By Sean Devers
Although with Devon Smith, the tournament’s leading scorer with the most centuries in the history of Regional First-Class cricket in their side, Windwards Volcanoes languish at the bottom of the points table on 21 points.
The cellar dwellers face-off with leaders and three times defending Champions Guyana Jaguars on 86.4 points (25.4 points ahead of second placed T&T’s Red Force) as they head into the sixth round of the CWI Digicel Regional four-day Championships from tomorrow at Providence.
The teams come off contrasting results in their last game with the Jaguars devouring Barbados Pride by eight wickets on home turf, while Volcanoes imploded against Jamaica Scorpions, losing by 10 wickets at Sabina Park in Jamaica despite Smith’s century.
Since the inauguration of Franchise cricket, the Jaguars have played 35 games and only lost thrice; once to Barbados in 2014 and twice to Leewards Hurricanes last season and led by the region’s best Captain Leon Johnson, Jaguars start today’s contest as firm favourites.
Apart from Smith, who scored 116 out of a total of 200 in Jamaica and registered his highest First-Class score of 212 against Guyana in Grenada, Guyana’s biggest threat could be the adverse weather here at this time of the year.
While Smith is a Regional Run Machine, he usually struggles on the slow tracks in Guyana and without senior batsmen Sunil Ambris, Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher, the batting will resolve around the Grenadian left-hander.
Tyrone Theophile, Miles Bascombe, Tarryck Gabriel, Kyle Mayers and Roland Cato will need to contribute against a Jaguars attack that has bowled brilliantly this season.
The 19-year-old Kemo Paul swung the ball prodigiously to take nine wickets and the Man-of-the-Match in last round, while the genuinely quick Keon Joseph grabbed six scalps in the same game.
One of the most pleasing aspects of a team usually dependant on spin, is at the halfway stage Guyana has the most fast bowling points (10.4). Every wicket taken by a pacer earns his team .2 of a point.
When the sides last met in the second round in St Lucia, Sherfane Rutherford had 6-32, Romario Shepherd took 4-28 and Paul 2-28 in the first innings, while spinner Veerasammy Permaul captured four scalps, Joseph had two and 19-year-old Rutherford, who scored 51 from 58 balls, took two more wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award as Guyana won by seven wickets.
Vishaul Singh (119) and Anthony Bramble (90) also got runs for Guyana in St Lucia on the best track in the Region.
The Windwards ‘think tank’ will be keen to remind their bowlers that last season Guyana fell for 95, which remains their lowest total against the Islanders and second lowest overall and a lot will depend on Pacers Delorn Johnson, Sherman Lewis and Mayers.
The spin should be taken care of by experienced off-spinner Shane Shillingford one of only five bowlers (which includes Permaul) with 300 Regional wickets and Audy Alexander.
Guyana’s batting is formidable, especially now that the openers have finally given their team a firm foundation for the other batsmen to launch from.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul and Chanderpaul Hemraj, both with three fifties each, put together 115 for the first wicket in the last game, while Singh has two tons and an unbeaten 97 in St Kitts, Paul, Shiv Chanderpaul and Johnson have all reached three figure scores this season with Johnson getting three fifties in addition to his 165 in Trinidad.
Chanderpaul, level with Stuart Williams with 20 Regional centuries, is only behind Smith’s 26 Regional hundreds and against Jamaica in 1996 became the only batsman with a triple century since 1966 when made an unbeaten 303.
Bramble has two fifties in addition to 23 dismissals behind the stumps, while Night watchman Gudakesh Motie made an unbeaten 72 in his last innings.
While Guyana has 10 titles with the last three in a row, the Windwards are the only team yet to win a title although, as a part of the Combine Islands, Vivian Richards won the 1981 title.
Teams – Jaguars: Leon Johnson (Captain) Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Chanderpaul Hemraj, Vishaul Singh, Shiv Chanderpaul, Anthony Bramble, Kemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford, Veerasammy Permaul, Gudakesh Motie, Keon Joseph, Akshaya Persaud, Romario Shepherd
Volcanoes: Tyron Theophile (Captain), Devon Smith, Tarryck Gabriel, Miles Bascombe, Shermon Lewis, Delorn Johnson, Kyle Mayers, Roland Cato, Shane Shillingford, Audy Alexander, Donwell Hector, Dennis Smith, Kenneth Dember.
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