Barbados, Guyana face off at Albion
By Sean Devers
February 21, 2003
Defending Busta Internation-al cricket champions Guyana and tournament leaders Barbados face off from 10am today at Albion in Berbice in the fourth round of the Carib Beer regional first class cricket series.
Battles between the two sides go way back to 1865 when the first ever regional first-class game was played at the Garrison Savannah and today’s encounter is anticipated to be another keen contest with eight test players expected to be on show.
After three rounds Barbados lead the points table with 30 points following outright wins against Windward Islands and India ‘A’ and a first innings points decision over Jamaica in the last round.
Guyana, who took first innings points from Trinidad and Tobago in the first round before beating the Leewards outright in their second game, are placed third on the points table after holding West Indies ‘B’ to a draw in the last round after they had collected first innings points in that game.
Trinidad and Tobago with 27 are three points ahead of Guyana who seek revenge in their own backyard after being beaten outright by the Bajans when the two teams last met at the Kensington oval last year.
Barbados who last won a regional first class title in 2001 and who has not beaten Guyana outright in Guyana in over a decade will depend on their strong batting line up headed by test batters Phillo Wallace, Sherwin Campbell, Ryan Hinds, Floyd Reifer and skipper Courtney Browne.
Ryan Hurley who scored his maiden first class ton in the first round, along with Kirk Wilkinson and Dwayne Smith should lend support to the test batters on what is expected to be a slow low Albion track.
Wallace who made 99 against Guyana when the two teams last met at this level, scored 90 in the second round against the Indians while Reifer has been in tremendous form with a century and two half-centuries already under his belt in the 2003 competition.
Browne recorded his fifth first class hundred in the last round while Hinds hammered 88 in his only game since his return from South Africa where he was a part of the West Indies team.
All-rounder Ian Bradshaw also has an unbeaten 58 to his name this season in additition to claiming 10 wickets with his left arm seam bowling.
Tino Best, who shared the new ball with Bradshaw, also has 10 wickets including a five wicket haul against the Indians but it could be the spinners, off spinner Hurley and left armers Hinds and Suliman Benn who could be asked to do the bulk of the bowling on a track which usually makes life hard work for the fast bowlers.
While the strength of Barbados is their batting, the home team’s strength should be their bowling, spearheaded by test players Reon King, skipper Neil McGarell and leg spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo.
King, hunting a West Indies test recall, has been very impressive this season and has swung the ball both ways at a lively pace.
His 14 wickets, including 5-41 in the last round suggest that he is almost back to his best while McGarell has been the most successful Guyanese bowler with 19 wickets including two five wicket hauls in the last round.
Nagamootoo, like McGarell, had a poor first round game against Trinidad and Tobago but has improved as the competition progressed as his 11 wickets suggest.
Reon Griffith made his first class debut for Guayna against the West Indies B side and showed he has all-round ability by hitting an unbeaten 82. But he has been selected to open the bowling and should lend support to King on what should be a ‘dead’ track.
Wicket-keeper Vishal Nagamootoo has been the only Guyanese to record a century this season. His first first class ton (115 not out) came off the West Indies ‘B’ attack in the third round.
Apart from opener Azeemul Haniff who hit an unbeaten 93 against the Leewards and two fifties in the first round and the experienced Andre Percival, who made 76 in the first game and 45 in the third round, none of the other batsmen have been able to make an impression.
Haniff (248 runs) has been consistent despite batting at the bottom of the order in the last round due to an injured hamstring muscle while Percival (209 runs) has been the only other Guyanese to pass 200 runs in what was a disappointing showing by the batsmen in the first three ‘away’ games.
Krishna Arjune has got starts without going on to big scores while Lennox Cush looked explosive in most of his cameo innings before giving his wicket away with poor shot selection.
Travis Dowlin began with 49 in the first round but a double duck in the second round resulted in him losing his place in the side for the last ‘away’ game.
The Bajans practiced at the Rose Hall Canjie ground yesterday morning and are confident going into today’s game although they have not played a first class match in this country since 1997.
Barbados manager Tony Howard said “ We are ready to play anybody anywhere and the home advantage Guayna has should not make a big difference”
The Guyana team arrived in Berbice just after 3:PM yesterday but did not practice due to the late arrival of their gear from St. Croix where they played their last game.
Guyana Mangaer Patrick Legall told Stabroek Sport that he is hoping that the batsmen put down their heads and make a big score to give the bowlers ‘some runs to work with’.
Legall, a former national fast bowler, added that the Berbice players in the squad were expected to join the rest of the team yesterday evening since they returned to their respective home when the team arrived in Guyana on Tuesday eveining.
The Berbicians in the 13-man squad will stay at their respective homes in the Ancient county while the rest of the team will stay at the Little Rock Hotel in New Amsterdam, about 30 minutes drive from the ground.
Legall feels that the lack of a proper practice session yesterday should affect the players too much and he if looking forward for at least first innings points from this game to keep Guyana in the race for championship honors.
The national selectors made one chance to the 13-man touring party which played the first three games. Twenty-one year-old Berbice left arm pacer Naresh Roopnarine replaces test pacer Colin Stuart in the squad.
The final eleven is expected to be named just before the commencement of play today and Roopnarine and Dowlin could be the two players on the bench for this game.
Barbados hunt their eighteenth first class title while Guyana aim to capture their seventh title at thsi level and a ding dong battle is anticipated.
GBC will carry live ball-by-ball commentary on the game as soon as the World cup game in South Africa is completed.