By Sean Devers
Despite being its home ground, the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, venue for
today’s opening match between Guyana Jaguars and the Leeward Islands in the inaugural WICB Regional Four-Day First-Class Franchise tournament, is not their favourite hunting ground.
Built for the 2007 World Cup, Providence has hosted 15 First-Class matches since Guyana opposed CCC in March 2008 and the local side has only won one of those matches. Today, on land that was previously a sugarcane plantation the pitch should be the traditional slow and low surface due to the high sand content at Guyana’s only International cricket stadium where the slow bowlers should revel in what is anticipated to be spin-friendly conditions.
The Guyana Jaguars, which include Bajan left-handed all-rounder Raymond Reifer, should start as favourites since in addition to having six players who have played Test cricket in their side and a powerful batting line-up the Jaguars have arguably the most potent spin pair in regional cricket.
Left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul, who has enjoyed recent success in the two practice matches to select the team for this competition and leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo, who has the record for the best match figures at Providence (15-149 vs T&T in 2014) have both played Test cricket and should prove a stern test for the inexperienced Islanders.
Narsingh Deonarine has developed into a quality off-spinner at this level and along with the genuinely quick Ronsford Beaton, Reifer and Chris Barnwell should give the Jaguars a complete bowling attack on a track which should make free scoring a difficult task.
On paper, Guyana’s batting is rock solid with the experienced Shiv Chanderpaul, Skipper Leon Johnson, Assad Fudadin and Deonarine all having played Test cricket, while Rajendra Chandrika, Vishal Singh,
Trevon Griffith, Anthony Bramble, Barnwell and Rifer are all capable of the scoring heavily at this level. Bishoo and Permaul are also no ‘rabbits’ with the bat.
Guyana have played the Leewards 35 times in First-Class cricket since their first in 1983 the South Americans have won nine times while losing 10 of those contests. Sixteen of those matches have ended in draws but the last time the teams met in Antigua earlier this year, the Islanders won by five wickets despite Leon Johnson’s maiden regional century.
Guyana scored 240 and 212, while the Leewards made 174 & 279-5 with Devon Thomas, who is now the Captain, falling 10 short of a hundred in that game as Guyana, affected by injury and negative cricket failed to win a single match in the entire tournament.
Guyana last defeated the Leewards in 2012 when the South Americans won by 234 runs as the Leewards tumbled for 102. Bishoo and fellow Test spinner Permaul captured four wickets each. In 2012 Guyana reached the semi-finals which they lost to Jamaica and enjoyed their best season since 2002 when Carl Hooper led them to the Busta International Shield.
The last of Guyana’s six Regional First-Class titles was achieved in 1998 while their first was in 1973 after the Regional tournament was first sponsored in 1966 under the Shell Shield banner.
The last time a Guyana/Leewards game was scheduled for Guyana the game was washed out without a ball being bowled at Bourda in 2011 and the adverse weather could again be a factor in this fixture since this is the first time that First-Class cricket has been scheduled for Guyana at this time of the year.
The last of the Leewards’ four titles was in 1998 when they shared it with Guyana and they will pin their hopes on 25 year-old Thomas, who made his First-Class debut for the Leewards against Jamaica in 2008 and has nine fifties and a century from 41 matches. He has played 21 ODIs for the West Indies.
Gavin Tonge, the 31-year-old pacer, played his only Test against Australia and is the lone Test player in the side while leg-spinner 31 year old Anthony Martin, who has nine ODIs and Austin Richards are the only other International players in a team without any big name players.
Tonge, Jacques Taylor and Kelbert Walters could find bowling fast at Providence hard work even though Martin should get some assistance with his quick leg-spin and should receive support from Guyanese born left-arm spinner Yannick Leonard.
The visitors’ batting should center around Thomas, Vice-Captain Jahmar Hamilton, Quinton Boatswain, Leonard, teenager Jeremiah Louis, Orlando Peters, left-handed opener Richards, who has played a single ODI and 20-year-old Akeem Raunders in what is one of most inexperienced Leewards team in recent times. The Umpires for today’s match are Bajan Gregory Braithwaite and Guyana’s Nigel Duguid
After a few years absence, live Radio Commentary returns to the airwaves with ball-by-ball action from 10:00hrs today on NCN’s Voice of Guyana (VOG).
Teams: Guyana Jaguars: Leon Johnson (Captain), Assad Fudadin (Vice-Captain), Rajindra Chandrika, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Raymond Reifer, Anthony Bramble (wk), Christopher Barnwell, Veerasammy Permaul, Devendra Bishoo, Ronsford Beaton, Vishal Singh, Trevon Griffith.
Leeward Islands: Devon Thomas (Captain), Jahmar Hamilton (Vice Captain), Quinton Boatswain, Yannick Leonard, Jeremiah Louis, Anthony Martin, Orlando Peters, Austin Richards, Lyndell Richardson, Akeem Raunders, Jacques Taylor, Gavin Tonge, Kelbert Walters.
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