Reigning champions Manchester CA will seek a fourth straight hold on the crown when they battle former winners Melbourne CC in the much-anticipated final of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) two-day Senior Cup competition at Chedwin Park, starting today at 10:00 am.
Manchester, led by a fine all-round performance from Jamie Merchant and a pair of half-centuries from captain Gary Graham, outlasted the Jamaica Defence Force by three wickets in their semi-final encounter last weekend.
The Manchester outfit, guided by veteran coach Barry Barnes, can also call on batsmen Zeniffe Fowler and Donovan Sinclair, as well as spinner David Powell.
Barnes told the Jamaica Observer that he expects a "big clash" against a spinner-laden Melbourne side that has posed a threat to Manchester in the past.
Barnes did admit that the batsmen have not always fired this season, but credited the winning mentality and the all-round effort of the team.
Manchester will be without top-order batsman Damion Bryce and pacer Neive McNally. According to Barnes, both are currently plying their trade in respective leagues in North America.
The formidable Melbourne unit — one of few teams to have pushed Manchester in recent seasons — reached the championship match after dispatching St Elizabeth CA by 10 wickets in the other semi-final three weeks ago.
The batsmen, including national player Donovan Pagon, Damion Jacobs, Tafari Williams and captain Andre McCarthy, all looked to be in good nick.
Though without off-spinner Shamar Anderson, who took crucial wickets in the semi-final win, Melbourne have plenty slow bowling threat in wrist-spinner Jacobs and left-arm orthodox bowler Christopher Lamont, as well as national left-arm spinner Nikita Miller. McCarthy also bowls useful off-spin.
Melbourne manager Larry Crichton explained that Anderson recently left on a trip to the United Kingdom.
Crichton, longing for the team's return to the pinnacle of two-day club cricket in the island, expressed respect for Manchester, while adding that his spinners will play a key role.
He added that West Indies wicketkeeper/batsman Carlton Baugh is an uncertainty for the match. The diminutive Baugh, who has been selected in a provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup, has been recovering from a finger injury.