Title-holders Jamaica head into today's clash against the youthful Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) as favourites in the second round of the Regional Super50 tournament at Sabina Park in Kingston.
The game is slated to start at 9:30 am.
Jamaica pulled out a 75-run victory over Barbados in Bridgetown in their opening 50-over game two weeks ago, on the back of batsman Nkrumah Bonner's sparkling 110.
Meanwhile, the CCC lost by one run to the Windward Islands in a nail-biting encounter in St Lucia, despite respective half-centuries from wicketkeeper/batsman Chadwick Walton and all-rounder Raymon Reifer, as well as promising bowling efforts from spinner Akeem Dewar and pacer Kevin McClean.
Though having contrasting starts, Jamaica coach Junior Bennett, who noted previous close battles against the CCC, told the Jamaica Observer he expects another stiff contest.
"They have been playing good cricket though they might not be getting the (desired) results. If you look at the final score in those (previous) games it has always been close affairs. In general they have provided tough games and they have some very good players," he said on Tuesday, moments before a practice session at Sabina Park.
Jamaica captain Tamar Lambert added that the opening round win was a boost for the team, but acknowledged that the Kyle Corbin-led CCC could provide a sterner challenge.
"It's nice to get off to a good start — beating Barbados in Barbados. The win gives added confidence going forward. Still, we know it's a different game (against the CCC) and at a different venue. The cricket is played on the given day and things will be different and that's how this sport is," the 31-year-old reasoned.
"Every game that we play is going to be tough. Playing against the CCC is no exception, so we are just trying to prepare in the best way we can and aim for the win," Lambert continued.
The teams met as recently as last month in a preliminary round game of the Caribbean Twenty20 (CT20) with left-handed batsman Christopher Gayle leading the Jamaicans to a seven-wicket win.
Gayle, who recently represented the West Indies in Australia, will not feature here. Also absent is middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels, who is recovering from an eye injury, as well as big-hitting batsman Danza Hyatt and left-arm swing bowler Krishmar Santokie — both plying their trade in the Bangladesh Premier League T20 competition.
The Jamaicans still possess plenty of experience in wicketkeeper/batsman Carlton Baugh, all-rounder David Bernard, spinners Nikita Miller and Odean Brown, as well as pacer Andrew Richardson.
Former West Indies batsman Floyd Reifer, who doubles as coach and player of the CCC, said on Tuesday that his team will have to "bring the A game".
CCC spinner Ryan Austin, who could play a pivotal role on the often-times spinner-friendly Sabina Park pitch, was confident that the defending champions can be toppled on home turf.
"We have a good unit and we have talented players. Jamaica is always a tough side, especially in Jamaica, and at the end of the day we have to come out and play positive cricket and get on top of them early (in the match).
"I'm pretty excited and looking forward to this match. Jamaica are not as strong as they were before. They lost a couple of experienced players to the Bangladesh league, so we are looking to capitalise on that," the 31-year-old told the Observer at a training session yesterday.
The Trinidad-born Austin, who played two Tests against Bangladesh in 2009, added that the CCC have the quality in their bowling line-up to threaten the hosts.
"We have young Akeem Dewar, (left-arm spinner) Derone Davis and myself, so we are looking to get on top mainly with our spinners... Over the years that has worked for us.
"Sabina Park has changed a lot from when it was friendlier to pacers (fast bowlers). As you go around the Caribbean these days all the tracks are similar to that. Last I played here the wicket took spin and it was pretty useful," he said, while adding that seamers McClean, Jason Dawes and Raymon Reifer could play vital roles.
The CCC team, made up of regional university and college students, have several Jamaicans in their line-up including Walton, Dewar, Shacoya Thomas and Dawes.
Bennett, who is quite familiar with all four, played down the significance of any rivalry and instead stressed that his focus is on reaching the semi-finals.
"Over the years we might have two or three Jamaicans playing in the CCC team. We don't really look at that (their presence). What we are looking for is to garner as many points as possible to qualify for the final four," he said.
Squads: Jamaica — Tamar Lambert (capt), Jermaine Blackwood, Simon Jackson, Nkrumah Bonner, Andre McCarthy, David Bernard, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Odean Brown, Andrew Richardson, Sheldon Cotterell, Zeniffe Fowler, Yannick Elliott
CCC — Kyle Corbin (capt), Nickolai Parris, Nicholas Alexis, Shacoya Thomas, Floyd Reifer, Raymon Reifer, Chadwick Walton, Akeem Dewar, Kevin McCLean, Jason Dawes, Ryan Austin, Marques Clarke, Derone Davis.