Jamaica brace for in-form Barbados
HOSTS Jamaica have history on their side when they face title-holders Barbados in the fifth-round Regional Four-day clash, starting today at 10:00 am, at Sabina Park.
The in-form Barbados team currently lead the preliminary standings with 48 points after three wins in four matches, including an emphatic innings and 160-run victory over Trinidad & Tobago last weekend.
But Jamaica, who won five straight titles before Barbados beat Trinidad in last year's final to snatch the crown, have enjoyed the edge over their rivals in recent times -- coming out on top in their previous three encounters.
The third-placed Jamaicans, desperate to hold onto a semi-final spot, are on 38 points from three matches after wins over Guyana and Leeward Islands and a loss at home in the previous round to Windward Islands.
Jamaica's captain Tamar Lambert is expecting a tough challenge from Barbados and urged his batsmen to show consistency and aim for three-figure scores against a balanced bowling attack on a Sabina pitch, which mostly favoured the slow bowlers in last week's clash with the Windwards.
"It's never an easy game against Barbados. They are the team leading the point standings so we have to make sure that we play four days of good cricket. The team that plays better over those days will come out on top.
"Our batting has been inconsistent. We batted only 65 overs against the Windwards and when you do that you are always going to play catch up. As a team we can improve in our batting and once we get the starts we have to go on and score triple figures," the 33-year-old Lambert told the Jamaica Observer after a practice session yesterday.
The Jamaica batting will rely on 20-year-old left-handed opener John Campbell, who has scored 232 runs so far, and Nkrumah Bonner, who has accumulated 226.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Carlton Baugh was outstanding against the Windwards, notching unbeaten half-centuries in both innings.
The Jamaica bowling is expected to be led by sidelined West Indies pacer Jerome Taylor and off-spinner Jamie Merchant, who have accounted for 11 wickets each. Support should come from left-arm finger spinner Nikita Miller and part-time off-spinner Lambert.
Melbourne CC opening batsman Jon Ross Campbell, 23, steps into the 13-man squad for the out-of-form Horace Miller. In Jon Ross Campbell's only first-class game, Jamaica suffered their last defeat to Barbados in Trinidad in 2010.
Barbados' Kraigg Brathwaite, entering his fifth game this season as skipper, is optimistic that his team can overturn the recent Jamaica dominance.
"Jamaica is top opposition. The last couple of games they have gotten the better of us, but we remain confident. The guys been playing some good cricket and we are going to try continue that.
"I think the batters are doing a better job. The first couple of games the batters weren't scoring a lot of runs and weren't really building partnerships, but now we are really clicking in both departments," said the 21-year-old opening batsman ahead of training yesterday.
Batting responsibility will also fall on the shoulders of Kirk Edwards, left-hander Jonathan Carter, all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite and left-handed opening batsman Omar Phillips.
In the bowling department, Barbados possess serious threats in 23-year-old pace bowling sensation Miguel Cummins, towering seamers Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite, as well as off-spinner Ashley Nurse and lanky left-arm finger spinner Sulieman Benn.
In other matches, second-placed Windward Islands (45 points) host sixth-placed Leeward Islands (22) in St George's, Grenada, while fourth-placed Trinidad & Tobago (36) welcome fifth-placed Combined Campuses and Colleges (28) to Port of Spain for a day/night encounter. Cellar team Guyana (17 points) will be inactive.
Squads: Jamaica -- Tamar Lambert (capt), John Campbell, Jon Ross Campbell, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlton Baugh, David Bernard, Nikita Miller, Jamie Merchant, Jerome Taylor, Brian Buchanan, Andre McCarthy, Damion Jacobs.
Barbados -- Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), Omar Phillips, Kirk Edwards, Jonathan Carter, Carlos Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder, Ashley Nurse, Sulieman Benn, Fidel Edwards, Miguel Cummins, Kevin Stoute, Roston Chase.