By Sean Devers in Antigua in association with Vnet Communications, Bounty Farm, Noble House Seafoods & Playter’s Enterprise
Many Guyanese leave everything to be done at the last minute and this is no different with the National cricket team here in Antigua. On the back of three consecutive wins, the Jaguars have somehow managed to find themselves in a precarious situation of having to win their last game at all cost if they hope to qualify for the semi-final stage of the Regional Super50 Festival.
Tonight at Coolidge, Guyana Jaguars and Jamaica will face-off in a must-win Day/ Night game for the Jaguars, which will be without their three leading players for this important clash.
The Guyanese Franchise returned to the top of the table with 22 points made up of five wins from seven matches while Scorpions are second on 19 with four wins from six matches.
The other match today pits Kent Spitfires (17 points – 4 wins from 6) against USA. The English County team will oppose Hurricanes (out of the race) in their final game on Sunday when Scorpions take on the USA in their last match.
Already without Raymon Reifer due to ‘A’ Team duties, the Jaguars will lose the services of their leading run-scorer Shimron Hetmyer (284 runs – two fifties and a hundred at an Ave 47.33) and their leading wicket-taker Davendra Bishoo (14 wickets) due to Windies World Cup qualifiers.
Kemo Paul (13 Wickets) also left yesterday for Jamaica where he replaces the injured Miguel Cummings for the second ‘Test’ against England Lions. Left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie, Tagenarine Chanderpaul and Paul Wintz replaces the three players.
Chris Barnwell, who replaced Rifer, has made an auspicious return to Regional Cricket with 159 runs from four matches at an Average of 53.00. The 31-year-old Barnwell has a highest score of 89, best bowling figures of 4-35 and two man-of the-match Awards.
The Scorpions are missing Andre Russell (271 runs from 6 matches at strike rate of 112.45 with two fifties and a century. Russell left yesterday for the T20 league in Pakistan. They are also without Blackwood (Windies ‘A’duties) along with Skipper Miller, Gayle and Rovman Powell (Windies WC qualifiers) and will depend on 32-Year-old Chadwick Walton who has 280 runs with a strike rate of 116.18 and blistering 169 against Hurricanes.
Andrew McCarthy (289 runs – one fifty and a century) is Scorpions’ leading run scorer and second overall in the tournament and the Jamaicans will hope that he continues his fine form tonight and gets support from openers Steven Taylor, Guyanese Trevon Griffith, Fabien Allen and Brandon King.
Scorpion’s seven-wicket win against Kent after recovering from 57-5 to reach 240-7 in the last over, sneaked them back into contention and whichever team wins tonight should join Kent as the teams going through from this zone.
Without Miller and Russell, the Scorpions bowling will bank on left-arm spinner Christopher Lamont who has had frugal spells opening the bowling, Oshane Thomas, Odean Smith, Allen, McCarthy and Peat Salmon.
The Jaguars also won their last game against the Hurricanes but a painfully slow 48-ball 14 from opener Shiv Chanderpaul who has 103 runs in two innings but just 50 from the other five, contributed to Guyana not getting a bonus point in that match.
Chanderpaul, whose strike rate is 52.58, could be replaced by his son Tagenarine Chanderpaul or Ricardo Adams for tonight’s crucial encounter. Without Hetmyer, Chanderpaul Hemraj could be charged with giving Guyana a quick start during the ‘power play’ overs while Skipper Leon Johnson must lead from the front with the bat in this do or die game.
It is pleasing to see Barnwell take the attack to the bowlers like he does in local cricket, batting with a level headed approach which resulted in him fashioning one of his best innings for Guyana on Wednesday.
Sherfane Rutherford, Anthony Bramble and Romario Shepherd can all hit the ball a long way and score quickly, especially on the tiny ground which once hosted Stanford T20 tournaments, but they need to display sensible aggression.
At 31, Wintz returns to Regional Cricket for the first time in just over a year and is a capable replacement with both bat and ball for Paul and should be in the starting X1. The bowling will revolve around Shepherd, Rutherford, Barnwell and Wintz with spin being provided by Veerasammy Permaul, Motie and if required, Hemraj.
Once Jaguars win tonight, they will move to 26 points and even if Scorpions beat USA with a bonus point, they will still finish two points behind Guyana. Guyana’s hopes of reaching a final since 2015 when they were bowled out for their lowest ever total (65) by Trinidad & Tobago or winning a title since 2005 when Chanderpaul lead them to Championship honours, hinge on nothing less than a win tonight.
With teams representing the Nations of the second and third largest populations in Antigua on a Friday night this game could have the largest crowd of the tournament so far.
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