By Sean Devers in Jamaica in Association with Sterling Products Ltd, Auto Fashion & Payless Variety Store
Guyana (then Demerara) played the inaugural Regional First-Class cricket match against Barbados at the Parade Ground in Georgetown in 1865 but because of the distance to the other cricketing countries, Jamaica did not play the regular first-class cricket until 1964.
Today, from 11:00hrs (Guyana Time), the two sides meet at Sabina Park in Kingston, the largest City in the English speaking Caribbean, in the opening round of the 2014 Regional Four-Day First-Class Competition.
Guyana and Jamaica have met 53 times at this level since Regional cricket first acquired sponsorship in 1966. Jamaica were victorious 18 times, Guyana won seven times while 28 matches ended in draws and two were abandoned.
Guyana have won six titles while Jamaica have eight championship titles, including an unprecedented five consecutive times from 2008 before Barbados ended their winning streak by beating Trinidad and Tobago in last year’s final.
In the last meeting between the two nations, Jamaica crushed the South Americans by 212 runs with over a day to spare at Providence with Guyana falling for 96 in their first innings, their second lowest total ever against Jamaica.
The Guyanese were dismissed for 155 in their second innings despite a fighting 70 from Leon Johnson that ensured the match went into the third day. Keon Joseph picked up four wickets in the Jamaica first innings.
At a venue where Guyana recorded their lowest ever First-Class total when they were blown away by Jamaica for 41 in 1986, the pitch could play a major role today since the Sabina Park track tends to be best for batting on the second day.
Guyana’s batting is formidable on paper with openers Sewnarine Chattergoon and Assad Fudadin along with middle order batsmen Shiv Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Narsingh Deonarine who all have Test experience. Christopher Barnwell, who looked in fine form during the Regional 50 overs competition, has also represented the West Indies in six T20 matches.
Chanderpaul’s 15 Regional tons is one more than Clayton Lambert’s 14. He is the most capped West Indian Test player and brings a wealth of experience to Guyana’s batting. He also has the only triple ton in sponsored Regional First-Class cricket with his unbeaten 303 against Jamaica in 1996.
The 39-year-old Chanderpaul has been appointed Captain in place of Johnson, Guyana’s leading run-scorer last year. Johnson suffered a knee injury during the last day of their practice match in Guyana and Barnwell was appointed Vice-Captain.
Although missing Johnson, who scored 430 runs last year, the visitors have in their line-up left hander Fudadin who scored 289 runs last year and who along with Chattergoon will be expected to lay a solid foundation at the top of the order for Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Deonarine and Barnwell to build on.
Wicket-Keeper Anthony Bramble and Test spinners Devendra Bishoo and Veerasammy are all capable of lower order runs.
On a track which should offer pace and carry for the bowlers, the Guyanese new ball bowlers Ronsford Beaton and Joseph are genuinely quick and should enjoy the surface here. They will expect support from Barnwell and Fudadin.
But left-arm spinner Permaul, who finished with 30 wickets last year and leg-spinner Bishoo, who captured twenty in six matches, could do the bulk of the bowling with spin back up from Deonarine.
The 21-year-old leg-spinner Amir Khan, who replaced Johnson and has played a single First-Class match when Bishoo was playing in the World Cup, could find his opportunities limited today.
Coach Esaun Crandon said his team will be looking to get off to a good start. “We know that playing Jamaica at Sabina Park will be a tough assignment, but we have one of the strongest squads in the tournament on paper and we are hoping to transfer that unto the field.”
Jamaica won their first title in 1969 but had to wait 19 years for their second before middle-order batsman Tamar Lambert, who was reappointed captain, led the Jamaicans to a record five consecutive titles from 2008. Lambert is viewed by many as the most astute Skipper in the Region.
Today a lot will depend on the burly 32-year-old, who copped the Best All-Rounder Award in the just concluded Regional Super50 tournament where he was surprisingly overlooked as Captain, and limited overs Skipper Nkrumah Bonner, who scored a century against Guyana in the Regional Super50.
Without Chris Gayle, Jamaica’s batting is very inexperienced with 20-year-old John Campbell, Andre McCarthy, Jamie Merchant and Horace Miller having just a handful of First Class matches between them. Jermaine Blackwood, Dave Bernard and Carlton Baugh are also expected to contribute with the bat.
Comeback kid Jerome Taylor, Andre Russell and Sheldon Cotterell, could trouble the Guyanese batters on the Jamaican tracks with their pace. Russell and Cotterell, who will miss the next set of matches due to duties for the West Indies in the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh, could also get pace support from Andrew Richardson.
Leg-spinner Odean Brown is missing from the home team although the 32-year Browne seemed to have recovered from a knee injury and even practiced with the Jamaica team this week while Left-arm spinner Nikita Miller is unavailable due to West Indies commitments against England.
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