Shai Hope (wicket-keeper), Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Javon Searles, Kevin Stoute †(WG/windiescricket)

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