Pride to take the pitch
Fifth round of matches in four-day tournament begins tomorrow
Regional cricketers will return to the middle tomorrow when the fifth round of matches in the WICB Professional Cricket League Regional Four-Day Tournament opens following a break to accommodate the NAGICO Super50 Tournament in Trinidad and Tobago.
With four rounds played and six to come, the tournament continues virtually uninterrupted until its conclusion in late March, except for a one-week break at the end of this month.
At Kensington Oval the reigning champions and third-placed Barbados Pride will welcome the under-performing Leeward Islands Hurricanes.
The Pride kick-started their title defence with a pair of unexpected victories against the Jaguars and the Volcanoes following a couple of early setbacks due to the weather interruptions and will be looking to continue this trend against the bottom-placed Hurricanes.
Recent history is on the side of the hosts –– they have won the last four matches between the two sides –– the last three by an innings and seven runs, an innings and 31 runs, and an innings and 49 runs respectively.
This could spell another tough weekend for the Hurricanes unless they could the right formula to jump-start their season.
The Pride have made four changes to their squad including the return of their regular captain Kraigg Brathwaite, the West Indies opener from the tour of South Africa, and Kirk Edwards, another West Indies batsman, making his first appearance for the season following injury.
The Hurricanes too, have four changes to their squad with opener Sherwin Peters, as well as fast-medium bowler Quinton Boatswain and leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr gaining their first look-in for the season.
The Pride will also welcome back the highly promising all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite fresh from the tour of South Africa.
At Sabina Park in Kingston,the second-placed Jamaica Franchise will host current leaders Guyana Jaguars in the key match of the round.
Current form suggests this contest could go either way, but history strongly favours the home team –– only once have the Jaguars beaten them in the last ten years.
In addition, the franchisers will be looking to complete their eighth straight victory over the visitors.
The hosts have made four changes to their squad from the previous round, including giving a recall to experienced leg-spinner Odean Brown.
The Jags have been boosted by the return of veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul and fellow left-hander Leon Johnson, their captain, from the West Indies tour of South Africa.
There should be renewed interest at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in St. Lucia, where Windward Islands Volcanoes host newly-minted NAGICO Super50 champions Trinidad & Tobago Red Force.
Both teams need all the points they could acquire to get things back on track if they are to make a late charge for the title, but the hosts will be looking to bring the visitors back to the reality of the longer version of the domestic game.
Neither side has distinguished themselves this season, frittering away promising positions against opponents, so an outcome is difficult to determine.
The Red Force have generally dominated over the last decade, but the Volcanoes can take comfort in the knowledge that they have won two of the last three matches between the sides.
The return of veteran left-hander Devon Smith from the West Indies’ tour of South Africa as one of three changes to the Volcanoes’ line-up will add substance to their batting, while the inclusion of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel as one of a similar number of changes to the Red Force’s squad will give their attack an edge.
Much attention will also be on opening batsman Johnson Charles who has been in brutal batting form of late.