Windwards start favourites for Headley/Weekes Trophy
The in-form Windward Islands team begins today's battle for the Headley/Weekes Trophy with a slight advantage over Jamaica in the Regional Four-day final at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium in St Lucia.
Play is set to commence at 9:00 am Jamaica time.
Jamaica, who won five straight titles between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 seasons, have been inconsistent throughout this campaign, particularly in the batting department. The Tamar Lambert-captained unit lost at home to the Windwards, while ending fourth in the league stage.
Propelled by Lambert's attractive first-innings century, and a solid all-round bowling effort, Jamaica upstaged league champions Barbados in a tight semi-final affair to force into the final.
Windward Islands, skippered by Liam Sebastien, have flourished mostly due to a balanced and competent bowling attack and finished third in the standings.
They convincingly beat Trinidad & Tobago — who ended the league in second place — to book their final berth.
The Jamaica camp is expecting a serious challenge.
"It's going to be a tough game against Windward Islands. They got the better of us in Jamaica and they are playing some good cricket," Lambert told the Jamaica Observer.
Nikita Miller, Jamaica's left-arm orthodox slow bowler, said his teammates will have to improve in the batting and fielding categories if they are to lift the trophy.
"We have to do better at catching in that match. We have to capitalise on the starts and prevent the cluster of wickets that we keep losing when we are batting," Miller said.
The Jamaica batting will rely on middle order batsman Jermaine Blackwood and wicketkeeper/batsman Carlton Baugh, who both lead the country's run-scoring list with 399 and 378, respectively.
Marlon Samuels, the West Indies batsman, is said to be out due to a hamstring injury. The injury had forced the right-hander to also miss the semi-final against Barbados last week. Top-order batsman Jon-Ross Campbell is Samuels' replacement in the squad.
The Jamaica bowling is expected to be led by Miller, fit-again pacer Jerome Taylor and wrist-spinner Damion Jacobs.
For the Windwards, batting responsibility should rest on the shoulders of sidelined West Indies left-hander Devon Smith, middle-order batsman Romel Currency 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), off-spinner Shane Shillingford and fast bowler Nelon Pascal.
The Headley/Weekes Trophy is named in honour of West Indies batting legends George Headley and Sir Everton Weekes.
Squads: Jamaica — Tamar Lambert (capt), John Campbell, Jon-Ross Campbell, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Andre McCarthy, David Bernard, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Jerome Taylor, Damion Jacobs, Sheldon Cotterell, Brian Buchanan.
Windward Islands — Liam Sebastien (capt), Devon Smith, Tyrone Theophile, Sunil Ambris, Johnson Charles, Romel Currency, Lindon James, Keddy Lesporis, Mervin Matthew, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Shane Shillingford, Delorn Johnson, Miles Bascombe.