By Sean Devers in Antigua
In association with Vnet Communications,
Bounty Farm, Noble House Seafoods &
Guyana Jaguars face-off with Windwards Volcanoes at Coolidge from 14:00hrs today in a day/night encounter in the semi-finals of the Regional Super50 Festival.
The Jaguars are one win away from their first Final since 2015 when Trinidad won in Port-of-Spain and two wins away from their first title since 2015 when they defeated Barbados at Bourda.
Two more wins from the four-times defending Four-Day Champions will also see Leon Johnson joining Clive Lloyd (1983) and Roger Harper (1993) as the only Guyana Captains to win the ‘double’ in the same season.
But first they must get past the Volcanoes, whose late surge to semis with more wins, after finishing on the same points with the Red Force to finish second to defending Champions Barbados in group ‘A’ which was played in Barbados.
The first of the Windwards’ three titles was achieved in 1989 when Julian Charles led them to a nail biting one-wicket win against Guyana in Grenada. Their other two titles came in 2000 and 2012.
Guyana’s first of nine titles was won in Antigua when the late Roy Fredricks’ 119 led them to a 103-run win against the Leewards but they have not tasted success since 2005 when they beat Barbados at Bourda. Last year the Jaguars did not even make it to the semi-finals.
Jaguars finished top of group ‘B’ which was played here after a stutter in the middle of the group, while it left them needing to win two of their last three matches to qualify. They won all three.
Andre Fletcher (136), whose only ton in the tournament came at the right time, shared in a record 155-run stand Devon Smith (84) as Volcanoes beat English County side Hampshire in a match they not only had to win, but had to win with a bonus point to prevent Trinidad from advancing.
On paper, Volcanoes’ batting is strong and will depend heavily on 36-year-old Smith, a Regional First-Class runs machine.
Johnson Charles’ 177 is still the highest score made in the 42-year history of Regional 50-over cricket and along with Fletcher, Bajan Kirk Edwards and Kyle Mayers along Dominicans Tyrone Theophile, Kaveem Hodge and Shane Shillingford, gives the Volcanoes batting depth.
Off-spinner Shillingford is the tournament’s leading wicket-taker (21) and needs another two to reach 100 List ‘A’ wickets. He will spearhead the Volcanoes’ bowling and will expect support from left-arm pacer Delorn Johnson, Larry Edwards, Obed McCoy and Mayers.
Guyana, without four key players in Raymon Reifer, Kemo Paul, Devendra Bishoo and Shimron Hetmyer, are still a powerful force which is now favoured to win the tournament.
Chanderpaul Hemraj looks very positive and along with the unusually aggressive Tagenarine Chanderpaul, could take full advantage of the first power-play overs.
He is easily the best Captain in the Region but Johnson will know that this is crunch time and he needs to contribute more with the bat.
His 99 against the Hurricanes and his 50 against the USA are his only scores of note in eight innings in which he has only managed 189 runs.
Chris Barnwell has been magnificent with the bat since replacing Reifer. In six matches he has made 215 runs at an Average of 53.1 including two fifties.
He has to again play a crucial role in the middle order for Anthony Bramble, Sherfane Rutherford, Ricardo Adams and Romario Shepherd to build on.
Without Bishoo and Paul the bowling is depleted.Shepherd and Rutherford, both expensive in the last game, will have to be more consistent, while Barnwell’s spell could be an important one.
Veerasammy Permaul will lead a spin attack that could include Rookie off-spinner Jamaican Ramaal Lewis, who bowled well on the small ground in his only match so far and took two key wickets. Adams and part-time left-arm spinner Hemraj could also play their part with the ball.
The toss, weather and pitch conditions could prove important factors in the result.
Plenty Guyana support is anticipated tonight as Jaguars aim for a place in the final which will be an ideal Mashramani gift for their Country which celebrates its 48th Republic Anniversary tomorrow.
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