PREVIEW: Windwards look to pull away

KINGSTOWN, ST VINCENT - The Windward Islands will enter Arnos Vale on Wednesday morning with a clear vision of what a perfect performance against Guyana can do for them in the space of four days.

You don't often get to say it so it might be worth repeating but the Windward Islands can go clear of the Regional 4 Day pack with a win over Guyana in St Vincent in the 3rd Round of the Regional 4-Day competition.

Of course, if you haven't been following the competition, you may be throwing up your arms asking about Jamaica. Only by virtue of two games in hand will the Windwards be clear ahead of the rest. Jamaica's second round match against the Combined Campuses & Colleges was pushed back because of logistical reasons. The champs drew a bye in the 3rd round and will have to wait to play their second game of the tournament in the fourth round.

It allows the Windwards, who host Guyana midweek, to move further away from their closest competitors, and put some pressure on the Jamaicans when they do resume battle. Here's a breakdown of the matches in Round III:

Combined Campuses and Colleges v Barbados:

In the Super50 round of three, the students rallied once again to leave their Bajan counterparts stunned. However, even a person with short memory will remember there was a quite similar storyline in January, during the Caribbean Twenty20 when a certain Derone Davis took a hatrick with his first three balls, dismissing Dwayne Smith, Ryan Hinds and Shamarh Brooks. The young Trinidadian returned to the Three Ws Oval on Sunday to again torture the Bajan batsmen. He didn't get a hatrick, but he did finish with three wickets.

However, it was the all-round heroics of Raymon Reifer, scoring his team's highest score of 33 in the CCC innings, then flattening Barbados with figures of 8-0-19-5 that ultimately sunk Barbados to a 59 run defeat. You can say he did it in style too, with two overs to spare in his spell.

The Bajan batting has been a problem this season so far. Against Guyana in their Round II, Regional 4-Day match, they allayed any major concerns with 367 all out and 235/7 respectively. Against the likes of Raymon Reifer, Akeem Dewar, and if Davis is thrown in to the Starting XI, things can get very messy for the Bajans if they don't get their batting together quickly.

Leeward Islands v Trinidad & Tobago:

You wouldn't often compare Trinidad and Tobago with the Leeward Islands. In fact, for the past decade, both have been fairly distant neighbours, one sitting at the bottom of the domestic table, the other in the top half. But T&T's batting performance was so woeful against the Windwards that they lost their first Regional 4-Day match of the season in two days and 90 minutes. Some people have been kind in calling it two and a half days.

Against the Windwards, on a good wicket for batting at Arnos Vale, the T&T batsmen just never settled. Some played their shots, others tried to stick around but just weren't good enough. After their defeat, they would have been happy to be heading to Basseterre and not Port of Spain. The media and people back in Trinidad & Tobago have no taken the defeat lightly.

T&T though have the chance to erase some of that horror with a convincing performance at Warner Park. They lost seven wickets chasing 238 in the Regional Super50 match against the Leewards, but Justin Guillen and Lendl Simmons did spend some time out in the middle, which is crucial for the visitors.

The Leeward Islands are three points above T&T, who are last, but it's hardly a compliment for a team that has really been struggling. Guyana made light work of them in the first round of the competition and they had a bye in the second. Devon Thomas was a spark in the Regional Super50 along with Tonito Willett, but like T&T, the Leewards need their best players to step up this season.

Windward Islands v Guyana:

Then we have the table-toppers, who will aim to strengthen their position at the summit, amid having a two game advantage over Jamaica. Devon Smith has truly been the Windward Islands saviour this season, but he hasn't done it alone. He didn't take 40 wickets in the first two rounds of cricket to put the Windwards at the top. He may have taken some spectacular catches but he didn't take any wickets.

He continued a great start to the year on Sunday with his third century this season over Guyana. He didn't start as easy as his other innings'. In fact, Paul Wintz enjoyed the better part of the opening exchanges while Steven Jacobs was a handful to deal with. But impressively, he saw off the danger, battling through some good opening Guyanese bowling, and once Wintz was out of the attack, Jacobs' spell was over, he cashed in. He hasn't just shown up and scored centuries like he's bought them, he's had to work hard for it, and he's really been in fine touch.

He's a big threat for Guyana. Not only because he has the ability now to score big runs, but he also brings a high level of confidence to the top order of the Windward Islands batting. Tyrone Theophile has looked comfortable opening the batting this season under Smith. Keddy Lesporis got his first good innings of the season staying with Smith at the crease during their Round III, Super50 game against Guyana. Andre Fletcher too, is coming of the season. If the Windward Islands get off, they can post a very big first innings total.

Ravi Rampaul stopped them with a three wicket burst in the second round of matches, but Guyana's bowling hasn't looked as good as T&T's. They're relying heavily on Steven Jacobs and Davendra Bishoo. Paul Wintz looked good in the Regional Super50 match but he can only bowl in spells, like most fast bowlers around the caribbean.

Guyana though, have the likes of Tagenarine Chanderpaul and Sewnarine Chattergoon coming in to their squad. There's a lot of anticipation in St Vincent to see young Chanderpaul. He's causing a craze everywhere he goes. Certainly the experience of Chattergoon will be an asset for Guyana.

It could come down to Amir Khan and Rajiv Ivan though, and Ivan looked quite good with the bat in the Regional Super50, and of course, he's a spinner.

Though the Windwards are being heavily publicised for where they are in the table and their achievements so far this season, this contest remains quite open. T&T didn't show up in the second round, and the CCC's batting wasn't as great as Guyana's could be in Round III.

Points Standings: Windward Islands 24 Points (2 Games), Jamaica 12 Points (1 Game), Barbados 12 Points (2 Games), Guyana 6 Points (2 Games), Leeward Islands 3 Points (1 Game), CCC 0 Points (1 Game), T&T 0 Points (1 Game).

Tue, 02/26/2013 - 18:25