Jamaica brace for Windwards
Hosts put winning start on the line in Sabina Park showdown
Leaders Jamaica will put their winning start to the 2014 campaign on the line when they host Windward Islands at Sabina Park in the fourth-round Regional Four-day cricket match.
Play is scheduled to begin today at 10:00 am.
In another encounter to begin today, cellar team Combined Campuses and Colleges (10 points) host sixth-placed Guyana (13) in a day/night fixture at the Three Ws Oval in Barbados. The Leeward Islands, in fifth place on 22 points, will be inactive this round.
The top four teams at the end of the preliminaries will progress to the semi-final stage.
Jamaica, who won five straight titles before Barbados snatched the crown last season, are on 35 points from two matches after previous victories over Guyana and Leeward Islands.
Third-placed Windward Islands, who will be boosted by the inclusion of West Indies off-spinner Shane Shillingford in place of the injured Dalton Polius, have one win, one loss and a draw from their three outings for 29 points.
The 31-year-old Dominican, who has taken 289 wickets for the Windwards in the longer format, is making a return after undergoing remedial work following a ban late last year for an illegal bowling action.
Tamar Lambert, the Jamaica captain, told the Jamaica Observer that his team is looking forward to a tight contest.
"I expect it to be a good game because it seems they are playing good cricket. My team is in good spirit and in good health and we are looking forward to this game," the 33-year-old said yesterday.
He insisted he is not overly perturbed by the added threat posed by Shillingford and added that his bowling unit should also be a handful on a Sabina pitch that has been known to favour both spin and pace bowling.
"I think we have what it takes to handle him. We know he is a quality bowler and he has done it regionally and internationally, but we have played against Shane before. He has taken wickets against us and we have scored runs against him.
"We have been bowling very well as a unit from the start of the competition. We got 20 wickets in both games that we played so we are confident in our bowling," Lambert said.
The Jamaica batting will rely on young left-hander John Campbell, who has amassed 203 runs to be fourth on the run scoring list in the tournament. He has a best of 110, made against the Leewards. Top order batsman Nkrumah Bonner has accumulated 154 runs in his two matches.
The bowling is expected to be led by resurgent pacer Jerome Taylor, who is Jamaica's top wicket-taker with 10 victims. Support should come from left-arm finger spinner Nikita Miller, medium pacer David Bernard and off-spinner Jamie Merchant.
Veteran fast bowler Andrew Richardson has discomfort in his knee and is replaced in the Jamaica 13-man squad by seamer Brian Buchanan.
The Windward Islands coach Ian Allen exuded confidence ahead of the clash.
"We will definitely start positive and take it stride by stride. We want to try and put up as much runs on the board and try to restrict the Jamaicans and once we do that I have no doubt we will come out on top," he said.
For the Windwards, batting responsibility should rest on the shoulders of sidelined West Indies left-hander Devon Smith, stylish middle-order batsman Keddy Lesporis and the former regional team youth player Sunil Ambris.
The bowling will be spearheaded by the tournament's leading seam bowler, left-armer Kenroy Peters (18 wickets), fast bowler Nelon Pascal, another left-arm pacer Delorn Johnson and Shillingford.
Jamaica — Tamar Lambert (capt), John Campbell, Horace Miller, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, David Bernard, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Jerome Taylor, Jamie Merchant, Andre McCarthy, Damion Jacobs, Brian Buchanan.
Windward Islands — Liam Sebastien (capt), Sunil Ambris, Alston Bobb, Romel Currency, Lindon James, Delorn Johnson, Keddy Lesporis, Mervin Matthew, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Shane Shillingford, Devon Smith, Tyrone Theophile.