Jaguars, Pride battle for title in nervy final round in WICB Regional Four-Day Championship
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC):
Championship leaders Guyana Jaguars and challengers Barbados Pride both enter the nerve-jangling final round of the Regional four-day championship starting today, hoping to deny each other the prestigious Headley/Weekes Trophy.
Jaguars, the title-holders who have led all season, are on 130 points, while the clinical Pride outfit are seven points behind in second. They are the only two teams in with a chance of clinching the championship.
Were it not for their stumble in the penultimate round last week against minnows Leeward Islands Hurricanes, Jaguars could have virtually wrapped up their title defence by now.
However, they will now hope to get the better of a resurgent third-placed Jamaica Scorpions, who crushed Windward Islands Volcanoes last weekend, in order to stave off Pride.
Captain Leon Johnson, the leading run-getter this season with 714 runs, believes Jaguars will be under pressure, but backed his side to prevail.
"We are playing at home, we are defending champions and we have all to lose. There is a little bit of pressure, but we just need to put that behind us and play a good game of cricket," Johnson said.
Jaguars are unbeaten this season, winning seven of their nine games and drawing two. They reeled off five consecutive wins before the break for the Regional Super 50, but have won only two of their four games since the resumption.
Fittingly, Jaguars host Scorpions at the Guyana National Stadium and will hope hometown advantage pays dividends.
Meanwhile, Pride will be focused on beating fifth-placed Hurricanes at Warner Park in St Kitts and hope Jaguars stumble, in order to emerge champions.
They take on a Hurricanes side which has been poor all season, but have lifted themselves in recent rounds and actually moved off the bottom of the standings for the first time last week.
"The key for us will be to remain disciplined. We need to stick to our plans, build pressure around them and we will win it," said Barbados captain Kraigg Brathwaite, whose 645 runs leaves him fourth on the run-getters list this season.
"We must not become complacent. We need to give 110 per cent. These will be the keys for us going out there and trying to win this last game."
They have lost just once this season ironically to Jaguars but have been on a good run of recent.
The other game of the final round will see Trinidad and Tobago Red Force, who lie fourth, clashing with bottom-placed Volcanoes at the National Cricket Centre in Couva.