By Sean Devers
Playing before virtually empty stands at the Guyana National Stadium, Guyana held the upper hand at the end of the opening day of their eighth round WICB regional four-day cricket match against the Windward Islands yesterday.
The Guyanese were 73-2 replying to the 215 made by the Islanders and begin today needing another 143 to claim for innings points for the second time this season.
The left-handed pair of Leon Johnson (14) and night watchman Davendra Bishoo (13) are the not out batsmen.
Without their top batsman Devon Smith due to West Indies duties, the visitors slumped from 102-2 at lunch to be all out 45 minutes after tea as Guyana enjoyed their best session this season when they grabbed six wickets and conceded 82 runs in the post lunch session.
Electing to bat on a flat track and fast outfield in sultry conditions, Keddy Lesporis and Andre Fletcher
Added 92 for the second wicket after Esaun Crandon forced Johnson Charles to provide wicketkeeper Derwin Christian with the first of his five catches yesterday.
Dropped on four off Narsingh Deonarine, Fletcher, who has played four ODIs, batted attractively and reached his third fifty for the season and 5th at the first-class level as he and Lesporis repaired the early damage with positive stroke play.
The 21-year-old Fletcher, who was a member of the Stanford Superstars which beat England in Antigua last year for US$20 million, seemed set to convert his fifty into his second first class ton before he top edged a pull at medium pacer Chris Barnwell just before lunch and was caught by Sewnarine Chattergoon. His 53 lasted 92 minutes, 71 balls and was decorated with eight boundaries.
Leg-spinner Bishoo removed Lesporis with the first ball after the interval after he had made 47 from 121 minutes, 81 balls with seven fours and Donwell Hector (9) got himself into a tangle as he was beaten for pace hooking at Barnwell, for Christian to hold the catch at 127-4.
When Kevin James, who looked good in his 48-ball 31 which lasted 70 minutes and included four fours and a six, edged pacer Trevon Garraway to the keeper at 146-5, the Windwards suffered an all too familiar collapse although surprisingly defensive cricket from Guyana helped to prolong the innings even after Darren Sammy (15) and Rawle Lewis (16) were removed by left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul to leave the visitors on 177-7.
Deighton Butler (0) edged Esuan Crandon to Christian at 178-8 and from 184-8 at tea, another 31 runs were added in the final session as part-time off-spinner Royston Crandon was used from the Northern end after Shane Shillingford (21) was bowled by Bishoo.
When Permaul, back in the side after missing two matches due to injury, was finally re-introduced into the attack, he induced last man Nelon Pascal (1) to sky a caught and bowled offering leaving Camilus Alexander unbeaten on 17.
Permaul, who initially struggled with his control, finished with 3-58 while Bishoo took 2-43 to take his wicket tally to 24 this season. Barnwell (2-14) and Esuan Crandon (2-29) also bowled well for the locals.
Guyana began solidly with Barnwell dominating the 40-run opening partnership before he played back once too often to a ball that kept low from left arm pacer Butler and was leg before for 19 from 37 balls and 54 minutes with four fours.
Chattergoon, in his first match of the season due to injury, exquisitely cover-drove Pascal for four to get off the mark from his 17th delivery before pulling a short ball from Darren Sammy to mid-on to end his 45-ball 17 to leave the score on 46-2.
The talented Leon Johnson, who desperately needs a big score to remind the regional selectors of his potential, survived to the end while Bishoo, who made 39 in his last innings, looked the more comfortable of the left-handed unbeaten pair yesterday afternoon as he struck two fours in his undefeated innings.
Guyana took first innings points from the Leewards in Nevis before losing the game outright and have so far lost four games and drawn two, heading into their first game of the second phase of the double round seven-team tournament.
The Windwards, with three wins and three losses from six games, will be hoping for some early wickets today to stay in the contest, while Guyana, who lost by an innings and 147 runs in Grenada when the teams met last month, will want to post their third 300-plus total since their return for the home matches.
Johnson in particular will know that as a West Indies player, he has to match his immense ability with three-figure scores at this level but with the in-form Deonarine, Skipper Travis Dowlin, Royston Crandon and Christian to come, Guyana holds the advantage going into the second day.
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