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Gamble paid off in final match, says Bennett

Published:Saturday | March 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Kwesi Mugisa, Staff Reporter

National cricket coach Junior Bennett has hailed the determination of the Jamaican team in overcoming the absence of several key players, in some instances, and a tough road schedule to capture a historic third successive regional four-day title.

A format change by the regional tournament organisers saw the teams play one round instead of two, which not only cut the number of matches in half, but instead of home and away matches had each territory host one round.

"It was extremely challenging as last year we played 12 games, six home and six away. This year we played six games, five away and one at home. We played most of our games on the road. That's tough in sports these days; garnering so many points on the road you have to play good, consistent cricket, and we did that," Bennett said.

"We had our ups and downs but in the end we battled our way out of it," he added.

Roadblock from barbados

After a comfortable win at Chedwin Park against the Windward Islands, the team travelled to St Kitts where they easily defeated the Leeward Islands. After defeating the Combined Colleges and Campuses in Barbados, however, the team encountered a roadblock when they played against Barbados in Trinidad and Tobago. Brushed aside in just three days with Barbados winning by 10 wickets, after being set just 54 for victory, Jamaica needed an outright win against Trinidad and Tobago in Grenada.

In addition to that, several key players were not available for the final game, among them David Bernard Jr, Brendan Nash and Nikita Miller, who were called up for duty with the West Indies.

Despite facing a challenge to keep the title, however, the coach insists that despite being a bit worried the team was confident.

"After losing to Barbados we lost Bernard Jr, who had done well with the ball and made some runs, plus, we had the players that were missing before so it was a bit worrying," Bennett said.

"However, it's three years since they haven't beaten us at the first-class level. We had that behind us going into the game. We knew once we got a good first innings total on the board we could put them under pressure."

Bennett was also grateful that the decision to play an extra bowler paid off.

"We looked at it and took a gamble. We struggled with the batting against Barbados, but we still played only six batsmen and five bowlers. We had to win, we decided we needed 20 wickets in the match, and it paid off."