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Guyana enter the round with 24 points after gaining first innings honours over Trinidad and Tobago at Guaracara Park, whipping the Leeward Islands outright at Gilbert Park in St Kitts and recording another first innings lead over the West Indies B in St Croix.
The Barbadians, on the other hand, lead the points table with 30 points from two consecutive wins over the Windward Islands and India ‘A’, followed by a draw with Jamaica after they had gained first innings honours.
Despite their relatively good showing in the three matches, Guyana’s coach Albert Smith is still not satisfied that his charges are performing to the best of their ability and is convinced there is need for improvement in both the batting and bowling departments.
After bowling out the West Indies B for a paltry 134 in their first innings, the Guyana bowling attack failed to press home the advantage in the second innings which saw the youngsters bouncing back to hit 339.
The bowlers could ill afford to do the same against the powerful Barbados batting line-up, which is arguably the strongest in this year’s tournament, since Guyana are without the likes of Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan who are doing duties in the World Cup.
The Barbadian batting consists of long-serving openers Sherwin Campbell and Philo Wallace, the experienced Floyd Reifer and Ryan Hinds - all with Test experience - surrounding captain and wicketkeeper Courtney Browne, who is fresh from a century against Jamaica in the last round.
In addition, there are the two young middle-order batsmen in Kurt Wilkinson and Dwayne Smith while off-spinning all-rounder Ryan Hurley is no slough with the bat, having hit an eye-catching century in the first round against the Windwards.
There have been in-and-out performances from the Guyana batting but consistency has been lacking to date.
Opener Azeemul Haniff, who suffered a hamstring injury in the match against the West Indies B, has registered three half-centuries in the first two matches, but was forced to bat at number 10 in both innings in St Croix because of the injury.
Apart from Haniff, the other consistent batsman has been Andre Percival who scored a half-century against Trinidad and Tobago and hit 45 in the first innings against the West Indies B.
Opener Sewnarine Chattergoon also had some good starts but did not go on to build big innings.
The batting of wicketkeeper Vishal Nagamootoo in the first innings versus West Indies B was quite a revelation. Blessed with tremendous talent, the dapper wicketkeeper finally came good with a classy unbeaten 115, sharing a ninth-wicket partnership of 198 with fast bowler Rayon Griffith, who slammed 82 not out in his first regional match for Guyana.
All-rounders Neil McGarrell and Mahendra Nagamootoo have been disappointing with the bat so far and need to bolster the middle-order, especially with the fragile top order.
In the bowling department, Guyana will be banking heavily on their experienced quartet of captain and left-arm spinner McGarrell, leg-spinner Nagamootoo, pacers Reon King and Rayon Griffith, who is aiming to regain his place in the West Indies side.
The national selectors have made one change to the Guyana 13-man squad that travelled to Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and St Croix, replacing fast bowler Colin Stuart with left-arm pacer Naresh Roopnarine.
Stuart, who has had indifferent performances in the first two matches and was omitted for the third, has reportedly asked to be released from the team.
Guyanese will get a chance to see one of the region’s most exciting young fast bowlers in the effervescent Tino Best, who tormented the Indian reserves with his raw speed en route to an eight-wicket second-round match-haul.
Best and left-armer Ian Bradshaw, both with 12 wickets so far, will be the two main fast bowlers but young Fidel Edwards, a younger brother of West Indies fast bowler Pedro Collins, could force his way into the Bajans’ starting eleven.
Lanky left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who is still recuperating from an injured knee, will team up with Hurley and Hinds in providing spin for the Barbadians.
It will be the first time in a few years that Barbados will be playing a regional first-class match in Guyana after hosting the Guyanese at Kensington Oval during that period.
Teams: Guyana (from) - Neil McGarrell (captain), Azeemul Haniff, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Krishna Arjune, Lennox Cush, Travis Dowlin, Homchand Pooran, Andre Percival, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Vishal Nagamootoo, Reon King, Rayon Griffith, Naresh Roopnarine.
Barbados (from) - Courtney Browne (captain), Sherwin Campbell, Philo Wallace, Kurt Wilkinson, Ryan Hinds, Floyd Reifer, Dwayne Smith, Ryan Hurley, Ian Bradshaw, Sulieman Benn, Tino Best, Fidel Edwards, Antonio Thomas.
The umpires are Guyanese D. Somwaru and Trinidadian T. Birbal.