Jamaica's cricketers hunt more glory
After their unprecedented run of success in regional first-class cricket, winning five successive championship titles between 2008 and 2012, the Jamaica team has predictably declined in fortunes.
Last season they lost at the semi-final stage. And after an encouraging start this year, the team lost thrice in a row, including twice at Sabina Park, leaving cricket watchers scratching their heads and statisticians scurrying for the records to see when was the last time such a thing happened.
Yet, despite all that, Mr Tamar Lambert and his men showed enough fight to grab fourth place in the league.
Then in the semi-finals of the final-four Headley/Weekes Trophy competition the Jamaicans upset league champions Barbados by one wicket in an extraordinarily tense finish to reach the final against Windward Islands starting in St Lucia today.
Much has been made of the fact that the Jamaicans collapsed so sensationally on the final morning against Barbados at Kensington Oval, losing seven wickets for 44 runs, as they sought 167 runs to win.
However, as is to be expected on any last day pitch there was considerable variability/unpredictability in bounce and pace, so the task -- against a very disciplined Barbados bowling attack -- was by no means as easy as some have suggested it was.
As pointed out by Mr Lambert, the Jamaicans got it right in the end with the old stalwarts Messrs David Bernard and Nikita Miller coming together at the end to pull their team over the line. By accident or design, arguably the two coolest heads in the Jamaica team were together when they were most needed.
The Jamaican management and coaching staff would also have been pleased with the performances late on the third day of two of the newer faces in this evolving Jamaica team.
We refer to Mr Jermaine Blackwood, the precociously talented 22-year-old right-hand batsman, and the 26-year-old right-hander Mr Andre McCarthy.
But for their bold counter-attacking third-wicket stand of 91, which lifted Jamaica from 20-2 to 111-3, the Barbadians would have won the game by a considerable margin.
Alongside Messrs Blackwood and McCarthy, other new and relatively new faces in the Jamaica batting line-up, notably Messrs John Campbell, Jon-Ross Campbell and Nkrumah Bonner, have all promised much without consistently delivering.
The hope is that in the four-day final starting today, they, as well as the experienced Messrs Lambert, Bernard and Carlton Baugh, will bat well together as a unit against a Windwards bowling attack strengthened by the return from injury of champion off-spinner Mr Shane Shillingford.
Should the Jamaican batsmen excel we fully expect their bowlers, led by Messrs Jerome Taylor and Nikita Miller, to fulfil their part of the bargain as the Land of Wood and Water seek their sixth first-class cricket title in seven seasons.