Regional series bowls off
Jermaine Lannaman, Gleaner Writer
Left: Windwards captain Darren Sammy. Right: Jamaica's captain Tamar Lambert. - file
The first round of the 2010 regional first-class four-day championship will bowl off at 10:00 a.m. today with three matches across the island.
In the feature game of the round, hosts and defending champions Jamaica will begin the defence of their title against last season's runners-up the Windward Islands at Chedwin Park, while reigning regional WICB President's Cup one-day champions Trinidad and Tobago will tackle the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) at Jarrett Park. In the third encounter, last season's third-place finishers Barbados will go up against the Leeward Islands at Kensington Park.
In the Jamaica versus the Windwards clash, West Indies middle-order batsman Brendan Nash, who returned to the island last weekend, captain Tamar Lambert and several West Indies fringe players, including Wavell Hinds, Xavier Marshall, Donovan Pagon, David Bernard Jr, Carlton Baugh Jr and Nikita Miller, will seek to lead Jamaica past the Windward Islands, one of only two teams to defeat them on their way to the title last season.
In what is expected to be a close affair, Jamaica will start as favourites, but the Windwards who have in their line-up West Indies all-rounder Darren Sammy, last season's second-highest wicket-taker, off-spinner Shane Shillingford and flamboyant openers Devon Smith and Andre Fletcher, are expected to be pushed all the way.
"The Windwards have a quality team, so we can't take them lightly and, as such, we will have to be on top of our game," said Jamaica's coach, Junior Bennett, who guided the team to back-back titles last season, and is seeking to guide Jamaica to their first-ever 'three-peat'.
"Everything has been going well in terms of preparation, and once the players go out and execute efficiently, as they are capable of doing, I am confident we will come out on top," he added.
With Jamaica having enjoyed much success in recent years with the use of two specialist spinners in their starting line-up, namely, Miller and leg-spinner Odean Brown, who was the championships third-highest wicket-taker last season, it is expected that Bennett will employ a similar tactic in the showdown, which could mean that at least one specialist batsman in Parchment, Pagon or Marshall could miss out on the contest, along with young pacer Jason Dawes.
This is so as a result of widely held expectations that in-form West Indies one day representative, batsman-turn-batting all-rounder Shawn Findlay, who was the most outstanding all-rounder in the recently concluded trial and practice matches, will get his 11th cap for the country and, as such, join Nash, Lambert, Hinds and David Bernard Jr in the team's middle order.
Carlton Baugh Jr will perform wicketkeeping duties with fast bowler Andrew Richardson expected to round off the team.
The Windwards are expected to look to 22-year-old fast-bowling sensation Nelon Pascal, who made his West Indies one-day debut last year against Bangladesh, for inspiration along with their front-line players.
"We are looking to get the ball rolling against Jamaica. As you know, last year we defeated them and we are confident we can do it again. Last year, we came second and this year we are looking to improve and take it one step further," said Sammy.
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago will start as favourites against the CCC, despite the fact they will be without young batting star Adrian Barath, who is injured, Dwayne Bravo and big-hitting all-rounder Kieron Pollard, who are in Australia competing in the domestic Big Bash Twenty20 championship. Barbados, with fast bowling trio, the impressive Kemar Roach, Tino Best and Pedro Collins, are expected to get the better of the Leewards, who will look to expreinced players Runako Morton, Gavin Tonge and Omari Banks.
The championship will be played over seven rounds with the team with the most points at the end being crowned champions and awarded with the Headley/Weekes trophy.
Jamaica (from): Tamar Lambert (captain), Brenton Parchment, Xavier Marshall, Donovan Pagon, Wavell Hinds, Brendan Nash, Carlton Baugh, David Bernard, Shawn Findlay, Odean Brown, Nikita Miller, Andrew Richardson, Jason Dawes.
Windward Islands (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Devon Smith, Andre Fletcher, Rawl Lewis, Keddy Lesporis, Donwell Hector, Lyndon James, Liam Sebastien, Tyrone Theophille, Deighton Butler, Shane Shillingford, Kenroy Peters, Nelon Pascal.
Round One Matches:
Jamaica vs Windward Islands at Chedwin Park
Trinidad vs Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) at Jarrett Park
Barbados vs Leeward Islands at Kensington Park
Hosts Jamaica face tough Windwards.