Super Super50 Clash ... Rivals Jamaica Scorpions, Barbados Pride meet in hot finale
In-form Jamaica Scorpions and preseason favourites Barbados Pride will meet in the final of the WICB Regional Super50 Tournament at Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua and Barbuda today. In what should be a close duel between the tournament's two most in-form teams, the encounter, which represents the third time the teams will be meeting this season, is set to get underway at 12:30 p.m. Jamaica time. Barbados, who have so far amassed eight wins and a defeat, which came at the hands of Jamaica, are set to enter the contest as marginal favourites.
NEAR PERFECT DISPLAYS
This follows their near-perfect displays in the group stage, which were played in Barbados, and the comfort in which they dispatched another tournament hotshot, Leeward Islands Hurricanes, in Antigua by 110 runs in the semi-finals.
However, with Jamaica, not too far behind in terms of efficiency, having recorded seven victories and two defeats all-rounder Jason Holder-captained Pride will have to bring their proverbial 'A' game.
Captained by spinner Nikita Miller, Jamaica, in their best showing so far, brushed aside the challenge of two-time defending champions Trinidad and Tobago Red Force by a record-breaking 292 runs in their semi-finals, also in Antigua.
The victory, which was punctuated with maiden centuries from wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton and batsman Jermaine Blackwood, as well as a solid Man of the Match performance of 95 and five for 36 from all-rounder Rovman Powell, also allowed the Scorpions to post their fifth straight win.
"The semi-final victory has lifted the morale of the team as we were getting starts, but no one carried on but in the semi-finals we got two centuries,'' cited Walton, whose top score of 117 helped Jamaica post a tournament-high 434 for four against Trinidad.
"But the semi-final is history, as we will have to come in the final and start from the first delivery if we are to win.''
Champions five seasons ago, Jamaica will be hoping that Walton and American Steven Taylor will again put together another effective opening stand.
They equalled the record of 174, set by Chris Gayle and Xavier Marshall during the team's successful title bid in 2011, as well as laid the foundation for Jamaica to score 256 in their revenge 74 runs win over Barbados.
The Pride had earlier eked out a one-wicket win over the Scorpions in the fourth of eight preliminary -round matches.
Coached by Robert Samuels, Jamaica will further be hoping for continued solid performances from Blackwood and Powell.
In terms of bowling, they are expected to rely on their leading wicket taker, fast bowler Jerome Taylor and leg-spinner Damion Jacobs, who have 16 wickets apiece.
Barbados, in the meanwhile, who are determined to return to the winner's enclosure for the first time in three seasons, will be placing their batting hopes on opener Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope and Jonathan Carter.
Brathwaite with 462 runs, including two centuries and three half-centuries, has the second most in the tournament behind Kieron Powell of the Leewards, who has netted three hundreds and two fifties in scoring 513 runs.
Off-spinner Ashley Nurse, who leads the tournament with 25 scalps, will spearhead their bowling along with spin partner Sulieman Benn, Holder and Kemar Roach.
The final will be televised live on cable television network station ESPN.
Regional Super50 titles:
Trinidad and Tobago - 12
Guyana - 9
Jamaica - 8
Barbados - 7
Leeward Islands - 7
Windward Islands - 3